Thursday, October 4, 2012

Enslave, Godless Symptom, Wicked Suffer 9.16.2012

I thought I got the hang of this "Malaysia Time" thing I really did. Not-A-Fest, featuring three foreign bands (headliners Enslave from Japan; Wicked Suffer and Godless Symptoms from Indonesia) was advertised as starting at 3 pm, so I figured that meant if I showed up the usual 3 hours late, I'd arrive just as soundchecks were finishing. Nope. Not only did the show start more or less on time, but Tools of the Trade actually opened despite being listed in the middle of the bill. Clutch the pearls, what a sneaky thing to do.

It's a little odd that a band that headlined Singapore Deathfest would open a local gig a few weeks later, but when I asked Tools' singer Tiong about it, he shrugged it off. There's not a lot of rock star attitude in the local scene, and Tools of the Trade seem to take these kinds of things in stride. I, on the other hand, was disappointed; I was looking forward to not just Tools, but Dance! On Your Grave and Reason to Resist, who I've never seen. Hopefully I can catch them some other time.

Still, I can't complain about a gig where Atomicdeath is on stage as soon as I arrive. Seeing a band once a month can lead to boredom pretty quickly (unless it's Napalm - I'd see Napalm every week if I could), but AD have wisely been varying their set over the last couple shows, shuffling in songs from their debut cassette as well as a cover of Malaysian underground thrash legends Silent Death. It's amazing how much better they've gotten since I first saw them five months ago at the same venue. Almost as amazing as Rumah Api having a stage monitor for this gig.
There was a great deal of excitement for Wicked Suffer, and they rewarded it with a fearless and aggressive performance. Big doom riffs served as a launchpad for their blistering powerviolence, and the place went apeshit, because short and fast is the rule at Rumah Api. I'm curious about the difference between the Malaysian and Indonesian grind/power violence scenes in terms of sound; Wicked Suffer have a bass player, which a lot of the Malaysian grind/fastcore bands lack, so there's that.

I guess groove heavy 90's thrash is definitely not in style right now; or maybe it's just not popular with the crust/grind kids who frequent Rumah Api, as Godless Symptoms didn't get quite the response that their countrymen Wicked Suffer got. They might be peddling a style past its sell-by date (or, if you're an optimist, a few years before it makes a comeback), but their enthusiasm for their own material went a long way in winning me over. Besides, I don't know how to dislike a band who asks the entire audience to get on stage with them for a celebratory photo.

Running scales in harmony during their soundcheck was a good indication of the level of skill that Enslave possess - that their punky aesthetic comes from a place of actual musical talent makes it that much better. With their melodic (often metallic) overtones and the vocals being shared by their female lead singer and male guitarists, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Eskatologia, who share the same traits. It has to be said, though, that Enslave are much more frightening. Their tiny singer spent most of the set standing on the monitor, screaming through bipolar shifts between J-pop coquettishness and creepy J-horror bug-eyed glares.
Once the band started playing, they were completely obscured by their fans, who threw themselves with wild abandon through the air, over the stage, unto the floor. The crowd's exuberance actually caused a temporary stoppage in the set, as band and soundman needed the respite to fix technical problems (no doubt caused by fans falling on pedals and disconnecting chords). The heat and humidity of the room was oppressive, and I was impressed that band and crowd alike could maintain that level of commitment through a full set and an encore. I have friends who  bust my balls for the number of shirts I buy at gigs, but this time it was necessary: the shirt I showed up wearing was drenched like I'd been in a water balloon fight, and a new one was badly needed if I wanted to stave off pneumonia on the train ride home. Any show that feels like an hour-long grappling match and still ends in time for me to catch the train has to go in the "win" column. Let's hear it for Rumah Api's newfound punctuality.

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