Line Up: Surprise Your Dead presents VENOMOUS CONCEPT, Corrupt Moral Altar and Police Bastard at The Rainbow, Birmingham – 14 January 2016
It’s impossible not to be excited by the prospect of this gig. Grindcore isn’t my absolute favourite genre but whenever I go to a live grind show I have a hell of a lot of fun. I jumped at the opportunity to see VENOMOUS CONCEPT, the transatlantic supergroup with members from midlands grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, Brutal Truth, Corrupt Moral Altar, Nuclear Assault and a founding member of thrash legends Anthrax.
I was curious to see local Birmingham crust punks POLICE BASTARD, firstly, because that name is awesome but also because their vocalist/guitarist, Johnny Doom, is something of a local celebrity for his work as a presenter on Kerrang Radio. The band play a solid set, opening with ‘Curse of the Cross’ before moving on to politically-charged ‘Sick Sick System’, both from their 2013 release ‘Confined’. Their performance is low-key; it is fair to say they aren’t as energetic as the other bands on the bill tonight but they have a raw and abrasive sound. In parts Johnny’s vocals are half spoken which add variation in pace and brilliantly emphasise the faster heavier sections. They end the set with the crowd-pleasing ‘Fortress’.
Next up is scouser sludge grindcore from CORRUPT MORAL ALTAR and guitarist (for CMA and Venomous Concept) Johnny Cheeseburger’s first set of the night. They’re a hugely entertaining and intense band to watch. In fact, half way through the set I started to get very concerned for vocalist Chris Reese. His lung-bursting shriek, deep guttural roars and wild flailing are obviously taking it out of him. He looks absolutely knackered but does that stop him? Hell no! The band give a strong performance all the way through. Hopefully someone sat Chris down afterwards with a nice cup of tea to calm him down. Overlooking my worries about the vocalist’s wellbeing, I thoroughly enjoyed CORRUPT MORAL ALTAR and highly recommend you check them out.
The guys from VENOMOUS CONCEPT are stopped on their way to the stage by fans looking for autographs for their newly purchased vinyls. There is clearly a lot of anticipation around the room and who can blame them? The band is made up of some of the most influential musicians in grindcore and thrash. This anticipation builds as we are treated to the bizarre intro to the set, ‘Pure Imagination’ from the 1971 film ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’. As the lyrics say, “What we’ll see will defy explanation” indeed! I think it is fair to describe the band as a bunch of loons. What strikes me is how much fun they seem to be having, they clearly enjoy playing together and this enthusiasm and comradery spills out into the crowd.
They play loads of songs, as is to be expected, as hardly any of them are over two minutes long. We are treated to ‘Human Waste’, the excellent ‘Fucked in the Czech repub’, ‘Workers Unite’ (a song dedicated to everyone with a shitty job) and the perfectly formed ‘Think’. Vocalist, Kevin Sharp, spends a lot of time (when he isn’t pulling some mad shapes) taking the piss out of the crowd. So much so that he pulls 20p out of his pocket and throws it to a guy on the front row; a small token of compensation. But everything is taken in good spirits and before their track ‘Group Hug’ everyone is instructed to turn to the person on their left and hug them. This breaks down some barriers in the crowd who proceed to go wild in the pit. A great end to this feel-good night of grindcore fun.