Smear Campaign: Napalm Death live in Kansas City 11/09/16

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“Take care of yourselves, and take care of those around you.”

Those were the last words Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway left the sold-out crowd at the Riot Room Wednesday night before launching into their final songs of the evening. Though Napalm Death have made a now-legendary career on politically-charged left-leaning radio-unfriendly grindcore, Greenway always radiated positivity when addressing the sweaty crowd between songs. It was a cathartic period after a distressing (for many at this concert, at least) 24 hours.

Opening with the one-two punch of the spoken-wordish “Evolved as One” straight into the sub-minute blistering “It’s a M.A.N.S World!” set the stage for just how effortlessly the band (in their 35th year of existence no less) can switch from grindcore to death metal and back again, often combining the two. The group seems to be experiencing somewhat of a renaissance as of late with their more recent album output; the last decade or so of Napalm Death albums seem to have been met with critical and popular acclaim. The crowd stepped up their vicious moshing and singing along (and even a few crowd surfers!) for recent tunes like 2008′s “On The Bring Of Extinction” and even “How The Year’s Condemn” from last years “Apex Predator – Easy Meat.”

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Of course, the classic Napalm songs were met with a considerable outpouring of activity. The four song stint of “Scum,” “The Kill,” “You Suffer” and “From Enslavement to Obliteration” hearkened back to the early days of Napalm Death to before most of the crowd was probably even born. In the mid-90s, Napalm Death toyed around with the idea of adding melody and death metal elements to their grindcore sound – which they drew up the blueprints for – and those particular songs made for some of the night’s best moments. “Twist the Knife (Slowly)” on “Fear, Emptiness, Despair” (it was also on the soundtrack for the Mortal Kombat movie – hell yeah!) from ’94 showcased a different side to Napalm Death’s usual madness, prompting Greenway to state it was the only redeemable track on the album. “I Abstain” was probably the most groove-filled performance of the set and was just as epic as classics like “Suffer the Children” and “If The Truth Be Known.”

Not a band to shy away from their influences, Napalm Death included a trio of covers – “Face Down in the Dirt” from The Offenders, a particularly savage rendition of Hirax’s “Hate, Fear and Power” and their now-classic cover of Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” The band made those tunes their own and it’s hard to go back to the originals. Ending the night with a cacophony of noise via “Persona Non Grata/Smear Campaign” made sure everyone left the venue with a sore neck, some bruised muscles and their ears ringing to drown out the world for just a little while longer.

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Direct support was The Black Dahlia Murder, easily one of the greatest melodic death metal bands currently making music. Coupled with their stage presence and easily the craziest crowd at the Riot Room all year, it’s hard to say anyone could follow them up. Coming off last year’s “Abysmal” album, TBDM are at the top of their game – performing incredibly technical riff-laden melodic metal but still slowing it down and bringing heavy breakdowns to keep things fresh. Their co-headlining set touched on almost every one of the albums in their near-perfect discography – opening with the two classics “What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse” right into “Statutory Ape” just made no place safe from moshing in the entire Riot Room. If one negative thing can be said about their energetic set is that they skipped over 2013′s “Everblack” entirely which may be the best album released by an American band that year. Instead, the Riot Room was treated to rarely played tracks such as “Warborn” and the title track from 2007′s “Nocturnal” album, alongside “Contagion” from their debut album – for the first time in the states in ten years no less. Napalm Death are rightfully the gods of grindcore, but heavy music is in a good place as long as The Black Dahlia Murder is still making music and touring.

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Opening the show were two bands that provided some of the more brutal death metal of the evening. Misery Index, a four-piece from Baltimore containing current and former members of Dying Fetus, Pig Destroyer and Criminal Element put on one of the most impressive opening sets in quite some time. It seems like Misery Index unfortunately has an element of “just being there” when it comes to releasing music or playing shows but they might be the most criminally underrated metal band going today. Besides making metal music that combines brutal death metal and grindcore with technical elements, their live show is almost unparalleled (on a tour full of unparalleled live performers no less) and were an absolute joy to headbang to. Every single song of theirs hit hard and fast – the set opener “The Calling” was one of the best of the night and the callback to 2010 with “Sleeping Giants.” An absolute force to be reckoned with.

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Opening the show was Abnormality from Boston, a group that seems to making waves and touring a lot in recent times – and for good reason. Completely eschewing melody for brutality, Abnormality has much more in common with the likes of Devourment and Suffocation than At The Gates. Vocalist Mallika Sundaramurthy bounded into the crowd to start up the first mosh pits of the night when she wasn’t onstage making people headbang along with her. With the slams and the riffs coming at 100 miles per hour, Abnormality’s set was over far too soon. A refreshing reminder that showing up early to a show can yield the best results of the night.

1. Evolved as One
2. It’s a M.A.N.S. World!
3. The Wolf I Feed
4. Smash a Single Digit
5. Stunt Your Growth
6. On the Brink of Extinction
7. Stubborn Stains
8. Scum
9. The Kill
10. You Suffer
11. From Enslavement to Obliteration
12. The Code Is Red… Long Live the Code
13. Twist the Knife (Slowly)
14. Quarantined
15. Dear Slum Landlord…
16. I Abstain
17. How the Years Condemn
18. Suffer the Children
19. If the Truth Be known
20. Face Down in the Dirt (The Offenders cover)
21. Hate, Fear and Power (Hirax cover)
22. Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Dead Kennedys cover)
23. Persona Non Grata
24. Smear Campaign

The Black Dahlia Murder

1. What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse
2. Statutory Ape
3. Abysmal
4. Nocturnal
5. Vlad, Son of the Dragon
6. Warborn
7. Threat Level No. 3
8. Contagion
9. Miasma
10. On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood
11. Everything Went Black
12. Deathmask Divine
13. I Will Return

Misery Index (out of order):

1. The Calling
2. Sleeping Giants
3. The Great Depression
4. The Oath
5. Conjuring the Cull
6. The Harrowing
7. The Spectator
8. Traitors

About Jackson May

Read more from Jackson at Mandatory Metallica and follow him on Twitter at @Mankvill.

View all articles by Jackson May

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