Wormrot Wreaks Havoc at Singapore Death Fest 2011
Band Photo: Wormrot (?)
This past Saturday White Studio at Fort Canning played host to Singapore Death Fest 2011, a gathering of some of Asia’s best and most brutal grind and death metal bands.
Fiaz Grinder, who also plays bass in Singaporean death metal act Asilent, organized the fest along with Wormrot vocalist Arif Rot and production company Echo Productions. All worked extremely hard in the weeks leading up to the fest and on the weekend of the fest itself in particular, basically forgoing sleep from Friday through Sunday to make sure everything went smoothly, and without a hitch things did go off.
The venue was an interesting one, with White Studio being named for its virginal white walls, floor, and ceiling, and with the room being housed in a colonial era British military fort atop a hill in central Singapore. About 150 die hard metal heads from the Singapore scene began to gather early in the afternoon to mingle and peruse the bands’ merchandise before the late afternoon start time. At just after four p.m., the doors were opened, and the mayhem could begin.
Bloody Anatomies from Kuala Lumpur were up first, kicking off the festivities with some slamming guttural brutality. The 4:30 start time for the festival did not deter the Singapore crowd from turning up early and showing their support, as they were ready to mosh and head bang from the first palm-muted riff. The band chugged, slammed, and gravity blasted their way through a punishing 30-minute set, setting the bar high for the rest of the evening.
Next on the bill was Truth Be Known—grind with a healthy dose of caustic humor summed up nicely in the slogan on the back of their T-shirts: “Life Kills You.” These searing Singaporeans ripped through their catalogue of one and two minute grinders, clearly relishing the experience, and delivered a set that could not have been tighter. It was great to see how much enjoyment they get out of performing, and the audience fed off that energy in turn. Truth Be Known understands that a performance is a symbiotic experience, and they put in just as much as they receive from the audience from start to finish.
Following Truth Be Known was another Singapore act, porno grinders Analdicktion, featuring Singaporean/American guitarist Andrew Ferris who currently hails from Bangkok. Analdicktion took the brutality to new heights, performing tracks off their recent Sevared Records release, “Sluts,” while doing everything in their power to amp up the crowd. Ferris launched himself into the front row as soon as he struck the first chord, setting the tone nicely for a positively mental set. At one point, the crowd took it upon themselves to lift both Ferris and bassist Irwan Shah high above their heads mid song, and the two didn’t miss a note while planking above the audience members. Meanwhile, vocalist Ash Azman laid down gutturals that show just how far death metal vocals have evolved over the years. Unholy and impossibly deep sounds that once would have required vocal effects to create are now made with nothing more than ingenuity and a whole lot of practice. Analdicktion is another band that isn’t afraid to let their sense of humor and enjoyment show while performing, while still maintaining an exemplary level of ferocity.
Indonesian grind gods Noxa, veterans of the European D.I.Y. touring circuit and one-time performers at the metal Mecca that is Obscene Extreme, were up next, having been moved up on the bill due to their having to catch a bus to Malaysia later in the evening for another performance the next day. Noxa is hugely popular in their native country, and they showed the Singapore crowd exactly why they are so revered on home soil. They blasted through a molten set of socially conscious grindcore with lyrics in their native tongue, and even performed what seemed like an impromptu pop cover in the middle of the set, leaving the now thoroughly sweat-soaked crowd all smiles and fresh bruises.
The tough job of following Noxa then fell to my band, Revilement, from Taiwan. We were fresh off a performance with Japanese grinders Unholy Grave on Thursday night at home in Taipei, and arrived ready to show the Singaporean metal horde what we are all about. The crowd gave us an extremely warm welcome, and really seemed to enjoy our mix of groove and brutal death. At one point during our set, I saw a couple of moshers go down in the pit, and raced out with microphone in hand to pile on top of them. The crowd took this as an invitation and, as I tried to keep the gutturals flowing, what seemed like a dozen people joined the pileup. I was somehow spat out of the flesh pile and made my way back toward the drum set, not knowing that my wallet remained behind in the pile. Luckily, a kindly Aussie fan returned it to me as the song continued, cash and cards all present and accounted for. Singapore, your reputation as a bastion of safety and morality remains unblemished. Having learned my lesson, I discreetly removed my cell phone from my pocket before heading out for a crowd surf during our final number, a cover of Carnivore’s “Sex and Violence” that was recorded a few months ago for this very website.
Asilent, featuring festival organizer and all-around stand-up guy Fiaz Grinder on bass were next on stage, and they slayed the crowd with some technical brutal death that sounded to these ears like a mind imploding mix of Suffocation and Gorgasm. Asilent features a dual vocal attack, with Fiaz contributing some bowel shaking low end back ups while rumbling the rafters on the bass. Drummer Kenny laid down some exemplary, technical blast work as well. The crowd was well into it at this point in the evening, and the act of raising band members aloft as they played had become something of a recurring ritual. Fiaz himself was even raised up by a few plotting members of another Singaporean band, Cardiac Necropsy, who although they weren’t on the bill this night, were front and center, in the middle of the action throughout the evening.
Then it was time for co-headliners, the tour-hardened heir to the grind throne and local favorite, Wormrot. The audience had been outstanding throughout the night, but for Wormrot they absolutely exploded. If you’ve never seen Wormrot live, you are missing pure force personified. No bass player? Not a problem. Guitarist Rasyid plays through both the guitar and bass amps, covering all ends of the sound spectrum fully and completely by himself. Since being signed to Earache Records, Wormrot have basically lived on the road, and it shows in their performance. Everything is honed and in place, and all three musicians, vocalist and co-founder of Singapore Death Fest Arif Rot, Rasyid, and drummer Fit, now know unconsciously exactly where they need to be and when they need to be there. Wormrot tore through songs from their full-length debut, “Abuse,” and the recently released follow up, “Dirge”, whipping the crowd into an unprecedented frenzy as they pushed so far forward that Arif was made to stand right alongside the drum set. Arif’s vocals particularly stood out—the man possesses a high-end shriek and a low growl that sound unnaturally natural in equal measures. Swarming circle pits raged throughout Wormrot’s tenure that was full of grinding groove and bombastic, blasting tenacity.
Putting the finishing touches on the evening was Down from the Wound from the Philippines, who had to pull some evasive maneuvers just to get out of their home country and make it to Singapore, changing their departure to a different airport when the one in their home city wouldn’t let them leave. Apparently in the Philippines anyone who is suspected of leaving the country to make money in any amount is subject to intense scrutiny due to the government wanting their cut. I guess no one has told customs agents there how much money there is in death metal yet. Nevertheless, the band made it safely to Singapore, albeit a day later than expected, and proceeded to decimate the still enthusiastic crowd with their mix of slamming Devourment meets Disgorge meets Dying Fetus sound. Yet another jaw dropping display of guttural prowess was heard from vocalist Tristan alongside churning gravity blasts and riffs slow and slamming and technical. There couldn’t have been a better band to cap off this memorable night of pure, unbridled brutality.
Joe Henley is a freelance music journalist and editor currently living in Taipei, Taiwan. In addition to pulling vocal duty in a death metal band, he maintains a website on the Taiwanese metal scene and writes regular features on the touring bands that come through Taipei for a local monthly music magazine.
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