Extreme Noise Terror are a hearty staple in the diet of any grindcore or crust punk consumer. So given Toronto’s sizeable punk community, it’s understandable that tonight’s first date of their Canadian tour sells out. So far, so good. However, main vocalist and sole original member Dean Jones was denied boarding his flight from England as another passenger remarked that he smelled of alcohol. The band denies any allegations that Jones was drunk, suspect the plane was overbooked and WestJet were looking for an excuse to remove a passenger.
Nova Scotian crust squadron Napalm Raid wield the honour of supporting Extreme Noise Terror. Formed in 2008, these Halifax locals have acquired a respectable following in the crust punk underground, not just in Canada but notably abroad too. Their bloody and bruised cacophony incorporates influences from the headliners as well as fellow compatriots DOOM with metallic hardcore puked on top. The result is an aural nuclear apocalypse annihilating a city and instantly mutating its inhabitants. The Coalition is completely plugged up with punks and getting a decent sighting of the band is damn near impossible but the audience reaction is full-bodied after every song.
The venue remains rammed when England’s Extreme Noise Terror get on stage and Dean Jones’ absence is very conspicuous. Guitarist Ollie Jones is his serviceable gravel-throated substitute, while second vocalist Ben McCrow’s energetic performance masks the missing member. As is textbook in crust and grind, song durations are condensed and electrifying with each setlist selection like a flurry of knife stabbings. Guitar and drums ally together to ignite a torrent of crazed rebelliousness while twin livid barks rage against a helplessly fucked up society that espouses corruption, injustice and avarice. The guitar tone is more metalized than their punkier recorded siblings and directs the songs with sinister modernity. The band abuses their instruments to launch the likes of “Raping the Earth”, “Murder”, “Religion is Fear”, “Bullshit Propaganda” and “Fucked Up System”, predominantly drawing from the massively influential Holocaust in Your Head.
Initially the crowd watches Extreme Noise Terror intensely with little in the way of hyperactivity, possibly too hemmed in by other attendees, but eventually bodies start slamming against each other. McCrow says “Fuck WestJet” and recounts the tale of Jones’ boarding rejection. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, they’re just overjoyed these Brits didn’t cancel the show and made great adjustments instead. McCrow also dedicates a song to the man he replaced, ex-vocalist Phil Vane who passed away in 2011. Extreme Noise Terror show their appreciation of touring throughout Canada and this is mirrored by the fans’ delight in seeing them, resulting in a roaringly entertaining show.
Despite the obvious setbacks, it was fantastic to witness Extreme Noise Terror’s first Toronto show, an event that a weaker band would have pulled out off for missing their sole original member and vocalist. The attendees were understanding and grateful to be granted a chance to catch some incarnation of such an inspiring act after over 30 years of ruthless extremity. Long may they rage on.