Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rumah Api: A Love Story

[This was written last year for an issue of Punkcaroba Zine. I was waiting for the issue to come out before posting it here for posterity's sake; but in light of last night's raid on Rumah Api, and the ensuing arrest of several of my friends, I decided to put it online now. I hope Man, Wan Hazril and the rest get out soon.]

A lot of people assume that I have some deep love for the local scene because I write about it on my blog. The truth is, I’m one of those people who are compelled to write about themselves and their surroundings, and I just happen to find myself here. Coming to Malaysia basically meant losing everything and everyone that was important to me. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate this place with an unbridled passion.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bandcamp Picks: Pseudostratiffied Epithelium, Genocide Pact, Howls of Ebb, Bloody Violence

Of course there's a death metal scene in Costa Rica - just ask the long-running Pseudostratiffied Epithelium. Their name may speak to their Carcass-worshipping roots, but their self-titled EP reveals that a deep love of Incantation has since taken root. If this is a sign of what's going on in Costa Rica, then deeper investigations are warranted. The EP (along with everything else on their Bandcamp page) is available as a "name your price" download.

Genocide Pact feature members of Disciples of Christ, but where the latter are unrestrained grind/powerviolence, GP are as restrained as death/grind gets. Forged Through Domination is a throwback to Carcass and Bolt Thrower albums of the early 90's, building songs out of slow, swinging riffs, though thankfully with none of the straying tempos that Bolt Thrower were so infamous for. A mid-paced death metal album that actually grabs me is a rare thing; this is one of the few. The power of the riff compels you. [$5]

Howls Of Ebb takes two things the Bay Area is known for - Autopsy and psychedelia - and combine them into one eerie, unsettling package. Their three song EP The Marrow Veil takes the listener from the garage to the void and back through its nearly 40 minutes. The thin sound is regrettable, though, especially since HoB offer so much more than the typical old school revival band - the music deserves to sound better than it does here. [€7]

Brazil's Bloody Violence don't fear the top three strings on their guitars, that's for sure. Divine Vermifuge combines blastbeats with noises that you wouldn't think a stringed instrument could make. Between the squealing riffs and the pig grunt vocals, this could be ground zero of a swine flu epidemic. The album is available as a "name your price" download.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Bandcamp Picks: INI, Krallice, Outre, Gates of Holocaust

2015 is turning out to be a banner year for the progressive end of Norwegian black metal; joining new albums by Arcturus, Enslaved, and Dødheimsgard is the debut of Trondheim's INI. If Nothing Is is a remarkably accomplished and ambitious album, with razor-sharp guitar playing worthy of Blasphemer or Ihsahn, and the distinct influence of Mayhem's under-rated Grand Declaration of War. Paradoxically, this is an album as indebted to second wave black metal as it is a rejection of its tenets. [90 NOK]

Guitarist Colin Marston does time with Dysrhythmia and Gorguts, so maybe it's not surprising that Krallice would wander down a similar path. Ygg Huur takes a bat to preconceptions about USBM, delivering an album that's as intense and chaotic as it is intelligent and challenging. I can't pretend I understand everything that's happening here, but it's obvious more thought went into each song than most bands put into an entire album. [$7]

Like their countrymen Thaw and Blaze of Perdition, Poland's Outre use black metal as a jumping off point for their own musical digressions. On Ghost Chants, the band employs restrained tempos and layered guitars to eerie effect; though when they turn on the speed, they can blast with the best of them. A band to keep an eye on. [ €7]

Brazilian metal isn't known for being particularly progressive, and Gates of Holocaust aren't out to change that with their sophomore album. Void is as free of pretension as black metal gets, embracing speed like a South American Dark Funeral. It's nothing you haven't heard before, but it is fun, solid, and completely free.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Moment of Then

This week, Jon Stewart's tenure as late night host comes to an end. Regular guests Dennis Leary and Louis CK are helping see Stewart out the door, which I guess speaks to his claims that he views himself as a comedian and not the cultural force that we try to make him out to be. Undermining that view? The revelation that Stewart had been "summoned" to the White House a few times (according to Politico, it was to help sell policy; according to Stewart, it was to watch King Ralph and get scolded by the President for making young people cynical).

More interesting than Stewart's last few shows has been Comedy Central's month-long online marathon of his entire run as host. It was a fun reminder of better days and worse; like most of the things I love in this world, I discovered The Daily Show in college. Back then I was listening to Jello Biafra's spoken word albums and dismissing most news outlets as corporate puppets (those two things are undoubtedly related). The Daily Show, then under Craig Kilborn, was much more irreverent and mean-spirited than it is now. The criticisms lobbed at upcoming host Trevor Noah of racist, sexist and quasi-homophobic jokes are a sure sign of the culture's short memory, since that's exactly what the show was like when Stewart inherited it. It took a few years, a writing staff reshuffling and an unthinkable tragedy to hammer the show into the shape that it is now.