Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mamatfest 01.02.2016

Pat from Atomicdeath invited me to this all-day show organized by Mamat Records, held at the Black Box in swanky Publika Mall (where I haven't seen a show since Doom came to KL in 2014). With metal shows being few and far between in Malaysia right now, this looked to be the only chance to see some death metal this month (without getting on a plane or a bus first).

At the same time, I wasn't particularly excited about the event. Metal (and shows in general) have had a bad go of it lately around these parts. Besides high profile cancellations and the Rumah Api raid, the last installment of KL Thrashed was shut down - allegedly due to a rival promoter calling the local authorities, claiming the gig violated Malaysia's "black metal ban". (Small scene, small minds.)

If there's one thing I'd like to avoid during my indeterminate stay in this mudflat delta, it's going to jail for simply being at a metal show. I don't need that kind of cred; and frankly, none of these derivative local bands are worth the hassle.

Still, I figured with the gig being held at a high end mall in the opulent part of town, the chances of jackboot thugs engaging in a vulgar show of force were slim. It's one thing to march in to Rumah Api with machine guns to intimidate a bunch of scruffy punk kids; another thing entirely to do that in an area where hundreds of rich lawyers, businessmen, and expats gather with their families. Every gig I attend these days is a roll of the dice, but I liked my chances for this one.

Openers Mu-Aru represent the Johor scene at the southernmost part of Malaysia -  a scene that, due to snagging touring death metal bands, will probably eclipse the one here in the capital very soon. (It doesn't help that most of the metal promoters in KL are clown college graduates). Since I was late, I didn't get to hear much from Mu-Aru, but their black/thrash attack, while not unique, served as a suitable opener for the fest.

Sil Khannaz are local heroes, having formed just before the Malaysian metal scene's mid-90's glory days (when bands could play to as many as 1000 people, as I've been told, and crowds didn't have to worry about getting hauled off to jail for being at a metal show, as I can only assume). Their style of thrashy death metal leans heavily on NWOBHM melodies; while they display more craft than the most recent crop of thrash bands, these days they lack the sheer aggression displayed on sublime early albums like Conception of Madness. Still, with the scene geared heavily towards new school thrashers and their pristine, newly assembled patch jackets, veterans like Sil Khannaz are a welcome sight for those of us who didn't get into death metal through message boards.

The first metal show of the year wouldn't be complete without Atomicdeath - unsurprisingly, the main reason I was there that day. They weren't without the occasional cock-up (it's still Atomicdeath after all) but they killed it with their newer material and a Driller Killer cover. While calls for a circle pit went unheeded, they owned the large stage and even got a few heshers chanting their name. How long til Malaysia realizes what it has?
Taste isn't a name you'd associate with (as the band describes themselves) "brutal heaviness"; and frankly, just seeing the name almost led to me skipping the rest of the fest. [Asia has a thing for stupid band names.] But my experience with Japanese death metal bands is that they're always on another level, and that was definitely the case with this trio. Taste combine the intellect of Immolation with the high fret IQ of Cryptopsy. It's ridiculous (and a little embarrassing) how far ahead musically these guys were to everyone they shared a stage with that day. Malaysian audiences are rarely the most discerning, but enough kids responded to the band for me to know they weren't total idiots. So good, I was adamant that I'd see them play another set the next day.
I missed most of Humiliation's set, but that's fine. They're one of the few Malaysian bands that have played shows in Europe, which makes them as close to break-out stars as anyone; but slow death metal has never been my thing, and that's not about to change any time soon. I suppose I could have closed my eyes and pretended I was listening to Bolt Thrower; but I got the first five Bolt Thrower albums almost two decades ago while I was still a teenager, and I still prefer the real thing.

LANGSUYR were my main reason for sticking around til the end of the fest. Like Sil Khannaz, they were part of the 90's Malaysian death metal explosion that I've heard so much about, and were one of the earliest bands I was exposed to from this region (on a compilation cassette with the ill-advised title Supremacist - I can't over-stress Asia's predilection for stupid names). Time has sanded away most of their rough edges since then; they're frequently referred to as "Eastern Black Metal", which I'm guessing refers to the Middle Eastern twang their music sometimes takes on - imagine Ancient Rites crossed with a Persian rug store. I can't say what they're doing is essential, but I did enjoy their frontman's stage antics - I've always been a sucker for a good chicken dance.