CONCERT REVIEW: Municipal Waste – Toxic Holocaust – Enforcer – Skeletal Remains: Live at Club Academy

I think it’s fair to say that there is nothing unexciting about the prospect of seeing Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust perform under the roof of a sweaty club on a Friday night. Through their consistently solid releases and even better live reputation, these highly regarded acts in equal parts reignited interest in the possibilities of what modern thrash metal could truly offer. With Municipal Waste’s image and sound playing heavily into nostalgia for 80’s crossover acts such as D.R.I. and Suicidal Tendencies, Ryan Waste and the boys reminded us, for better or for worse, just how blistering the genre could be during an era where metalcore dominated the loud rock mainstream when they dropped The Art of Partying back in 2007.

On the other hand, Joel Grind and his one-man project Toxic Holocaust represented new creative possibilities for the much-beloved style; with fusions of black metal, crust punk and death metal playing a major part in the evolved sound. It was sure to be a night to remember, and with a belly filled with pizza, all this thrasher needed to make the evening perfect was an ice-cold beer in hand. So imagine my shock when I arrived at the venue to find there was only one member of staff manning the bar. That would be a bad start for any gig, but this is thrash metal we’re talking about. For if a fat guy drenched in Budweiser doesn’t collapse on you in the pit at some point, it’s not really a Municipal Waste gig.

Despite this minor gripe, however, I am pleased to report that the night was a solid evening of tight and well-performed classic metal sounds. Beginning first with California’s hotly tipped death-metallers Skeletal Remains. Easily the heaviest band on the night’s bill, this disgusting foursome received a disappointingly small turnout as far as audience capacity was concerned, as most of the heads who bothered to turn up early immediately swarmed towards the bar. While it’s never a good thing when the first act on a strong bill goes this unnoticed, Remains managed to hold their own very well, despite wearing their influences heavily on their sleeves. Chris Monroy’s very tortured Pestilence-inspired vocal offering quickly grabbed my attention, as did their chameleonic combination of various old school death metal styles. Mixing the groovy sound of early Entombed material with the uncompromisingly evil riffage of Deicide and Cannibal Corpse, live cuts such as ‘Torture Labyrinth’ and ‘Traumatic Existence’ pumped me up suitably for what was to come. Here’s hoping that the band gets another shot to play Bloodstock soon, as their cancellation last time now seems like a missed opportunity.

After a suitably brutal opening act, Swedish speed metal revivalists Enforcer followed to offer Manchester some comparatively classic speed metal riffage. More akin to the likes of Exciter and Anvil than Carcass or Obituary, an engagingly energetic stage presence notwithstanding, they are a band that I would always confuse with Wolf (who are similar in the sense that they play speed metal, and also come from Sweden). Maybe it’s partly as a result of this lack of differentiation, but I found the songs Enforcer performed live bled into one another quite often, and while paying tribute to a vintage sound is likely part of the band’s core ethos, I would be lying if I said they left that strong of an impression on me from a songwriting perspective. However, an investigation into their discography might change this, as there were definitely some highlights in their set such as the anthemic ‘From Beyond’ and ‘Take Me Out Of This Nightmare’ that was worth staying put for. By no means a bad addition to the lineup, just simply not my favorite.

After an uncompromising set at this very same venue last year, where they somehow managed to blow Dying Fetus out of the water, Toxic Holocaust spared no expense in delivering lo-fi blackened thrash insanity and were the highlight of the whole evening as far as I was concerned. Joel Grind and co. managing to force two-horned hails from pretty much everyone in the Manc crowd was an amazing sight to behold, with a number of TH classics such as ‘Bitch’, ‘Nuke the Cross’ and some punkier/rarer cuts like ‘Death Brings Death’ and ‘Hell on Earth’ among the performed tracks. Aside from being genuinely well-written, there was something about hearing these thrashers in a live environment that added to their power. Perhaps it’s because Toxic Holocaust has always opted for rough around the edges production when it comes to their releases, their live sound had a particular ‘oomph’ to it where the roughness of the songs is maintained, yet every instrumental detail can be heard clearly.

I can honestly say that because of this, very few modern thrash metal bands can hold a candle to them in a live setting. However, Municipal Waste obviously dared to try and was to grace the stage shortly after.

I knew that Municipal Waste were going to be good. Having seen them once before at Bloodstock Open Air 2017 where they broke the festival record for most crowd surfers (and dethroning Gojira in the process) I expected nothing less than a sweaty onslaught of 1-3 minute bangers and was not at all disappointed. Opening up proceedings with a few classics from Hazardous Mutation, arguably one of their most underrated releases, the fun only continued with a showcase of multiple tracks from all of their albums, with a particular focus on their latest album Slime and Punishment.

The second smallest of the four different Academy stages in Manchester, Club Academy is a venue where the ceiling is low and space can be difficult to find at a sell-out show, however that all added to the atmosphere of Waste. While there is a novelty seeing hundreds of people crowd surf to Born to Party in the sun, there’s something about the intimate thrash experience of Tony Foresta screaming at you that adds a further sense of intensity. That, and seeing half the venue part like the red sea and spawn a huge circle pit made this a particularly memorable experience.

While Waste themselves aren’t a band I listen to often on record (I prefer the more technical, brutal side of thrash metal generally), their punky attitude and no bullshit live shows never fail to entertain. So, if you are a fan of thrash and are curious to check out some of the newer acts waving the flag for good, friendly, violent fun, tours like this one are tailor-made with you in mind.

WORDS BY MICHAEL MILLER