Live Review from The Underground’s 18th Year Anniversary Party
Progressive-metalcore band Parallel Horizons are Underground veterans and it shows. “Be on your worst behaviour. Disrespect your surroundings”, said Naseem, who works full time as an English teacher by day, while introducing Asylum in the second half of the set. And the crowd did. Having played at UG events since 2015, Parallel Horizons showed up with their own mosh-pitting entourage that jumped, beck and call, whenever lead singer Naseem demanded.
The band’s first song was Scorn. As a vestal virgin of the band, the demonic screams and devilish guitars were heavy and pounding, but the biggest shock was the immediate change in Naseem’s performance. His well spoken, calm demeaour which introduced the song juxtaposed with the two-faced demon spitting out in every growl he made. His singing was not just singing, it was yelling, it was rapping, it was gargling. He performed like four spirits unabled to be exorcised or separated from one another.
Their next song Ashen One showed a more restrained yet equally entrapping part of the band’s performance. Starting with a pre-recorded VO over a smooth melodic intro, the song quickly gave way to Moderno guitar slashing, heavy pounding from Shaun’s drums and a stern faced Naseem swapping between growling and whispering. He stared sternly at the audience through most of the song – in fact most of the night – causing fear not so much from his animalistic grunts but from how his whole body stays still while he performs.
The next song Everlasting was similar to Ashen One except with more sound effects – pre-rec vox, synths, loops and the like. In a way I wouldn’t even really call it a song, it was more of a mixed soundscape. As with a lot of their recent songs (Everlasting is from around 2021 – although there doesn’t seem to be a studio recording yet), there is a symphonic mix of metal, piano and other styles that create a whole song. But while it made for a very interesting and multifaceted performance, its execution on stage was perhaps my one criticism – the sound system couldn’t handle it. There were lyrics – maybe – in the mix somewhere. And maybe there was some differentiation between the instruments too, but it was not clear. I found it difficult to hear any real lyrics the whole show to be honest, a combination of the venue’s limitations and the band not really setting up for the plethora of things they needed to do on stage other than play their own instruments – The changeover from the previous band to them was almost half an hour long but there were still cracks and squeeks!
A highlight from the second half of the set was Amor, a classic metal love song. Although more straightforward than their other satanic offerings, it was just as tight and exciting. The clear emotional melody was interspersed by rapping; even the drumming got emotional. And don’t think I didn’t catch the cliche sappy key change up a tone – you can’t have a love song without that!
In short, Parallel Horizons performed well enough to summon the devil. Every song was written and performed tight. But not just musically tight – you’d expect a band to do that – but the whole performance from the banter to their own stage personalities were spot on. Just a shame that the speakers couldn’t handle them.
– Cyril Ma
Live review from Underground Heavy #20
“I’ve discovered new vocal technique: bronchitis,” Parallel Horizons’ Naseem Khan quipped wheezily at the start of their Heavy 20 opening set. While most vocalists’ performance would be hindered by illness, Khan took full advantage of his shredded larynx, ripping out some extra phlegmy barks, hoarse shouts and reptilian screeching throughout the band’s five songs.
Parallel Horizons should have been headlining Heavy 20, but elected to perform first. A solid selection of new tracks debuted a sound leaning more towards post-hardcore than the death-tinged metalcore the group has previously espoused, allowing Khan to show off his talent for clean singing as well as his signature growls.
The bass and drums came hefty and dense on opener Distress, while guitarist Jerome Turner, delivering enough noise to fool the crowd into thinking there was a second player hidden somewhere behind the scenes, showed off his impressive precision and technical skill. Fronting their death influences, the band ploughed into Marrow, a brutal platform for the sickly Khan’s shout-screech-sing variation, signed off with a furious breakdown.
Penultimate song Asphyxia, from the group’s 2017 debut album Dissonant Echoes, ratcheted up the tempo. Razor-sharp screams gave way to a rhythmic onslaught from Turner and intricate basslines by Aaron Mordeno that fired up the room; a punter wearing rather tiny shorts leaped into the fray and a small pit began forming around him. “We played Asphyxia during a Shazza show, our first show. I just screamed a load of bullshit because I couldn’t remember the lyrics,” Khan revealed to chuckles and cheers from the crowd.
On last song Thoughtseize, bouncing tom-tom drums built to a pummelling beat that inspired more moshing and Khan’s deep, frog-like gurgles made it sounds like he was burping in a sewer. The shorts-wearing gig-goer whipped his shirt off and began windmilling it in excitement to the sound of blistering riffs and smashing drums. Parallel Horizons’ seemingly effortless show proved that, in sickness or in health, they are one of Hong Kong’s premier metal acts and are among the most exhilarating live performers the city has to offer.
– El Jay
Live review from Heavy 18
1. Amalgamate (intro)
5. Paper Cranes
Before Parallel Horizons had even started playing, someone in the crowd put their hood up: a surefire sign that things were about to get crazy. That guy clearly didn’t want to get identified on CCTV after mashing someone’s face. Anticipation was raised as the band started tuning up to the sound of what felt like endless guitar noodling. It had been a couple of years since the band were last at UG, and they were about to return with the full crushing force of their melodic metal core.
After intro track Amalgamate gave the show a slick start, there was barely any let up in the intense shredding and crashing drums. Singer Naseem Khan unleashed his vocals with a menacing scream, before torturing his windpipe by alternating between dog-like barks, warped shrieking and pained singing. Versatile! On first song Rift, his guttural barking gave way to a pit that whirled into a frothing maelstrom.
A twinkly, calming backing track lulled the crowd into a false sense of security, before opening up to rapid arpeggios and buffeting riffs that spotlit guitarists Jerome Turner (of Sugar Bro fame) and Sam Rodriguez, as they showed off their dual dexterity. Khan’s choking growl fell somewhere between Count Your Blessings-era Bring Me The Horizon and black metallers Abigail Williams.
Compressed guitar gurgles recalling Slipknot’s The Negative One began Psychosis. Rodriguez played it low as the pit churned, signaling the arrival of guest vocalist Jacey Leung, from Instinct of Sight. In a song about “overcoming fear”, her high wails mixed the tones of Paramore Hayley Williams and Circa Survive’s Anthony Green. However, her voice wasn’t strong enough to compete with the onslaught of sound from the band, which caused her to become painfully off-key.
Pillars began with a gentle yet ominous intro, leading to some clever finger-tapping from Rodriguez. A single bark from Khan sent the pit into overdrive. He looked impressed as he stood back to take a sip from a tiny pink carton of strawberry milkshake; the most metal of beverages.
Final track Transcendence was the band’s big finale. A fast, middle eastern-sounding backing track was probably intended to conjure up some mysticism, but ended up sounding more like a taxi driver’s ringtone. Ross Flores dived in with a spring-loaded bass thrum, while Turner and Rodriguez tore into some pretty intricate work. Khan showed off his soulful side by singing a few bars, but then threw his entire lung capacity into breathless growls and borborygymic retches that came from deep within.
In terms of stage presence, personality and execution, Parallel Horizons had it down. Their performance conjured up just the right level of ominous atmosphere to capture the crowd in the palm of their hands, while the tight musicianship of the members warranted the broad range of influences this exemplary Hong Kong group employ.
– El Jay
Live review from Heavy 11
2. Through the Rain
3. Paper Cranes
The night began with Underground newbies Parallel Horizons, who are one of the few bands I have seen around that actually describe themselves accurately and informatively. In particular, their use of the coinage ‘djent’ in description immediately points to exactly what they sound like (if you’re familiar with the term); they have a very highly-distorted, melody-oriented, chainsaw-buzzy guitar with lots of gain, a generally thudding rhythm section and a singer alternating between screaming and singing. Along with their other self-descriptors, they describe their own music pretty well. They’re in the genre of bands that sound like Edgar Winter Group’s Frankenstein with less groovy rhythms, more shredding and screaming and at the pace of Judas Priest. Not many bands seem able to accurately assess their sound, so kudos to these guys on that front.
The band are all pretty solid in general, with few noticeable flubs and their drummer, in particular, is really kicking; however, their singer could do with some lessons for when he sings. The drop-off in quality from screaming to singing is really large; either cut down the singing bits to focus on his strength, or improve the singing. The tyranny of metal and the technical perfection it demands to sound good will allow little else. You don’t have to be a great singer, but the standard HK-metal-male-vocalist voice just won’t do. It probably doesn’t help, though, that his mic seemed to be mixed very dry, and made his voice stand out uncomfortably from the rest of the mix. They generally oscillated between death metal/metalcore melodic bits and the standard headbangy breakdowns but to my immense surprise, there was a very strong connective thread between the different sections of most songs (particularly Into the Rain and Psychosis). The changes seemed natural, were warranted and not jarring; considering that this has been a bugbear of mine for a while, they get a lot of praise from me on this front.
However, they do descend into lollipop metal at times, with just a colourful-sounding, chromatic guitar melody and fairly samey rhythms; given that screaming generally means most of your lyrics won’t be understood, this makes their songs underwhelming and difficult to tell apart after a while. Still, given that they’re a very new band, I have high hopes that they are working on differentiating their sound from the landscape of other bands. A good Underground debut, and certainly a good set to start off the show with.
— Shashwati Kala