There is always a sense of importance when you know that you are going to be experiencing something for the last time. Unfortunately that was the mood in the air for many attending the Napalm Death, Brujeria, Lock Up and Black Rheno show at Max Watts House of Music Brisbane on Thursday night as the news had filtered out shortly before the show that this would be one of the last held at the venue. The bands may not have known it at the time, but they certainly made it a fitting evening as one of the last for this beloved Brisbane venue.
Sydneysiders Black Rheno were up first, and put on one of the more entertaining performances in recent memory. The three-piece are best described as ‘groove-grind’ and they managed to set the stage alight for those that had made the effort to make it out early. The band did have the shortest set of the night, but wasted no time in trying to warm up the crowd for the evenings draw cards, and they worked well as an answer to the powerful grind bands from the UK and Mexico to follow. It was disappointing to see the turnout during their set,as the venue was filled with a crowd of only about 30 people, but they didn’t let that deter them and put on a great show anyway.
Lock Up took to the stage next and it was at this moment that the crowd started filling in, which is probably because there was something captivating about the way they performed on stage. Vocalist Kevin Sharp worked every corner of the stage well, moving around like a barefoot madman that kept the attention of the crowd from the get go. But the real heroes for this set were drummer Nicholas Barker whose thunderous kicks and rapid fills provided the outrageously quick platform for the rest of the band to build on; and bassist Shane Embury who wreaked absolute havoc on his bass with a picking motion that quickly became nothing more than a perpetually moving blur. Anton Reisenegger’s guitar work was simply the icing on the cake for the framework laid out by the other two band members, and complimented that performance perfectly. The band blistered through their set and it wasn’t long before they had to make way for the next act of the evening.
Although it had taken 25 years for Brujería to grace Australian stages, and there was certainly a large contingent of fans in the crowd that let them know that it had taken them far too long. It took only two songs before shirtless fans were throwing themselves into the pit to incite the other members of the crowd to mosh, and this continued until the end of the set.
The balaclava wearing bandits led by Juan Brujo put on an amazing visual performance that saw Brujo, and offsider vocalist El Sangron work the crowd over while the remaining band members (Barker, Reisenegger and Embury from LockUp) seemed more at home playing a slower paced, yet still in your face extreme sound. The band was perhaps best summed up when they concluded their lengthy set with track Matando Güeros and brandished their machete’s and proceeded to bang them against the fold backs and front of stage. This ominous image certainly carved a lasting memory for those fans that had waited so long for the band to tour, and was a fitting way to vacate the stage for the headliners.
Now there are always two guarantees when you go and watch a Napalm Death show; firstly, that you’re going to have a blast, and secondly that you are going to enjoy watching the show put in front of you. Not because it is spectacularly choreographed down to each finite movement, but because the band always looks like they have a blast on stage. This show was no different with Mark‘ Barney’ Greenway running around the stage in his controlled yet cathartic manner, drummer Danny Herrera smiling while making his difficult drumming sections look easy, and John Cooke looking like he was having the time of his life while nailing his guitar sections perfectly.
As this was Embury’s third set of the night, you would think that he would be showing signs of exhaustion, but the bassist still managed to look like he had just walked out on stage for his first song the entire set.If he patented the magic potion that he takes which keeps him playing so frenetically effortlessly after all these years, he could probably make millions.
Napalm rapidly fired through their set, hitting a good mix of classic or ‘purist’ Napalm tracks, some of the newer material, and even a couple of Punk Rock covers that had the crowd moshing, chanting and singing along to every note and lyric from the band. It really was a good sight to witness.
Barney, being ever the statesmen spent his time between songs providing commentary on the current state of affairs in the world, even providing his thoughts own thoughts and perspective on Australia’s current same-sex marriage debate. It is really understated how much these types of interactions mean to the fans, and perhaps it’s this honesty and humanity that the band displays through their music and their frontman, that have kept them motoring on for over 30 years.
By ending the night telling fans to take care of themselves — and others, and taking the time out to personally thank and shake hands with those fans that bothered to hang around the barrier, Napalm Death continued to reaffirm the belief that they are one of the nicest bands in metal; and provided a fitting second last show for one of Brisbane’s beloved music venues.