Monday, September 2, 2013

Mass Hypnosia @ KL Thrashed 2013

I've been sick of thrash nostalgia for a good long while now; just the phrase "thrash til death!" makes me want to spit. Preferably in a retro-thrashers mouth. Honestly, the more half-assed revival bands I hear, the more relieved I am that the combined ubiquity of grunge and death metal killed thrash the first time. I would have skipped KL Thrashed 2013 with no regrets, except that Mass Hypnosia were scheduled to make their first Malaysian appearance there. As someone who trying to sew the threads the regional scenes closer together (with little success), MH coming to Malaysia was a big step in that direction.

This year's event was held in the Water Club, deep in KL's clubbing district. Moving to a venue with its own bar may have seemed like a plus, but it was one that few in attendance took advantage of (no doubt due to price gouging - buying a bottle of water for Mass Hypnosia ran me 8 times what it would have cost at a convenience store).

It has to be said, this year's KL Thrashed didn't have quite the spark of last year's line up. Even if my opinion is that thrash is flogging a horse that's well and truly dead, bands like Remains, Inside, and (of course) Atomicdeath encapsulated everything that I still enjoy about the genre. It was baffling to me that members of Atomicdeath and Lobotomy were in the audience but not on the stage (when I asked AD guitarist Kerry why they weren't on this year's bill, he shrugged and said simply, "We weren't invited.") Besides Mass Hypnosia, Headkrusher and Beast Petrify, this year's bill was short on foreign acts.

Instead, we got local cover bands running through thrash classics like it was karaoke night in Wacken. One band opted to start their set with exactly the same Metallica cover that the previous band had closed with (Metallica's "Whiplash"), which would have drawn jeers from a more discerning audience. Suddenly, the fact that no one but me seems to care about the lack of originality or conviction in the modern thrash era was put into sharp relief: These kids will listen to anything. They were just there to hesh out for a few hours (hey there, guy who takes his shirt off and headbangs on stage at every gig!).

Outside the club, local distros were selling everything from classic thrash vinyl to bootleg shirts. There was even one table selling plastic bullet belts. I filed the image away, realizing it was the perfect metaphor for the old school revival: Everything about thrash and death metal that used to seem threatening has been rendered pre-packaged and toothless by a bunch of fucking fashion victims.

Still, there were high points. Local kids Malapetaka, who I'd seen previously at Rumah Api, are shaping up to be a credible death/thrash act. Indonesians Headkrusher played blackened thrash at a speed that actually sounded deadly. And playing after most of the audience had gone home didn't stop the two-man Beast Petrify from throwing themselves into their unique mix of black, death, and thrash. Having seen Mass Hypnosia in Manila the previous year, I was relatively certain that they'd wipe the floor with everything that came before them.

Of course, they'd have to do that in front of a dwindling audience. Despite the organizer's best efforts to have the event run on a precise schedule, the combined obstacles of the heavy rain and Malaysians' inability to start on time meant that KL Thrashed 2013 got off to a late start. It didn't help that the band before Mass Hypnosia was sidelined by technical difficulties for 10 minutes, then still to extend their set by another 15. By the time Mass Hypnosia got on stage, it was 2 hours past their scheduled time. At that point, the audience had evaporated.

Those that stuck around though got to see the best band of the night. It's not because the were faster than the other bands on the bill (they were), or because they were tighter (they were). It's because they write songs instead of simply stringing together well-worn cliches. The songs "Stigmata" and "Traumatic Violence" would have been familiar to anyone who listens to the DoC podcast, except hardly anyone here does (thanks again for the support, Malaysia).

If there was one highlight to the night, it was introducing the members of Mass Hypnosia to Atomicdeath. Karl MH and Faiz AD traded patches. Adorable. Made me feel like a hesher version of JDate. The two bands hung out together outside the club while the last band of the night played to whichever diehards still lingered. I have no idea who they were, but they kicked off their set with a Megadeth cover, leading me to believe I wasn't missing anything exciting.

It turns out the real excitement was happening outside anyways: Two carloads of police pulled up, MP5s slung prominently in front of them, and had some stern words for the organizers. I figured it was due to the show running late, but I decided whatever the issue was, it wasn't wise to stick around and find out. The Mass Hypnosia guys and I hastily split.

[The organizers later confirmed via Facebook message that it was a curfew issue. Why the cops felt the need to show up with automatic rifles, I have no idea...maybe they heard people were wearing bullets and decided not to take any chances.]