Saturday, April 7, 2012


The real action, as ever, is underground.

Rumah Api is a punk squat/performance space; a Malaysian ABC No Rio, if you like. I previously discovered it when it was rumoured to be the substitute venue for Impiety's super-secret KL appearance. Covered in slogans like 'For a World Without Borders' and 'Give Peace A Chance,' it seemed an unlikely host for a mini-fest dedicated to metal's most war-obsessed genre.

The event was a release party for a split-CD featuring three bands from Malaysia (Angkara, Geen Naam, Diskangkung) and one from Singapore (Exkoriator), with the metal mad lib title of Night of the Diabolical Holocaust (the CD was slightly less outrageously named Capitalist War Holocaust). Despite being publicized as starting at "3pm sharp," not a single band had gone on by the time I reached the venue at 5, with two bands still left to do their soundcheck. Which was neither unusual nor unexpected, but I was still a little annoyed. Damn it, things should start on time! Right, Ken Jeong?

Luckily, once the event started the night flew by at a respectable clip, with all the bands adhering to strict half hour sets and no equipment changes to slow things down. By the time I took a walk around the block, the first band had gone on and I arrived in time to see Geen Naam, one of the bands featured on the CD. Like From Ashes Rise with extra double-bass goodness, Geen Naam split the difference between crust punk bluster and metal intensity. A good start to my night of Malaysian metal, as well as an inclination that the KL scene has more going on than I had previously given it credit for.

The bar for the night (and Malaysian metal in general) was set by Atomicdeath. A 3-piece who inject a great deal of Discharge inro their classic thrash sound, they reminded me instantly of Sodom in both their stripped down intensity as well as some lovable sloppiness. The best metal band I've seen in KL, though I reserved that opinion til after I saw Lobotomy.

A female-fronted grindcore band is still a sight to behold in Malaysia, and the crowd was eager to see Exkoriator, Singapore's contribution to the CWH split. Their tiny singer's not quite Mel Mongeon, but in fairness, neither is her band Fuck the Facts - Exkoriator sound more like Phobia as played by a jet engine. The PA did them very little favours, but their overall stage presence won them whatever fans the washed out sound didn't.

The last of the bands featured on the split CD to play that night, Angkara are the kind of crust punk act I expect plays Rumah Api regularly. I was enjoying their Swedish d-beat styled attack, until a mid-set airing of a song called "Fuck Zion," which brought me forcibly home to the fact that I was in Malaysia, where even the supposed peace punks hate Israel. An execrable blemish on an otherwise recommendable band.

If Rotgut were American, they'd probably already be signed to Relapse. A 3-piece grindcore band that apparently has no use for a bassist, they draw easy comparisons to Pig Destroyer. Their songs were a testament to how powerful a single guitarist can be. The PA was remarkably clear for them, and the extra space on stage allowed their singer room to do his best Seth Putnam impression (minus the crack smoking or PC baiting).

There are bands, and then there are bands' bands, and Bloodstone are clearly the latter, as the front row was crowded with folks that would perform on the same stage that night. The Singaporean lovechild of Show No Mercy and Bonded By Blood, Bloodstone are a throwback to the days when metal was a lot less po-faced than it has been since 1991. How else would you explain the lead guitarist's Miami Vice shades? [I myself am at a loss...] Not that they aren't KVLT in their own way, as they close with a cover of Hellhammer's 'Messiah' (tighter than Tom Warrior ever managed). Like most of the current thrash revival sect, they're incredibly young - most of the members were probably in their infancy when Metallica's "black" album effectively smothered the first wave of thrash in its sleep. But the enthusiasm they carry for the genre wins out over my cynicism for metal nostalgia, and my head did bang along with everyone around me.

Lobotomy look like they fell off the cover of the Sentence of Death LP, right down to the guitarist's thrash-perm. What's the point of being stuck in 80's metal if you don't get the hair right? [Also, they had real bulletbelts and didn't have to improvise their own like poor Max Cavalera]. If a band's quality can be determined by the audience's reaction, then Lobotomy were clearly the night's winners, with most of the crowd immediately invading the meager stage and kids being picked up and carried around the room before being dumped on the concrete floor. Speed metal warfare indeed. Lobotomy's frontman embraced the ensuing chaos, grinning through the occasional disconnected cable and unintentional stompbox outages caused by his over-exhuberant fans. If the thrash revival hadn't already run its course overseas, they'd be major contenders to break out of Malaysia.

Most of the audience bails after Lobotomy - despite the fact that Lobotomy's singer/bassist is also a member of the following band Kathgor, who feature a corpsepainted female vocalist. Kathgor play the kind of blackened thrash that floods the Nuclear War Now message boards, but I found them more exhausting than enthralling. Calling them "Impiety without the hooks" isn't much of a recommendation, though I did enjoy shredding my throat to their cover of Grotesque's "Ripped From The Cross."

Introduced as "the only Malaysian band to play with both Discharge and Poison Idea," Tools of the Trade aren't as Carcass-influenced as their moniker suggests, skewing closer to the American grind sensibilities of Brutal Truth and Pig Destroyer. They recognize the merit of a good doom jag, which kept their political grind from getting too one-dimensional, and the audience on its toes. Especially in my case - my plantar fasciitis was acting up big time, and I literally had to rock back and forth on the balls of my feet in order to keep standing.

By the end of Tools of the Trade's set, the searing pain in my heels became unbearable, and I decided it to skip the last band Aghory and hobble to the nearby LRT station before I missed the last train home. On my way out I did pick up the Atomicdeath/Bloodstone and Capitalist War Holocaust splits, both of which I'll review shortly. Though what I'm really looking for is an Atomicdeath t-shirt - hopefully I'll be able to score one when I see them again on April 21st.