Review by Pete Finn for MPM
MPM’s two ‘Old Muppets’ are heading back to Nottingham to sample some festive cheer and general merriment. Manny has recovered from his Friday night exploits on level 10 in the car park, without the need for physiotherapy or traction, so all in well. Our ‘Tour Bus’ is pointed towards the bright star that is the Motorpoint Arena, the three wise bands we’re seeing tonight are Volbeat with Skindred and Napalm Death.
This is the penultimate date of what has been a busy year for Volbeat, having played at some of the big festivals including Download over the summer. They have been working their way around Europe since October before arriving in the UK last week. Manny and I are straight in, the envelopes with our tickets and passes ready at the box office. Inside the arena the stage has a giant horseshoe shaped runway, this is going to allow the bands to get right into the crowd, which always makes the show a bit more personal, a sign over the section within the horseshoe reads ‘Volbeat Parasite Pit’. It’s great to catch up with Grin and Dawn who are waiting inside, they were at the Clutch gig at Rock City too.
Opening tonight are Napalm Death, who are a grindcore band formed in 1981 in Meriden, West Midlands. None of the band’s original members have been in the group after 1986. But since the ‘Utopia Banished’ album released in 1992, the line-up of Shane Embury (bass), Mitch Harris (guitar), Danny Herrera (drums) and Mark “Barney” Greenway (vocals) has remained consistent through most of the band’s career.
The band is credited as pioneers of the grindcore genre by incorporating elements of crust punk and death metal, using a noise-filled sound that uses distorted, down-tuned guitars, grinding overdrive bass, high-speed tempo, blast beats, vocals that consist of incomprehensible growls or high-pitched shrieks, and some extremely short songs.
The band’s debut album ‘Scum’, released in 1987 proved substantially influential throughout the global metal community. To date Napalm Death have released sixteen studio albums, their most recent being ‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’ during 2020. According to the Guinness World Records, their song ‘You Suffer’ is the shortest song ever recorded, at 1.316 seconds long. This I think, will be brutal.
‘Narcissus’ is from the ‘Resentment is Always Seismic – A Final Throw of Throes’ EP released earlier this year. Embury’s growling bass starts us off, Greenway’s scream announces his arrival, deep gut-wrenching lyrics change to rapid fire chants. Herrera’s arms a blur as he annihilates the kit.
It’s straight into ‘Backlash Just Because’ taken from 2020’s release ‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’. This time Embury’s bass is in parallel with Harris’ rich riff. Greenway is storming around the stage crying out the words. This is all energy and power; my senses feel like they’re in a washing machine full of house bricks.
Continuing with the same album, next, we have its opening track, ‘Fuck the Factoid’. This is ferocious. More guttural screams and shattering beats with drum rolls from Herrera.
Barney talks to the crowd, “Thank you, we are Napalm Death, an unapologetic noise band from the West Midlands. We want to make everyone feel welcome. This song is about that.” ‘Contagion’ is again from ‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’, and in Napalm Death terms, an epic in length. This has a far more thrash metal sound to it. Herrera is double-tapping the bass drum; Harris’ guitar sounds grab the attention. Embury is on backing vocals. The energy is off the scale.
Taken from their second album ‘From Enslavement to Obliteration’ released in 1988 it’s ‘Lucid Fairytale’. This is quick, if you breathe, you’ll miss it. The vocal consists of growls from Greenway as he prowls around the stage, it’s almost an instrumental.
‘You Suffer’ is that world record song, it’s from the 1987 debut ‘Scum’, blink and you miss it.
Continuing with tracks from ‘Scum’, up next, it’s the album’s title-track. Embury’s bass riff and Herrera’s drums are down and dirty, with Harris’ punching riff has the Nottingham arena buzzing. Barney Greenway injects a short vocal before the track finishes.
The hat-trick of tracks from ‘Scum’ is completed with ‘The Kill’. This is another quick one, rapid beats and a crazy riff as Barney blasts the vocal.
From the recent ‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’ release, it’s ‘Amoral’, a more traditional trash sound has some of the crowd headbanging along. This is steady in comparison to some of the earlier tracks but still of raw energy. Tongue-in-cheek, maybe, Greenway says he can hear some encouragement from the crowd.
‘Suffer the Children’ is from the 1990 album ‘Harmony Corruption’. Fast beats and riffs, Barney’s lyric is slower, but still coming from the depths of hell. The speed at which Herrera’s feet are moving and the power generated, he must get through a bass pedal every show. It’s very impressive.
From the 2006 release ‘Smear Campaign’ it’s ‘When All is Said and Done’, a quick marching beat and circular riff are met head on by Greenway’s growling as he’s marching in circles around the stage.
‘Dead’ is a 2-second track from 1988’s album ‘From Enslavement to Obliteration’. Greenway assures us it was different to ‘You Suffer’ as it was played in a different key, before going on to say, “Happy or not, this is our last song tonight.”
The final song of their brutal set is a cover of the 1981 Dead Kennedy’s track ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’, Napalm Death recorded it as part of their 1993 EP of the same name, it has since appeared on a couple of their albums. We finish as we started with shattering rapid beats, crushing riffs and angry growling lyrics. The track finishes, and with their horns raised the band thank the crowd and leave the stage.
I thought it was going to be brutal, and I wasn’t wrong, the power, energy and speed delivered by Napalm Death is something I’d rarely experienced before. That was one hell of a performance.
Setlist: Narcissus; Backlash Just Because; Fuck the Factoid; Contagion; Lucid Fairytale; You Suffer; Scum; The Kill; Amoral; Suffer the Children; When All is Said and Done; Dead; Nazi Punks Fuck Off.
Skindred are a Welsh reggae metal band, they rose from the ashes of Dub War who were formed during 1998 in Newport. Unable to put together a new project featuring other members of Dub War, lead vocalist Benji Webbe formed Skindred with bassist Daniel Pugsley, guitarist Mikey Demus and drummer Arya Goggin. In 2002, Skindred released its debut album, ‘Babylon’, they have released a total of seven studio albums with 2018’s ‘Big Tings’ the most recent. However, ‘Smile’ their eighth album is scheduled for release in 2023, which will celebrate the bands’ 25th anniversary. Their musical style mixes heavy metal, alternative rock and ragga. They are well known for their energetic and involving live performances and have won several awards. One such appearance, is the band’s 2011 show at the Download Festival, where the ‘Newport Helicopter’ was born. Personally, Skindred fall into that, “If they’re playing relatively close, I’m going” category.
The lights go out, and Star Wars’ ‘Imperial March’ starts playing over the PA, it’s Skindred’s walk on music. Lots in here tonight know this, and the arena becomes electrically charged, the anticipation and excitement builds, the band appear shortly followed by Benji Webbe with two red roses between his teeth, all dressed in black, wearing a cape, white sunglasses and skeleton gloves, it’s all systems go, as the Motorpoint Arena takes off.
Webbe, who is stood up on a riser cries, “Nottingham, are you ready to rumble?” The drums and riffs start, it’s ‘Stand for Something’ from the 2009 album ‘Shark Bites and Dog Fights’. Webbe’s vocals quick, the arms of the crowd waving. The futuristic sounds are bouncing around the arena. Webbe’s delivery is controlled.
‘Rat Race’ is taken from ‘Roots Rock Riot’ released in 2007. Webbe is rapping the words. The crowd is bouncing as one. The filthy riff provided by Demus is sounding excellent. As the track closes Webbe style changes, he’s screaming and pointing at the crowd the track gets faster.
Those of us that are a certain age, recognised the Benny Hill ‘Chase’ music as drummer Arya Goggin sprints around the runway, pursued by Webbe, before heading back to his kit.
Webbe splits the crowd in two, one side is on ‘Whoop’s’, the other ‘That’s My Jam’. We sing it back and forth as he points left and right, then taken from 2018’s album ‘Big Tings’ it’s ‘That’s My Jam’, this is bouncing, a bit hardcore dance in sound. Webbe raps as Pugsley bass is shaking everything. Goggin and Demus are crashing out the notes, this is sounding great.
Benji Webbe states, “This is a party starter”, he is carrying a small keyboard with the Van Halen squiggle colours on, we have a short rendition of Van Halen’s 1983 hit ‘Jump’. This morphs into a cover of House of Pain’s 1992 single ‘Jump Around’.
Webbe has changed his sunglasses to a pair black pair covered in studs. He encourages the crowd to spell L.O.V.E. back to him. Next, we have ‘L.O.V.E. (Smile Please)’ which will be on new album released next year. This has a real reggae sound; it gets the crowd bouncing in time. Webbe wants the crowd to wave their arms, Nottingham obliges, it’s a great sight.
Webbe, who’s changed his sunglasses again, he probably changes his glasses, more times than compatriot Shirley Bassey changes frocks during a show. He goes on about ‘negative’ people, he gets the crowd to raise their fist to ‘negative’ people and introduces the next track by getting the Nottingham audience to chant ‘Kill the Power’, it’s obviously ‘Kill the Power’ the title-track from the 2014 album. The bass and drum beat is colossal, Webbe chanting the words, the beats are like body punches. Nottingham is jumping. This is high energy entertainment.
Webbe has a costume change, he’s now wearing a white, chain tasselled leather jacket with the word ‘Unity’ on it. It’s time for the current single from the upcoming album ‘Gimmee That Boom’. Another hard hitter, Webbe is marching around the stage, he sounds angry as he punches the air in time to the shattering beats. Demus hits a riff full of sleaze and distortion. We have a sing back, Skindred are making a lot of new fans tonight.
Benji Webbe wants us to clap our hands ‘Radio Ga-Ga’ style, we oblige. We go right back in time to the 2002 debut album ‘Babylon’ for ‘Nobody’. This is really heavy, Webbe’s slick lyrics are carried by a steady beat and crushing riffs supplied by Demus and Pugsley. There’s a short bit of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’. The tempo changes really add to the atmosphere, the headbangers are in full flow. Nottingham is chanting the words; the whole thing is deafening.
The final song of a way too short set is the iconic ‘Warning’, this is taken from ‘Union Black’ released in 2011. This is the home of the ‘Newport Helicopter’. Webbe gets everyone to crouch down, most know what to do, a lot of T-shirts are removed and held above heads. The tension builds and builds before Webbe releases the springs, T-shirts are waving, it’s the ‘Newport Helicopter’ it’s an amazing sight, it’s absolutely mental. The is a full-on assault of the senses, the power is phenomenal. The roof has just been removed from the arena. Brilliant.
Webbe finishes, “We’re Skindred, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, you were bloody marvellous.” The band leave the stage to Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody does it better’, waving, smiling and throwing mementoes into the eagerly waving hands.
Confession Time: Hopefully, I’ve captured all the tracks in the correct order, because on more than one occasion during their show, I became totally enthralled and forgot to make notes, so some of it is from memory.
Setlist: Stand for Something; Rat Race; That’s My Jam; Jump/Jump Around; L.O.V.E. (Smile Please); Kill the Power; Gimmee That Boom; Nobody; Warning.
Volbeat are a Danish rock band formed in Copenhagen in 2001. Singer Michael Poulsen formed death metal act, Dominus, and In 2000, Poulsen became fed up with the death metal music scene, causing Dominus to break up. In 2001, Poulsen went on to form a new band with some friends and other former Dominus members. This was the birth of Volbeat.
The band name “Volbeat” was derived from Dominus’s third album name, Vol.Beat (read as: Volume Beat). The band’s musical style has been described as a cocktail of heavy metal, hard rock, psychobilly, rockabilly, groove metal, and rock and roll (that’s one hell of a potent mix). Some of the band’s influences include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Metallica, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden amongst others. Their current line-up consists of Michael Poulsen (vocals/guitar), Rob Caggiano (guitar), Jon Larsen (drums) and Kaspar Boye Larsen (bass). The band has released eight studio albums, their debut ‘The Strength/The Sound/The Songs’ in 2005, and their most recent ‘Servant of the Mind’ in 2021.
The lights go out, the drum kit illuminated by spotlights, the huge screen behind showing an old-fashioned television, showing clips of the band in action, an instrumental version of their song ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza’ is played over the PA. The band make their way out onto the stage and it’s straight into ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’ from ‘Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie’ released in 2016. The band line up as Poulsen screams out the lyrics, the heavy circular riff from Caggiano is met with a volley of smoke cannons. Nottingham is jumping. Caggiano and Poulsen make their way down the runway.
The image on the screen changes to an old Wurlitzer jukebox. The stage is awash of orange and red lights, next, from the 2019 ‘Rewind, Replay, Rebound’ album it’s ‘Pelvis on Fire’. This has a real rock n’ roll bounce to it. Poulsen’s lyrics quick as are Jon Larsen’s drum beats. There’s a good hard blues boogie rhythm too as Caggiano lit up by a single spotlight, closes out the track.
Now, it’s time for something from the most recent album, ‘Servant of the Mind’ it’s ‘Temple of Ekur’. The stage is covered in hieroglyphics. Kaspar Boye Larsen’s growling and rumbling bass starts it off. The band are jamming along before Poulsen starts singing. Other than drummer Larsen the band are lined up at the end of the runway. We have more smoke, the crowd are jumping and punching the air. These riffs are heavy. The cheering crowd indicates that they liked that.
Michael Poulsen, centre stage addresses the crowd, “Good evening, Nottingham, how are you all doing?” The reply is a big cheer, he continues, “I know things are hard at the moment, do you pay your gas and electricity bill, or do you buy a ticket to see Volbeat?” Another huge cheer, he adds, “I have a bad cold, so will you help out with the singing?” the unanimous answer is “Yes”.
‘Lola Montez’ is next, it’s taken from ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’ which was released in 2013. Poulsen is singing from the first note accompanying the riff. The horns are up, ‘Hey, Hey’ is the chant. Nottingham is on backing vocals, as they dance and sway. Caggiano leans back as he plays his solo, Jon Larsen sat up high on the drum riser is hitting the kit with venom, the screen below him showing a giant spider. The arena sings the final line, Poulsen pauses and asks us to do it again, apparently, we sound beautiful.
Poulsen tells everyone that the next track is usually later in the set, but as he’s poorly and the track requires a strong voice they moved it, he also says this is for his wife and children back home. The Nottingham Arena becomes a starry night as the crowd turn on their phone’s lights. ‘For Evigt’ (which translates as Forever) from ‘Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie’. The band are lined up across the stage, this is steady and passionate. Cannons fire red confetti over the stage and crowd. Poulsen makes his way to the end of the runway to finish the song off, before saying “Merry Christmas” as the final bits of confetti settle.
Michael Poulsen dedicates the next track to his Father. A simple and effective riff starts ‘Fallen’ from the ‘Beyond Hell/Above Heaven’ album which was released in 2010. A real toe-tapper, the heads are nodding along. I look around and see a few in the seats are up and dancing. This has a rich sound and is filling the arena, the lyrics from Poulsen are ballad like, yet behind them Caggiano is providing a heavy chugging riff. A great balance. Poulsen asks for the crowd to clap along, then he reciprocates at the end, applauding the crowds participation.
An acoustic guitar on a stand is brought out and placed by Poulsen at the end of the runway. He starts strumming, and sings a snippet of ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ by Dusty Springfield followed by Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’, he asks Nottingham to sing the words for him. Then we’re into ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ from ‘Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil’ released in 2007. This again has a rock n’ roll sound, with high tempo and plenty of bounce, but crunching riffs and a shrill solo keeps it heavy. The outro is pure metal, played to a scene of strobing lights.
Poulsen spots a guy in the crowd wearing a Savatage (if I saw it correctly on the screen) T-shirt, he likes it. The guy asks if he wants to swap, Poulsen agrees and offers one that is in his dressing room. A deal is struck, and whilst they play the next track, he asks someone backstage to go and fetch the shirt from his room.
It’s time to go back to the recent Servant of the Mind’ album for ‘Wait a Minute My Girl’. This is quick, rock-a-billy quick, we have the addition of a grand piano and saxophone, the sound is blue boogie. Giant black beach balls are released into the crowd. The screen below the drum riser has the name ZZ Bottom on it, it’s for ‘Zeke and Zac Bottom’ the names of the pianist and sax player…mmmm
The T-shirt has arrived from Poulsen’s dressing room, the guy to a chorus of cheers and whistles removes his shirt and completes the exchange with a smiling Poulsen.
Poulsen tells us he needs to rest his voice for a minute, and that the next track will be an instrumental. That track is ‘Becoming’ from ‘Servant of the Mind’, it has a full Thrash metal intro, this is really heavy, the sound reverberating on the chest. Nottingham liked that a lot.
Manny has a copy of the bands setlist, and it has the next two tracks running order the other-way round, they may have swapped them at the last minute to aid Poulsen with his cold.
The racing intro begins ‘Seal the Deal’ from ‘Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie’. Caggiano’s lead breaks complimenting the hard bass notes from KB Larsen. The screens are displaying a boxing match. The Nottingham Arena is a sea of waving arms and horns. Poulsen calls for the crowd to clap along, which they do enthusiastically. The band criss-crossing each other as they make full use of the stage extension, and kicking the balls that are still bouncing around. That was a very popular track with the Nottingham audience.
It’s back to the ‘Rewind, Replay, Rebound’ album for ‘Last Day Under the Sun’. This is really upbeat and bouncy. Poulsen is clapping, Nottingham is copying. Caggiano starts us off. Poulsen’s lyrics are crystal clear and steady. Caggiano plays a screeching solo. Orange and yellow spots light up the stage. This has a summer holiday vibe about it…. Oh, how we wish for a bit of summer now.
From the 2021 album ‘Servant of the Mind’, next it’s ‘The Devil Rages On’. The lighting is bright red, fires are burning under the drum riser. This has a slow dirty riff and Jon Larsen is beating his kit into submission. The riffs pick up pace but are still down at the sleazy end. As the track finishes and while the band jam the outro, confetti cannons fire around the stage, as do the smoke cannons the combination makes it difficult to see the band, it’s a great effect. The band thank the audience and leave the stage.
It’s encore time, the band are off stage long enough for Poulsen to receive a soothing elixir for his cold. The band return, from ‘Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie’, it’s ‘Let It Burn’. Anthemic, the crowd are waving arms as the riffs and beats drag you along. The stop/start tempo is tight. Caggiano teases a solo out as the rhythm section propels the track forward.
Poulsen tells us the next track is for Jerry Lee Lewis, he checks with drummer Larsen if he wants to play some Jerry Lee Lewis, we then have an excerpt of ‘Great Balls of Fire’. “This next one is a tough one, so please help me out”, requests Poulsen. ‘Die to Live’ is from ‘Rewind, Replay, Rebound’ this is quick, full-on rock, the crowd are bouncing. ZZ Bottom, the piano and saxophone players are back. This is a real party tune. It’s brilliant.
Poulsen asks if there’s anyone who likes AC/DC, he asks Rob Caggiano to play, we have a snippet of ‘Back in Black’, and Anthrax’s ‘I Am The Law’ (I think). Now, we have the live version of the track played at the start of the show, it’s ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza’ from ‘The Strength/The Sound/The Songs’. This is heavy, real stoner riffs. KB Larsen is slapping the bass strings, everything around the arena is shaking. The driving beats have the crowd punching the air.
Michael Poulsen introduces the band and thanks the audience for their support, asking if they can come back to play Nottingham again. The final track of what has been a thoroughly entertaining set is ‘Still Counting’ from 2008’s ‘Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood’. It starts with a reggae style riff and beat, then a monstrous chugging riff is the signal for all hell to break loose, the smoke cannons go off, the tidal wave of sound comes crashing down on the arena.
Poulsen calls for ‘Hey, Hey’s’. Caggiano tears through his final solo of the evening, as the Larsen’s pounding beats shake the foundations. The band on the runway are rocking out. Poulsen thanks the crowd, we have a big crescendo finish, a ticker-tape explosion ends a fantastic show. The screen behind the band displays “Thank You Nottingham”. Picks, sticks and drum skins are thrown to the crowd, before the band line-up, bow and leave the stage.
Setlist: The Devil’s Bleeding Crown; Pelvis on Fire; Temple of Ekur; Lola Montez; For Evigt; Fallen; Sad Man’s Tongue; Wait a Minute My Girl; Becoming; Seal the Deal; Last Day Under the Sun; The Devil Rages On; Let It Burn; Die to Live; Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza; Still Counting.
Tonight’s show has been an incredible experience, I don’t think I’ve seen such diverse acts (excluding festivals) on a single bill before. Napalm Death’s show will remain long in my memory their performance was intense and brutal. Skindred are a long-time live performance favourite and I’ll always try and get to see them. Volbeat I’ve seen several times at festivals, but they really showed how good they are when they cut the shackles of a festival appearance. It has been a top night, and maybe, mixing up the styles of bands is something other promoters should look at doing too.
Finally, these two ‘Old Muppets’ would like to wish all the music lovers and gig goers out there, a really Rockin’ Good Christmas, and hopefully we’ll see you in a pit somewhere during 2023. Let’s keep it Live and Loud.
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM