Live Review: Napalm Death, London Underworld, 16th December

Just around the corner from the Camden Underworld, the BrewDog bar is exhibiting all the signs that tonight’s show is going to be over-subscribed despite Napalm Death’s much-anticipated and completed new album, Utilitarian, in cold storage until the New Year. The Scottish independent brewery’s own titular tribute to the Dead Kennedys’ anti-fascist anthem, the 7.8% ABV loosener Hops Kill Nazis, is all sold out.
But then it is Black Friday, the last payday before Christmas, when excessive drinking makes Romero-esque flash mobs in plastic ‘n’ felt reindeer antlers a common sight, and emergency calls go up over 25 per cent on your average Friday night. It’s carnage. But then maybe the office parties, the tramp outside the venue who’s ejaculating snot out of his nose onto passers-by, the brutal cold, the sleet, the sirens… Maybe all this is just the perfect environment to showcase Britain’s finest, top pedigree grind band and one of the country’s up-and-coming facerippers, The Atrocity Exhibit; both make a lot of capital out of chaos.

Northampton’s fastest sons, The Atrocity Exhibit spend their set needling the red, a set during which the jams exit any sort of song structure, reach a white-noise terminal velocity before spiraling into horrible, feral moments of localized fury. It all depends on where you stand. Getting a view of the action is tough, and behind a wall of bodies The Atrocity Exhibit’s speed and intensity seems more abstract than the point-blank focused salvos of their superlative 20-minute driller Grind Over Matter. Still, it’s enough to start spreading the adrenaline round and get limbs and sinew ready for the rough and tumble so customary when Napalm Death are in town.

    The sound’s kinda rough in this clip but fit for purpose

There’s little in the way of front-of-house stage policing at the Camden Underworld so it’s kind of a free for all as soon as Barney’s throat embraces the invective in opener “Downbeat Clique”. A reinforced steel pillar might kill the dancefloor buzz for those looking to stretch their legs in a pit but all the action’s headed to and from the stage, a massed tangle of limbs obscuring Barney Greenway and co. “Unchallenged Hate” ups the ante early on, and it’s a momentum that Birmingham’s grind progenitors refuse to cede until they’ve closed everything up for the night in storming through the multi-riffed death/grind hulk of “Suffer the Children” and a weirdly ecstatic “Silence is Deafening”.

    “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”

It’s a greatest hits set, all the favorites, plus two covers (sorry, three, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” is almost their own by now). Mitch Harris’ scream is uncannily like Bill Crooks when tearing through Cryptic Slaughter’s “Lowlife”, while Siege standard “Conform” sounds like it was made to be articulated through Napalm Death’s incorrigible, savage aesthetic. “Social Sterility”, “Scum” and “Lucid Fairytale”: none have lost any of their power. But special mention must go to “Quarantined”, a new song that suggests that Utilitarian will be (of course) worth the wait, and bassist Shane Embury’s promise that “it’s pretty ferocious” is one sure to be honored.