Napalm Death, Agnostic Front and More: Live Review

Suck it, Washington D.C.  Baltimore, bite my bag.  Frederick, MD – often slagged as Fredneck even by its own citizens, home to such holes as Guido’s and the much-missed Krug’s (R.I.P.) – finally stacked a bill and packed the underrated Café 611.  Sure, the more populous mid-Atlantic cities are a safer bet for metal acts looking to earn a decent night’s pay, but Frederick’s been starved long enough for our underground metal love to get passionate and sloppy.

Arriving shortly before seven o’clock, Decibel caught the last couple songs by Baltimore quintet Optimist Prime, led by the brutal fem-growls of Alexis Duncan.  March to Victory’s calling card (as also witnessed at a previous Café 611 show with Abysmal Dawn) includes asking an audience member to answer, “What is best in life?” as Conan would:  “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentations of their women.”  Baltimore’s Monger laid down some heavy three-guitar fire, all mixed and clarified admirably by the dude at the soundboard.  Screamer Mike D won hearts quickly by bringing the crowd on board to celebrate/mourn his late son’s would-be sixth birthday.

A389 new guns Genocide Pact did not disappoint, lacing their seedy chug with crypt-gas leads and frequent tempo downshifts.  By the time Lord Dying launched into their immediate A-game, the room was filling up and bodies moved more appreciably.  The Portland, OR band ripped out razorwire chords and frenzied solos, tipping the night’s scales stylistic scales deep into the metal zone, if only temporarily.

Every eclectic extreme bill benefits from a sneering thrash enema – the Decibel 100th Issue show got right with Municipal Waste – and tonight’s ass rocket was ardently provided by Joel Grind’s Toxic Holocaust.  The room loved every second of songs like “Wild Dogs” and “Awaken the Serpent,” shouting back “War is fucking hell!” between bouts of running like Spanish bulls round the club floor.  Then New York’s All Out War chopped heads with their swagger-soaked metallic hardcore, darkening the tone of the evening.  Theirs was an uphill battle, turning against Toxic Holocaust’s heightened mood while the room’s collective blood-alcohol level screamed to party hardy, but the diehards ate it up (and nearly ate Score’s mike).

Our own energetic nadir seemed to slot right into Agnostic Front’s set time (hey, a nine-band night after a full-time work week is no joke), but it was hard to ignore their impact on their attending fanbase.  Even while the tonal components of the performance were mixed way behind the rhythm section, their songs thundered across the ecstatic fleshpress.  While most heavy bands rage blindly against some nebulous wrong, Agnostic Front and their audience seemed to be uniquely poised to incite a truly focused revolution.

Disappointingly down one Mitch Harris since last fall, headliners Napalm Death nevertheless treated the surly crowd to an hour-plus of spirited activist death/grind.  Greenway’s casual off-stage reserve shattered when he took the mike and led the band in a cathartic tantrum.  New cuts “Smash a Single Digit,” “Dear Slum Landlord” and “Cesspits” got the expository treatment alongside fan lovefests like “Scum,” “Suffer the Children” and, inevitably, “You Suffer.”  By the time the band shut the place down with “Adversarial/Copulating Snakes,” a weird, ultra-macho head-to-head sparring match had cleared most of the pit, but the show’s overall vibe definitely leaned toward unabashed appreciation.

Here’s some YouTube vid from a guy called Brad Hannigan who was also there.  Screen mosh!