Review: Napalm Death, Melvins, Melt-Banana crank up the volume at the Orpheum in Tampa
Anyone who spent their weekend at the Orpheum may still be experiencing their ears ringing.
First drone metal outfit Sunn O))) — often cited as one of the loudest bands in the world — played the Ybor venue Friday. Then in a decibel-shattering double-header, the triple bill of Napalm Death, Melvins and Melt-Banana came through on Saturday.
The back-to-back concerts were a major event for any local heavy music aficionado. Sunn O)))’s show was their first ever in Tampa, and any single band playing Saturday would’ve been a big draw, much less all three performing together.
With Napalm Death and Melvins co-headlining, first up were Japanese noise rockers Melt-Banana. The group had the most meager lineup of any act playing, consisting of just vocalist Yasuko Onuki and guitarist Ichirou Agata, but one could hardly tell from their lush backing tracks.
They may also be the most accessible of the three acts, particularly in their more recent releases, with moments like the instrumental opening to Candy Bug that are downright pretty. Yet they can be plenty abrasive as well, and showing they were suitable openers for the grindcore of Napalm Death, played a six-minute suite of super-short songs.
Then as if to immediately contradict that were the Melvins, whose songs often stretch for several minutes on tracks such as Eye Flys. This tour was all about diversity, from location to sound, and the Washington sludge legends’ set further proved that.
Classic rock has always been a clear influence on the Melvins, albeit in a curdled form, and they showed it Saturday with their glam rock outfits and covers of Kiss’ Deuce and Alice Cooper’s Halo of Flies. Also among their current cover repertoire was a cover of fellow Pacific Northwest proto-grunge act Green River’s Leech.
Known for their ever-changing lineups, this touring incarnation featured founding guitarist Buzz Osborne and drummer Dale Crover along with Steve McDonald of Redd Kross and OFF! Often featuring flourishes like multiple drummers, the relatively straightforward lineup offered the chance to really appreciate the technical chops of Osborne and Crover (recently named by Rolling Stone as the 69th greatest drummer of all time.)
The group is also known for their wide-ranging setlists, as one might imagine from an act that’s been releasing records steadily for more than three decades, and Saturday was no exception. Their setlist included pulls like The Bloated Pope from Pigs of the Roman Empire, their 2004 collaboration with industrial musician Lustmord, with probably their most popular record, 1994’s major-label album Stoner Witch, serving as a base of sorts.
Bringing along an extensive discography with them as well was British grindcore band Napalm Death, who helped pioneer the genre with 1987’s Scum and 1988’s From Enslavement to Oblivion.
Those two albums were revisited plenty through their setlist, but they also ran through much of their latest album, last year’s Apex Predator — Easy Meat. The record features a few departures for the group, including songs that stretch past the minute-mark and vocals that occasionally deviate from the fast-paced guttural howls of grindcore (“not always a popular move,” frontman Mark “Barney” Greenway admitted.)
Greenway proved an affable personality throughout. In between songs, he denigrated Donald Trump and talked about visiting Florida while making their their 1990 album Harmony Corruption, which was recorded at Tampa’s Morrisound Recording.
Like the Melvins, the influential group made time for the bands that in turn inspired them, with covers of the Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks F-- Off and Boston hardcore band Siege’s Conform. Then with the promise to return soon, the band closed out the night of noise.
All in all, it was a great weekend for fans of heavy music in Tampa Bay. And if some may still be waiting for their hearing to recover, few would likely argue that it wasn’t worth it.
-- Jimmy Geurts