Grindcore Good Enough to Risk a Concussion For: NAPALM DEATH and WORMROT at The Croxton 9/09

This was the first time I had experienced something resembling fear in the mosh, that oh-shit-if-I-don’t-go-easy-I-could-actually-wind-up-in-hospital-with-serious-injuries kinda fear which I have to assume is known chiefly to skaters, footballers and anyone who partakes of the various Melbourne party drugs that we all know are predominantly methamphetamine.


I like to think that I’ve built up a pretty impressive mosh pit CV for a young fella. Death metal, powerviolence, screamo. The Tote, The Bendi, The Corner. It was only earlier this year that I journeyed up to Thornbury to catch a particularly violent Mayhem show at what would also be tonight’s venue–The Croxton. I’ve been pretty lucky so far, mosh-wise. One of my Docs is ripped and my battle jacket is a bit bloodstained (not mine), but I haven’t copped any serious injuries in my experiences moshing.

Napalm Death and Wormrot came pretty fucken close to changing that. When I flopped onto P’s bed at the end of the night to run the mental math of how much damage I had done to my body, the tally for the night came to something like:

  • 1 blood nose
  • 4 hard blows to the head
  • 2 hard falls (very much of the “eating shit” variety)
  • 3 bruises
  • 0 mysterious bloodstains (gotta take the small victories where they come)

This was the first time I had experienced something resembling fear in the mosh, that oh-shit-if-I-don’t-go-easy-I-could-actually-wind-up-in-hospital-with-serious-injuries kinda fear which I have to assume is known chiefly to skaters, footballers and anyone who partakes of the various Melbourne party drugs that we all know are predominantly methamphetamine.

In other words, there’s something about grindcore that just riles moshers the fuck up. And there’s something about Napalm Death in particular that attracts moshers with a certain predilection for getting riled the fuck up. Anyone who’s been in a few moshes can attest that it’s usually the guy in the Napalm Death tee who looks like he is about to kill everyone in the pit and then himself.

Grindcore. Napalm Death. This is Farrago, so I’m potentially getting ahead of myself with the lexicon here. Let’s slow down.

Grindcore is a genre that came out of the British anarcho-punk scene of the ‘80s, championed by the very same (kinda–there’s been a few line-up changes) Napalm Death I caught at The Croxton. It’s punk pushed to the fucken limit–the average grindcore song is 30-60 seconds (if that) of Some Guy screaming something vaguely political but ultimately unintelligible over downtuned guitars and a breakneck blastbeat.

Forty years later, Napalm Death is still kicking and it’s a pretty great time to be into grindcore–not least because of Singapore up-and-comers Wormrot, who co-headlined with Napalm Death on this “Campaign for Musical Destruction” tour. Although they’ve been around since 2007, it wasn’t until last year’s LP Hiss that they achieved some serious international renown. Personally, Hiss was an absolute highlight of 2022. Grindcore is a genre that can veer easily into uncreative homogeneity, but Wormrot have seized upon a sound that’s theirs. The guitar stabs with shrillness rather than bludgeons with distortion and their drummer Vijesh is just so clearly on some different shit to the rest of us. They’re not afraid to experiment with song structure either, pushing some songs from the length of a sprint to a semi-marathon.

Suffice it to say, this was one of my most anticipated concerts of the year.

Rocking up at The Croxton, there are already familiar faces–it seems like everyone who had ever gone hard in an inner Melbourne mosh pit had converged on this one location. We acknowledge each other with nods. Some of us start doing stretches.

First up on tonight’s agenda is Melbourne deathgrind powerhouse, Remains. They’re technically proficient and vocalist Tonebones has a killer growl. It’s still too early in the night for the crowd to really get going, but me and a few others do initiate some preliminary jostling.

Things get a lot punkier with our second openers, Perth powerviolence heavyweights Extortion—and you can feel it in the crowd. A circle pit opens up and for the 30-60 seconds that each song runs, it’s a two-step free-for-all. Extortion brings a uniquely Australian flavour to the night’s proceedings; their hellishly quick riffs reek of the inner-city dive bar, of blood and VB and punter sweat. Soon enough, I’m tasting literal blood as someone’s elbow collides with my nose. Extortion run a clean, 25-minute set—a flash of gut-wrenching, ear-blasting noise and then they’re gone.

I’m looking at the notes I took during Wormrot’s set now and it appears that the only words I could even get down were “insanely violent mosh. wow what the fuck.” And well, yeah, that about sums it up.

Wormrot has been playing through my earphones a lot in the past year, but as I stood there in that pit watching them onstage, I realised that I hadn’t really listened to Wormrot. The wall of guttural noise that the three-piece creates requires the experience of being there live. It sounds wanky, but it’s true!

There’s a few oldies from 2016’s Voices in Wormrot’s set, but they’re at the best playing the hits from Hiss. Even though Hiss’ vocalist Arif departed before the tour, replacement vocalist Gabriel Dubko still has pipes strong enough to tear it up on tracks like ‘Your Dystopian Hell’ and ‘Voiceless Choir’. Each hit of Vijesh’s bass drum rocks your spine and Rasyid’s guitar is a thing of bludgeoning beauty, moving with ease between high-speed acrobatics and heavy, rock-your-face-off riffs.

It’s during ‘When Talking Fails, It’s Time For Violence!’ towards the end of their set that the night peaked for me. I doubt that many of us in the crowd could make out the Malay lyrics—but when Gabriel screams that it’s time for violence, the mosh understands perfectly. For a minute, everything is a blur of flailing limbs and ripped denim and spilled beer.

See. Wormrot. Live.

This was a hard fucken act to follow. It’s a good thing that Napalm Death were the closers because I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off.

In the decades since they kicked off the grindcore scene, Napalm Death have in many respects been surpassed. Bands with more technical skill and sharper songwriting have come and gone. Seeing them live, I understand why Napalm Death have outlasted them all though—they’re real-as-fuck, balls-to-the-wall, not-too-serious fun. Barney Greenway looks goofy as hell as he’s throwing himself around the stage, yelling incoherently into his microphone as we lap it up in the mosh. All the guys are middle-aged now, but watching them, they still have such a youthful vitality, like they’re still amped up on the testosterone of their pubescence, still wearing band tees and still mad as fuck at the world.

Napalm Death play a lot of their newer stuff and it actually goes down well with the audience because they’ve kept pretty consistent over the years. Still, a lot of the highlights were pickings from their classic run of albums in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Of course, this meant we got to hear the usual piss-take playthrough of the Napalm Death song known for being the shortest song ever recorded at 1.316 seconds—‘You Suffer’. Better yet were the covers, which included D.C. reggae-punks Bad Brains’ ‘Don’t Need It’ and an incredibly pertinent rendition of Dead Kennedys’ ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’—which Barney suffixed with a bold declaration of “Fuck Pauline Hanson and Vote Yes”. (So true!)

If the trajectory of plenty of other punks has shown anything, it’s that the politics so easily takes a back seat after a few years. Your punk ethos rots and you enter middle age ready to start saying some shit about how conservatism is the new punk rock or whatever. Good on Barney and the boys for staying real, for not selling out and for being Brits who actually know what’s going on in Australian politics. Considering Nazis tried to raid an anti-fascist punk gig in Thornbury the other week, it’s pretty fucken important for punks to have real conviction in their politics.

Napalm Death ended up playing past midnight in a set that was at least 90 minutes long. They didn’t skimp out on length or on song selection, getting through 24 tracks and ending on their 1987 grindcore opus, ‘Siege of Power’.

I left the Croxton sweaty and battered to fuck, barely able to walk. My ears were ringing and my head hurt from getting knocked around so much, but as I pushed my way past the oldheads punching darts on the pavement to get to the tram stop and finally got to reflect on what I had seen that night, all I could think about was how sick it was that my life had culminated in me getting to see this show live.

You may be interested in...
There are no current news articles.