Monday, September 3, 2012

Disgusted @Rumah Api, 8.31.2012

This is part one of a three day live show binge, between Friday, August 31st, and Sunday, September 2nd.  Three shows in two countries in three days... how much metal is too much metal? Can this old hesher still bang his head without having a senior moment?  We're about to find out...

Day One of Three Shows in Two Countries in Three Days, starting in the very familiar confines of Rumah Api: I was looking forward to checking out Disgusted from Vietnam, about whom I've read nothing but good things. I'll admit, the novelty factor played a big part in my excitement. Vietnamese death metal - what does that even mean? [a google search proved unproductive, leaving me to believe that it's a lot like Thai death metal, only with more pork and less peanut sauce]. The show was organized by Emi from Tools of the Trade, who I ran into on the way in. By the time I arrived, the show was already running 2 hours late, because of course it was. Set your watches to Rumah Api Time: 3 hours late is the norm.

It was my first time seeing the Tools guys since they returned from their European tour (they played a show at Rumah Api the previous week, but I was in Manila for shawarma and phat beats). I also ran into the dudes from Atomicdeath who assured me that they were saving a shirt for me [somewhere in Bloomfield, New Jersey, their bigggest fan is pounding a desk in envy]. They also let me know about a thrash festival happening in KL the following Sunday. I was originally planning on returning from Singapore for the What the Heck fest that same Sunday, but an all day thrash gig seemed much more appealing than 6 hours of old school hardcore.  Plus, I hadn't seen Atomicdeath in about 2 months, so I couldn't pass up the chance to sing along with "Kombat 666."

This show was also my first chance to check out Blood Legion, which now has my friend Hann on guitar (the astute reader of this blog will remember him as the metal insider who took me to see Impiety). With its barebones set up, Rumah Api isn't the place for death metal (some nights it isn't even the place for more than one guitar). With that in mind, Blood Legion's set may not have put them in the best light: The vocals cut in and out (a problem for most bands that night) as did the lead guitar.  Regardless, they banged through their death/thrash with endearing gusto, winning the crowd through moxy and their bear of a singer's stage presence, even as their songs teetered on the brink of falling apart. A cover of "Mandatory Suicide" got the rabid response a Slayer cover usually does, and their closer cribbed the voodoo beat and galloping guitars of "Children of the Grave" before erupting into thrashing overdrive. Once this monster gets its bolts tightened it'll really be ready to take on the village.

Besides Tools of the Trade, Malaysia's other contribution to SG Deathfest is Penang's Butcher Bastards. They got a good-natured heckling from their KL brethren (especially their diminutive guitarist who elicited several cries of "Jack Black" due to a questionable resemblance). Their guitar tone (courtesy of a hefty effects rack) was impressively corrosive and burnt sounding, and they wisely let their goregrind breathe with big pounding rawk moments, while the vocalist's squeals and grunts proved a reasonable imitation of a train hitting its brakes. A closing cover of Napalm's "Infiltraitor" certainly put them in my good books.

Sarjan Hassan bring a welcome element of unpredictability whenever they play, and I'm happy to see them as long as I'm not immediately between them, their bodysurfing fans, and the hard concrete floor. From my safe vantage point behind the monitors, I had to appreciate the fact that they're not just crossover fast but tight musically as well. A cover of Discharge's "Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing" made a welcome mid-set appearance. Actually, these dudes do a lot of covers; most bands will end with a Slayer song and leave it at that; Sarjan Hassan actually double downed from their usual closer of "Raining Blood" with a rowdy version of "Seek and Destroy" that somehow gets an even bigger reaction (with Dinesh from Blood Legion and Emi from Tools jumping in as well). Attempting to follow that up with "Ace of Spades" was maybe one classic metal song too many -  that song is about the risk of overplaying your hand, after all. Still, it's almost impossible not to like these guys - they're like a Taz whirlwind set to fastcore. Less covers and more carnage!

Daighila may have looked a little out of place in the middle of all this, but credit to Emi as an organizer for knowing that a little variety was needed. Their style of screaming hardcore (the good Orchid kind, not the bad Alexisonfire kind) was a nice break from blastbeats and mic cupping. They do well with tension/release, songs building to full-on rage mode before giving way to spacey post rock sections. The band said little between songs, furthering the tension (a tendency more Asian bands should adopt, frankly). They're a month away from an ambitious European tour; I have a feeling they'll do quite well.

Too smart to be slam, and too gnarly for techheads, Disgusted wisely skirt through sub-genres and come out the other side with nary a head left unbanged.  I'm not sure why Vietnam's biggest death metal band has a white dude singing for them; I'm also not sure how I feel about him shoving audience members off the stage. But I do know that dedicating a song to dissing Tiger Beer is awesome, and I can't wait to see how that plays out in Tiger's home turf in Singapore. Elsewhere, a techy number gets the bassist's fingers tapping, and that in turn gets the audience cooing in appreciation. Near the end of their set, the room's oppressive humidity looks like it's wearing Disgusted down, but they soldier on through an encore (even if most of the audience decided to bail). I was already excited to see them the next day, but getting a chance to experience them in Rumah Api's chaotic closed quarters was worth forsaking sleep and going home drenched in sweat.

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Next: Putting the "gore" in "Singapore" at SG Deathfest!