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Glassjaw / Napalm Death - Cardiff Solus

Post-hardcore warriors impress in Wales, with grindcore legends in tow.

21 May 2011, Cardiff Solus // By Phill May // Rating: 4/5
Glassjaw

Seeing Glassjaw is a rarity. It’s not exactly commonplace in America, but Cardiff hasn’t seen them since 2008. More importantly, everyone with a ticket knows that they’re getting an EP of brand new tunes out of it just for turning up – as if they needed a reason to see one of the bands responsible for influencing a good portion of their record collection.

Daryl Palumbo personally asked Napalm Death to open for them. Barney Greenway and co were more than willing. This should have resulted in a gig of almost co-headline status, and yet when Birmingham's influential noisemakers step onstage it feels like there's fuck all people watching. Poor show, Cardiff. This band should be playing in a furnace, the crowd a seething mess of flying hair, sweat and limbs. In that rightful situation, Napalm Death are truly terrifying. Here, robbed of that atmosphere, Barney looks like your dad pissed up on cider and dancing to death metal. Lukewarm as the response is, Napalm Death are just too good at what they do to let that phase them; so while they look daft and their songs are often a mulch of indistinguishable noise, they play that noise well, and with all the fury you’d expect of a band who promote, er, “peace and love”. This was not the right setting, and while this reviewer isn't exactly a fan, this place should have been rammed and ecstatic. They deserved better.

With all the anticipation built for the headliners, it’s a bit of a surprise that instead of an atmospheric build-up or explosive entrance, the four members stroll onstage like road crew. The feeling they're about to soundcheck spreads as they open with ‘You Think You're John Fucking Lennon’s skittering extended drum intro. When it hits, though, everything feels right. The track, taken from their EP of ‘old’ new material, 'Our Color Green', is a beast that proves the perfect opener. The following hour and a half is peppered with choice cuts from 'Worship And Tribute' and all of 'Our Color Green' – these more recent songs fit in seamlessly and outclass their studio versions by a country mile. But of their classic debut, 'Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence', only ‘Siberian Kiss’ is aired. When it is – just before they leave the stage – the entire audience collectively lose their shit. It’s a shame that’s all we get from that seminal record, but today is all about what is new, and they return for an encore – not to play ‘the hits’ – but to give us their new EP, 'Coloring Book', in full. The slower material, as well as the fact few people have heard it yet, mean the atmosphere falls flat, and a few people leave grumbling. It seems in this respect Glassjaw can’t win; people have been baying for new material for years, and now they get it they want ‘the old stuff’. Unfamiliar as it is, different as it sounds, it’s engrossing and impressive.

Most of the band are static, but they play flawlessly, and they wear smiles on their faces throughout. Daryl Palumbo in particular appears to be having the time of his life, but whereas Justin Beck and Manuel Carrero remain in one place, he uses every available inch of the stage, posing, dancing and joking with the crowd. “See you soon” he says. We hope so, as if they intend to tour as often as bands should do, this show is an engaging warm-up and introduction to the first new material in seven years. But if they don't come back for another three years, it’s just another frustrating anti-climax.