Friday, February 17, 2012

Heaven Shall Burn @ Doppel Kafé, Kuala Lumpur 2.17.12

This is a weird one for me. I experienced metalcore burnout almost immediately, despite being a huge fan of both melodic death metal and hardcore. Reneging on the promise of its earliest incarnations (Catharsis, Purusam), metalcore as embraced by the mainstream lacked both the DIY spirit of hardcore and the relentless aggression of metal. It pretty much epitomized cookie cutter songs, emo choruses and stupid haircuts. And while I'm unabashed in my love for Darkest Hour and Himsa, I don't think Germany's Heaven Shall Burn will be remembered as more than also-rans in a flooded scene.

Still, it's not like KL is teeming with metal shows, and being at the frontlines of any concert is a nice break from my usual Friday night routine of push-ups and file piracy. And supporting the promoters can only mean better and heavier bands coming mind boggles at the thought of Fuck the Facts or even mighty Origin tearing up this sleepy town.

It's also an excuse to check out one of KL's few venues for heavy music. The venue in question is the Doppel Kafé, an art-and-music space in the center of Kuala Lumpur. Part ABC No Rio and part Malaysian mamak stall, it's a pretty big (if bare bones) space. One hapless employee is charged with wandering through the crowd to sell drinks, often in the middle of sets and the breaks between songs. Honestly...this is more hardcore than anything I saw in the moshpit that night.

Opening for Heaven Shall Burn were two local Malaysian acts, Daarchlea and Incarnation, both tied to the metalcore mast despite the fact that the ship is sinking.

A metalcore band with a keyboardist is usually enough to send me running to my Deicide albums. But in Daarchlea's case, it didn't matter, as the PA reduced whatever hopes they have to be the next Bleeding Through down to an indistinct roar. They may as well have been playing Darkthrone covers over an AM radio (preferable to their actual music). Despite KL being their hometown, the audience's reaction was muted, though they did get a few kids to dance like happy prospectors.

Incarnation, from the Northern Malaysian state of Kedah, are a throwback to the days when bands like Diecast were inescapable as opening acts. This made me slightly nostalgic for the early 2000's before remembering that Diecast fucking sucked. Incarnation themselves aren't bad, and were pretty entertaining as they attempted to film a DVD with a camera strapped to the drummer's head. They have the stage presence of scene veterans, comfortably joking with the crowd and even inciting a tame Wall of Death. [The strange thing about Malaysian bands is that their between song banter is almost always in English. Our colonial roots run deep.] Still, there's no getting around the fact that their sound is severely dated, and unless there's some kind of Trustkill revival I don't know about, they'll have to be content with local hero status.

[Curmudgeon interlude]
I'm pretty critical of local bands and their bandwagon mentality, but not without reason. Compare the South East Asian scene with the South American or Eastern European scenes from a couple decades ago, where there was a similar lack of resources and government antipathy. And while bands from those areas went on to greater success in the larger metal world, we have yet to produce anything of real note (besides Impiety and their blockheaded antisemitism). Where's our Sepultura? Where's our Vader? It seems like most of the musicians I talk to in Malaysia confuse having the right gear with having a unique vision and a work ethic.

Heaven Shall Burn's vision may not be all that unique, but I can't fault their work ethic. They tear through their set devoid of pretension and clean choruses. I couldn't help but do a "metal cred" checklist (I have been accused of being a cred whore): They named themselves after a Marduk album; their guitarist is rocking a skullet; they're from Germany, the land of metal (and chocolate); their bassist is a doppelganger for thrash god Tom Angelripper.

At the end of the day, though, they've held steadfast their hxc roots when it comes to putting on a storming live show (something most of the bands in their genre lack). It's been a while since I've seen a band so comfortably interacting with their audience; and whether it's Vital Remains or Sick of it All, I'm always impressed when a band disregards the sanctity of the stage to commune with the people who came to see them. I'll admit, "metalcore" or not, these guys had me heshing out pretty hard, despite not knowing a single song...until the very last number of the night. I was shocked when they closed with Edge of Sanity's "Black Tears;" even more shocked that most of the audience knew the words. Anyone trotting the globe, teaching children to worship Swanö, is all right in my book.