Gig Reviews

Napalm Death: Quite possibly the best band in the world

The English gentlemen in Napalm Death returned to Japan to once again show us what humble legends they are.

Napalm Death and Thirsty at Unit, Daikanyama, Tokyo, Japan on 13th December 2023

Local act Thirsty, who describes their musical style as “beer core”, got the audience warmed up and ready for the main act. They gave us some excellent basement hardcore to get the juices flowing.

With Napalm Death there are no compromises. The band members are both gentlemen and scholars of noise as well as professors of grindcore. They are humble heroes that bring truth, reality and happiness to their fans. And what a wonderful noise they create!

On the surface, England’s finest noisemakers appear to create chaos. Sure, the music is chaotic, but it is organised chaos and it is chaos that speaks to the band’s many fans. The sold-out Tokyo gig saw its fair share of crowd surfing, stage diving and circle pits. This loyal Japanese audience loves the band and the vast majority of the audience has seen Napalm Death many times before. The global pandemic meant that it has been more than four and a half years since the last Napalm tour of Japan. Thus, the Tokyo audience was more than ready to worship their noise gods once more.

Napalm opened their show with a trio of newer songs: “Narcissus” (from 2022’s “Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw of Throes” EP), “Backlash Just Because” and “Contagion” (both from the 2020 album “Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism”). What a way to kick off a show and demonstrate that this band still rules!

It is awkward to talk about any highlights of a show this solid. There simply were no dips or fillers. The band was on fire. The show never stood still – it was relentless and bloody awesome. Songs of note in a flawless setlist included “Scum” and “You Suffer”, obviously, “I Abstain”, “Amoral”, “Suffer the Children”, “Smash a Single Digit”, “The Kill”, “Mass Appeal Madness”, Unchallenged Hate”…and the list goes on. It was refreshing that they played quite a few newer songs. The quality of the material on their recent releases is fab. Those songs deserve to be performed live. Despite a lorry-load of splendid original content, we also got treated to two well-chosen covers – Bad Brains’ “Don’t Need It” and Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”.

Shane Embury (bass), Barney Greenway (vocals) and Danny Herrera (drums) have been playing together for more than three decades. But what is now becoming more noticeable when the band performs live is how guitarist John Cooke has grown into a major piece of the puzzle. At the Tokyo gig, he even snuck in some heavy metal-style guitar wankery among the mayhem. Napalm rounded out a fab Tokyo show with “Siege of Power” from the band’s 1986 debut album “Scum”. A sweaty and happy audience could go home, once again, with big smiles on their faces.

My love for this fabulous band is unconditional and limitless. They are legends. Seeing them perform is a privilege. Every time. They never disappoint, they always deliver.

Napalm Death is quite possibly the best band in the world.