Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mamatfest 1.07.2017

Of all the places in KL that could host a gathering of heshers, Black Box - in the upscale, yuppie-catering Publika mall- is perhaps the unlikeliest. Its cavernous sound makes it a less than ideal place for metal (unless it's that heavily reverbed early back metal sound you're after); but with few other options, their hospitality is appreciated. Also, the juxtaposition of expat children on skates tearing around clusters of Heshers is an amusing way to spend the time between sets, as was the sight of affluent yuppies getting roped in to take group pics of guys in death metal shirts.

Courting the mainstream in 1998 rarely looks good in the hindsight of 2017 - one of the reasons why bands that jumped on the grunge/nu metal/etc bandwagon struggled for credibility immediately after. Blindtribe wear their later Roots-era Sepultura influence proudly, and pull it off for the most part; but they're still a reminder of a woolly hat phase in metal that's better forgotten.

Jakarta's Cosmic Vortex play grindcore in a way that's both fast and fun (ie Rotten Sound). They were the sole Indonesian act on the bill, and ably represented their country's vast grindcore scene with their tight and engaging set. If the muted response was limited to a half dozen kids trying to get a circle pit going, it's probably only because the median age of the fest was "dad".

A few years back, this blog (and by extension, its proprietor) devoted a lot of energy to covering as many of the metal scenes in South East Asia as possible. The concept ran out of steam before I got to Brunei; so I'm pretty much in the dark about Senjakala. Which is just as well, since their Lacuna Coil/ Evanescence schtick wasn't likely to garner much interest here. Their singer does a passable Christiana Scabbia impression, but their inclusion on the bill is slightly baffling.

There's not much to find fault with in Goresluts death/grind, except that each song seems to pay tribute to a different album in their record collection ("Why yes, I do own the first Autopsy record. Thank you for noticing."). To their credit, they do have a scene OGs playing drums for them; they also have an exhuberant frontman who badly misjudged how many people were in front of him and their willingness to catch him when he jumped off the stage. Ouch.

I'm told that the Nineties were the high point for the metal scene in Malaysia. Bands from that era are largely referred to in the past tense, aside from the occasional one off gig. So getting to see Brain Dead is probably about as close to experiencing those glory days as I'm ever going to get. Like most of the other bands from the early 90's Malaysian death metal boom, their sound is heavily indebted to early Sepultura, with the occasional Slayer-ism (and a cover of Celtic Frost's "Dethroned Emperor") establishing that Eighties' thrash is where their hearts lay. The mix was disproportionately bass-heavy in the early going, but thankfully evened out after a few songs. Watching their vocalist discretely take a hit off his inhaler made me glad I'm not the only one who has to balance a love of death metal with asthma.

Carburetor Dung are also local legends - albeit in the punk scene. Quite how they ended up at this fest is a little unclear, but it's most likely due to guitarist Joe Kidd's OG status (few people have flown the flag for the local scene as long and as prominently as him). Dung's material has the upbeat feeling of a song that should be playing over the end credits of a Nineties rom-com, so I expected the audience to be stand-offish. But the room, in all its patched and kvlt glory, was completely engaged, with the infectious sing-along closer "Boo hoo Clapping Song" getting the biggest response of the night. And the only ones heckling were the band's own friends. Shows what I know.

Formed in the early Nineties, Tokyo's Terror Squad predate both the millennial thrash revival and the more recent image conscious version, though they arrived too late to be part of the genre's glory days. Their timing isn't their only idiosyncrasy; though playing at break-neck speed, their songs contain much more melody and convoluted arrangements than classic thrash - think Maiden, if Steve Harris pursued both his interest in prog rock and the rough and tumble sound of Killers. Japanese bands are usually head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to musicianship, and Terror Squad are no exception - despite their frenetic showmanship, this is a band that clearly spends their rehearsal time well. Bouncing back and forth around the stage (and in front of it), their frontman's enthusiasm was infectious - which, thankfully, meant that there were eager hands to hold him in the air. Though Humiliation were the scheduled closer, Terror Squad's performance was one befitting a headliner, and I took my leave early with no regrets.