Live Review: Napalm Death, Wormrot & 12Gauge Rampage @ The Factory Theatre, Sydney

12 September 2023 | 12:18 pm | Mark Hebblewhite
Originally Appeared In

For a band this established to be this vital so far into their career is pretty damn remarkable.

Napalm Death

Napalm Death (Source: Supplied)

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‘Fun’ isn’t usually the first word you’d associate with grindcore, or for that matter the sobriquet 12Gauge Rampage. That said, there is no other way I can describe the local death/grind outfit who delivered a short, sharp and surprisingly tight set. It wasn’t exactly ‘in and out in five minutes,’ but it was close. Any band that can deliver tight musicianship and create a music video dealing with a dystopian vision of a society dealing with a VB shortage demands attention in my books. Check em out.

It is tempting to define Wormrot simply by what makes them unique. But this outfit are way more than just ‘the grind band from (of all places) Singapore’. Live, they proved themselves a three-man wrecking crew (early sound gremlins notwithstanding) with drummer Vijesh, an absolute force of nature in the flesh. Despite losing vocalist Arif, who helped make 2022’s Hiss LP so memorable, the band remain a potent force, with Gabriel Dubko of Implore fame doing a bang-up job of keeping the intensity levels high.

Even the lack of bass guitar didn’t matter as the sound was full and, at times, even cavernous, with Hiss favourites including When Talking Fails, It’s Time for Violence, Glass Shards, Pale Moonlight and Seizures starting the first serious pit of the night. Add to that older classics such as Blockhead F*ck Off and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Grind, and this was nothing short of a superb set from a group that deserve all the superlatives that have been thrown their way.

Once upon a time, Napalm Death were considered a novelty act dedicated to short songs, chaos and pushing the boundaries of good taste. Well, the joke’s on the critics because nearly 40 years later, these Birmingham-based reprobates remain one of the most vital forces in heavy music.

Most bands who have been around this long rely on their ‘classic hits’ to get them over. It’s telling, however, that Napalm Death were able to include a huge chunk of their latest full-length album, Those of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism and have the crowd receive these tracks as well as if the band simply decided to play the Mentally Murdered EP on an extended loop. Accordingly, the likes of Amoral (the closest Napalm get to having a ‘beautiful’ song, according to Mr Barney), Contagion and Fuck The Factoid were every bit as mosh-inducing as Siege of Power, Scum, Unchallenged Hate, and the always magnificent Suffer The Children.

With Shane Embury and Mitch Harris anchoring themselves to their respective sides of the stage, Barney was (as always) the focal point of the show, throwing himself around like a demented straw doll and taking time out to remind the crowd that Napalm Death aren’t just noise mongers but proud political activists. The only downside of the entire set was an uneven mix during I Abstain (note: the Utopia Banished LP is an absolute banger, and everyone should go back and revisit it), which turned what should have been an absolute highlight into a bit of sonic mess.

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For a band this… ahem… established to be this vital so far into their career is pretty damn remarkable. The boys show no sign of slowing down, and I suspect that if they felt they could no longer deliver, they’d be the first to admit it was time to hang up the mic cord.

Napalm Death are as ferocious now as they were in 1988 when the music world wrote them off as a one-trick pony. They have transcended being simply the kings of grindcore and have become a cultural institution in their own right.