What a line-up. Even with the worst-kept secret in metal (the “special guest” being Napalm Death was an open secret from the day that tickets went on sale), it was going to be a must-see for anyone into the heavier end of things. Glasgow was only the second night of this juggernaut of a tour after Wolverhampton. So what do the other 30-or-so venues have to look forward to?
Openers Herod are very much the new boys, formed less than two years ago compared to the 30+ of pretty much everyone else on the bill. We spoke to singer David before the show and he said that their job was to get out there in front of however many fans had arrived and give their best. At Wolverhampton that was around 50 growing to 100. I’m glad to say the numbers were larger at Barrowlands, starting with a hundred or so and probably doubling by the time their short set came to an end.
I hope the band will forgive me not naming any tracks, but I’m not too familiar with their album They Were None as yet. However, they looked the part, didn’t look in the least bit uncomfortable and threw out a good selection of tunes to an audience who gave them the respect they deserved. Opening as a relative unknown for a bill like this takes confidence and Herod have that in spades.
A decent round of applause and, I hope, some t-shirt sales and new fans their rewards for their time on the stage.
The first of the old-timers to come on stage were Voivod, a band I’m also not too familiar with (though Sean, I’m sure, could fill in all the gaps!). With their brand of futuristic thrash, they were the least “heavy” of the acts on offer but that didn’t stop a huge number of the crowd being there to greet them as the lights went down.
This was my first time seeing them and in terms of entertainment value they’re top notch. From Snake’s opening quote of “Hey, ho.. Glasgow!” to his face-pulling and cheesy posing with the rest of the band, here were a bunch of guys treating their time in the spotlight like a walk in the park. Casual, enjoyable, and natural.
With a crowd ready and pumped up for the show, it was no surprise to see the first of the crowd surfers emerge from the pit – something that continued up until the closing chords of the band’s self-titled track which ended their set.
Next up were Brummie mob Napalm Death, missing guitarist Mitch Harris who is still on “leave” due to an illness in the family. The rest of the band were all there, though, including the as-usual mental Barney fresh from his dinner at Glasgow’s 13th Note (which he has very nice things to say about earlier), and Shane Embury who passed through Edinburgh recently as part of Brujeria. With a forty minute set, we were bound to have a huge number of songs to go through and even with the occasional pause to engage the crowd, Napalm Death ensured that the crowd would be well exercised.
The last time I saw this band live was in the significantly smaller Ivory Black’s a couple of years ago. The change in venue size meant nothing to the band other than a larger audience to hold in the palms of their hands, and their unique blend of heaviness ensured a brutal set. Tracks were played from all over the band’s history from first (proper) album Scum right through to the more recent Apex Predator. “Suffer The Children” was probably the best-received of the night, though even those not familiar with the back-catalogue couldn’t help but join in the closing cover of the Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. Nobody got the chance to join in with “You Suffer”, though. The band just sneaked it in!
Barney is up there as one of the most active front men I’ve seen, constantly in motion when the songs are playing. Definitely a man who gets rather wrapped up in the music he’s performing! Watching him writhe and clutch his head with his hands during “Metaphorically Screw You” makes you worry for his sanity at times. Top track for me, though, was the thunderous “Strong-Arm”. I was probably going about as mad as Barney during that one.
The mayhem continued with Floridian death metal legends Obituary. Also having forty minutes to fill, there was to be no letup in the chaos. Opening with instrumental “Red Neck Stomp”, an obviously excited John Tardy waited in the wings before swooping onto stage and kicking into the set proper.
Like Napalm Death before them, they scoured through their catalogue from early years to 2014’s Inked in Blood. The pit was definitely bigger for Obituary than any previous band with the place going absolutely mental for closer “Slowly We Rot”, also one of my favourites of the set along with “I Don’t Care”. There was little in the way of crowd interaction, but that’s not to say that the band were aloof – they just preferred to get on with giving the audience what they’d turned up for.
It was obvious they were enjoying every minute. From John’s bopping before came on stage to his high-fiving the roadie on his way off, the whole band were grinning their way through the set as the crowd lapped up every deathly beat.
However… the crowdsurfing peaked between Napalm Death’s set and Obituary’s and I have to say the one low point of the evening (some brief crackly sound being forgiven) was the “security”. I think it was perhaps the most inept I have seen at a gig in as long as I can remember. Almost, but not quite, as bad as that at the same venue back in the early 90’s for Megadeth where I was dragged by the hair (yes, that long ago – I had hair) into a side room and threatened by some knuckle-dragger with a beating if I crowd-surfed again.
I watched people being roughly dragged out of the crowd. I saw one lad being pushed violently in the face by one member of the team (who I think was the senior staffer – older chap with a grey goattee) until the crowd dropped him, at which point he was pointed at in a fashion which obviously said “don’t bother trying that again”. I saw another kid being pushed pretty violently (by the same guy) out of the “escape tunnel” after crowd-surfing, grabbed by the lapels and being obviously threatened. His crime? Stopping to wave at the band on his way round after surfing.
I’m sorry, but if your staff aren’t capable of dealing with what was a fairly small number of crowdsurfers, then don’t host gigs where it may happen. Or hire better security. Putting up threatening notices on the way into the venue won’t cut it either. People don’t pay money to go to a venue then arrive to read poorly-printed A4 sheets telling them may may be ejected for crowdsurfing. In fact, I’d put money on the fact that of the 1000+ crowd, maybe a couple of dozen even saw the signs before they were ripped down. People pay money to go to a gig and have fun.
The staff at the recent Bullet For My Valentine gig in Dunfermline weren’t the best I’ve ever seen, but they were a million times better than this lot. Better prepared, better attitude and dealt with a significantly larger number of surfers at a faster rate. The regulars at the ABC, Garage and Academy know how it’s done as well.
Anyway, rant over, but their behaviour really did put a spoiler on the evening for me.
On with the show and headliners Carcass arrived on the stroke of ten to huge applause. Speaking to Bill Steer before the show, he’d had concerns that the crowd would peak during Obituary’s set, and by the time Carcass came on they’d be worn out. That might have been the case in Wolverhampton, but not here. Not tonight.
Similarly to Obituary, they opened with an instrumental – “1985” – allowing frontman Jeff Walker a couple of extra minutes to make his entrance before bellowing out “Good evening, Edinburgh! Nah, I’m kidding, I know you’re Glasgow!”.
“Unfit for Human Consumption” followed and then the tempo was kicked up a notch with “Incarnated Solvent Abuse” by which time the place was going crazy. With an hour to play, Carcass had a little longer to joke with the crowd and Jeff’s slightly self-effacing sense of humour worked well with the music. There were only a few short breaks to introduce tracks (and to discuss what looked like a change in their set), with the rest spent on dashing back and forth through their back-catalogue.
“Reek of Putrefaction” got an outing, as did another title track “Heartwork” which closed the set and the evening. A few people did leave before and during the set (why?!) but, as Jeff pointed out, more people turned up for this gig than for their last visit when they supported Amon Amarth. Conclusive proof, if any were needed, that there’s plenty of life in death metal yet.