Napalm Death / The Melvins / Melt Banana The Opera House, Toronto ON, April 19
Published Apr 20, 2016The lineup outside the Opera House was still snaking around the building when Japanese noise demons Melt Banana took the stage, and inside the venue there was barely room to move or breathe. This Tuesday night show was sold out for a reason: all three bands are legends in their own disparate rights, each claiming dominion over a slightly different reign of aural chaos. Melt Banana started things off weird and otherwordly; performing as only a two-piece (bass and vocals/electronics), singer Yasuko Onuki high, soaring shrieks gives the distinct impression she is summoning something. Whirling around the stage like a possessed thing, she swung the lit-up midi controller in her hand with the command of a magic wand. Everything about the set seems like an experiment, from the wildly oscillating textures of the songs themselves to their format. They played six "short songs" in the middle of their set, each one a distinct little sonic universe, none more than twenty seconds long. Their set was as brief as it was intense, intelligent and violent, which was at once a mercy and a disappointment. The audience wanted more of their strangeness, but were also left with the deliciously uncomfortable feeling that it would have transformed them all into giant robots and kaiju, given enough exposure.
The Melvins are an entirely different kind of force, crushing and inexorable. No one handles the textures of sludge and punk quite like they do, creating undulating, repulsive moments of beauty and then relishing deep, shining grooves of ugliness. King Buzzo presided over the proceedings, wearing a blue and gold lame muumuu covered with eyeballs, but whether it was an attempt to ward off the evil eye or a reference to the illuminati was unclear. Their set was dense and complex, with very little banter; all the irreverence and black humour came from their song choices. They started on the lighter side, including a cover of "Deuce," but gradually an air of creeping horror moved in, oozing into their rendition of "The Bloated Pope" (a track originally with Lustmord) and bursting wetly out of "A Growing Disgust." For the last track, "Night Goat," Shane Embury joined The Melvins on stage, and the additional depth and heaviness he brought to the set was at once joyful and deeply, awfully ominous.
There is no band in the world that is able to convey a sense of misery and furious discontent about the state of the world with the kind of rollicking glee that Napalm Death do. Barney Greenway is responsible for a lot of this cheerful malcontent; he vacillates between seeming the prince and the fool, cutting eloquent one moment and then gambolling madly around the stage while screaming the next. There was a particular sense of urgency and horror to their set because of the context, with the New York primaries representing, in the minds of many, a turning point in the U.S election that is becoming increasingly, apocalyptically absurd. Greenway did acknowledge the situation by hilariously miming Trump's hair, and infusing perhaps even more vitriol and gravitas than usual into "Dear Slum Landlord" and more sheer anger into "Greed Killing." Their cover of "Conform" by Seige was a welcome and wonderful surprise, but it was when they busted out their much-beloved version of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" by the Dead Kennedy's that the Opera House crowd, straining at the seams as it was, finally burst through whatever shreds of restraint remained and screamed along with every twisted and defiant word.