Year 2013 is about to finish, and If I look back I realize I have spent most of it rocking all over Malaysia, looking for THE ROCK. This year, all of my travels have been in fact dedicated to explore the Malaysian extreme rock scene, meet its protagonists, and get an idea of what is going on music wise in the country.
I saw a lot of things, met many people, went to too many shows, and ultimately decided to behave like all those fancy-pants websites out there, and put up my own “Best of 2013″ list. This list, however, only applies to the most rocking, dedicated, different and original acts/people/places I found during the past 12 months of scouring the underbelly of Malaysian extreme underground. Of course, my kick ass band WEOT SKAM needs a mention. However, I still have a subcultural dignity, and I don’t like to include my own projects in a best of list as it totally clashes with the principles of authentic metal punk chivalry that govern my world.
For those who don’t know me personally, be informed that I am quite a fussy character to satisfy, and my bar is generally set quite high: this is especially relevant when observing a globalized, fast-developing Second World Nation (leave the Third to who truly deserves, and it’s not Malaysia), where bands tend to fatigue in the craft of their own, definite sounds and identities.
Trust me, I’m all for it: to find Asian rock-derivative music that won’t just xerox-copy something Western. This year 2013, I believe I found some pearls among a wider ocean of MaLAZYannes…
At last, I decided to compile a best-of list of the 5 most interesting things I saw in subcultural Malaysia during year 2013. After all, many websites are doing it, and I don’t see why I can’t jump on this trendy bandwagon. The added value is that you will get some worthwhile information.
Here we go. Please note that there is no order of importance, nor I wanted to make a chart. Just take this list as it is, acknowledge the truth, and support these individuals/bands/places as much as you can.
1. TOOLS OF THE TRADE, Selangor/Kuala Lumpur
Probably the best grindcore band in Malaysia at the moment, Tools of the Trade surprised me in 2013 in two main occasions: firstly, when I got to see them live in Kuching, Sarawak. And secondly, when I heard their new track Convictions off their upcoming “Proclamation” full-length release. I particularly loved the Bongzilla-esque break, and the very powerful production I wouldn’t expect from a Southeast Asian band.
Keep your eyes wide open for these mofos, as they will be probably touring the USA next year, and just got confirmed for the 15th edition of the Blood Shed festival at the Dynamo, Eindhoven, Netherlands. Dear Tools, enjoy their finest, legalized weed. And Westerners, be prepared for one of the first internationally exported Malaysian teeth-rippers as they deserve full attention.
2. NONSERVIAM, Penang
I don’t want to kiss ass to my band-mate Leon QBP Low, but let’s proclaim what must be proclaimed: NonserviaM, the melodic death metal band he shares with a bunch of other well-attired dudes from Penang – featuring the fantastic Puss in Boots on bass, last to the right – takes its monicker inspiration from Rotting Christ, and was the hardest working Malaysian band I observed during this past 2013. With a tight series of shows spanning international performances (the Hanoi Death Fest in Vietnam) as much as packed regional shows, NonserviaM don’t play my favorite kind of metal, but oh boy if they are a force to be reckoned with!!
Their upcoming debut full-length titled “A Spectral Ascension” forecasts a stampede of tropical rhinoceros pounding against your ass. Have a listen, and trust a dirty Old Monkey, because even the keyboards here don’t sound too homoerotic:
3. 13, Kuching – Sarawak
They might just have started out, but 13 (or “tigabelas”) are no green to the scene – featuring ex members of KURASA KUASA, VORMIT, SPITZUM and BORNEO NOISE UNIT -. They sound like a bunch of less friendly aliens playing mahjong over the drunken corpse of Adolf-Ripping-Christ. Doesn’t make any sense? Well, what sense can a mixed Iban-Chinese-Melanau-Bugis skinhead-grind-punk unit could have in this rotten, multi-ethnic tropical sewage channel called Malaysia? I don’t know.
I just know that these guys teared the gas-mask off my face when I literally “fronted” them in Kuching. Barbed wire, unapologetic Borneo necrotic-core with squealing-pig death invocations which is bound to make huge waves soon, as fast as these guys will be able to keep their amplifiers together with duct tape and kaya… because they are pretty fucking LOUD!!! This track, from an upcoming split with BADXPITT, it’s just a live recording. Well, my socks have already been rocked so far off my feet I can’t find them anymore. Can you help me? Semenanjungers, catch 13 live in Penang @ Soundmaker on the Walpurgisnacht of December 31st!!!
4. SOUNDMAKER, Penang
The powerhouse of alternative music and lifestyles of Penang has been the best place to go and see shows in 2013. Why? Undoubtedly because of Cole Yew‘s dedication, the man with the most appealing plan for the well-being of Penang’s alternative youth.
Soundmaker has switched from a period of almost semi-inactivity in 2012 to boost fortnightly events, and have become the place where most Northern Malaysian bands go to produce their recordings, and most Malaysian bands want to play.
If that wasn’t enough, as of late Cole Yew has decided to take a step further: very soon in fact expect to find huge enhancements to Soundmaker’s locales. A much needed bar, and a series of new activities which will make it shine high among the small constellation of Southeast Asia’s best extreme music venues. I might be biased as I hang out at Soundmaker almost daily, but insofar I have rarely encountered a place where the boundaries of Malaysian society thaw into such an eclectic, multiethnic sound making. A truly inspiring place that deserves to rise to the fore of Penang’s arts scene, because it’s here that ART truly gets chiseled from a brimstone of sound. Now, stop the poetry, go down to Soundmaker for BEER!!
5. PANGROK SULAP, Ranau – Sabah
During my exploration of the punk and DIY communties of Sabah, North Borneo, I got extremely impressed by Ranau’s own collective Pangrok Sulap. They don’t just organize shows and put together a very tight-knit DIY punk community in mountain town Ranau, but they also produce awesome art that has already made waves nationally as you can see here.
I was fortunate enough to be Rizo’s guest, and observe him at work on his interesting and original woodcuts inspired by the work of Indonesian band Marjinal and collective Taring Babi.
Why did I choose Pangrok Sulap? Well, first of all because they really rock and have been some of the most hospitable punks I met in the country. Second, because they showed me that also in Malaysia punks can come up with something original and very localized – not just the same ol’ same ol’ stuff that folks around here keep copying from the West. Viva Pangrok Sulap!
That’s all for year 2013. Satisfied? Good.
Well, work harder and show me some results!!
After all, these are MY opinions. If you beg to differ, great. I might have overlooked something, for sure. What’s important is to keep on rocking in a free world in 2014… and 2015… and so on!!