Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dead in the Dirt, Kuala Lumpur 11.16.2013

Bing Maps: Actual location may not be anywhere near marker.
Kids in KL were pretty excited about Dead in the Dirt coming to Malaysia - I was asked for months whether I was going to the gig (like I have anything better to do). But first I had to wander around in circles for over an hour. Just finding the venue (actually a rehearsal studio) was an adventure, thanks to their Facebook page using a vague address and a misleading Bing map. It didn't help that there's little in the way of road signs between the train station and the studio. After about 45 minutes of trying to figure out where the fuck I was, it became apparent I had wandered into Nowhere and successfully located the middle. Luckily I ran into some other dudes who were also looking for the venue, otherwise all that walking around in the rain and the dark would have been for nothing (except to cement my growing belief that nothing good ever happens here).

I missed most of the opening bands (a lot of chugging brocore, from what I could tell), but arrived in time for Skunk Fix. Their style of melodic punk isn't really my thing, but the fact that their guitarist can play circles around the rest of the local scene (including most of the local thrash shredders) wasn't lost on me.

The discordant hardcore bandwagon peaked when I was in college a decade ago; most of those bands are gone now, and Coalesce aside, I honestly don't miss them. I may be alone in that: Hurricane are a local version of Converge, and all the kids seemed to love them. Forever Comes Crashing's over-emoting with little of its danger is what I came away with. Everyone starts off in the shadows of their heroes, but these guys fall a little too neatly into "local version of famous band" syndrome for my taste, especially since it doesn't look like Converge (or their myriad side projects) are going to disappear anytime soon.

The kids didn't have the same love for Compulsion to Kill. Though they were down a member (bassist/vocalist Reza was MIA), I've never heard them sound faster or more bloodthirsty. But the crowd was stand-offish, and the empty space in front of the stage seemed to grow throughout CTK's set. Bullshit. I take solace knowing that raw angry grindcore still has the power to clear rooms.

I've seen and written about Tools of the Trade so often at this point that I really have nothing else to say about them, except it's extraordinary how far their drummer Yuss has come since he joined them earlier this year. His blasting has never sounded tighter, and he's turning out to be quite the little showman. I also enjoyed watching their bass player find new things to jump on top of, and then off of.

When I was in college, being a vegan/straight edge death metal kid was considered pretty strange - to the point that my other straight edge friends either didn't believe I was straight-edge, or didn't consider me a real hesher. [For the record, every time someone calls me "punk rock" my acid reflux acts up.] Dead in the Dirt would probably have been my favourite band in those days; a vegan/straight-edge grindcore band is a testament to how much the walls between subcultures have disintegrated since then.

The occasional equipment mishap aside, their performance made it clear why Southern Lord were so excited to have them on the label (besides wanting to corner the market on ultra heavy power violence). There's not a lot of fluff in DITD's sound: Just speed, heaving riffs, and more speed. They singled out Tools of the Trade for praise, telling the audience, "I hope you realize how special what you have here is. We don't have anything like this back home. We just have a bunch of people flopping around on the floor, pretending they mean it." [Oh, we have that here too. Remember Hurricane?] Meanwhile, the Tools guys never fail to let me know how jealous they are that I was at this year's Maryland Deathfest. The grass is always greener, I guess.