Back when this tour was announced I will admit I got a tad excited about it. Obituary and Napalm Death, two of my favourite live acts on the same bill, some good no nonsense thrash in the form of Voivod and Smeg and The Head’s bassist Jeff Walker’s other famous band… No not Brujeria, the other one… Carcass! Yeah, that’s it… Carcass… All four of them on the same bill, along with Herod from Switzerland made for what looked to be a rather packed night.
Being in the newly acquired by O2; Manchester Ritz, it meant that it was a 10pm curfew due to the Ritz having other functions planned. I’ve been to several gigs in the Ritz before and should be used to the early doors and earlier curfew as it generally means more time for the traditional post gig takeaway whilst waiting for the coach back home. There were some gripes about set lengths and what not, but with five bands on the bill, what do you expect? Needless to say, when the doors were open and people started filtering in to begin their Halloween weekend in one of the heaviest ways possible, you know it was going to be a good night.
Up first were Herod, a hybrid of djent and sludge from Switzerland. The four piece had some phenomenal volume to them with dome pounding drums and real crushing guitars which rattled the low end of the sound spectrum with every power chord hit and a singer who had one hell of a voice on him, but something was missing at first glance. Upon closer inspection i.e. – getting o the front rail because the venue was slowly filling up during their set, I noticed the lack of a bass player in the live line up. When wondering where that booming low end was coming from, a quick count of the number of strings on the guitars revealed them to be eight strings which pretty much confirmed the heavy Djent influence. With the tuning probably set into the lower end of things to make up for the lack of a dedicated bassist in the live setting, it was a tremendously heavy filthy noise which was unleashed in their short set. With almost drone-like pounding rhythms at times and harshly growled vocals and polyrhythmic shifts when it kicked up, they served well as a warm up but to me, didn’t really come across as something to write home about just yet. Perhaps with a longer set and not sharing the stage with bands who created such a sense of anticipation about the evening might help them in future should they return to the UK.
Following on came legendary thrashers Voivod. Having caught them at Bloodstock last time they played it, I will admit I wasn’t sold on them live. I’ve not heard much by them and whilst I do love thrash, something just didn’t click for me back then. Thinking it may have been a case of some bands perform better indoors than outdoors, I approached this with an open mind, eager to see if I could be swayed. The four piece had a tremendous sound which had all the trademarks you wanted from a thrash act – beefy bass, cutting guitars, tight drums and powerful vocals with some great stage presence, but for me it just didn’t do ‘it’. I love my thrash but Voivod just lacked that spark which would have really caught my interest in them. That’s not to say they were dire, far from it. The venue had filled up nicely by the time they had taken to the stage and they had the crowd in the palm of their hands and were really enjoying their performance. They really got the place livened up, but as their set finished and the next backdrop went up, I don’t think it could have got any livelier.
We all know by now what to expect when Napalm Death take to the stage. They are one of the most consistent live bands who for me, always deliver whenever they take to the stage and this alone was one of my two reasons for attending. Whether it’s indoors or on a main stage at a festival, the boys from Birmingham know how to deliver a fantastic live performance and in the Ritz it was no different. Taking to the stage with everyone in the venue now in full voice and eager, you could sense the anticipation for what was about to come raining down. Opening the set with “Apex predator/Easy Meat”, the crowd started to come alive. The new material much like the old classics went down a storm, with “Smash A Single Digit” really igniting the crowd and whipping up a maelstrom of chaos down in the pit and “Scum”, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and “Suffer The Children” were well received as always. Every song was delivered with the same power and venom we expect from the grind pioneers and as always, I highly recommend catching these guys whenever they are in your neck of the woods. Even if you have seen them countless times before, they’re still probably one of the best live bands you will ever see!
Up next was my other main reason for attending the show – the Florida Death Metal legends, Obituary. Having seen them back in February with Dust Bolt and M-Pire of Evil in the Electric Ballroom, I was a little let down by the fact they weren’t the main band on the bill, but I wasn’t about to let that get in my way. The last time I saw the Death Metal powerhouse, I fractured my ribs, so it was one of those ‘I wonder what is going to happen this time I see them’ moments. Starting the evening off with “Redneck Stomp”, they worked the crowd well and when John Tardy took to the stage, it exploded to life. With the powerfully heavy riffs, distinct vocals and thunderous delivery, the five piece steamrollered their way through the set. “Visions In My Head” from the Inked In Blood album was a treat, much like last time I saw them play it and the closing effort, the legendary “Slowly We Rot” rounded off a set which saw the guys performing at the peak of their ability. There was not a single bad spot in the set and it’s great to see Obituary enjoying performing live.
With those two fantastic sets to follow, headliners Carcass certainly had to rise to the occasion and as “1985”, the opening instrumental from Surgical Steel played with its death metal flavoured NWOBHM harmony lines, the place was really building up for it. When the band took to the stage and Jeff got his fan turned on so he could keep his hair blown back at all times, the madness begun and it was hard hitting from the first note. Bodies flying, snarled raspy vocals and breakneck speed riffing could only mean “Unfit For Human Consumption” was the opening barrage and what followed was exactly what you expected. “Buried Dreams” from Heartwork got the place bouncing and when the forays into Necroticism’s tracks came in the form of “Incarnate Solvent Abuse” featuring as track number three, it just went insane to the point where this reviewer suffered a new pit injury – a bite to the head… Well, it was Halloween weekend so maybe someone was taking the zombie thing a little too seriously.. But still, that didn’t stop me! Jeff’s ‘witty’/Snark was delivered with the same dry humour he is known for and the musical delivery was spot on, going as far back as dipping into Reek Of Putrefaction for a track or two and even touching on Swansong with “Keep On Rotting In The Free World” slowing things down, but as always, Necroticism’s “Corporeal Jigsore Quandry” and the title track from the legendary Heartwork album, “Heartwork” as a set ender capped a solid performance.
In all, by the time 10pm had rolled round and the lights came on, you could tell the night had been something special. Even those who simply stood and stayed away from the silliness in the middle of the pit were showing signs of just how intense the evening had been and despite the knocks, the blood, the drink and the soreness, it was pretty much just what you wanted from such a tour and even more. Napalm Death stole the show as always, Obituary were relentless and Carcass were spot on whilst Voivod and Herod played their part perfectly, setting the scene and getting everyone ready for the high speed, high power onslaught to follow them.
Part of me hopes Deathcrusher could follow along the lines of The Unholy Alliance, Defenders of the Faith and other recurring tours which happen in Autumn and become a yearly feature for some time and if it does, given the strength of this one, I wouldn’t hesitate in buying my ticket for the second instalment should this happen. As I type this out, I can answer the question Napalm Death proposed on their Scum release: “You suffer but why?” – the answer – easily the heaviest and most intense tour to hit the UK in the past few years!
(Photos with thanks Phil Vidamour)