In about a month, the Mayan calendar runs out, and some people interpret that to mean the world is ending. Of course, most of us recognize that when you get to the end of a calendar, you just buy a new one. But metal titans Municipal Waste, Napalm Death and Exhumed have joined forces for a juggernaut tour, so could be there's something to this doomsday thing.
In these three bands we have three very different philosophies of how we reached humanity's end and how to react to it. With party thrashers Municipal Waste, now's the time to get wasted, bro. With gore-grinders Exhumed, it's gonna end ugly. And for the sociopolitical-minded grindcore forefathers in Napalm Death, it's all your fault. And for metalheads, this lineup is about as close to a can't-miss bill as you're going to get without resurrecting Cliff Burton.
On this tour, Napalm Death and Municipal Waste — the latter of whom has been a leading light of '80s thrash revivalism since 2001 — have been swapping the headlining spot each night. Waste vocalist Tony Foresta says that's resulted in some of the biggest crowds he's ever seen on tour.
"I think it's the combination of us and Napalm Death," Foresta tells the Scene via phone from Seattle. "[Our] bands don't sound anything alike, but they kind of complement each other in a weird way."
While Municipal Waste plays what could be called crossover thrash, Napalm Death took crust punk to its logical extreme more than 30 years ago, helping create what metal taxonomists would later dub "grindcore." They're playing second in Nashville, and the weirdness of playing after the living legends isn't lost on Foresta.
"We're not idiots — we know that it's an honor to be on this tour," says Foresta. "It's fucking crazy to have a legendary band, one of the most influential bands ever, to play. It is weird to me that they're playing before us sometimes, but I mean, they appreciate it — they think it's cool. We're not just some fucking teenybopper band. We've been a band for 12 years, and we've worked really hard to get to where we're at. I think people respect that."
Napalm Death cemented their legacy early on with their debut LP Scum. It wasn't released until 1987 — several years after Napalm's formation — but it provided the blueprint for a brave new world of extreme metal that's still used by countless bands. Its breakneck tempos, hyperpolitical (and indecipherable) lyrics and ADD-friendly song lengths still make it a landmark. ("You Suffer" famously clocks in at 1.316 seconds, and Wikipedia says it was once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's shortest song. Guinness says they don't make any claims for that record.)
Side one and side two of Scum are effectively performed by two different bands, with only drummer Mick Harris playing on both. A thoroughly confusing number of lineup changes eventually settled into the long-standing collection that now flies the Napalm flag — though it features no original members. Nevertheless, Napalm has somehow remained a singular entity, incorporating elements of death metal along the way. Just this year, Napalm Death released the full-length Utilitarian as well as a split 7-inch with Converge. And even if the sound is more refined than it was in the Scum days, both releases are as urgent and pummeling as anything the band has done.
Another reason to praise Napalm Death: Without them, there'd likely be no Exhumed.
Exhumed also took maximum-repulsion cues from bands like Carcass and Autopsy. Bouncing around California in the '90s and 2000s, Exhumed suffered personnel turmoil similar to Napalm's, with the band dropping off the map for a few years before returning with 2011's comeback album All Guts, No Glory.
Guitarist-vocalist Matt Harvey is the only founding Exhumed member left. Not that it matters — All Guts rips. All the matters of splatter are there: songs with titles like "Your Funeral, My Feast," guttural and shrieking vocals bouncing off one another, full-throttled blast beats and just enough melody to sink your teeth into. Like the band's landmark 2003 release, Anatomy Is Destiny, it's a death-and-dismemberment romp through horror-movie camp and tough-guy badassery.
So basically, if you go to this show and miss Exhumed, you're an idiot, though a lot of people will probably just show up late for Municipal Waste. While it might be hard for some metal fans to wrap their metalheads around the idea of Napalm Death opening for MW, Waste does indeed have more universal appeal than the other two bands. Their brand of thrash is called "crossover" after all, and they're a pretty primo gateway metal band as well — the only metal band, in fact, that I've pushed onto my editor that he hasn't hated. Of these three acts, Muni is the least removed from punk, sharing common DNA with '80s crossover bands like Anthrax, Nuclear Assault and DRI.
Municipal Waste is also an all-or-nothing party band: from their debut Waste 'Em All, further perfected on breakout album Hazardous Mutations and expanded on The Art of Partying. Beer, monsters, more beer and thrash itself are common concerns for Muni, but their latest, The Fatal Feast, takes those themes and, well, imagines them in outer space.
"You have bands like Assassin, Tankard, and even GWAR did a space record," Foresta explains. "It's kind of like, after you've been a band for a certain number of years, you eventually have to write a space album."