Late 80's extreme metal from Singapore

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Herkus Monte
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Late 80's extreme metal from Singapore

Post#1 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 11:12 am

While that 'scene' wasn't extremely prolific and later evolved into something I am not really interested in, there was a bunch of demos produced in Singapore around 1988-1990 that are pretty much good examples of old speed/thrash/black blend. Granted, those youngsters had sometimes more will than skill and those looking for technical perfection and diversity in song structures will stay clear from that, but I care more about sheer agression those recordings deliver...
So what is your opinions on demos of Abhorer, Stukas, Necronomicon or Profancer?
"You say meh to god of black metal?"

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Re: Late 80's extreme metal from Singapore

Post#2 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 4:05 pm

Interesting topic. I will try to say my point of view through my limited english and my even more limited ability to express myself

As you probably know, Malaysia and Singapore had a very long history and deep roots in hard rock scene, dating back to the 70's.
There were literally hundred of bands playing from hard rock to classic heavy metal. But all of them were "mainstream" bands: polished sounds, songs talking about love, missing you, missing me...and epecially they all were managed (directly or indirectly) by major labels. In a few words: there was heavy metal but it was a big commercial move, in order to follow the new trends of the 80's (and this, I guess, its due to the close relationship the two countries had with England and Europe, much more than in other asian countries: the culture of Malaysia and Singapore is deeply linked with the english culture. Under many points of view Malaysia and Singapore were a sort of "little Europe" in Asia, but I don't know how to express this properly). There wasn't a "parallel" underground scene made of underground/independent labels like in Europe, Japan or America...all the "metal" releases were controlled by majors. If you think well, NWOBHM was brn by and with self-production. Heavy metal in the USA was born with thousand of underground demos and later it was caught by major labels who smelled the business.
In Malaysia and Singapore until 1988-1989 all the "metal" releases were just controlled, produced, incanalated and distributed by majors who smelled the business of heavy sounds in order to get more customers. And bands acted in the only possible way: try to play as much polish as possible in order to get a good deal with the major, get airplayed, radio passages, tv and media covering, big stages and big audiences supplied by the supporting major label. There wasn't any alternative. It was a super conformistic and business oriented situation: both in production/distribution and in the idea who moved those people to catch an instrument and start playing. Metal was the big thing? Ok, let's play metal and get noticed by a big major. That was it.

But it was clear that heavy metal as a form of "extreme" music in a muslim country (Malaysia) or in a well organized/polished/ultraconformistic/money-oriented country (Singapore) got the attention of many young generation who wanted to break the rules, who wanted to make the "step beyond" the too many limits that those goverment imposed (and still impose) to the population. Still nowadays - despite so long time - to be metalhead in Malaysia and Singapore is criticized by the media, by the cultural institutions, by the common sense of the many.

Around the second half of the 80's a bunch of youngsters even more unsatisfied with the conformism tried to push the musical boundaries even farther.
There were some experiments in thrash which didn't last too long (don't misunderstand me, I will explain): Cromok, seemed thrash could be that "step beyond" that a part of the young generation needed.

But it wasn't a very successful idea: I mean Cromok and FTG made a lot of album and got enormous fame but that wasn't enough for the "angry" singaporeian or malay. Their songs were still too much "polished", they were still managed by big majors like EMI or BMG...that wasn't enough. That's why thrash didn't plant oo many seeds. Ver few bands emerged in the thrash style. And almost immediately after the coming of FTG and Cromok, there was the beginning and the immediate boom of extreme death metal/black metal.

If you consider well it took 5-6 years in Europe before the beginning of thrash music to develop into black metal. There were years where hundred of bands got success in thrash, crossover, speed metal, proto-death...

In Malaysia and Singapore this passae of time was much shorter: within one year from the very first thrash bands, there was immediately the boom and flourishing of black metal/extreme death bands...and while these extreme bands generated hundred of similar bands, the thrash style did not generate anything else beyond FTG or Cromok.

Because the young generation immediately released that extreme death metal/black metal was the only way to express their anger as youngsters living in a religiously-controlled country (Malaysia) or in a ultra-well orgnized money making country (Singapore): they released that not only the self production/self distribution was the only way to avoid the (until now) oppressive and pternalistic control of the majors (BMG, EMI, Universal which controlled the 99,9% of every hard rock/metal/thrash metal releases until then) but the music itself was kinda intented as to be clandestine and destined for a clandestine audience somehow, out of the control of the majors, out of the control of the big audience/stage owners...and it could be done/recorded/produced/spreaded with very few money, little investment in money and management (still nowadays the basic concept of every music band in Asia is to get managed by some manager who can bring them to wider success)

It' a story that doesn't sound too different from many other realities/latitudes/countries/scenes but it got harsher and faster than in other countries because it was the perfect voice to express the anger and frustration, the will to make music (let's consider also that - having lived in Malaysia for almost one year - people in the south east asia have a great ability to play music: the most frequent answer I got in 10 years of asia is "which instrument can you play?" be able to play some instrument in Asia is much more common than among us "western" people, so the urge and need to play in a band is much more spreaded...I haven't seen such an high percentage of people being able to play instrument in asia, in europe: in asia music has a much higher and deeper involvement in everyday's life than in europe, it belongs to their millenary culture and philosophy's difficult to explain).... make it shorter...when the first extreme bands came out, it was a sort of incredible boom that no one could stop: if you see carefully there were hundred of bands coming out around 1987-1988 from every possible corner of the malaysian peninsula and also in the most remote areas of was literaly the "big thing" that many young and angry people were waiting for.

Those who started as a pure metal/thrash band (Stukas, for example) quickly evolved into death metal because they felt it was the only possible way to voice their anger and it was the only possible way to give their audience what the audience wanted from them.

For what I was told, it was the greatest moment both in Malaysia and Singapore (I always unite the two countries because they were one scene only: malaysian bands recording in Singapore or singaporean bands coming to Kuala Lumpur to record and play gigs: thanx to the short distance, the common language and heritage, the possibility to cross the border without any problem and so on): radios, fanzines, whole department stores where young people could rent funds to open their own music store/t-shirt store/rehearsal places...the Pertama Complex in Kuala Lumpur was the headbase for every metaller in town and one of the most active places where to play extreme concerts until 1993-1994. Everything was passing from there, labels and radios were based there, people were gathering there, it quickly became the centre of extreme music for bands coming from every corner of Malaysia, Singapore and later Indonesia.

Of course, this urge to play extreme, this urge to be in that particular moment of the history (yes, as it was really a break to what was the musuc establishment until then, it didn't got unnoticed by the media and by the govermnent, by the institutions and by the majors) brought also to an urge of recording and playing music: maybe the technical skill was lacking but it was also a reaction to the superproduced/managed/well equipped "metal" bands which ruled until that moment

That was the best side and at the same time the limit of many of those bands...those who survived the early years of total fury and anger felt the necessity to evolve technically and musically, those who tried to keep playing felt the necessity to secure record deals with big labels (Suffercation who signed for Pony Canyon/EMI) to ensure a future as musicians. Consider that for many young musicians at their age the most important targets became to keep studying, moving abroad to continue their studies, to find a job, to build up a in every asian culture, you can be extreme and "outcast" whe you are young, but when you reach your 22-23-25 yiu have to conform to the society as much as you can, expecially in environments where social and familiar controls are still traditional like in Malaysia or Singapore. Most of bands disbanded when their "time of being young" was over and the "time of being responsible adults" can't avoid it, expecially in Asia where the traditional culture is still so pressing and demanding.

Some just tried to stay in the middle and survived in a modest but decorous way which led more (Impiety) or less fortune (Sil Khannaz, to name some of the early names)

But it's indoubt that the fire that started in 1988-89 was something unique, something that burned really high and - for most of them - also very fast.

What's left of those days? Listening to my friends who lived those days - Jaye of Sil Khannaz, Rudy Karungini - almost nothing is left as a musical heritage. Bands who survived the 90s just turned in many cases melodic, symphonic and more accessible in order to get some attention by majors (Suffercation as I said before), others just survived in a decent way but facing more and more troubles: in Malaysia extreme concerts are almost banned and forbidden - still nowadays it's forbidden to sell extreme music and you have to find thousand tricky ways to import extreme music, international bands are banned, this because the goverment realized that this kind of music is still "dangerous" and since the 90's when this music became so popular, the religious politicians are trying to put every possible ban to a irther development of this music.

But it's nice to see that people wear death metal t-shirt, you can see 50+ old people with Impiety or Sil Khannaz caps and t-shirt walking proud and happy, stills some survival of the late 80's fighting with their own metal shop, with less and less cd and more and more t-shirt....

nowadays the "musical extremism" is almost confined to the punk scene - there are a lot of active bands between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia while the death metal scene is relatively small...there are some big concerts once every 2-3 months with lot of bands but in general it seems that the ideological wrathm the fury that moved those early bands in the late 80's is disappeared among the newest death/black bands. Young generations are more into gimmicking those bands without understanding what was the idea and the reasons behind them. There's a bigger research in looking cool and more and more technical, well dressed and visually shocking than being really animated by a spirit of real rebellion.

Nonetheless the musical scene is active with lot of underground label, serious and dedicated...Thrashingfist is the best example: as somebody told me a 2-3 months ago, the most important heritage of those furious years at the end of the 80's is that young people can manage and distribute themselves, far from the control of the majors and the marketing. That was the best conquer that those early bands achieved with their music: to escape finally the conformism and the market control, to play and distribute for fans and true metalheads only.

Maybe this story is not that different from the story of many other countries...but when I listen to Stukas or early Suffercation or Rator or any other old band between Malaysia and Singapore and I walk from Pertama Complex and Campbell Complex to visit my good old friends who are still struggling hard with their shops...well, most of times I stop, I light a cigarette and I imagine how amazing was to live those years, when those complex organized gigs, there were radios and music labels ran by young teenager who invested all their dreams and their money to make that moment being "the moment" to live.
Yes, sometimes I wish I could live overthere at the end of the 80's and see how funny it could have been

if I said something reduntant, something wrong or excessive, please forgive me. But those names and those bands bring me memories of a country, Malaisya and Singapore, friends and days of my life which are something really special to me

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Re: Late 80's extreme metal from Singapore

Post#3 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 4:41 pm

The best thing I've heard from that era is NUCTEMERON'S Demo 1990, unbelievably intense material.
Good against Evil, Evil sure to win

"It really didn't matter if they liked it or not, i was going to give it to them straight down their throats" -John Stewart

Zombie Dance
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Re: Late 80's extreme metal from Singapore

Post#4 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 5:14 pm

Many thanks for the history lesson Demophil, it was really instructing reading all that.

I am a big Abhorer fan (all their three releases are essential to me) and I really wish more bands recorded a full-length album, like Brain Dead (Malaysia). Xastur, Profancer and Nuctemeron are some crazy beast in their own right.

By the way does a vinyl version of the Nuctemeron compilation exist? Hells Headbangers was supposed to do that...

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Re: Late 80's extreme metal from Singapore

Post#5 » Tue Mar 31, 2015 1:24 pm

one of my favorite scenes, tons of killer bands. the belial 93 demo is a particular highlight

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Re: Late 80's extreme metal from Singapore

Post#6 » Fri May 01, 2015 6:08 pm

One of the most interesting scenes in my opinion. Aside from the bands already mentioned here, there are lots of obscure stuff I would love to hear some day. Messerschmidt, Crucifucktor, Necro Sadist, Cunilingus to name a few. Also check out Pantirator's demo from 1991, it's just a total ripper. Would be amazing to hear their 1989 rehearsal.
Last edited by Maxim on Sat May 02, 2015 6:07 am, edited 1 time in total.


Re: Late 80's extreme metal from Singapore

Post#7 » Fri May 01, 2015 9:40 pm

One of my favorite extreme scenes too, really brutal stuff, Abhorer and Libation are top.

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