Napalm Death – Glasgow, UK – March 9th, 2023

Grindcore legends Napalm Death return to Glasgow with the Campaign for Musical Destruction 2023 tour. Just in December, these crazed Englishmen in Glasgow opened the eclectic bill of Volbeat and Skindred at the Hydro arena. Now, they’re rightfully headlining the Classic Grand and the show is sold out. Like many, this gig fell victim to the pandemic and was postponed for just over a year. 

Unfortunately, the delay isn’t the only misfortune afflicted on this show. Bassist Shane Embury can’t make the tour, so Pro-Pain bassist Matt Sheridan substitutes for him. Two nights before, vocalist Barney Greenway injured his ankle. He comes out to greet the venue supported by crutches and takes a seat in the centre of the stage for the entire duration of the concert. Those familiar with Napalm Death live also know that long-term guitarist Mitch Harris doesn’t play live, so John Cooke from Venomous Concept and Corrupt Moral Altar picks up the axe in his place.

Despite these alterations, these gentlemen grinders waste no time igniting dynamite with opener Narcissus from last year’s Resentment is Always Seismic – A Final Throw of Throes EP. Maybe it’s Greenway sitting in a chair, the lack of familiarity with this newer song or the need to warm up, but the crowd’s reaction is oddly subdued. There’s no moshing or crowd surfers. However, all hell breaks loose for the next song Backlash Just Because with an enormous pit detonating in the front and centre of the venue with no shortage of moshers surging through the crowd to get to it. 

This song and the following two – Fuck the Factoid and Contaigon – are from Napalm Death’s last full-length release Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism. Their 16th studio album is a creative inclusion of dreary slightly slower atmospherics with the usual tornado death-grind menace the band has perfected in their latter years. Being behind the eternal moshers and crowdsurfers makes it nearly impossible to glimpse Greenway or drummer Danny Herrera. Cooke and Sheridan capture most of the audience’s attention and fortunately, their stage presence is suitably emphatically energetic. Greenway’s barks are as battering as they usually are live but the lack of his idiosyncratic hyperactive presence really detracts from the show.

Along with the new fare, the band unwrap some of their most popular anthems. Older signature material like Suffer the Children (preceded by Greenway commanding anti-abortionists to fuck themselves), Scum, You Suffer, The Kill, as well as modern classics including Smash a Single Digit and Everyday Pox brutalise the venue. Always keen to pay homage to their influences, Napalm Death fire out their grisly grinding takes on Bad Brain’s Don’t Need It and the mandatory cover of Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off. Despite its murky and chaotic nature, the sound at the Classic Grand is sublime, making it imperative to headbang to these songs.

After Nazi Punks Fuck Off, Greenway announces that the next song is the final one. He apologises for being a twat in a chair tonight but at least they didn’t cancel; when life gives you lemons, you grind. The final number is the catch grind classic Siege of Power, unleashing an explosive audience response. Short but sweet, this concludes a vicious hour of a limited yet enjoyable version of Napalm Death. Hopefully, they return to Scotland as quickly as last time, all in tip-top shape.