Napalm Death and The Melvins @ Underground Arts with Melt-Banana.
Text and images by Tyler Horst.
The intimate space of Underground Arts became a maelstrom of chaos Wednesday night when a sold-out crowd threw down to two legends of the underground—Napalm Death and The Melvins—on their Savage Imperial March Tour along with Japanese noise-rockers Melt-Banana.
It was an eclectic mix that made perfect sense.
Before the first set, curious onlookers came to the front of the stage to gaze at the dense array of effect pedals laid out on the floor for Melt-Banana guitarist Ichirou Agata and snap some photos for further study. When the band took the stage, the purpose of the complex arrangement of gadgetry became clear to those unfamiliar with the band as Agata started into a layered crescendo of squawks, beeps, crunches and other tones not typically heard from a guitar.
The band then launched into a furious set of songs that combined elements of chiptune, grindcore, noise and even some pop, that threw the crowd into an immediate gleeful frenzy. Vocalist Yasuko Onuki led the charge with a brightly lit remote that controlled the electronica elements and programmed drums, yipping and howling along to the impossibly fast songs.
It’s not every day that you’d consider the sludgy, grunge-metal sounds of The Melvins to be a moment to breathe, but on this night they were.
The majestically coiffed King Buzzo walked on stage in a dress covered with sewn-on eyes. Bandmates Dale Crover and Steven McDonald wore simple black shirts emblazoned with sequins that spelled out Drums and Bass, respectively. The odd costuming is just part of the band’s goofy sense of humor.
“It’s great to be back in the City of Brotherly Shove,” said Crover to roars from the audience.
The Melvins played selections from their decades-long catalog, including tracks from their soon-to-be-released album Basses Loaded. The heavy, rolling riffs, thick bass and full-body drumming pummeled an excited, moshing crowd.
Rounding out the night were English grindcore pioneers Napalm Death.
Comedian Jim Carrey once joked about the guttural growls of vocalist Barney Greenway during an interview on the “Arsenio Hall Show,” saying, “You know, one day this guy is going to want to slow down and do some duets.”
But Greenway, now in his late 40s, showed no signs of “slowing down” in his 20-plus years in the band, flailing around the stage and barking into the mic like a wild man. He hasn’t abandoned his punk-rock attitude either.
“We have saying in England which is, ‘Know your place,’” Greenway told the pumped-up crowd. “I say bollocks to that. Your place is wherever you feel it fucking should be.”
It turned out that night that the crowd decided to be all over the place. It was impossible to stay in once place as mosh pits spread out, beers sprayed crazily through the air and many people repeatedly leapt on stage to dive back into the crowd.