Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hell and Hell @ Rumah Api, 10.12.2013

When Hell and Hell played Singapore in March (on a bill with scene veterans and local heroes Demisor and Wormrot), they stole the show in no uncertain terms. It was one of the best gigs I saw this year ("But you went to Maryland Deathfest!" one of my Malaysian friends argued; even still). The gig was also memorable since the post I wrote about it earned me my first and only hate mail, a funny bit of business posted anonymously in the comments section that I proudly used on my masthead later. It was that good.

So when I got word that they'd be returning to the region to play Rumah Api, I was counting the days, saving my Hell and Hell shirt for the occasion even if it meant being 'that guy'. [Who am I kidding...I love being that guy.] Besides, after a dismal showing at a competition earlier that day, I needed to go somewhere I could scream for an hour and no one would notice.

I bumped into the members of Hell and Hell outside before the gig started. Their amazement that someone A) had seen them before, and B) was wearing one of their shirts was priceless. Even better - I introduced myself to vocalist Miffy as the guy who wrote about their Singapore gig and he excitedly pointed to his feet, showing me that he had in fact gotten his shoes back after he lost them while crowdsurfing. This was going to be a good night.

The rest of the bill was filled out by the usual suspects: Daighila, Sarjan Hassan, WIDB (whose guitarist Dynbai organized the gig) and Tools of the Trade, as well as a crust band called 13 Das, who sounded a hell of a lot like DS-13. [Don't ever change, Malaysia.]

Miffy made it a point to go to the lobby area in his clown suit and make up to let everyone know that Hell and Hell was about to be unleashed. The idea that people would just hang out outside while the Hell and Hell played is baffling. Bands this good hardly ever come through Malaysia.

And even if they label themselves "cheap and dirty thrash metal", their music is a far cry from the hack revival bullshit that infests this place. Personality is an undervalued asset in the current extreme metal climate, and it's what Hell and Hell have in spades.
A lot of that personality is up front and centre in their frontman Miffy. His get up is an obvious homage to Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight but the Joker affectations go deeper than that. Props (an inflatable mallet, a whistle, and - no shit - an actual rubber chicken) are pulled out, and he spent the time he's not singing either antagonizing the crowd with his mallet and inviting them to do the same back to him, or kissing and occasionally humping them (he is named for a cartoon rabbit, after all.) And through it all, he never missed an opportunity to pose for the cameras, eyes rolled back in his head, mouth contorted dementedly. I've never seen "clowning the audience" taken so literally, but they responded to his provocations gleefully, even honouring him in that Rumah Api tradition of picking him up, carrying him around and then dropping him. He just used it as an excuse to roll on the ground some more.

The rest of the band were equally game at hamming it up. With chaos being such an intrinsic part of their performances, you'd think they'd be all kinds of sloppy, but there was hardly a beat or note out of place. Clearly the days Hell and Hell aren't in front of an audience are spent in the practice studio (something more Malaysian bands could be doing - just saying). Not that you'd know it from their album, which is so filthy it makes my speakers sound like they're putrefying.

Encores were called for, and encores were delivered. It was either over too soon or not soon enough; I guess that depends on whether you were the guy waiting 7 months to see them again or the guy who had to perform in the Malaysian heat wearing a fucking clown suit. I wish I could have hung out with the band as they did the tourist thing in KL the next day, but I was on a plane to Bangkok to see Behemoth. When I got back a few days later I received a message from Hell and Hell saying that they'd be back soon. Already counting the days.

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