Campaign For Musical Destruction Tour 2009 Live In Ottawa

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Wednesday, July 8, 2009 @ 10:06 AM

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Family Favorites Napalm Death, Kataklysm, Toxic Holocaust, Coliseum & Trap Them Take The Campaign To Babylon, Ottawa, Canada

Time, indeed, waits for no slave. In fact, had I actually left to catch this show at 4:30 (as advertised incorrectly on the flyer) instead of the correct time of 6 (the show started at 6:30) I probably wouldn’t have been able to intervene on behalf of two female university students – one of Asian extraction – being verbally and racially harassed by some ignorant cocksucker in his 60’s on board the bus I was taking to the show. Possibly inspired by the lyrics to both versions of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” that I’ve heard in my lifetime I calmly pointed out the offending fuckstick to the bus driver and insisted that he be removed from the bus at the next possible stop. It was either that or I’d have had to beat the shit out of him myself and would be typing this review from prison. I despise political correctness as much as the next person but if that same person simply provokes and encourages it for no sake at all such as the aforementioned example I just described that’s when I have to take a stand. And I did.

Luckily, any waiting I had to endure in getting to see this show paid off as the Campaign For Musical Destruction 2009 North American Tour made its way to the Babylon theatre in downtown Ottawa, with many of the bands on this bill making their debut on a major tour in our fair city. First band to play was Trap Them from Kansas – they love Canada for having the biggest turnout at both their Ottawa and Montreal shows than at all of their US shows combined so far on this tour – whose singer had a habit of mounting the monitors during his 35-minute set. Under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol. He nearly fell off the stage twice but still delivered a decent performance as did his bandmates. The music itself had a steady balance of fast punk thrash and slow doom metal particularly with “Fucking Viva”, “Angles Anonymous In Transit”, “Digital Dogs With Analog Covers” and “Mission Convincers”. All in all, this was not a bad debut from a band whose singer was worried that the only connection with the Canadian audiences would be from him falling off of the stage onto them.

Up next were Wisconsin (by way of Kentucky) doomsters Coliseum whose bass player liked pogoing up and down during their set and their tattooed drummer was a Polish accent away from looking like my sister’s boyfriend. Ottawa restored their faith in humanity following a rather disastrous show in Hamilton that netted barely a fraction of the audience that turned out for this show (now where have I heard that before?). And speaking of faith, it took one person to drunkenly shout “Hail Satan!” to set their vocalist off on a tangent about both Satan and God being little more than cartoon characters and that inner strength and the power of believing in oneself was what he had always relied on. Well, maybe “tangent” was a bit too critical there. I’d say that it started off as a tangent and gradually became a moving speech by the end at the risk of having people remember Coliseum more for their motivational speaking than for their music. Speaking of which, it was pretty good, sounding like a sped-up angrier version of Alabama Thunderpussy in parts with a hardcore edge to their music. “Defeater” and “Set It Straight” unfortunately seemed to be the only songs I recognized out of a good 15 songs they played. But still a promising debut to my ears and once again Hamilton seems to have missed the boat.

After some mingling with a couple of friends and acquiring some merch, I checked out Portland, Oregon’s Toxic Holocaust as they tore into their opening set with “Wild Dogs”. Say what you will about their hair – which I’m still neutral on it being naturally grown that way or very convincing-looking wigs like Hinder and Steel Panther also probably have – but the music was all genuine in-your-face thrash/death metal like their forefathers were producing en masse some 20-25 years ago. In fact much of Toxic Holocaust’s influences come from many of the Canadian thrash/speed greats like Anvil and Exciter according to the band as they dedicated “Feedback Blood Distortion” to the aforementioned bands and others that inspired them to help create a second wave of the thrash/speed metal scene that has played a vital part in metal’s transgression as of late. Other songs such as “Nuke The Cross”, “War Is Hell”, “Death Brings Death”, “Gravelord” and the closing number – literally – “666” invoked the heart and soul of 1985 both onstage and in the brutal moshpit activity taking place in the audience. Awesome stuff. They’ll definitely be among the first on the frontlines to be leading the New American Wave Of Thrash movement in the coming years. Just don’t ask if they’re playing “Oklahoma Girl” or “Death To All But Metal” if you’re not that familiar with their music though...

You could tell it had been a while since Kataklysm has played in Ottawa when their lead singer Maurizio can’t find the stage at Babylon and holds up the show for a good ten minutes. Or at least that’s what the rest of the band wanted everyone to assume when the frontman from Coliseum took the stage and attempted his best Quebecois accent in what looked like a wig. You could tell that at least a good few of the audience got in on the inside joke between both bands. I think I was one of them but I’m not sure. All I know is that it was my third time seeing the Montreal death merchants and they take their sonic assault of death metal seriously, leaving no ass free of footprints from the aural kicking they brought down on the hapless crowd. In particular, as this was their first night on this tour, the band more than ensured that they belonged on this bill as they ripped through “Crippled And Broken”, “In Shadows And Dust”, “Let Them Burn”, “As I Slither” (notable for being the topic of Maurizio’s fear of snakes which I recall Manic Renee kinda playing up on during an interview one time; don’t ever say she couldn’t bring something interesting to a regular interview although that must have been pretty harrowing for Maurizio when it happened) and the closing number “Taking The World By Storm”. Which they’ll continue to do long after their stint on this tour has come to an end.

Back in mid-1991 I recall picking up an issue of the New Musical Express when I was going through my grunge/alternative music phase in high school and happened to glance at an article about a British band that made history in post-Soviet Russia for being the first extreme metal band to do a tour there. The NME was not quite as grasping for tabloid magazine status back then as it is now although I quickly tired of weekly updates of Shaun Ryder’s latest drug bust/bar fights or the latest concert Morrissey would pull out of a moment’s notice with no explanation given (imagine if Twitter had come out then….). That’s when I quickly turned to the article in question written by then-journalist Steven Wells who followed the band across the Russian tundra during their tour. The writing was biting, intelligent, quick and sarcastic without trying to be too biased although that was a struggle in itself. But the journalist did manage to meet his prime objective in his article: To get people’s attention on a new genre of music through one of its leading frontrunners.

The music was grindcore which I’ve garnered some degree of acceptance towards. And the band at the feature of that article was the night’s headliners Napalm Death who were making their first appearance in Ottawa in over 20 years.

The band opened with some tracks off of their latest disc Time Waits For No Slave such as “Life And Limb” and the title track and the crowd goes seven shades of batshit insane as frontman Barney Greenway screeches and bellows his way through their catalogue. It’s interesting how at one minute he sounds like he’s channeling the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in frustration to stop teasing us and just get over with eliminating the human race already for its ignorance and moral short sightedness and the next minute he sounds like my uncle Dowdy. But somehow Barney makes it work in that he’s not only a singer and entertainer but also a man with a message: Think for yourself, act for yourself, question everything, be aware of everything. To the untrained eye, this can sound somewhat trite and too simple to be anything more than just basic sloganeering but think of the number of bands in the same genre who have come and gone during Napalm Death’s 20-year strong career who can still attract a following while retaining the conviction and fury; few if any are barely at their level at this stage in Napalm Death’s career. How I managed to absorb a message of individual thought while trying to make out the words to “Procrastination Of The Empty Vessel” in the middle of a circle pit was probably an accomplishment in itself to be honest.

The new album aside, today’s societal problems are just as malignant and real as they were when Napalm Death first shot into the scene with their breakthrough EP Suffer Little Children back in 1987 and that night the crowd were eager to hear the songs that started it all for them, ranging from “Smear Campaign”, “Scum”, “Silence Is Deafening”, “The Code Is Red….” and of course the title track of the album that started it all for them. Musically the band played tight and aggressive, with the blistering guitar work of Mitch Harris wavering between the tight soloing precision of Jeff Hanneman of Slayer and the frantic distortion of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore comparison-wise and the solid rhythm work of bassist Shane Embury and drummer Danny Herrera helped drive the impact of the messages home like an 18-wheeler with its brake line cut. Closing with their landmark cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and their own “Mass Appeal Madness” before hi-fiving crowd members and tossing assorted extra guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd Napalm Death beat a hasty exit, exhausted and drenched in the knowledge and pride of a killer performance, and Barney pretty much all screamed out for the evening as he needed to prepare his voice for a phone interview with Full Metal Jackie the next day. It was about the only letdown regarding the concert, not being able to have a chat with the band and buy them a round or two and talk about several topics including the aforementioned bus incident in which I intervened on behalf of someone who would’ve had trouble speaking out for themselves before thanking the band in turn for the inspiration – both musically and communally. If that even makes sense there.

At the time of writing this interview, news has since surfaced of Steven Wells’ passing on June 24 following his valiant struggle with cancer. According to several news sites he’d been writing for the Philadelphia Weekly for the past couple of years having previously written for other publications such as Metal Hammer since leaving the NME and his writing style while often blunt and abrasive was also intelligent and honest and love or hate my reviews on KNAC.COM they wouldn’t be what they are without his guidance or inspiration.

And in case you’re wondering, no, I have never met the man but chances are anyone who can help break bands like Rage Against The Machine and Sepultura in a magazine like the NME as well as call out Morrissey on being an even more self-absorbed rock star asshole than Axl Rose could ever be accused of is alright in my book.

RIP Steven Wells and thanks for the inspiration. And thanks to Napalm Death for the awesome show in turn and to Peter Atkinson for helping me remember the setlist.

Setlist in no real order:

  • “Strong-Arm”
  • “Life And Limb”
  • “Time Waits For No Slave”
  • “Unchallenged Hate”
  • “Suffer The Children”
  • “Silence Is Deafening”
  • “I Abstain”
  • “Diktat”
  • “On The Brink Of Extinction”
  • “It's A M.A.N.S. World”
  • “From Enslavement To Obliteration”
  • “When All Is Said And Done”
  • “Procrastination Of The Empty Vessel”
  • “Scum”
  • “Life?”
  • “The Kill”
  • “The Code is Red”
  • “Deceiver”
  • “You Suffer”
  • “Persona Non Grata”
  • “Smear Campaign”
  • “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”
  • “Mass Appeal Madness”

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