Unearthing the Metal Underground in Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Just across the causeway from Singapore sits the Malaysian “small town” of Johor Bahru, though its population of nearly 1.5 million shows us just how the Western definition of “small town” differs from that of deepest, densest Asia. Thanks to its proximity to the Lion City, just about an hour’s drive away including the time it takes to cross the border on a good day, JB presents a great opportunity for bands touring in Asia to cross another country off their list of places played without traveling too far, and to get an excellent introduction to the Malaysian scene. Here are three hardworking bands currently plying their trade in the southern gateway to the Malay Peninsula.
While much of Southeast Asia seems to be focused on the more extreme side of metal, be it brutal death metal, blackened thrash thrash, or lo-fi black metal, Wynken Delirium proves that there’s much to be found beyond the blasts, scissors and slams. Headed by founding member Harris on the bass, who also runs The Four Horesemen Productions, a record label and concert promotions company, Wynken Delirium plays some pure NOLA sludge and throwback grunge laced with Southeast Asian rhythms, extreme metal vocals, and even some traditional instrumentation courtesy of the gamelan and other Malaysian instruments that are likely used by few other metal bands.
Harris is a longtime veteran of the Malaysian scene and is well-known for his efforts to help any band interested in playing Malaysia in getting over there for a show or three. Recently, the band opened up for Arch Enemy in Kuala Lumpur, which was also the debut show for new vocalist Muhammad Asri Ashari. Currently Harris and co. are writing new material, and are constantly planning shows around Malaysia and abroad. Check out Wynken Delirium on Facebook.
Formed in the early nineties, Atrocious is among the old guard of Malaysian pure death metal bands, bringing a blackened and unrepentantly corpse painted evil edge to their overall sound and aesthetic. Over the years, the band has released a few demos and EPs, along with some compilation appearances on some smaller Southeast Asian labels, making their material somewhat difficult to track down. Nevertheless, the band is a force live, as this correspondent had firsthand experience of when he saw them play in the cramped confines of Embrace Hall in JB in early April.
Take Vancouver’s Tyrants Blood and mix it with the early black metal days of Japan’s Abigail and you’ll scratch the surface of what Atrocious has on offer. Right now, Atrocious is signed to TFHM Productions, and is booking shows throughout Malaysia, including the Tyranny of Eight tour that will feature four dates across the country in September. You can follow Atrocious on Facebook.
OK, here’s one for the scene kids. Chandeliers Ablaze is a young, up-and-coming band that has the potential to cross over into mainstream metal success if they can hone their chops, tone up those clean vocals, and get some good recordings under their belt. Having recently been snatched up by TFHM Productions as well, things definitely appear to be moving in the right direction for the band. A quick read-through of the band’s influences—Motionless In White, Parkway Drive, Asking Alexandria, Bless the Fall—should be enough for you to decide if this is your thing or not. But with youth, and now a decent label, on their side, this could be a band to watch for in Malaysia in the years to come. You can check out some tracks from Chandeliers Ablaze here.
These are just three of the many bands currently making the rounds on the thriving Malaysian circuit. Check back each week as we unearth more bands from the global metal scene here on Metal Underground.
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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