Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Desecravity in Manila 3.18.2012

On March 26th 2012, my mom turned 75, and as a dutiful son I was expected to be in Manila for the occasion. 8 days before that, though, Japan's Desecravity were scheduled to play the city, and since their South East Asian tour skipped over Malaysia (most great things do), I decided to book my flight around the show. It was also my chance to see Mass Hypnosia and Pus Vomit, two Filipino bands that I'd been hearing about for years from my buddy Ian (the Virgil to my Dante when it comes to Pinoy Metal).

We missed the opening band Mothership (who played the last show I saw in Manila), but arrived in time to see Death After Birth. According to my friends, they were death metal OGs (and longtime peers of Ian's band Brimstone in Fire) before evolving into a doom metal band. And they doom well, in a gruff Euro kind of way. They included a Tiamat cover in their set, so clearly they haven't left their extreme metal roots far behind. Someone should send a tape to Rise Above now that Lee Dorrian's got some time on his hands.

Pathogen play Carcass-style goregrind, though sadly without the clever wordplay. The PA wasn't kind to them, reducing the guitars to a low rumble that was washed out by the drums. Solid stuff, but I can't see them edging Impaled or General Surgery out of my iPod any time soon.

I was excited to finally see Mass Hypnosia since Ian declared their Attempt to Assassinate album the best local release of the last decade. High praise indeed. As a live act they're venomous in a way that their recorded output only hints at; their set that night (featuring mostly new material) was utterly bestial. Imagine Merciless and Beneath the Remains-era Sepultura brawling over Kreator bootlegs. Fucking awesome. Hopefully they can capture that intensity on their next album. Or fuck it, just release a live EP.

Early into their set, Desecravity's frontman intoned menacingly, "Hello, Manila. Desecravity is back." This was the second time the band played the Philippines, and if the anticipation beforehand was anything to go by, the 2009 show was quite an introduction.

Their label Willowtip would have you believe that Desecravity exist in the same headspace as Krisiun and Origin - well, Malaysia's biggest Origin fan begs to differ. If anything, Desecravity are an Asian Cryptopsy - a whirlwind of technical insanity built around Yuicho Kudo's rapidfire drumming. Tellingly, the drums took the longest to set up, and even a minor cymbal problem temporarily derailed their set. Despite a few equipment hiccups, their professionalism and experience shone through, and the audience responded accordingly (and adoringly).

Usually any band that plays after the headliner serves as walk out music, but Down From The Wound ignited the crowd and overshadowed the rest of the bill with their blistering Suffocation-style death metal. "Didn't I tell you?" Ian grinned at me between songs. Even Desecravity's guitarist Keisuke was in the front row, headbanging furiously before eventually being hoisted up by the crowd and carried around the room.

I was eager to see how Pus Vomit would follow that, but they were forced to cancel due to a member's illness, and were replaced at the last minute by Discreate. With a stripped down line up of just a singer, guitarist, and drummer (power trios are under-appreciated in extreme metal), their set suffered both for its late hour and proximity to the similar (and better) Down From The Wound. The band and a few remaining patrons ploughed gamely on at the late hour, but I'll admit to suffering death metal overload and was content to enjoy their set from outside.

Kickin' it old school with xANCHORx - 3.17.2012

When I first moved to New York in 1997, CBGB's matinees replaced church as my place to be on Sundays. As excited as I was to witness the legendary NYHC scene first hand, I was quickly inundated with enough third-tier bands to make me bored of breakdowns and calls to "support the scene." And who can blame me? After all, it wasn't the HC-by-numbers style of Chain of Strength or Bold that got me into hardcore - rather, it was bands from Sweden's adventurous (but no less irate) Umeå scene - Breach, Drift Apart and the mighty Refused.

[Cred whore check - I was into Refused years before Shape of Punk to Come was released; eat it, haters!]

Enter xAnchorx, whose 5th anniversary as a band coincided with their KL appearance (one of three shows they played in Malaysia alone - that's some fearless globe trekking). Since Swedish straight edge vegan hardcore pushes all kinds of nostalgia buttons for me, I decided to check out the shenanigans on my way to the airport (I had a red eye flight to Manila, and a date with a certain Japanese death metal band).

Insert Cool Hardcore Slogan Here
Die Regiment opened the show in an energetic fashion. They do the old school thing right down to their basketball jerseys and MLB caps - which is pure HC fashion statement, as basketball isn't big in Malaysia and baseball is nonexistent. Still, local heroes and all, the kids were more than keen to dance like happy prospectors to the well worn chord progressions and sloppy double bass drumming, and I was more than keen to get out of their way. I have to say though, having tiny Malaysian kids bounce harmlessly off of me is a nice contrast to hardcore shows in NY where I regularly felt my neck creak when some 200lb stagediver landed on my head.

Now dance like a happy prospector. Happier! HAPPIER!

Continuing the old school HC nostalgia was a band who call themselves (slaps forehead) Homerun - again, I can't overstress the fact that NO ONE PLAYS BASEBALL IN MALAYSIA, but they do get points for soundchecking with Refused's "Rather Be Dead" - a shout-out to the headliner perhaps? Their songs all seemed indistinguishable from one another - to me, and apparently to their drummer as well, who had a few false starts. Their half hour set would have been a breezy 10 minutes without the between-song lectures. Despite the fact that I don't speak Malay, I'm pretty sure he wasn't saying anything I hadn't heard before. That goes for the music as well.

[interlude - Old man yells at Malaysian Hardcore]
It makes me wonder how much of the Malaysian hardcore scene takes its cues from Youtube videos and little else. The clothes, the music...it's all such a blatant copy of what was going on 15 years ago that it verges on self-parody. Compared with how Swedish hardcore bands used the American style as a jumping off point to create something distinct, or even how the Belgian H8000 scene took sXe hardcore and meshed it with Euro-thrash, our own contributions to the genre seem generic and disposable.

Maybe it's something in our Asian character and colonial mentality that leads us to copy blindly without adding anything of our own. My favourite example: Koffin Kanser, a local band that saw the way Sepultura mixed metal with their own Brazilian heritage on Roots, and were inspired to follow suit...by ripping off "Roots Bloody Roots" for an entire album (you'd think that they'd look to integrate metal with their own culture, but that would take effort).

Thankfully, Anchor learned the lessons of their own countrymen. Rather than simply rehashing the old school formula, they intersperse classic HC with jagged rhythms and some muscular rock a la Abhinanda and Nine (one of their members raved about my Catharsis shirt, so clearly they're a band who recognize innovation). And the kids responded to it in a big way; I haven't seen a pit this enthusiastic in Malaysia, ever...hopefully a few of them even take the hint that hardcore doesn't mean merely regurgitating what's come before you. Though I'm sure the most I should expect the next time I'm at a local show is a couple Malaysian bands who sound exactly like Anchor.