Friday, February 27, 2015

Back To The Grind

Napalm Death / Voivod / Exhumed / Iron Reagan
Oakland Metro, Oakland, California
February 21, 2015

The Friday night commute traffic across The Bay Bridge seemed worse than it really was..but it was still a time suck.  However, we eventually made it to beautiful West Oakland.  Thankfully there was zero guest list drama but due to the traffic we walked in during Iron Reagan's last song.. They sounded great and I was bummed I missed them.  Sorry guys... Next time I'll arrive earlier.. Goddammit.

The Metro was packed solid sold out and with that came the old school uncomfortable side of the venue; muggy sweaty heat.  That being said, nothing comes as close to the old Ruthie's Inn Bay Area Metal Days as a sold out show at The Metro... so if you want to time travel back to 1984 it's as close as you'll ever get.  Adding another main room bar behind the stage was a solid move by the club.. and I appreciate how that, even in a divey venue here in the 21st Century, you can get quality beer despite a sticky floor.  

Local Bay Area heroes Exhumed were up next and delivered a solid, solid set.  I'm still bemused how Max channels James Hetfield circa 1988 onstage, but there's nothing wrong with that.  Also, to make this run of shows special, the band brought back original bass player Ross Sewage (Ludicra, Ghoul, Impaled) for the 5 West Coast shows to play songs off their first album... Which I don't own (honesty is my only excuse..).. but it was a great old school set. 

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

The mighty Voivod landed on the Oakland stage next and were nothing short of magnificent.  Yes, there was another lineup change since the last time I saw them with Blacky leaving the bass position again... bummer.  As with every band from my salad days, it's impossible to expect them to still have their "original" members intact.. and Voivod at 1/2 of the original members is at the average ratio.  That being said, they absolutely killed it.  There are new faces but the same musical mastery that made them special in the first place is still front and center; the spirit of Piggy is still very much an aura around the band. Voivod's Prog Thrash resonates even more for me now and the 9-song set bent time and space.  Vintage tracks such as 'Order of the Blackguards', 'Voivod', and the Pink Floyd cover 'Astronomy Domine' were the cornerstones of the performance but I have to say the epic new song 'We Are Connected' was my favorite of the set.  There is still life in the Voivod machine!

[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect from Napalm Death but everything I had heard about shows in recent times had been nothing but raving... and they completely delivered as well.  Grind is just about the only Metal that still holds my attention at this point in history (Sorry Death and Black Metals.. but.. you make me yawn now..It's not you.. It's me..).  Thankfully, Napalm Death has released a brutally great new album that has only reinforced Grind in my heart and that translated perfectly live.  The entire 22-song set was an unrelenting buzz saw groove abattoir of volume.  At times the assault was breathtaking (or maybe it was the sweaty claustrophobic Metro getting to me) and, despite having his right arm in a sling, Barney was in fine form both during and between songs. The new songs 'Smash A Single Digit' and 'How The Years Condemn' really did it for me tonight and it was inspiring that my favorite parts of both Voivod and Napalm sets were their new songs.  Maybe I'm not so completely jaded about Metal after all... maybe.

Napalm Death
[Photo courtesy of Photo Ray]

A nice Bay Area moment occurred when Jello Biafra joined Napalm for the appropriate cover of the Dead Kennedy's 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off'.. Although Jello is seemingly at every show (still!) these days... but more power to Jello because at least he's out there supporting the bands he likes... I guess.. Anyway.. it was a nice moment.

I didn't do a merch audit.. I meant to.. but when I went to the side room where all the merch was set up I started talking to so many people that I forgot.  Oh well.. I don't need anymore black t-shirts anyway.  On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.   All in all, it was a damn fun night and easily the show of the year so far.. and no one got hurt and we all made it home safely.  I ate a bowl of cereal.. went to bed... and awoke the next morning to fight again.