By Daniel Tucceri
In April, a tsunami of grind is forecast to smash both sides of the Tasman. Napalm Death will be joined by fellow grindcore veterans Carcass and local upstarts Extortion in their upcoming Australian annihilation. Their longest serving member, Shane Embury, explains that coming to Australia was a no brainer given half a decade has passed since they last corrupted our shores. “A couple of the guys from Soundworks Touring suggested it, since Carcass are going to be around that area around that time. Why not, you know?”
Embury is equally enthused with the addition of Extortion to the Australian leg of the trans-Tasman tour. “I’ve been familiar with them for a while and Barney (Greenway, vocalist) bought a whole bunch of their CDs”. Eventually, that interest led to a collaboration and Greenway contributed vocals to the band’s ‘Loose Screws’ record. “They did a couple of shows with us last time we were here and it’s good old school sounding stuff”.
I ask Embury how Napalm Death kept the spirit of that ‘old school sound’ intact as the band evolved towards a heavier death metal sound. “That sound’s just kind of with you, you don’t lose that really. It’s part of your DNA when you’re writing riffs”, he explains.
“In the early days, we didn’t know what we were doing. We were doing what we wanted and the thought processes and analysis gets going as you get better. There’s a bit more freedom involved, it’s quite liberating to go into a rehearsal studio and go ‘who knows what’s going on?’ Will we come up with something? Hopefully, if not, it’s not the end of the world and we’ll come in next week”
As Embury sees it, the emphasis on speed and rawness has defined them right up to 2015’s ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’. “I’m not so sure that I spent so much time trying to get the perfect take as opposed to something that is exciting. On ‘Cesspits’, or ‘Adversarial’, you can hear the second fast part definitely getting faster. You might want to correct it, but why would you even do that?” With a production ethos centred on “an intense feeling, rather than trying to be picture perfect”, as Embury puts it, the end result is a record which distils the urgency of their live shows into fourteen unrelenting tracks.
Although the band is willing to experiment, the buck stops with them. “Sometimes, you gotta go ‘fuck it, I like it’. The first track on the album, the label said ‘don’t you reckon it’s a bit long?’ Well, if they don’t like it, they can fucking skip it. That’s kind of our attitude”, declares Embury unabashedly.
With an emphasis on the unpredictable, the abstract link between grindcore and jazz made all the more sense with John Zorn’s appearance on 2012’s ‘Utilitarian’. “You know within yourself how far you wanna push it every record, perhaps. I could go on for hours, but years and years ago, Micky (Harris) the old drummer was into heaps of different stuff and wanted the band to go in majorly different directions, but at that particular point we all thought it was the wrong time.”
“We explained this to him, but he’s quite an impatient individual. Fast forward twenty years and we’re probably at a point where he would’ve been completely happy.”
As for the other Harris in Napalm Death, guitarist Mitch recently announced his hiatus from the band. Although there are plans for his return, a clear date hasn’t been set. When pressed, Embury only gives so much away. “Mitch’s health as an individual is totally fine. It’s just a couple of events with his family that collided all at once and he needed to be in the States. It’s a point in his life that he needs to work out and as friends we need to give him that time.”
“All being well, he’ll be with us sooner rather than later, but I know there’s a lot of pressure on him in his personal life”, clarifies the veteran bassist. “The band’s here for him if he wants to come back, and I’m sure he probably will. It just might take longer than we’d expect.”
While some bands would consider it enough of a setback to put off touring, Napalm Death decided to make the grind onslaught just that little bit more incestuous. There are plans for either John Cooke of Embury’s side project Venomous Concept, or Erik Burke of Brutal Truth, to step in. “Everything’s been working out cool. We’ve got Erik from the States and John who played with us in Europe last year. I’m not sure who’s coming out with us (to Australia), it could be John, it could be Erik, so we have a couple of options.”
16 April – Perth, Capitol, 18+
17 April – Melbourne, Prince Bandroom, 18+
18 April – Sydney, The Factory Theatre, 18+
19 April – Brisbane, The Hifi, 18+
21 April – Valhalla, Wellington, 18+ SOLD OUT!
22 April – Valhalla, Wellington, 18+ (No Extortion)
23 April – The Kings Arms, Auckland, 18+ (No Extortion)