@Newcastle Northumbria University, October 28 2015
Psychic Vacuum, Suffer The Children, Slowly We Rot, Incarnated Solvent Abuse… songs which mean a hell of a lot to metal fans of a certain age, songs which you’d never thought you’d hear in one venue, in one night and played with real gusto by the bands who created them, decades ago.
So when it was announced that the Deathcrusher tour – a European jaunt featuring Voivod, Napalm Death, Obituary and headliners Carcass – was hitting Newcastle, the extreme metal grapevine went into overdrive.
And for many of those who turned up to witness this behemoth of a show, it was like 1988, or 1990, or 1993 all over again… though probably with a better lighting rig and nicer toilets.
Voivod – as revered as the Canadians are – were this package’s most left-field act, and it was no surprise that they ended up with the 7pm slot. However, for the die-hards raised on albums like Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss, it was a rare opportunity to see their heroes in action.
Discordant thrash, punked-up speed metal… however you describe the quartet’s music, it’s certainly influenced many a band, and while founding guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour passed away 10 years ago, his legacy lives on in shows like this.
Yes, vocalist Snake has a rather languid style, but he’s also charming, and had plenty of grins for the Tyneside crowd, while drummer Away (also responsible for the tour artwork) battered his kit like a man half his age. Closing tune Voivod – back to where it all began on 1984’s War and Pain – was a fitting finale.
It took Napalm Death, though, to really blast the night into life. OK, so guitarist Mitch Harris, on hiatus from the band, was a miss, and it took time for his replacement, Corrupt Moral Altar’s John Cooke, to cut through a muddy mix.
However, that’s a minor quibble, as Napalm Death always deliver. Arguably worth the ticket price alone, the four-piece ripped into the likes of Smash A Single Digit and Metaphorically Screw You from 2015’s Apex Predator – Easy Meat – an album as ferocious as anything they’ve produced in recent years.
Frontman Barney Greenway, typically, was a livewire – he has rarely looked fitter – and mixed his messages of peace, love and anti-fascism with a nice dose of Brummie humour.
Of course, the most fervent crowd reaction was reserved for grind golden oldies like Scum, but it was reassuring to see Napalm Death unleashing so much recent material. Still relevant, still awe-inspiring.
Speaking of which, Obituary might not be conjuring up classic albums like The End Complete or Cause Of Death any more, but the Floridians remain a potent force – especially in a live setting.
Bathed in eerie green or blood red light and benefiting from the night’s best sound, the Tardy brothers and their cohorts delivered a masterclass, from the opening notes of Redneck Stomp through to Don’t Care and pulverising newie, Visions In My Head.
Trevor Peres, still sporting the blonde mane of his youth, and fellow guitarist Kenny Andrews, proved a formidable pairing, combining titanic, depth charge riffs with the sinister leadwork that became the band’s trademark back in the early 1990s.
Topped with John Tardy’s distinctive, tortured howls, this was death metal truly worthy of the name… something which could also be said of Carcass’s performance.
And although they initially found it hard to match Obituary’s sheer might, the headliners still managed to set pulses racing. Why? Well, it helps that the quartet’s comeback album, 2013’s Surgical Steel, was one of the best extreme metal efforts of that year, and even better than most of their fans expected.
And those fans seemed greatly appreciative of the many ‘new’ songs aired during this set: Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System and Mount of Execution (jokingly referred to as a ‘power ballad’ by vocalist/bassist Jeff Walker) were just two highlights.
It also helps that in Bill Steer – with the band since its inception – they have one of metal’s finest guitarists at their disposal. The guy has sharpened his supreme skills as the years have gone by – his soloing in particular, is a delight.
And while it was great to see him joining Leeds retro rockers Gentlemans Pistols this year, Steer still looked like he was having fun peeling off the riffs to Corporal Jigsore Quandry or Buried Dreams during the Deathcrusher set… swapping mic stands with Walker, he even grunted his way through a fine rendition of Exhume to Consume.
Of course, there’ll always be a whiff of nostalgia to nights like this. But Carcass – like all of their road buddies – proved that they have plenty more to give to the metal scene. And given that’s the case, maybe, just maybe, line-ups like this might not be such a rarity in the future. We live in hope…