Behemoth Live In Bangkok 16th October 2013

If you can drag yourself away from stealing high performance sports cars, robbing banks, dealing drugs and murdering prostitutes for five minutes, you might like to read about how mighty Polish death metal stalwarts Behemoth returned to Bangkok to tear it a new arse.

I don’t own a PS3, or an Xbox, or even a desk top PC. So as yet, the sweeping craze that is GTA 5 has not taken over my every waking minute. I was recently generously given a PSP by my good friend as a birthday present, and am now addicted to a game I had never heard of before. I’m on holiday right now, and much to the irritation of my girlfriend, I am playing Pangya. It’s a golf game set on a planet inhabited by kawaii manga characters who all seem to hate each other. Now, I know it hasn’t started well, but bear with me here. There are no Russian mafia types, no massive selection of fully automatic weaponry, and certainly no prostitutes. However, there is an addictive need to beat the little bastards I compete against, to the point where, if the ball strays even a foot from where I try to place it on the fairway, I want to throw the PSP at the wall. Who thought cute, outer space golf could be so violent? PANGYAAA!

'AV IT!!!!!!

‘AV IT!!!!!!

However, this piece is supposed to be about a much anticipated show in Bangkok, so let’s continue down that route, for now at least.  I guess I should point out at this early juncture that I am not a Behemoth fan. I own one CD; The Apostasy, released in 2007, and I’ve listened to it all the way through maybe twice, so I am no expert on the band. The overriding reason I wanted to go if I am honest, is because I missed Cannibal Corpse in October last year, due to work, and I was in the air flying back to the UK in April of this year as Obituary hit the stage, both to record crowds, I might add. I’ve seen Obituary twice, both times back in the mid 90’s, and I have never seen Cannibal Corpse (and probably never will now) so when an outfit like Behemoth are announced to play, especially at a venue that boasts a great PA system, I’m not going to just ignore it. Add to that a fantastic girlfriend who produces a ticket on the morning of your birthday, and I’m all in on this deal.

Present

Present

I put out a few precursory feelers on Facebook, to see what others might say about Behemoth live. The returns were encouraging. My friend in Sweden who is a Behemoth die hard said they were slick live. Similarly, everyone who got back to me from the UK said that it didn’t really matter if I didn’t know the material, live the Moth are great fun. I do like a spectacle live, I have to admit. A bit of theatrics never hurt heavy metal, however I draw the line at David Lee Roth doing back flips.

Enough already...

Enough already…

 So, armed with all that, I left for Hollywoods Awards in Ratchada Pisek road around about 7pm, aiming to get to the venue at 7:45, which was the listed door opening time. Now the promoter has a reputation of being very professional, and from the shows I have been to set up by them, it holds up. Howeverrrrrrrrrrrrr….. This is Bangkok, and it is almost a given that if a door time is set, you can add thirty minutes to an hour to that. Seriously.

The journey to the venue was typically Bankokian in nature. The walk from my condo to the motorbike taxi stand was the first leg, waving at the riders for the 100 metre stroll, with all 10 of them ignoring me until I got to within 3 feet of the stand, then they all jumped up and started pointing at the next available ride. Dudes I do this every morning to go to work! What’s the difference between me wearing a shirt and trousers, and a red t-shirt and jeans?

HI FIVES!!!

HI FIVES!!!

 If I’m waving my fucking arms like a maniac, as I do every morning, why do you ignore me? Seriously.

Thailand Politics

One more in the basket?

The second leg was the actual ride. I didn’t get offered a helmet, as usual. It’s interesting. You can time when they WILL offer you a skid lid by the time of the month. No, seriously! If it’s anywhere between the 27th of the month through to the 5th of the following month, you’ll generally be told you have to wear the helmet they offer you. Why, I hear you ask? Well it’s “Salary” week. Still don’t see the connection? Ok. Salary means money in the bank. Money in the bank means you can afford to lose a little cash. If you can afford to lose a little cash, the Boys in Brown, known publically as a police force, but privately as… well many words my mother would blanch at, come out in force, set up speed traps, breathalyzer stations, bottle neck check stops and helmet watch gangs. You can ride your motorbike in Bangkok with no helmet, your mother, your wife, your 3 year old son riding on the footboard, while your sister cradles her eight week old baby on the back, all sitting on two sacks of rice tied down by string, and no one will look twice.  Come salary week, everyone is wearing a helmet, with no more than two people on a bike. No one wants to give up hard earned cash to the Mafi…. The police. Gotta put your kids through college, right?

So I got dropped at the BTS Sky Train near my place. This part of the trip is always uneventful. I warmed up by listening to Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation. I did think of listening to Behemoth, but it seemed a little late by then. I got off at Sala Daeng BTS and walked to the MRT, Bangkok’s handy, but rather linier underground system. Fifteen minutes later I was at the Thailand Cultural Center stop, with no clue as to which exit to take. Luckily I spotted a rather large Thai chap in a Blasphemy t-shirt (it was always going to be a Blasphemy or Impiety tee, to be fair) and stalked him up and out of the station, down a side road, through dirty, gritty puddles on an uneven road and finally to the venue. Imagine if he didn’t know where he was going, turned around and saw me two feet behind him, trying my best to look casual. Awkward or what?

I hung around outside for 10 minutes, chain smoking. The problem with living in a foreign country, and not having enough time to go and get language lessons, is that you pick up a lot of phrases, and even more vocabulary. Fuck, I can even read most things I see in Thai now. Problem is, I don’t know what most of it means. So, my confidence takes a massive nose dive when the thought of starting a conversation with a Thai, or worse, group of Thais seems to be looming imminent. I saw three people I knew semi-well, but to my eternal shame, I am glad to say they didn’t see me. If it helps, Thais are by their very nature terrified of speaking English with native speakers when they think they may make a single, tiny grammar point or pronunciation mistake. They don’t suffer awkwardness. Hell, I don’t think there is a word in Thai for such a feeling. “Tom. Wow! You got fat. Tom, wow, your beard makes you look old. Tom, ohh hooo, you smell today”. The worry for Thais is about losing face. In Thai it’s called ‘Kai na’ (ขายหน้า) and drives the nation to just about every decision it chooses to make, from who greets who first, who sits where at board meetings and which way ‘respect’ is given in all business, family and social situations. Yet, I guarantee that most of the locals milling around the venue can speak, in English, for minutes before running out of language, compared to my paltry twenty to thirty seconds.

Luckily, an American guy I know from other shows grabbed me and we had a slightly drunken chat (not me, him, obviously) for about fifteen minutes. Ironically, a Thai guy I know from my old condo strode up and started asking me how I was, where I lived now and …. The rest I don’t know. He speaks not a word of English. So, what does he have to lose face about, right? I answered the first few questions with relative ease in his native tongue, but soon after I was utterly lost, and as amiable Thais usually do, he didn’t recognize my awkwardness, and carried on with gusto. I heard the words ‘money’, ‘younger brother’ and ‘tired’. I don’t even know his name. He is mad into black metal, never wears logos on his all black t-shirts (kvlt!) and wears an inverted pentagram around his neck at all times. He also happens to be a graphic designer.

This is us at Impiety in 2011

This is us at Impiety in 2011

 Eventually I think the lack of response clicked and he happily strolled back over to his crew. One day I will have a full blown conversation with him in his mother tongue. One day.

I wanted to get into the venue so I left my slightly inebriated American friend to finish his can of beer. The promoters had made a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ which they posted to Facebook. Cans of beer were high on the ‘don’ts’. As were; no backpacks, no lighters, no spiked arm bands, no stage diving, no smoking, no cameras and no flammable objects or weapons. I was going to hide my lighter in my sock (what am I? Fifteen?!) coz I’d need it for the trip home, but after a quick glance, I saw that no one was getting patted down, so I broke the rules (MAN!) and went in.

Hollywoods Awards club is, on a normal night a pole dancing joint. It may well brand itself as an “International Dance Club”, but at the end of the day it’s a middle sized pole dancing club where women strut around in bikinis, which hardly ever come off, and semi-talented nobody singers perform in one piece minis backed by bored out of their minds dancers. I’ve not been, before you ask. Compared to American and European pole dancing clubs, it is rather tame, to the point of being almost twee. It has giant OSCAR awards adorning the stage, which in itself has a central catwalk that protrudes into the centre of the dance floor.

Check them out here:

Hollywoods Awards Website. Strippers in cheap hats.

Tonight most of them are hidden by a rather large Behemoth banner with the ‘Zos Kia Cultus’cover art on it (I looked it up on the internet). That’s a bit strange, considering that record came out in 2002.

For twenty minutes or so I stood slap bang in the middle of the stage at the end of the catwalk. The place slowly filled up, to the sounds of some quite atrocious Industrial type metal being pumped through the PA. The hall went dark, and there were shrills and hollers from over excited punters.

Joss stick duty

Joss stick duty

The fact there was a roadie on the stage lighting joss sticks and wedging them into the front monitors didn’t seem to register, and they carried on regardless. Going back to the oddness happening on stage, can you imagine the band rider? “One kilo of face paint. Black and grey. One litre of fake blood for spitting near end of set. Severed chickens feet, at least fifteen, to make odd necklace. Primrose joss sticks. Enough for two per monitor. Must be suitably fragrant.”

Eventually the lights dimmed and the smoke machine puffed some haze over the greenly lit stage while an intro tape blared a suitably satanic hymn to get the blood flowing. The drummer, Inferno, came on and climbed the ten feet of stairs to get to the kit. Then the Bass player and guitarist, Orion and Seth, respectively, took up positions in front of mics set up left and right of centre, and finally main man, Adam ‘Nurgal’ Darski took to the centre of the stage shrouded in a black hood and wearing a necklace of freshly severed chicken feet. Don’t ask, because I don’t have an answer.

Behemoth

Behemoth

Nurgal began with some chanting of a blasphemous nature and then the first song ‘Ov Fire and The Void’ kicked in.

It should be noted that Nurgal was indicted in a Polish court for ripping up a bible on stage and calling the Catholic Church “the most murderous cult on the planet.

Who farted?

Who farted?

You can read about it here.

Ripping up fiction can land you in trouble in Poland

Nurgal with chicken feet

Nurgal with chicken feet

The set list was as follows:

1.Ov Fire and The Void. 2.Demigod. 3.Moonspell. 4.Conquer All. 5.Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel  6.Christians to the Lions  7.The Seed Ov I  8.Alas The Lord is a With Me  9.Decade of Therion  10.At the Left Hand Ov god  11.Slaves Shall Serve  12.Chant For Eschaton 2000  13. ’23’ (Youth Manifesto)  14.Lucifer

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Orion

Only having heard one of these songs, ‘At the Left Hand Ov God’, I can report that not knowing any of the material on offer didn’t make any difference to the enjoyment of the show. The only let down was the sound. It was so fucking loud that the majority of the guitars, and certainly the leads got totally lost in the wall of noise. The drums were crystal clear. That Inferno can pound those tubs like no one’s business, and more than any other element defines Behemoth’s sound.  The bass was also in evidence, which is usually a bad sign when you can make out every twang of a death metal band’s bass guitar. It should be there, but lurking in the background. The guitars were there, but they were just a murmur, and kind of rasping, continuous dirge.

HORNS!

HORNS!

Seth

Seth

I am certain that even if I knew all the material inside out and backwards, I still wouldn’t have been able to decipher the riffs.

And after saying all that, I still had a good time. Behemoth are slick. They know their trade well. The regular forays onto the catwalk by Nergal and man-mountain bassist Orion (seriously, this guy must eat at least 4 shredded wheat a day) were fun and added to the spectacle. Seth was pretty static except when he would swap stage sides with Orion, but then again he does have some serious shredding to deal with, so I’ll let him off. All three men share vocals on many of the songs, and the growling backing of Orion suited the songs perfectly. The light show was superior to any other venue I’ve been to in Bangkok and helped give it that professional edge. (Unlike this blog…)

Lights, innit...

Lights, innit…

 Inferno, however, was hidden twenty feet up in the air, at the very back of the stage, in the dark. His presence was constant throughout though, with that trademark Behemoth staccato drum style hardly ever giving up on the faster songs.

That was another thing I liked about the band. Not all songs were hyper-blasting black/death speed fests.

Orion. Big lad...

Orion. Big lad…

New track ‘Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel’ had a long, somber opening section that meant I could actually hear the guitars. Again, ’23 Youth Manifesto’ didn’t reach above snail’s pace. Similarly so, ‘Alas, The lord is With Me’ was, in the main a slow burner, with a massive blast-beat ending. Closer ‘Lucifer’, with its special effects intro tape and military bass drums over a slow funeral dirge was a nice touch to finish the show. It reminded me of Marduk in many ways, a band I’m much more familiar with.

Getting stuck in

Getting stuck in

 The lead work was totally audible, and visually Nergal made it a bit more interesting by wearing some kind of devil mask (that made him look like Sauron) while the other guys on stage did that ‘rooted to the spot’ thing heads down, with Orion shrouded in a thick black hood. It worked.

Not surprisingly, my favourite track of the night sounded like a mix of Slayer, Massacre and Marduk. ‘Chant For Eschaton 2000’ was originally recorded in 1999, although I am reliably informed there is a second version on a more recent EP somewhere. This track had it all. Double bass drums causing some serious hair to fly down the front, a repetitive riff and some good old fashioned growling to top it all off.

Finale

Finale

 It got the crowd going more than any other song of the night, proving once again, that tech death, fart vox goregrind and slamming death metal (no really it’s a sub-genre) might be what the kids deem cool these days, but it was an undeniable fact that the basic blueprint of extreme heavy metal, perfectly displayed in this song, won out, wholesale, on the night.

And so, as some 80’s AOR played us out around 9:30pm, everyone went home very happy indeed. Deaf as all fuck, but happy. Oh and with our 500 Baht tour t-shirts…

Who’s writing to Autopsy to come over? Anyone? ANYONE??!!!!!

Fun. Fun. Fun.

Fun. Fun. Fun.

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Nasum live in Bangkok August 2012

Image

First things first!!!

I would like to point out that this ‘new’ set up/ view/ whatever the fuck you call it, WordPress has me tearing out my fucking hair. Seriously, I have nearly put my fist through the keyboard on several occassions in the past five minutes. If this blog comes out looking different/ worse than previous ones, then be aware it’s becasue I don’t have a shitting clue why it’s all changed, and more importantly, how to change it back.  But I will push on…

I was late.  Again.
I thought I was supposed to meet my friend Nick at 8:30pm for the first band, but as he pointed out on the phone as I was napping on the BTS skytrain, we were scheduled to hook up at 8pm.  So the first thing I have to say is sorry to Nick.

Nick with 2 out of 3 of Thai goregrinders, Biopsy Cunt…

I got to Barbies around 8:30pm, my second visit in the past few weeks, as I attended the Salvation extreme metal day hosted there on the 5th of August. The highlight was watching my friend Syaari’s new band, Lavatory. A five piece banging out old school Swedish inspired death metal circa 1991, they were the highlight of the day for me.  The only let down of the day being that only 40 to 50 people bothered to attend.

So anyway, I arrived and as usual, there were the usual groups of lads hanging around in the street, the foyer and the hall.  Surprisingly, I didn’t see as many usual faces as I thought I would, but grindcore isn’t the staple favourite genre of metal in Bangkok (brutal death metal and old school german thrash take those top spots) so there you go.

The show started quite promptly (by Bangkok standards) around 8:45pm.  The first band up was local deathgrinders, Masochist.  Nick commented that since the last time he saw them, around 2008, they had improved a lot. I tend to agree, but then, I have seen them four or five times in the past five years, and they always do the trick for me.

 Playing a mix of blast backed grind, with groove moments, and harder, more technical death metal fusion, the band, comprised of Boy on drums, Twish on Bass, Toei on guitar and Keng and ‘Ligore’ on dual high and low vocals were on their game tonight and put on a high energy set, with lots of vein popping shrieking and plenty of grindcore leaping about.  This was also the first time I had seen ‘Ligore’ (not his real name) since old vocalist Pong left to concentrate on his thrash band ‘Remains’, and I think he gave an excellent account of himself.  Masochist get a high end 3 fists.

Next up was Wormrot, who I have had at least two previous opportunities to see here  in Bangers over the past five years, but on both occasions had to do the boring thing and work.  But not tonight.

The three piece (yeah, who needs a fucking bass any way?!) took to the stage quietly and modestly. Vocalist Arif introduced the band and then off we went into a blasting, screaming shitstorm of  grinding powerviolence.  

Watching the three members of the band, they could never ever be accused of just going through the motions. Guitarist Rasyid is all snarling at his strings like they just kicked his cat, and drummer Fit sweats his life away blurring his wrists to create the back bone of the Wormrot sound. It’s nice to see that signing to Earache, and playing some of Europe’s biggest festivals hasn’t left a negative imprint. I saw them standing at the left side of the stage for the entirety of Nasum, just regular dudes there to see a band.  And no. Not behind some barricade or security line. If you’re thinking that then fuck me, you’ve never been to Barbies ha ha.

Arif, for reasons that were not made clear, seemed to be quite under the weather on this particular occasion. “Too many fucking cigarettes” was all he offered, before going mental to the next track. I hope he had a speedy recovery as he really did look ill, spending as much time on his knees heaving up his guts as he did on his feet…. errrrr…. heaving up his guts. They must have put on a good set as even Nick was complimenting. Which is rare.  Wormrot get a solid 4 fists.

So we milled about a bit outside. Nick caught up with Boy. Nick has been out of the country for two years and had a good chat about Masochist, as well as his other three bands, ‘Zygoatsis’, ‘Lacerate’ and ‘Surrender of Divinity’.   Then there was some movement, the usual  surge of hastily extinguished cigarettes and the disorderly lines of punters making their way back into the hall.

So now it was time for the legends. And I don’t use that term lightly. Nasum are quite literally held in the highest esteem amongst grinders the world over, mostly because of their innovative style, and partly because they were so erratic in nature when it came to solid line ups and disbanding.

Whatever,  here they were tonight to play for us in a partly demolished go-go bar in dreary Udom Suk, Bangkok.  It should also be noted, but certainly not dwelt upon, that their original singer, Mieszko Talarczyk, lost his life on Phuket Island in the south of Thailand, due to the terrible tsunami that hit many parts of Asia on the 26th of December 2004.  Although it wasn’t mentioned by the band at the time, I have since read a blog by drummer Anders Jakobson that says the band were, of course, thinking of their friend during their time in Bangkok.  However, the show, to me at least, was a celebration of everything Nasum are, both past and present, and I am sure the Thais felt similar, even if it was only because this show was the only show to be played in South East Asia on this tour, and will be the last one… Ever!

Nasum are an odd bunch of lads to behold.  I’m not one to keep up with bands from my youth much (although Nasum were hardly one of my youth era bands, but you get what I mean, right?) and I am often mildly surprised by the change in people in bands after 10 years or whatever of not following them (Obituary!!! Crikey. Who ate all the pies!!!). Saying that, I still think I look 18. Until the missus tells me that I am a fat bastard with more chins than a Chinese telephone book, soooooooo….  

Anyway, yeah.  The band come out after a taped intro and I’m like ‘this is Nasum?’ The guitar players, Jon and Urban, looked like they should have been playing in Orange Goblin and Anathema, respectively. You can’t imagine two of the most unlikely looking grindcore musicians, but hey, that’s the fun of metal, do what you want, how you want. No boundaries.

Vocalist  Keijo Niinimaa has been singing live for the band throughout this fair well tour. Obviously taking time out from his fulltime band, Rotten Sound, the Finn was a grimacing, raging demon on stage, and by chance, or on purpose, I couldn’t say, nailed Mieszko’s style to a tee. It’s always comical to see the front man in any band between songs in Bangkok, as by nature the crowd is deadly silent, and I imagine a little off putting to begin with for any Western act.  In his defence he took it completely in his stride and gave the crowd some good banter between songs.  

The other members of the band, Jesper on Bass and Anders on drums were just as into it, Jesper especially who was banging his head just as much as the lads down the front with me in the pit.  I could tell that Anders was struggling a little bit with the sound, but he got on with it in true style and the set was a terrific success.

The band played for about an hour and gave us a three song encore where by Keijo dived into the pit and did all his yelling, shrieking and screaming surrounded by a mob of delighted Thais (and more than a few foreigners) until the very last chord was struck.  

Nasum played a great set, hindered a little bit by the sound, but nothing that got in the way of having a rare old time. Myself and Nick chatted with a couple of the band guys after and they were, to use a much over used cliché, very nice and down to earth chaps. Totally relaxed around the fans, friendly and as Jesper told me, “still into the ‘D.I.Y.’ grindcore thing”.  

Nasum. 5 fists!  

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God Beheading Live Ritual 2012: Metalucifer/ Sabbat

HEAVY METAL ALARM CLOCK

I hate waking up early. If you know me, you’ll be well aware of this fact.  I. Hate. Waking. Up. Early.  In fact, I hate waking up.

Sleep. It's fantastic

I haven’t had a lie in on a Saturday since December. Due to the devastating flooding Thailand saw in the latter part of 2011, the school where I work and many like it, have deemed it necessary for the kids to attend class on Saturdays.

So, this being the case, I had taken Saturday the 25th of February off, to attend the all-day ‘God Beheading Live Ritual’ metal festival.  Usually I am up around 8am. This day I was up about 11:30am.  The show started at 12pm, and armed with the knowledge that shows here never ever start on time, I was rather lax in getting ready to go out.

Around 12:15pm, myself and the girlfriend got in a taxi and bombed over to Udom Suk, near Bang Na in east Bangkok.

Scary, ain't we?

We arrived about 12:45. As usual, there were the usual faces milling about outside the venue, gangs of metallers sitting about drinking, chatting and smoking.

The set list said the first band was supposed to kick things off at 1pm.  So, 1pm came and went. Nothing unusual there, really.  2pm came along. It yawned. Had a smoke, went for a piss and fucked off. Irritating? Yes. Unheard of? Hardly.

3pm sauntered in.  Ok. Now this was just silly. The heat was reaching 37 degrees C, which is not conducive to having a happy time.  Sometime after 3pm, and with much to-ing and fro-ing due to false claims of doors opening, the first band finally went on stage.

Angel Holocaust.

My mind being what it is these days, I wasn’t sure if I had seen this lot before or not. Then the drummer appeared behind the kit and of course, it all flooded back. ‘Rayong Neck

See? Charlie B...

Break Season 2011’.  It’s hard to forget the Thai Charles Bronson.

Angel Holocaust play a dirge black metal with death metal bits thrown in here and there (a common theme throughout the Day as you’ll see).  The set wasn’t overly long, but I liked what I heard. If I had one complaint it’s that the band are pretty static on stage. But then again, maybe that’s the look they’re going for.  3 fists.

Second on the agenda was local thrashers, Remains.  I have given this band a fair bit of coverage already, and if you are familiar with what I have said about them, then you’ll

Remains

pretty much know what I thought about this performance.  Tight, pacey, thrash-tastic fun. All their original tracks were on display in this short set and Troops of Doom was the cover of choice to make the crowd wanting more as they exited the stage to make way for Malaysians, Adokshiny.  4 fists.

Adokshiny seem to be somewhat of a conundrum.   I was ‘reliably’informed they were from Korea. But someone else then told me  they were Malaysian with a Korean vocalist.  Today I was further informed, by a Malaysian, that this was not so, and the growler was in fact Malaysian too.

Adokshiny... Or is it??!!!

The internet hasn’t helped my cause, as there’s very little on any band by that name, and of course, what is available says that they are Korean, Malaysian, or Korean/Malaysian. Silliness.

Anyway, the band, who were a mix of Very big, very small, and very tricological dudes.  Their style was a kind of black metal meets old school death metal, with the vocalist panting a kind of rasp into the mic. Whilst the black metal element didn’t really push my buttons, the death metal bits were very nice, reminding me of early Immolation. Slow, depressing and a shit ton of heavy. 3 fists.

Ok. Now I have a bit of a problem.  Everyone was asked to leave the hall for sound checking.  At the time I didn’t have a problem with this, as it’s not unusual for things to be done a little bit differently here. But after 40 minutes, with enough shade to cover maybe a third of the punters, whilst everyone else either fucked off or sat out in the 37C heat, it all became a bit much.  Any way… moving on….,

Zygoatsis

Zygoatsis took to the stage with all the usual ferocity their brand of ‘Warmageddon’ metal musters. They play blackened death metal, only pausing from the blast beat mayhem to build up a bridge or two, just so the next volley of blasting seems all the more brutal. The noise came thick and fast, with that dirty black metal-esque rolling dirge you can only get with two guitars.  The fans loved it and I thought they played a good set. Not quite as stellar as I have seen them, but still rip-roaring nonetheless.  4 fists.

Nuclear Warfare were much more subdued than the performance they put on in January at the Toxic Holocaust gig.  Of course, Nuclear Warfare’s ‘subdued’ is manic compared to most other bands stage personas.

Nuclear Warfare

I guess after you’ve seen three of the four members dive into the pit, mid song, nothing they do after could ever really compare. They played all the songs that kept the fans crushed up against the barriers and finished off with a thunderous rendition of The Ace of Spades.  4 fists.

Battlestormfrom Singapore made a rather quiet entrance, but soon picked up the pace with their brand of Black/death metal.  Main man ‘Hades’ (I googled them) was one of a group of skin headed, monster Singaporean chaps present at the event. I don’t know what they put in the water where they live, but it produces monsters.  Three of them were standing at the right hand side of the pit during Remains, and

Battlestorm

people were just bouncing off them and being rebounded into the melee like it was no skin off their noses.

Again Battlestorm were a little static on stage, but the music was interesting enough (and fast enough) that it didn’t really matter.  South East Asia has a predisposition to generate bands that use a kind of rasping croak, rather than a full on death growl, or black metal shriek. I have to say it puts me off a touch, as to me, it sounds a little halfhearted.  Battlestorm executed a good set, and deserved the applause they received from the fans. 3 (high end) fists.

Next up were Surrender of Divinity.  What can I

Surrender Of Divinity

say? Possibly the best set I have seen them play. Evil, powerful, all pervading. Everyone in the room was focused on the band during their performance.  Lots of blood, blasphemy and lightening fast black metal. 5 fists.

Ok. Second gripe of the day.  Once again we were asked to leave the hall for more sound checking. I was not in the least bit bothered coz by then I had been having a good time, having seen two great sets by Nuclear Warfare and Zygoatsis.  So we all piled outside into the foyer, covered rest area and, for the most part, onto the secluded street, which has a large apartment block directly opposite the venue.  Remember the show was running about an hour and a half late, so we were all outside around 9pm (I think). People in the apartment were looking out from their balconies, security in the place were looking at us all like scum, and lots of kids were sitting on the steps of the apartment building, only coz there was nowhere else to rest. Cars were finding it hard to get by fans, as the street was very narrow, and a few times people nearly had their feet run over. All in all, the people I could see were not too happy about it, but Thais being Thai, they put up with it with good grace. An endearing trait. Eventually we got to go back in about 10. In fact, to be honest I don’t have a clue what time all this happened. All I know is the show ended at 1:10am. A full hour after it was meant to.  But anyway…

If the Singapore lads I mentioned earlier were big, then the leader of the next act is a giant in comparison.

Impiety took to the stage with zero fuss and no theatrics, as is customary for Shyaithan and his infernal band of black/thrash/death metal hell raisers. After a brief introduction, concerning such topics as the monster touring schedule the band had been following and the new album, ‘Ravage and Conquer’, it was straight into a blistering, albeit short (I thought) set of extreme metal blasphemy.

Impiety

The title track off the new album got an airing, as well as my favourite track of the night, ‘Weaponized’, also off the latest record.  During one brief pause the Goat Father made a comment about ‘playing fast forever‘, and he meant it.  Impiety are a beast to behold. Dizazter handles the kit like a man possessed. New guitarist Nizam Aziz stands bolted to the floor, calm as the eye of a tornado, whilst all hell breaks loose around him. He also holds a mean scowl from start to finish.  And of course Shyaithan commands the stage, literally wrestling with his bass as he spits out screams of hatred.

I was interested to know if the comment he made near the end of the set, “25 years in the making and we are still going strong. It’s been hard. Fuck off heavy metal, really!” was just a middle finger to the music industry and the haters, or a veiled joke towards… someone specific? 🙂
Maybe he could let me know 😉    4 fists (purely coz the set seemed so short)

Metalucifer

What can you say?  Legendary Japanese icon. Japan’s oldest thrasher?  Creator of the Japanese Heavy Metal anthem?  Gezolstands about five foot five.  Standing amongst large Thai lads in denim he looked very, very small.

Gezol

When the band came to the stage there was much silliness. We’re talking Spinal Tap silly. Gezol wasn’t happy about the mic he was given, and by the time he had the one he wanted, he had tried five. Then he proceeded to practice his Rob Halford screams for about 5 minutes, followed by a further ten minute barrage of “hellos”, which had a few people jovially calling out “hello” back.  After a further couple of minutes of hurdlers stretches up on the top stage platform, he was finally ready to proceed. On went the aviators, and Metalucifer struck up the noise for their first ever show in South East Asia.

Holeeee shi-at!!!!!!

If you don’t know anything about Metalucifer, the first things you should understand is they play balls to the wall, riff driven, OTT, traditional heavy metal. Secondly, about 95% of their songs have the words ‘heavy metal’ in the title.  Surely you get the gist?

For the next hour or so, they put on a rip roaring, note perfect show, displaying all the qualities of a band that know their trade inside out.  Seriously, If they were shit, I’d say they were shit. But they were just amazing.  Cranking out anthems such as ‘Heavy Metal Battle Axe’, ‘Heavy metal Bulldozer’, ‘Heavy Metal Samurai’, ‘Warriors Ride On Their Chariots’ (yeah it’s in the 5%), ‘Heavy Metal Is My Way’ (No shit?!!) and ‘Heavy Metal Hunter’.

Metalucifer/ Sabbat

This band are so fucking metal, that if you dip them in salt water they produce an electro-magnetic field. Gezol on more than one occasion made his way into the pit to let fans sing along and even surfed the crowed whilst singing, as the guitarists were throwing all manner of ‘heavy metal’ shapes and whipping their heads like demons.

Gezol’s inter song banter, which consisted of the worst spoken ‘Engrish’ I have possibly ever heard, and was utterly unintelligible, didn’t dampen the proceedings a single bit. Far from it. It only managed to heighten the whole experience. Of course, as a westerner who has only become familiar with the band semi-recently, a sense of humour is absolutely vital, but I am not paying the band any lip service when I say they were fucking brilliant live!  The only single gripe I have is that they didn’t play my favourite Metalucifer track, ‘Flight of the Iron Pegasus’.

Sabbatian cod piece. READY!

So after all that was said and done, Gezol donned the famous Sabbat jockstrap, replete with dangly inverted cross. By now a good few people were leaving as it was coming up for 1am.  Sabbat, consisting of… well everyone in Metalucifer, bashed out three or four of their most well known tracks including the only one I know, ‘Black Fire’.

At the end of the show, the organizers mysteriously brought two planks of wood on stage and set them down on the floor. The two guitarists were busy doing that outro thing where they play the same note over and over, as the drummer crashed the cymbals slower and slower, signifying the death knell.

Then…….

They took off said guitars, and proceeded to smash them against each other, then finally they hammered them into the planks, destroying what was left of their instruments in a frenzied finale of Heavy Metal destruction.

Hey?!  Did they do a track called that yet?………..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEjnmEnQmB8

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Sick Chainsaws Holocaust Command January 2012

After a hectic time at school, where the kids didn’t seem to want to do anything remotely academic, I shot home on an early Friday afternoon to get showered and out the door to make it to Barbies Music venue in Udom Suk by 6pm. Blackened thrashers Toxic Holocaust were in town.
Inevitably, I had a rather large row with the girlfriend before I left (which of course I started by being a ‘jai rorn’ twat), which meant I didn’t leave the apartment until 5:30pm. Then I remembered I didn’t have any small notes in the bin, which, if you have ever taken a taxi ride in Bangkok is about as much use as a chocolate fire guard. Drivers just won’t have/ won’t bother to change anything larger than 100’s. So if your fare comes to 123 Baht, and all you have is a 500 note, you’d better ask politely to make a stop at an ATM, or hand the whole thing over as tip and fare, which, of course, ninety percent of the time the driver would never refuse. Not off of a jolly ‘farang’, anyway. Money pisses out of the ground back home, when you stab it with a shovel, right? Geysers of cash in every garden, apparently.

Annnnnnny way, moving swiftly on. I made a swift detour to the bank, called a cab and told him that I needed to get to Wong Wian Yai BTS (the nearest Skytrain station to me) as quickly as possible. Expectations sank rapidly when the 110kg driver pulled away and immediately hurled abuse at another taxi that, in his opinion, tried to cut him up. My view differed somewhat , seeing as how, as is common here in the capital, he was straddling two lanes of traffic, whilst indicating to move back in to the left, but actually edging right. But, he’s been doing it longer than me, and his superior lane jumping skills make him the expert in this particular situation. I was just a keen observer.

Eventually he dropped me at a different BTS station, without asking if that was ok for me. Of course it was. Buddy, you’ve done me a favour. The 20 minutes you spent in stationary traffic, on a road EVERY FUCKER AND HIS BROTHER knows is at a standstill at 6pm, not to mention the extra 40 baht on top of the normal fare, in no fashion, makes me think you are in any way some kind of cowboy, let alone an ignorant, fat, cunt.

Sniffing out victims like a shark...

I got on the BTS at 6:15pm. As I crossed Thaksin bridge I saw a massive plume of smoke rising from the direction of Khao San Road/ Grand Palace. If anyone was keeping up with the news, you’d have known that at the time the US government put out a statement saying they had very good evidence that some kind of Muslim extremist cell had infiltrated Bangkok and was planning to bomb major tourist areas without warning. So naturally I thought the worst. I texted the GF to see if there was any info on the web yet and she texted me back with the news that it was in fact a big blaze at two large town houses near China town that the fire brigade couldn’t bring under control. Not great, but better than what I had feared.

Thirty minutes later I was in Udom Suk. 6:45pm. Had the show started? Had it bollocks. Yet again (again) I don’t know why I panicked myself. These things never ever start on time. All the usual faces were there. The boys of Nuclear Warfare, beers in hand. Ray and Pong from Remains at their merch stand and all the regular lads who’s names I don’t know, but faces are always representing at these Bangkok extreme shows. It’s just a shame MORE faces don’t turn up. Get your asses off the fucking sofa, put down the som-tam, and get-the-fuck out to these shows! If you want more bands from Abroad to visit Thailand, Thailand has to show these bands and labels that they are wanted. So support the live scene. [/rant]

First up were Rayong/Bangkok thrash outfit Remains. Sporting patch jackets, spray on denims and whiter than white high-tops, they looked every part the retro thrashers they so passionately emulate.

Remains kill the wimps!!!

Having toured in Japan and Malaysia since I last saw them, the band have cultivated a very cool stage presence, revolving around lead singer Pong. Guitarist Ray looks every part the Bay Area thrash revivalist, replete with leathers and sweat bands. I have seen Remains at just about every show they have played in Bangkok (and a decent set in Rayong too) and they just keep going from strength to strength. Obviously they are heavily influenced by the aforementioned Bay Area scene of the mid eighties, and to some extent, the Teutonic savagery of bands like Sodom, Disaster and Kreator. But to their credit, they have dropped many of the covers that supplemented a lack of self-written material in exchange for some very choppy, balls to the wall thrash originals, such as crowd favourites ‘Kill The Wimps’ Among The Shower Of Bullets’ and ‘Remains of The Unborn’. These guys can play. I don’t mean like, they can ‘play’ at parties and Bat Mitzvah ‘play’. I mean ‘record contract’ ‘play’. Still a bit rough around the edges, but every person in this band is more than skilled enough to put many a bigger thrash band to shame.

Second on the bill was arguably (and I quote the lead vocalist of Hecate Enthroned here) “the band with the best name in Thailand”. Goatchrist666. These guys have such a cool name that they don’t even put it on their logo.

Kvlt as fvck!!!

Just a horned skull with three ‘6’s spread about under it. That’s how fucking kvlt it is! Unfortunately I retired to the smoking area for a quick inter-set nicotine rush, and when I went back in, GC666 were just finishing up their slot. I’m not sure what happened, although I suspect that what with the late start, they may have been asked to cut their set drastically, so that Toxic Holocaust could go on at a reasonable time. I caught two songs, and as usual I enjoyed both.

Goatchrist 666

GC666 play a rampant brand of black metal, much akin to Zygoatsis and Black Witchery in both style and speed. Raw, choppy and blasting. Khawtord mak mak to Thaweepat, and I promise to be there from the first blast to the last scream at the next show bro. \m/

Following on was a band I had heard a great deal about, but never actually caught live. Thai crossover nut bags, Strikeout. These lads don’t piss about. The vocalist keeps everyone amused between songs with his crazy grinning rhetoric, smattered with expletives most Thais baulk at hearing in public.

Sweary Marys...

Swearing is kind of taboo in Thai culture, although everyone does it, but never so openly or loudly as this guy. His liberal use of ‘Ai Heear’ ( the ‘C’ word is probably the nearest thing in English) and ‘saat’ (prick/ cock/twat) had me rolling about laughing, if only for the fact that it is so rare to hear someone… anyone, talking like that in public here. Thai sensibilities being what they are, I imagine there were more than a few denim and spike clad lads in the crowd sniggering behind their hands, but also looking over their shoulders in case mum caught them in the act. Strikeout play a hardcore punk/ crossover thrash style that rips your face off and buries its fingers in your bleeding eye sockets, just for shits and giggles. Very much in the vein of the ultra messy Japanese hardcore punk style, but with frequent D.R.I. driven ultra fast hooks and leads, Strikeout’s energy driven live act certainly got the crowd going to fever pitch, and considering most of the lads at this show were either elitist thrashers or black/ death metallers, that’s a pretty mean achievement. Everyone except the drummer was in danger of tripping over at any moment due to excessive bouncing and leaping off the fittings. I would love to see a whole night of this kind of stuff. Maybe get LowFat to join in, perhaps? What a night that would be!

Following Strikeout were Singaporean thrash stalwarts, Demonification. Arising from ‘Singahell’ (oh yeah, it even has its own name amongst the Local metal community) in 1997, they put out a full length in 2006 called ‘Hell Metal’. Lead singer and guitarist ‘Psycho’ looked like he would live up to his moniker, standing head and shoulders above his band mates and sporting a very bright purple Mohawk. Actually I saw him milling about and thought he was the token ‘trad punk’ at the metal show, so I was slightly surprised to see him slinging a guitar over his neck and climbing on stage.

Singahell stalwarts...

Demonification, to my mind, suffered the worst sound of the night. It didn’t help get their brand of thrash over to me very well at all, but the chaps going mad in the pit, and the repeated stage divers would obviously disagree with me. If anything, the vocals were a bit weak, but, and it’s a big but (with exclamation marks and shit), what he lacked in singing ability, he more than made up for in guitar playing ability. I’m not joking. I even said it to my friend, Pira at the time. His lead work was fucking awesome. Style wise, they lean heavily towards the ‘classic’ era of German thrash, with bits and pieces from the San Fran Bay Area scene mixed in too. Over all I did enjoy their set, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before.

I was having another nicotine break outside in the foyer when I was slapped on the shoulder and told in no uncertain terms by the singer of Nuclear Warfare that they were about to go on. Khun Arm is the kind of front man all thrash bands should have. Well apart from those really serious German types, obviously. He’s pissed up on a days worth of beer. He grins like a Cheshire cat on speed and he gives it 200% on stage. Likewise the other members of the band (a four piece) are fucking crazy as soon as that first note rings out of the amps.

Fun fun fun!!!

For example, Halfway through one track, Arm decided to just drop his bass, stop singing and dive into the crowd. Mid song. Not to be outdone by this, in the following song, rhythm/ lead guitarist, Bas, and drummer Tanasan both thought it was an appropriate time to just put down instruments and dive head long into the pit from the stage, leaving Arm and the other guitarist to continue with no percussion or second guitar. And it was bloody great!!! NW play very fast thrash, in the vein of Kreator, Exodus, Tankard, Sodom and the like with traditional metal overtones. The tandem rhythm guitar thing works very well in the Slayer/Maiden/Priest manner. Vocals are harsh, but with occasional high shrill screams, tipping the cap to the German 80’s scene.  I’m never disappointed watching Nuclear Warfare, and tonight was no exception.

After a lengthy set up, and various members of Toxic Holocaust moaning like bitches about the sound check setting s having changed, loud enough that this native speaker could hear every word and shudder in embarrassment, the show finally kicked off.

"Wassup Fucks?!"

I forgot about the silliness before hand after about the first thirty seconds of the opening track due to the fact that Joel Grind and his crusty bass player were giving it some real bollocks up there, and I soon forgot about any transgression committed in the set up (mainly by the bass player if I am honest) entirely. Well, until now that is…

Wild dogs... geddit?!

TH pulled out all the stops with a rip roaring set containing songs from their older material, right up to the current album ‘Conjure and Command’. ‘War Is Hell’, ‘Wild Dogs’, ‘Gravelord’ and ‘In The Name of Science’, were obvious crowd favourites, punctuated with Mr Grinds “What’s up fucks?”, and “We got any Satanists in here tonight”… I have to say I thought their set was going to be a bit of an anti-climax (especially with the shit talking I heard before they finally started) but I am pleased to say that they really did pull out all the stops and put on a definite Headline slot performance. I’m a big fan of most of Joel Grinds projects and it was more than worth the trip to see his band play live. And of course they finished the set with a rip roaring rendition of ‘Nuke The Cross’.

Thanks to Toxic Holocaust for making it over to Bangkok, and as usual thanks to all the bands involved, and Boy/ Sick Chainsaws for organising another excellent one day festival. If anyone is interested, and you’re probably not, it took just 5 minutes longer to get home in a taxi (via the toll way) than it did to get to the BTS station in the taxi I mentioned at the start. The moral of the story being, only catch taxis in Bangkok at 1 in the morning. Or something….

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Sick Chainsaws Gig Report July 9th 2011

Demon... no really, that's his name!

I knew when I set my multiple alarms on the Friday night that it was a pretty pointless exercise. I just needed to do something, some kind of ritual that might affect the space time continuum and some how affect the start time of the show at the Rock Pub the following day. ‘Door’s open 12:30’, the flyer said.

So we get a taxi at 12:15 the next day. The driver didn’t ask us how we wanted to get to the venue, which was unusual considering we live in the very south of Bangkok and the Rock Pub is in the heart of Down Town, and took us on a merry ride down A roads, B roads, alley ways even under slum packed flyovers. Basically we didn’t take the far more sensible expressway option.  At Sapan Taksin we hit massive traffic, didn’t move an inch for twenty minutes, then continued at a snails pace until we hit Rama 4.

Finally, after many stops, starts, and ‘tuts’ from said driver, we arrived at Ratchetewi around 2pm. A full hour and a half late. Now I was wishing I had never set those pissing alarms. The karma was crashing down around my ears.  So we got out at the BTS, crossed the bridge and descended on the street in front of the Rock Pub. Were we greeted by the sounds of raucous metal, blaring out of the hell gates, the place deserted because all the feverish metallers were inside going crazy?

Were we fuck! 

The place was bustling with black shirted Thais, drinking beers, chatting politely and queuing up to get their tickets.  Once again, the bizarre opening time of the gig had come and gone, half of the band members were sitting down undercover out of the blazing afternoon sun and the venue was as silent as a graveyard.

Eventually the sound checking started around 3pm, and we all got to go in to keep out of the sun. Finally we were all kicked out, and went back in again minus a corner of our tickets at about 4pm.  This is the absolute norm here, and I have come to accept that no matter how late I think I am, I will never be too late to miss the opener. So the next time you start grumbling about a gig starting twenty five minutes late at the Underworld or wherever, just stop.

 

Any way, this is supposed to be about the ‘Sick Chainsaws Unholy Black Forced Warfare’ show, so let’s get on with that.

The first band up were the ‘only a thrash band would dare call themselves thisSKULL CRUSHER. A four piece, their set was plagued by a ridiculously loud bass sound which at first was just a back ground grumble, but very soon turned into a massive roar.

Skull Crusher

I went down to the front for them and all I could hear was the bass guitar and pedal drum.  Only during their heavily Germanic thrash set, when the songs broke down Into a widdly bridge did the guitar shine at all.  The vocals were, as usual with Thai thrash bands, on the raspier side, a bit like Kreator, but they fitted the manic tempo of the band well. All in all, performance, sound and style taken into account: 3 FISTS.

Second on the agenda were REMAINS.  Fronted by Phong, and sporting new rhythm/ lead guitarist, Ray, this band came on to sonically kick the shit out of everyone at the show. And I think they did a splendid job if it.

Phong, Remains

The past two times I have seen Remains, they were just finding their feet, having only formed very recently. Their earlier sets were mainly covers of the thrash greats such as Sepultura and Metallica.  This time they had more original material, but they still fleshed out their stage time with some good covers, finishing with Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’.  The addition of Ray (brainchild of Siamese deathsters ‘ Savage Deity’ and lead guitarist in ‘on hold’ old skool DM band ‘Calamitous’)  to the band really helped to make it a memorable performance as the lad can shred, and his lead work is fucking spot on.

Ray, Remains

Remains’ cleaner style of thrash meant that their sound was much better suited to the struggling PA than Skull Crusher’s muddy set, and they can only go from strength to strength. 4 FISTS.

 

Third up were Japan-Thai nutbags, LOW FAT. Made up of two Japanese and two Thai, Low Fat play that brand of insane hardcore punk you just can’t sit still through.

Sano, Low Fat

Front man, Sano, is an image of leaping, quivering, screaming, punk essence, just as at home in the pit as he is on stage, whilst guitarist Yusuke hits, rather than plays, his instrument with feverish abandonment.  Their songs are loud, fast, messy and totally chaotic. My personal favourite track, which I only have the title for in Japanese, featured about three or four songs into the set and it was the one that had the pit punching lumps out of itself the most, mainly coz the Thai fans want to hear metal of the broooootal kind, and this track starts with a very ‘early 70’s Black Sabbath’ intro, which of course got the blood pumping.

Low Fat

Inevitably it pauses briefly only to strike out like an angry frog in a sock, mutating rapidly into all-out spazzcore punk.  And by then, the kids are coiled like springs waiting for any excuse to start bouncing off each other.  Low Fat’s sound was clear as a bell and the aggression they generate filed the place to the rafters. They get a well deserved 5 FISTS.

 

Lobotomy. Old school posers

LOBOTOMY took to the stage looking a bit bemused to be honest. I’m not sure if it was the fact they may be used to playing to more people in their home country of Malaysia, or whether it was just nerves, but they started shakily.  It’s certainly true that Malaysia and Indonesia have massive attendance numbers when they host extreme metal festivals, something I’d like to see redressed in Bangkok through better advertising and fan loyalty. But that discussion is for another time.

Haircore !

Lobotomy, a three piece thrash band with heavy NWOBHM influences, looked every part the Asian metal fans I am sure they are. Patch jackets, hi-top pumps, and a guitarist with hair so big Paulo Jnr from Sepultura would bow down in awe. As I said they started off shakily, the timing occasionally getting lost in the over all din of the Rock Pubs less than kind mix (how come Remains sounded so fucking good?).  The guitarist suffered the worst of it, and for the first two or three songs was missing notes left right and centre. In his defence, it was hardly a lack of playing ability, and very much so the pea soup like sound emanating from the strained speakers. The vocals were also marred by a quiet microphone, but I think the singer/ bass player’s style may not have helped things, being a kind of spoken rasp.

Widdly diddly.... Lobotomy

BUT……. Luckily for us, the band gelled soon after and really showed what they could do live. The guitarist was a natural show man, pulling off some awesome solos, when he wasn’t doing the Status Quo back to back poses with the singer.  Taking everything into account, sound, performance and how much I enjoyed their music, Lobotomy get a high end 2 FISTS.

 

Fifth on the list, and the band I had really come to see, were Local black/death metal legends ZYGOATSIS.  It is always odd to see the members of this band, one of which is the event organizer, milling around outside, just regular fans chugging on beers and sitting quietly with their friends. The reason it’s odd is, well, just take a look at the photos of them on stage.

Zygoatsis

Zygoatsis don’t play subtle metal. There is no real intro, no tippy toed acoustic bullshit to see them onto the stage, not even a deep end church organ dirge. They walk on, plug in and let fire with some unholy blasting black infused death metal. Much in the vein of American lunatics, Black Witchery, Zygoatsis have only one gear, overdrive, pausing ever so briefly so that drummer, Boy, can fill his lungs with air, before continuing with his blasting barrage.

Evil shit. Zygoatsis

The band, as I suspected it would, suffered at the hands of the Rock Pub’s hapless PA, their buzz toned black metal riffs only really coming to the fore on the drum rolls and bass pauses. Saying that, it wasn’t the worst sound I have ever heard at the club, and plenty of their stuff was audible if you listened hard enough, one ear cocked to the side in odd looking concentration.

Gas mask gone, corpse paint will do...

The show was also a platform for the band to try out new material from their latest album, (un) coincidently released that day, and on sale outside. I bought a copy, and I have to say, it’s fucking awesome!!!!!

Performance, sound and song selection:  4 fists.

Last on the bill, Headliners UNHOLY GRAVE, seemed to be playing on half speed from the off. The singer , as a german chap I befriended at the gig later said, seemed to be trying his hardest to transform into the Japanese Lee Dorian circa nowadays Cathedral. With his disco hands, jumping around and zig zagging from left to right, he wasn’t far wrong.

Unholy Grave

Unholy Grave, are, on record, much better than they were on stage at this show. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they lacked something essential during this performance. Maybe it was the sound? Maybe it was the fact I was expecting a Napalm Death style assault of pure old school grindcore? Whatever it was, I got bored pretty quickly and left about 20 minutes into the set. What I did see and hear was a mash of straight out death metal, and Terrorizer-esque sloppy grind, never moving into hyper-blasting, and actually only occasionally blasting in a way I’d have liked to have seen more of. Never mind, I like them when I put them on the player, and the fans were going ape shit for them, so everyone’s a winner.  2 FISTS.

So there it is. I learned a lesson I will no doubt have forgotten and fret over again in October at the next big show. That being the case and as nothing EVER starts on time, I’ll stop panicking.

This show was very much a thrash driven event, and although the fans came to see Zygoatsis and Unholy Grave, it was indeed the thrash bands that made up the meat of the gig.  I would like to have seen Nuclear Warfare play to be honest, as their brand of high octane thrash (think the style of Sodom meets Bay Area, but with the onstage energy of  Municipal Waste) would have just made this good show, great.  But it’s a tiny gripe, and to be fair the members of the band were all in the crowd loving it as fans, so it was all good.

Next up, a punk festival this coming Thursday. It starts in the evening (holy shit) so we’ll see how late that will start, eh?

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Shhhpooky…

Sawasdee Jaa

After a long and in depth Q & A session with my girlfriend about Thai ghosts, their alleged powers and why you can only see them when you try to sniff your arse, I thought I would post a small piece on these sometimes fearsome, sometimes amusing spectres.

If your knowledge of East and South East Asia is limited to egg fu yung, Bruce Lee and Daniel san, you’ll still probably know that this part of the world is ridiculously superstitious and utterly fearful of things that go bump in the night.  Asian’s love nothing more than to regale each other with tales of spooky sightings, terrifying interactions and mind bending close encounters.  The unwritten “life” rules of Thailand (of which there are bloody millions) say that talking about evil spirits brings bad luck and can actually attract the buggers. Of course they also say that talking about drink driving is bad luck too, but that doesn’t stop the silence concerning DUI over the Thai New Year from claiming 800 lives in 3 days, just in the Capital alone. But hey, what’s 800 preventable deaths out of 12 million eh?

Anyway, back to the point. Thailand and Laos, both of which share a common origin in both peoples and culture, believe in the afterlife and it’s malevolent occupants. You may wonder how a culture that believes in reincarnation could have an afterlife, but indeed it does. In fact the Realm of Hungry Ghosts is one of the six realms of existence in Buddhism. How fucking awesome does that sound!? A Karl Sanders-esque wet dream if the rotund growler was ever into Buddhism.   Unfortunately it is occupied by only one type of spirit, the ‘Phi Pret’, or ‘Hungry Ghost’, but we’ll get to him and his mouse’s arse of a mouth in a bit.

Of course all of the Buddhist countries of the world believe in these ghost in one form or another, often with very different names, but generally all sharing the same traits. Most of the ghosts in this list, as far as I can surmise, originate from China or India. Indeed the spirit just mentioned finds the origin of it’s name in Sanskrit (Preta).

So Thailand has this plethora of badass ghouls that haunt every facet of Thai life and geographical location. From Jungle to high rise, rice farmer to elite corporate mogul, no one is safe from the vengeful malevolence of the ‘Phi’ (‘Pee’ – ghost).

Probably the most famous and certainly the most feared ghost in Thailand, the ‘Phi Graseu’ (Graa-Suuer) is a disembodied flying head of a beautiful woman, her guts and vital organs floating below, swinging in the breeze. Technically more of a witch, the Graseu is actually the night time incarnation of a living woman, who Thai’s believe holds great and very black magical powers. Her head and guts fly off and buzz around at night, often haunting graveyards. Haunting a graveyard in Thailand is not as easy as you would think. For the most part the country is 98% Buddhist, meaning that when people die they get cremated, hardly a need to plot a cemetery. Luckily the Chinese

Tooth brush not included

build grave sites, so the old Graseu still has somewhere it can fly about, looking for its two favourite dishes, corpses and human shit. Yummy.

The Graseu also, just like her Eastern European vampire cousins, likes to childishly harass livestock, destroy crops and make a right old din.  She will also hunt and eat live victims if given the opportunity. And to be fair, if I was a disembodied flying head and guts combo, so would I.  When the spirit has had enough of munching on turd burgers and frightening isolated villagers on their way home from a midnight card game, she returns to her home, wiping her mouth on clean garments hanging on washing lines.

The girlfriend... dietary habits will be changed...

It is said that the way to spot the Graseu is to plunge your soiled clothes (dark brown spots) into boiling water, and the woman’s lips will burn and blister, giving away her true identity. I would say that you just need to sniff the breath of the best looking women in the village. The one who’s exhales give off a distinct whiff of rotten ham and arse, is most likely to be your culprit.  When the head and organs have reattached to the torso, the woman seals the wound at the neck with a paste made of ‘khaao niaao’: sticky rice.

Next up is Phi Tai Hong. This is the spirit of someone who has died an untimely and/or violent death. Most of the stories I have been told by Thais concerning this ghost have been the victims of either murder or road traffic accidents. No surprise there when you get to know the temper of many a Thai when they really lose their rag, or indeed, the way they fucking drive around like they are trying to win a destruction derby. I wonder how much money the department of Roads and Fareways would save by not bothering to paint white lines on the roads, as lets face it, they are hardly needed here.

The Phi Tai Hong is probably the spirit that has the most in common with the Western idea of the ghost with unfinished business. Bruce Willis, if you will. And just like it’s western counterpart, it comes in two distinct formats. Benevolent yet trapped, and royally pissed off.

The Phi Tai Hong that died in a RTA or similar traffic related accident, usually appears at the scene of it’s own demise, repeating the same actions over and over. The “snap shot” or “video” ghost as some people like to call it. Stuck in time, the spirit is trapped to live out its final moments, and often it’s afterlife… errr, life, not actually knowing it is dead. If you need to know more on this phenomenon, ask Haley Joel Osment.  The second, and far more worrying version is the ghost of someone who has died in violent circumstances, and resents being dead, as I am sure you can understand. If you’ve ever been dead, I mean.  These spirits are far more malicious, taking out their wrath on the living.  They can also be the spirits of babies that have died shortly after childbirth. These ghosts create havoc for random people, often tenants that have moved into the places where the spirit died. They generate poltergeist activity, appear as glowing versions of themselves, and if you believe the comical ghostly lakorns (soap operas) often have bleeding eyes and noses. They are the Thai variant of the Japanese ‘Ju-on’, grudge holding spirits.

video: Thai ghost at party, 10 minutes after he was killed on moped while out getting more booze

But why does the Phi Tai Hong go to such great lengths to scare the living piss out of perfectly innocent people? Most Thais believe the ghost is actually looking for spiritual strength, through the physical lives of it’s hauntees (yeah I made that up) to “send it on it’s way.” This basically entails going to the temple and praying for the ghost to move on and the usual yadda yadda we all know about with any ghostly problem worldwide. If the spirit is a family member, they will often visit their relatives in a dream, complaining of being hungry, cold or what have you. If this is the case, the victim can take food, blankets or booze (no, really) to the temple and offer it up in an effort to appease the spirit.  Of course this doesn’t always work, and a monk may be drafted in to bless the room, in an effort to help the spirit on it’s way. Monks often leave trinkets like porcelain pigs for good luck. It’s usually all done for a few notes under the table, even though monks aren’t supposed to take any kind of payment. But that’s another story I don’t want to get into here.

Phi Tai Tong Glom are viciously evil ghosts of women who have died in childbirth and her child died too. This tragic event doubles the evil strength of the spirit and as far as Thais are concerned, if you have one of these bad girls in your home, it’s time to call the estate agent.

The Phi Tai Tong Glom is a variant of the Phi Tong Hong, and is often referred to as the Phi Tai Hong Tong Glom. Some kind of special Thai ghost pronouns would be really handy right about now.  One of Thailand’s most famous ghost stories (and subsequent movies, no less) is about a P.T.H.T.G. (thank fuck for acronyms) called ‘Mae Nak’ who’s most frightening attribute is the fact that no matter how many ways you pronounce her name, no Thais ever fucking understand who you are talking about!

video: Seriously scary thai ghost shizzle!

The tale of Mae Nak (lit: Miss Nak) is one all Thai’s know well, but has spawned a romantic blur between fact and fiction.  Mae Nak was the wife of a soldier, Mak, during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV)in the mid 1800’s. After Mak left to go to war (with an enemy no one is really sure about), the Pregnant Nak took ill and died during childbirth. Mak was seriously wounded and regained his health in Bangkok, whilst all this unravelled. Mae Nak became a benevolent P.T.H.T.G., and on his return went about her business as if nothing had happened. Of course Mak is none the wiser, but the whole village is up to scratch on Nak’s altogether un-aliveness, and try to warn him. After all, when you have attended the funeral of a woman who died in childbirth, it’s a dead giveaway something is up when you see her pruning the roses a few days later.  One by one they all meet suspicious gruesome deaths. I am not sure if Mae Nak was in possession of a hockey mask at the time.

Modern film adaptation of 'Mae Nak'

Eventually Mak spies Nak (Mak and Nak, imagine the wedding invites…) forgetfully putting her hand through the floor to get something from the cellar. As one might imagine, he shits his ornate silk pants, makes his excuses to go for a pee, breaks an earthen jar with water in it to trick Mae Nak into thinking he is going for a world urination record, and flees to a local temple, where spirits cannot enter. Nak tumbles the ruse, and then goes about creating a shit storm of havoc in her grief for the loss of her husband’s trust, and the fact that the villagers were getting on her transparent tits.  Eventually she is lured into an earthen jar by a powerful exorcist, and lobbed unceremoniously into a canal. A canal!!! Not even a lake or river. The shame.   All this took place in the Pra Kanong district of Bangkok. Or did it? Personally I think it’s a great story, and one that thai mums still use to get their kids into bed. “Do as I say or Mae Nak will come for you”…. once she’s stopped listening to the sound of that cracked jar pissing water, presumably?  There is even a popular tale of a cinema burning to the ground on the premiere showing of the movie. “My friend’s mum, who knows a lady, who was at the hairdressers with a friend of her newsagent, said she knows a man who sold a dog to a guy who’s uncle on his wife’s side was told that it really happened by someone who might have been there.” Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Who next? Oh yeah, Phi Pret. The Pret is a band tempered and aggressive ghost that is ever hungry for food, power, money or sex. So he’s your average premiership football player then.

Pret has a mouth the size of the eye of a needle, and is forever looking to devour the things listed above. To me it would seem to be a transference of the failings of the male ego into a devilish and plausible excuse for our behaviour. It also reminds me of the dude with eyes in his hands out of Pan’s Labyrinth. The Pret is mainly of human form, apart from his jockeys pocket of a mouth, and a huge distended gut. Not unlike Gordon Brown.

Phi Pop is usually a desirable female demon type spirit that inhabits the bodies of others through possession and feeds off their intestines. Your basic succubus demon, it is ridiculously hard to get rid of, and can only be banished by a Moh Phi(Ghost doctor) who performs a traditional whirling dance that catches the Pop’s attention.

A Pop ghost makes an unwelcome appearance...

At the crescendo of the dance, the spirit is whisked away, Wizard of Oz style, in the resulting whirl wind. A Phi Pop can transfer from body to body, usually if the current host dies. Their favourite thing to do is sit on the chests of victims, exerting their weight onto the ribs. Or in other words, classic sleep paralysis/ sleep apnea.

Phi Ton Mai are spirits that dwell within trees. Go anywhere in Thailand, especially up north, and you will see trees adorned with colourful cloth around their trunks, denoting it is the home of a spirit.

Now this tree spirit is either a female, or a lady boy...

This is where Buddhism meets animism, and the two are often considered to be part and parcel of the same thing. Tree spirits are more times than not female and referred to as Phi Nang Mai.  Monks would often wrap these cloths around trees to prevent deforestation, as no tree could be cut down before a suitable alternative gaff for the spirit to reside in was found.

Thailand also has zombies, Phi Dip (lit: Ghost uncooked/ raw), and vampires, Phi Duut Leuuat (lit: Ghost suck blood). If you pronounce the second one wrong you will most likely say Phi Doot Leuuat, which translates as ‘the ghost of arse blood’. A whole new horror film genre opened up right there and then. Cha ching !!

So how do you protect yourself from flying shit eaters, dead drink drivers and insatiable arse faced demons?  Well, I am glad you asked that question.

First off there’s the Moh Phi, or ghost doctors. Famously erratic in nature, most people openly laugh at them as charlatans, but the ones who work their mojo are feared and respected. Most Moh Phi who work their magic do so quietly and secretly, never bragging about their ability to fight the dark forces of the other world, as to do this diminishes the power they wield. This trait is a common thing throughout Thai magical beliefs, the other one that springs instantly to mind being the sacred magical tattoos men get to protect them from bad luck, injury and of course, black magic. I will talk about these another time, but suffice to say Thais, Lao and Cambodians believe very strongly in the protective powers of their magical tattoos.   It is interesting to note that most of the Moh Phi who are revered in Thailand for having very real and powerful ghost busting powers are not actually Thai, but Cambodian, which isn’t so hard to believe as most of the language used in sacred rituals is of Pali and Khemer origin. Although I know a few million Thais who may well take umbrage with me for suggesting such a thing.

Obviously the monks get involved from time to time with blessing houses, fields, condos and even cars so as to keep any resident spirits happy. This is on a par with catholic and Jesuit priests as well as Jewish Rabi, who may or may not believe in the idea of ghosts and demons, but who perform an age old service of comforting those who do by performing standard blessings.

Spirit houses (Thai: Sann Pra Poom: ghost (shrine of protector spirit) can be seen in various forms all over The Orient and South East Asia. Chinese spirit houses (Saan Jao) are usually red and gold, well lit and at ground level. Resembling a big box with open doors, they often have china figurines of famous Chinese deities, warriors and granny. The Thai version is always placed outside and takes the form of an ornate mini-temple,  complete with offerings to the guardian angels who live inside it. You will often see Oreo cookies, bottles of Fanta and glasses of whisky placed in front of the Saan Pra Poom, with loads of joss sticks burning away, usually in the morning. Thai angels love Oreos, it would seem.

A classic old school looking Saan Pra Poom

These spirit houses are for the occupation of dedicated guardian angels who protect their chosen sponsors from ill fate. Thais call these helpful chaps and chapesses ‘Tae Wada’ and ‘Nang Faa‘ respectively, and they oversee the protection of crops, homes, offices, even brothels.  Thais who deeply believe in the dwellers of these spirit houses will often wai (Thai greeting of respect with the hands pressed in front of the face) any they walk within a few yards of. A girl I used to work with did this religiously on our walk from the kindergarten to the main school I work at. If she missed one coz she was chatting to me I would tell her after we had passed it, and ask her if the spirit might follow her home in anger? She would usually give me a glare, tell me not to mention it out loud, then run back and wai it. Wai it to death !!!

In certain parts of the capital (and maybe other parts of the country, I don’t know) you can find these shrines adorned, surrounded and filled with various sized statues of…. Zebra. That well known East Asian

Zebras. Why???

jungle dweller. NOT!  I have asked around about the reason behind these stripy guardian’s inclusion in the spirit house, but as of right now, no one can give me any kind of answer, plausible or otherwise.

I should note that it is firmly believed that to see a ghost in Thailand you have to turn away from where you suspect it is dwelling, bend over, stick your head between your legs and take a good long look.  No. I am not joking.  If you are with a Thai and the discussion involves ghosts, jump up, bend over and take a look around. No doubt you will be pulled up rather sharply with squeals of “mai dai”: ‘cannot’!

The last form of protection I can think of is the ‘Phra’. Technically this means ‘monk’, ‘cleric’, ‘God’ or ‘padre’, but in this instance I am referring to the small Buddha image amulets worn around the necks of most practicing Thai Buddhists. Its full title is ‘Phraphuttharupb.’ So you can see why I shortened it. These little and not so little necklaces have become somewhat of a craze in Thailand in the last 10 years or so, with anyone who is anyone wearing them, or placing them in small glass boxes in their homes.

A modest selection of Phra amulets

You can walk down the street and see a man with 3 around his neck (supposedly they are never worn in even numbers, as it does not promote balance, that being odd numbers, except 1, have a middle figure, with equal numbers either side of it) and then you might see a guy with 23 around his neck. Not only is he protected from just about any demon you are wont to mention, he is also physically bullet proof from the chest up, buried under pounds of gold, glass and stone. Many taxi drivers hang them on the rear view mirror, to jangle merrily as they fly like a kamikaze around tight bends at 70kph.

Very recently the Thai and Cambodian governments have been having a bit of a spat over who is the legal owner of 3 very old temple ruins on the border. The temples are in Thailand, but the Cambodians say they belong to them. Anyway, remember I said earlier that Cambodia is renowned for its black magic practitioners? It would seem that the Cambodian army put this to great effect, letting it be known to the Thai military top brass that some hard hitting curses were coming their way. The largely massively superstitious Thai infantry got wind of it, and there was some serious discontent within the ranks. So the generals evened up the score by issuing thousands of Phra to the troops in an attempt to fight off the black arts, and I dare say, more importantly instil some kind professional military discipline back into the rank and file.  As it goes, the only things S.E. Asians are as scared of as ghosts and curses, are snakes. Shit scared of them. So the crafty Cambodians gathered up a fucking ton of them, mainly poisonous species such as pit vipers and cobras, and slung them into Thailand. Boo!

Bloody brilliant!

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