Monday, March 4, 2013

Wormrot, Hell & Hell, WIDB, Graves of Demise, Demisor, and Bloodstone @Home Club, SG 3.02.2013

When I saw Demisor at Beatnik last month, their drummer Jali hipped me to a show he was organizing in Singapore. Hell and Hell from Japan were looking to play in the region; with Wormrot and my buddies Bloodstone also on the bill, a bus down to the Lion City became a foregone conclusion. Going to Singapore also afforded me another opportunity to return to KL with a gym bag full of bagels and vegan ice cream. [I'm not going to lie: Bagels and Vegan Ice Cream would have been my co-headliners.]

Home Club, the location for the night's heshing, has a lot going for it as a venue. It's at the centre of one of Singapore's busiest tourist districts, Clarke Quay; for people like me coming in from other countries, there are a number of hostels a few streets away, and it functioned as a scenic place to hang out between sets and after the show. The sound that night was great, and the screens above the stage were helpful for anyone stuck in the back (and letting people in the front know if they were going get shivved). However the layout isn't ideal for metal shows; concrete steps a few feet from the stage seemed to spell disaster for anyone falling in the (almost literal) pit, and I was surprised no one was seriously hurt (though those steps did make taking photos easier as kids in front of me ran around in circles). Also, since the club's main business is as a dance club, the show had to be done early for the regular customers to do their thing - giving me flashbacks to Brookyn's Europa, where Polish dance parties meant early curfews for metal shows, as well as lots of befuddled looks as the two audiences passed each other by.

Bloodstone have been on the QT since April of last year, and they haven't played a show since then. You'd think that the time off would result in some rust; but they sounded tighter than ever, and with a hometown audience to feed off, were in cracking form. With their swagger and songs from their Atomicdeath split ("Desire to Fire" and "Based on a True Story"), as well as a Destruction cover ("Bestial Invasion"), they pushed the bar higher than any opening band I can think of. Worth the bus ride right there. Hopefully I won't have to wait another year to see them again.
It was only last month that I saw grindcore OGs Demisor tear up Beatnik in front of an adoring Malaysian audience; I'll just reiterate that it's always a pleasure to see a grind band that writes riffs and actual songs instead of just stringing together blastbeats. Carcass and old Napalm are a big part of Demisor's style; the funny thing is Demisor have been around for almost as long as both those bands. Their veteran status was apparent, both in the audience's reverence and the ease with which Demisor pulled off their set. Honestly, I would have been happy to go home right after that, if home wasn't 5 hours and a customs checkpoint away.

With this blog, I try to go against the grain by not simply hating on one type of music when it falls out of fashion and avoid pandering to whatever message board CHUDs are currently hyping. But as much as I like to play the contrarian, it's hard for me to muster any enthusiasm for Graves of Demise, who play dated metalcore with religious overtones. Their lead guitarist was pointed out to me as a guitar maestro worth paying attention to. Watching his fingers dance over the fretboard during soundcheck was a clear indication that this was true, but G.O.D. (yes, that's their acronym) isn't really a good barometer of his talent. Also, I'm pretty sure Jesus would agree with me that those breakdowns were kind of trite.

On a bill filled with local heroes and Japanese all-stars, WIDB ("What Is De Because" ...still have no idea what that means) could very easily have fallen through the cracks; and while this was only their third show ever, I had faith that they'd win the crowd over. It took a few songs but when it did, it happened all at once. Credit their catchy hooks, energetic performance, and a song about eating rice which proved so popular that it was demanded again as an encore. The question isn't why WIDB would write songs about food (it should be pointed out that their other songs are fairly political), but why more grind bands haven't... seriously, you can't tell me a Brujeria song about rice and beans wouldn't be awesome. WIDB may have created their own sub-subgenre: mamakcore.

"Where are my shoes?" [one-liner of the year]
Japanese bands seem to operate at a whole other level of creativity and musicianship. In the last year, I've seen performances from Enslave, Sete Star Sept and Desecravity to back that up, and can safely add Hell and Hell to that list. It's not easy describing what they are musically; because what aren't they? Try to imagine AC/DC's strut channeled through hardcore aggression with some pretty impressive metal chops (for the record, the band describe themselves as "cheap and dirty thrash metal"). If that sounds crazy, then I've barely come close to describing the madness these guys unleashed. With his face painted like Heath Ledger's Joker, their vocalist Miffy mugged for the cameras and hugged anyone within reach; he dashed through to the other side of the crowd; allowed himself to be hoisted up in the air and lost his shoes in the process. Language barriers be damned, his banter consisted of asking between every song, "Are you okay?" and exclaiming, "I love you!" And god damn if I didn't believe him every time he said it. Meanwhile, his band managed the impossible by both matching his chaos and staying razor tight while they did it. It was dizzying; it was electrifying; it was practically a riot. These days most bands leave me with the impression that I've already seen and heard everything; it was nice to be proven wrong.

Apparently Hell and Hell and their five (!!!) song encore was enough for most people; the audience had thinned out before local heroes Wormrot took the stage. I've seen my share of guitar/drum/vocalist grind trios since moving back to the region, but these guys made it clear why they've risen to a level that few in South East Asia have come close to. They're not just fast and precise but eerily in synch with each other, to the point where even the occasional fuck up seems pre-arranged. The false starts also afforded them an opportunity to poke fun at grindcore's history of supershort songs (something they seem familiar with). They included a few songs from their upcoming album (spoiler: it's going to be fast) as well as their Scion-sponsored Noise EP. Even as a headliner, they didn't overstay their time, ending while the audience still had the energy to give them a proper response.

Other musings for uplifting gourmandizers

• Before the show, I sat down with the Bloodstone guys for an interview. That should be online soon; entertainment guaranteed, son.

• Living in Malaysia has locked in the instinct to sprint across the street whenever I see a taxi approach; for some reason it freaks me out even more when taxis in Singapore actually stop and wave you across.

• I didn't get pulled out of line by Singaporean customs like I did the last time I ventured across the causeway for a show. However, I did freak out some people on the MRT on my way to the gig. It's like they'd never seen anyone in a Napalm Death hoodie dance on a subway platform before. [Incidentally, Arif from Wormrot does a similar dance onstage; though his is more Tai Chi and mine is more Chubby Checker.]

• I was hoping I'd see the Truth Be Known guys at this show; though as packed as Home Club was with Singaporean grind superstars, if TBK showed up as well the whole island might have tipped over.

Dreams of Consciousness is dancing its Napalm Death hoodie to a town near you. Find out when.