Underground Heavy #6

29-07-11

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Heavy 6 proved to be a night to remember. Thanks so much to Orthon for their long-awaited return to The Underground, it was indeed a memorable set. Thanks so much to all the bands, Backstage and of course to the amazing team from The Underground. Thanks to our special host for the evening Wu So Lui (Lady Beard). We’re all looking forward to Heavy 7.

love Chris B xx

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Memoimoil

Setlist:

1. Scumblack

2. Mess

3. No Balls Nor Miracles

4. Last Day

5. Dance Ballet

Another night, another Heavy show. Things were, admittedly, a little soft in Backstage (nearly every band sounded insufficiently loud to me anyway), but the enthusiasm of the bands and the variety of metal sort of made up for that. Wu So Lui hosting in place of Chris B was a cool and very appropriate change too.

Memoimoil have a pretty perfect definition of their sound – they are indie, and they are metal. And, unlike many bands that choose to add a very different spice to flavour their metal, this one actually manages to pull it off to some extent. They have that dissonance with a distinct dark undercurrent that indie has, and this extends to subject choice too. They write about heartbreak, love and have a nuanced take on anger (something which precludes most forms of metal), which supplements their sound. They are typical of a heavy band from the Noughties epoch – their metal sound tends to be a collection of leanings, rather than the base of their style. Sometimes, this comes out as an incoherent (NOT confused, a criticism I have had of bands in Heavy shows before) mix like on No Balls Nor Miracles, but one can appreciate what they’re trying to do.

They tend to begin songs in a pop-rock manner, as though to draw the listener into a soft sell, and while this works when they put enough flourish (Dance Ballet) it fails when the sound is too dark for its own good (Last Day). Scumblack had the unique distinction of being a metal-esque song that does not feature groovy drums (they were more complex than headbang-able), and this had the pleasant result of making them sound more like noise rock (including the bassist’s genuinely tortured screaming style). Dance Ballet was a chugging number, which raised their game from the disappointingly predictable Noughties rock No Balls… Their closer was awesome – very funk-oriented bass and lots of contrast between the brighter and darker notes. Their set did its job of showcasing the band, and starting the buzz for the rest of the show, so a job well done, I’d say.

— Shashwati

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Darkness Pool

Setlist:

1. Burying Alive

2. [Untitled]

3. 288 D.C.

4. Darkness Pool

5. Democracy

Darkness Pool, by contrast, do not really “mix” metal with something far-removed from it. They play the classic, chugging, headbang-ey, moshing kind of metal from just around the time that thrash was developing. That means, there’re still soaring solos, high-register rhythm chords, and the classic American rock style of powerful, epic-sounding vocals. The lyrics are first-person stories, too, rather than the metal tendency for monologue. They’re a blast from the past all right, and this is always a double-edged sword. The songs do tend to sound dated and samey, and even if you love metal, it grates on you from time to time. However, these guys play it with grit and in a commanding force that sweeps you over in a wave of Iron Maiden-like chromatic goodness.

The alternating between speeds in most subgenres of metal have always sounded jarring to me, and Darkness Pool was no exception – the changeover was particularly disjointed during their Untitiled song. Burying Alive was a mass of elastic riffs, thudding rhythms and Ian Gillian-type singing. Darkness Pool was as perfect a performance of any song as you can get – so much so, in fact, that I didn’t manage to take notes because I was enjoying it too much. Democracy, though, was their best song – they used darker and more abrasive textures, petulant solos, and had a certain unexplainable charge to it, perhaps in keeping with its subject. While they do need work so that the songs don’t sound like they’re divided into “the classic rock/70s metal part” and “the thrash-ey part”, etc, they’re just so good at the execution that the next time they play, I will be there.

— Shashwati

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This is Ammunition

Setlist:

1. Burn the Flags

2. You Fucked Our Rock ‘n’ Roll

3. Tyler Durden

4. Pushed too Far

5. Soundcheck Song

6. Left For Dead

7. Valkyries

Bang – Screaming, Guitar, Bass, Drums and More Screaming – What just happened? and why has it stopped?

Straight from the off, This Is Ammunition (TIA) thrashed out their relentless onslaught of self-styled ‘aggrorock’. Performing at The Undergrounds’ ‘Heavy 6’ event, TIA showed that Hong Kong really knows how to scream with the best of them. Fast, heavy and constant, I can only imagine that performing is an endurance exercise for TIA, which makes them all the better to watch. At no point did the band let up, blaring out hard head-banging awesomeness from beginning to end. This is not to mention that the band also have a formidable stage presence, and delivered an energetic performance on the night (which anyone who has seen the size of the stage at Backstage will know is no easy feat in such a tight space). This proved even more impressive when I was told by more seasoned veterans of the metal scene in Hong Kong that TIA are usually even better than they were on this occasion.

The music itself is difficult to pin down as all the bands that I was put in mind of during TIAs performance were nothing at all like TIA, let alone anything like eachother. It was more a case that I would catch a hint of one band in the maelstrom of bass and drums or in part of a guitar riff or else be suddenly reminded of a particular song through some quirk in the vocals. None of which will help to give you an idea of what TIA are really like in the flesh, the only way is to experience it for yourself (which, let’s face it, you should do anyway). There is a taster in the Heavy 5 section of the Undergrounds’ Youtube page, however anyone who has ever tried to record a concert with their phone will know how reliable these kinds of videos are. Otherwise, their album is available (FOR FREE!!1!) at http://www.imusicbox.hk.

I would urge anyone who hasn’t already to get to TIAs next gig (whenever that may be). Those of you who have a soft spot for the hard stuff, you won’t be disappointed.

— Keenan Manning

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Orthon

Setlist:

1. Transmigrate of Death

2. Prediction of Ancient Darkness

3. Lake of Sins

4. The Ironic World

5. Curse of the Lord

What a band. Their composition style instantly reminded me of the grandiose, overpowering melodies of King Diamond, but with low-register, guttural vocals. The symphonicness of their sound cannot be overstated – the sound clearly derives from classical music with more time being devoted to develop note patterns (rather than the riff-focus of other forms of metal). The keyboards are wonderfully discreet, and serve to underline the melodies (much like a cello in an orchestra) maintaining an organ-esque tone that allows them to sound like they don’t take themselves too seriously while playing up the drama deliciously. Their guitarists sound like they’ve grown up on a staple of Paul Gilbert and people like Yngwie Malmsteen which, again, can be monotonous to the critical ear but are also great to listen to. Top this off with the much more heavy metal style of the drums (particularly cymbals), and you get a wonderfully moody mix of songs which also have different parts but which are melded together masterfully.

They’ve made it a practice to intro their songs, like an overture at the start of an opera, and the one from Prediction… was particularly theatrical, leading into a headbanging fest of a song, amazingly, outside of 4/4 (!!). They move between many different kinds of metal (including speeds), and the guitarists take the time to develop the ideas, rather than just touch bases, as in the middle portion of Lake of Sins, or the thrash leanings of The Ironic World. Yet, the song was brief in its detail – nothing was played or sung for any longer than was needed, and the compositions were, unusually, replete with emotional appeal (in a metal effin’ song… who’da thunk it?!), embodied in Curse of the Lord. Their approach to metal doesn’t flag, and every moment of their set felt like something different was happening – which is not really something you can plan, even with their all their symphonic deliberateness.

— Shashwati

photos © Copyright 2011 by ANGUS LEUNG

poster by ANGUS LEUNG

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