The presence of an early Singaporean black/death scene shouldn’t be that surprising. I know it is but logically an early extreme metal scene could have happened. By the early 90’s, the nebulous term of extreme metal had spread around the globe for the better part of the decade. During the late 80’s, extreme metal had outposts even in far reaching places. Japan had Sigh, Australia had Sadistic Execution, Malaysia had Cromok. It is of my opinion that extreme metal made its home in a lot more places then originally given credit. It is 2012 and I am near amazed at the things I just found.
Singapore lies on the very southern tip of the Malay peninsula. It is an island city which not only acts as the end of the South East Asian mainland but the gateway to the Malay Archipelago. It is like if Manhattan was its own country and the state owned 99% of the land. Southeast Asia, historically, has been receptive to current trends in contemporary music. Along with Malaysia and Indonesia, Singapore experienced a flourishing pop scene in the 1960’s and even played host to a surprisingly virile hardcore movement in the 1980’s. Where there are youth and a desire for cultural progress there will always be metal. I shouldn’t be surprised it is here but I still am.
Though it is not 100% true, I always like to think about mixed styles as being the product of long travel. The extreme metal scene in the Singaporean 90’s seemed to sport a mixture of death, black, speed, and thrash. Much like South America, there seemed to be less emphasis on specifics as intensity. By the end of the long journey, everything is mixed, out of order, and ready to climb out of its suitcase. These South East Asian musicians were influenced by black and death metal’s first wave who seemed to be pushing a whole new second wave on an alternate timeline. This was the music of Hellhammer, Bathory, and Venom played with the fury of circumstantial low fidelity rather than aesthetic. Since these musicians were so much further away from anyone, they just needed to play louder and fastest than everyone else.
One of the more popular, contemporary, Singaporean metal bands is Impiety. Just this year, Impiety released Ravage & Conquer which was an uncompromising exercise in the black/death. It was brutal pulverizing and above all else controlled in its delivery. If this article is about anything, it is about Impiety. Ravage and Conquer was the band’s 8th record as their history extends all the way back to the early 90’s. Impiety is one of our links to the past. They are a transport into a dimension I never thought existed. This article is about the flourishing of extreme metal in places not associated with heavy metal. Extreme metal in Singapore circa 1990.
Alright we have arrived. Through much research and clinical trials, Abhorer seems to be one of the more important Singaporean extreme metal band. Most researchers (there are more) pinpoint Abhorer as the oldest extreme metal band. For the most part they are right. The band also contains Dagoth — a musician who would be seen in later mid 90’s projects including Abatior, Impiety, and Xasthur. No, not that Xasthur. We will get to that later. Abhorer appears to be the linchpin to a handful of bands who were operating in and around the same location. Their sound is raw and the covers for their demos are hilariously graphic. Just what in the hell is going on this pentagram?
Alright. Holy shit. This article was started when I heard “Millennium” and looked down at the date and then the country of origin. Everything made sense. The Nasrani demo was released in 1991 and pardon the stoner slacker dialect but it rules so fucking hard. Well to be honest, the intro and Millennium track is the strongest portion of the demo as “Spiritual Prevalence” suffers from low production. I also can not find the other tracks. We do not have a fork. Your going to have to use this broken spoon. Fun fact, “Nasrani” is Arabic for Christian. “Beheaded” is self explanatory.
How could you not love that opening riff? There are about a billion Belials from all over the globe all ranging from different times. They are like the Green Lantern Corps but just in league with the dark one. They also do not have a central battery. After listening to a lot of black/death, a five minute track can feel like a considerable amount of time. This is especially true when that track kicks up soil covered in weighted bile. I love Belial so much and finding them was providence. Each one of the track off their 1993 demo is steeped in a mixture of thrash, death, and doom. This is truly extreme metal which currently has 22 views. Wait 23.
And there we have it. Remember when I said that Abhorer was the oldest extreme metal band? I lied. That goes to Nuctemeron. Well, it also goes to a band called Dread as well as the hilariously named Crucifucktor but sadly I can’t find anything on them. You would think there would be some sort of committee for preservation. The Unexpected demo ranges all the way back to 1988. Though, in all fairness, Nuctemeron seems to be cut from the same cloth as the earlier hardcore scene which embraced speed and aggression. Nuctemeron trades heaviness for neckbreaking tempos. The band takes the ferocity of first wave black metal and tries to multiply its speed. It succeeds on all accounts. It also rules so fucking hard.
Sweet lord, this is raw. Alright, this is the other Xasthur. The one that came before the cloaked California demon. The Singaporean Xasthur. I love how I have come this far in life where I get to correct someone on which Xasthur I am discussing. Way back in the early 90’s was a musician named Fyraun who would eventually go on to play guitar in the already mentioned Impiety. Before his debut on Skull Fucking Armageddon, Fyraun produced the Hidden Lore demo. It is incredible and not just for the fact it is obscure. The pure power and balance of noise and guitar is impressive. I say this now but Hidden Lore could very well be an accident. Water could have spilled on the mastertape and all we are left with is rickety feedback. I could be out of my damn mind. Not the popular Xasthur, the other one. Regardless this reaches somebody. Somebody out there has dropped a monocle in their martini glass.
No, not the black metal musician from Norway. The other one. No not the Malaysian one, the Singaporean Euronymous. This is black/death which leans heavily on the death aspect. Again, I feel specific style played less of role in development as did the pursuit of intensity. I feel I could spend years in global metal elitism given the right amount of digging. I really enjoy this track mainly because it is instrumental and incredibly powerful. The quality on the above track is only multiplied throughout the rest of the tape. This is my favorite demo, regardless of country origin and time period, as of recent. It is evil, vile and supremely sinister. Fuck yes. Go Go Singapore.
Alright this one is an odd ball because not only does it fall in line with early Singaporean death but it also falls under the hazy banner of nationalistic black metal. From my findings it seems that the band is defiantly pro-Indonesian and very much against Israeli influence. I obviously need to expand my knowledge on Singaporean political culture because it appears I know nothing. I am throwing my hands up on this one and am just presenting it as is. No need to drag myself into any dark clubs with badly photocopied literature. Listen, I am just here for the music. I did not sign up for anything else.
Alright, this maybe terrible. But it is here. While making this article, my wife turned to me and mentioned that I wasn’t listening to music rather collecting artifacts. Perhaps that is true. Rather than finding a suitable receptacle to pour my cereal into, I am digging up remnants of ancient pottery. Maybe she’s right. I do not know why I am experiencing so much pleasure though. How on earth did this survive?
I wanted to end with an Impiety album. Actually, their debut from 1996. It is awesome. Impiety’s work ranges further back to the early 90’s but by the greater God they are rough. Barring a few expectations (cough Bestial Colony), I still like to present music I feel is decent in terms of production or at least if it lack production it makes up for in other areas. Impiety’s Asateerul Awaleen is a comparable mid 90’s black metal album which is filled with crazy sound effects and the propensity towards madness. This sounds like a tornado of corpses. It is amazing. If one if interested in the whole Singaporean black metal scene, Impiety is a great tout guide. This album is a great start to a path which leads all the way to 2012. Enjoy.
During the course of research I started to find more points of interest specifically the relationship between Singaporean extreme metal bands and the neighboring Malaysian metal scene. This whole thing maybe bigger than originally thought. My surprise regarding this style is rooted in my underestimation of extreme metal’s influence around the globe. I did not think it traveled this far and this early. Maybe I need to do more research. I found an article on the Geocities archives which was miraculously saved from destruction. It gives a surprisingly vivid account of the early Singaporean metal scene from what I can gather is first hand knowledge. I feel this entire scene is hanging by a thread. Perhaps I should try to get funded and get my doctorate in global metal. Maybe I need to stop reading so many comics. Maybe I can do both.
Malaysia and Indonesia are next.
Heavy Metal Singapore.
Se la mat jalan.