Monday, September 10, 2012

Kuala Lumpur Thrashed 2012: 9.02.2012

This is part three 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...

The last of three days of metal brought me back to home base for KL Thrashed 2012. I was excited for the gig, mostly because of Atomicdeath; but two straight nights of heshing out were beginning to take its toll. Sunday morning, I woke up in Singapore to find that I slept through my alarm and had to rush like a madman from the backpacker's inn to make my bus. I caught it just in time, and after going through customs, I shut my eyes and didn't open them until I was back in KL. Any overpriced corporate coffee I may have sought out on arrival was only purchased to keep me vertical.

The gig was at the annexe behind KL tourist trap Central Market, and a few flights up from the Doppel Kafe (itself a pretty good spot to catch gigs). Any doubts that a thrashfest was scheduled were dispelled by loitering clusters of Jacket Patchers (and even a few Patcherettes). I've long thought that denim vests are an impractical way to show your cred, but a few dedicated heshers went as far as to wear leather jackets in the tropical heat. Style trumps comfort in metal (of course, there's still the case of that idiot running around South East Asia in his Napalm Death hoodie: Suspect is most likely sweating while throwing stones from inside a glass house).

Unlike the crowds at Rumah Api and Singapore Deathfest (where there were a good number of non-Asian foreigners), the KL Thrashed audience was almost entirely Malay - not in an exclusionary way, it just happens to work out like that here for some reason. Inside the hall, local distros set up tables filled with cassettes, patches, and rare (often bootlegged) shirts.  It was like a NWN! message board come to life. If anything, the festival demonstrated that thrash isn't waning in popularity here in Malaysia. That may seem strange, considering how many of the American Thrash Revival bands (Skeleton Witch, Bonded By Blood, etc) are slowly backing away from the label, most likely in an attempt to survive the glut and growing public backlash. But I can testify that old school metal never lost its appeal with Malaysian metalheads; back in 2003 when I was trying to convince friends here of the greatness of the Red Chord and Behemoth, it seemed all they were interested in was Slayer and King Diamond (and, to my utter bafflement, Grip Inc.).

Night Wolf kicked off this night of old school heshing with possibly the oldest school in thrash, a raucous blend of Motörhead, Hellhammer and Venom that was so popular in Bello Horizonte 30 years ago. Night Wolf feature the guitarist from KL's Lobotomy, trading in his axe for bass, vocals, Frost-style corpse paint and a few upside down crosses. His thrash'fro was still in resplendent effect, I'm happy to report. A cover of Abigail's "Satanik Metal Fucking Hell" should tell you what these guys are all about.

A covers band might seem out of place at another fest, but considering this whole event was paying tribute to a bygone era, Central Disposal didn't seem out of place. Dark Angel, Death Angel, and Exodus were all given their dues, but Central Disposal really shone with a cover of Vio-Lence's "Kill as One," which I couldn't help but shout along with. Actually, considering how almost none of the classic thrash bands have ever played Malaysia (the exception being Death Angel), maybe hearing those songs in a live setting was a rare treat for the audience.

Possibly the only band at the fest to do more than merely follow a wellworn path, Atomicdeath are the secret highlight of the fest. If mixing thrash and dis-core sounds like it's been done before, I can honestly say I haven't heard it, not the way these guys do it; and the applause they earn tells me I'm not alone. For real though, if the audience didn't give these guys the reaction they deserved, I might have smacked some kids upside the head. AD are the best band in Malaysia, and along with Tools of the Trade, the most likely to break out of the region.

If Bestial Kommand Nuklear Wrath were a real band, they'd probably sound a lot like Storming Steels: Skeksis-like vocals over blackened thrash. Coming from the northern states of Kedah and Perlis, they remind me of Absu without the blasting or sequined headbands. A cover of Sepultura's "Antichrist" is a nice touch and shows where their hearts are at, even if it didn't get a huge reaction from the crowd.

In sharp contrast to the blackened/Teutonic bias of most of the other bands on the bill, Heareafter offered a more technical and melodic take on the genre, reminding me more of new school kids like Warbringer. Their popularity was evident from the number of Hereafter shirts that were present and the fact that the audience's enthusiasm swelled when they got on. Maybe with Dave Mustaine banned from playing Malaysia for the foreseeable future, these guys can fill that niche?

Even if my overall enthusiasm was starting to wane, I was eager to check out Thai thrashers Remains. High pitched yelps, ultra-fast drumming and palm-muted tremolo picking, these guys were remarkably tight and focused, even by thrash standards. Though you might not have expected that as the empty bottles of beer multiplied behind them as their set progressed. Their swagger was amusing, but considering their prowess, not unearned.

After Remains, I badly needed a break; one was already scheduled for 7 PM, but I decided to skip out on Catarhh and Demonification as well - as I left the hall, the intro to "Beneath the Remains" segued into a Metallica cover, leaving me fairly confident that I wasn't missing anything revolutionary. I seriously considered going home after Atomicdeath wrapped up their set, but instead I headed down to Doppel Kafe to escape the cigarette smoke and wait for some feeling to come back to my feet (and neck). I figured I probably wouldn't get another chance to see the two bands at the top of the bill, Thailand's Nuclear Warfare and Sabah's Inside.

Were Nuclear Warfare more new school than old school? Closer to the Teutonic style of Kreator and Sodom than the Bay Area thrash of Testament and Exodus? Honestly, at this point it was all a jumble. All I can recall is members of Atomicdeath, Night Wolf, Lobotomy, and Kathgor showing their enthusiastic support at the front of the stage, and that the audience got so raucous that at one point I was pushed into and nearly knocked over the table with the mixing board. Who's got two thumbs and nearly shut down an entire metal fest? THIS GUY! Luckily that didn't happen, and Nuclear Warfare finished their set unhampered, to the adulation of fans and peers.

Inside, from the Western Malaysian state of Sabah, have been around since the late 90's - by no means the golden age of thrash, but compared to the relative youth of everyone else at the gig, they're practically Venom. Their status at the top of the bill must say something about the regard they have in the region. Excitement was definitely high as they marauded through a set of blackened thrash (more black than thrash from where I was standing). Crosses were inverted, horns were raised, and heads banged appreciably. I'm not sure their Antichristian message is all that scandalous in a Muslim country, but their showmanship was appreciated and provided a decent end to a good, if wearying, night of hesherdom.

Somewhere in a different part of KL, Tools of the Trade were playing a hardcore fest; I'd originally planned on making an appearance at that as well, to rack up my total score to four shows in two countries in three days. But alas, age has taken its toll, and my legs gave up on me. Considering I'll probably be seeing Tools at Rumah Api on the 16th, I figured they'd give me a pass.
Next: I get some well-deserved rest, and decide I don't want to listen to any metal for at least 20 minutes. I manage about 4.

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