Massacre Conspiracy, Sacwrath and more at Rum Jungle (2013)

Rum Jungle (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Massacre Conspiracy, Sacwrath, Dazed Garden, Sleeping Sorrows, Black Territory, The Padangs, Ballad For Layla, Dragon Red, Azure For Janne, ,
On 8 September, just a few days after LAMB OF GOD's Malaysian debut was cancelled, […]
By Dorothy Cheng
September 8, 2013

On 8 September, just a few days after LAMB OF GOD's Malaysian debut was cancelled, Metalheads defiantly flocked to one of Kuala Lumpur's most popular pubs, Rum Jungle, for a shameless metal feast organised by Backyard Entertainment: Metal Goes Pop, The Series. Backyard Entertainment supremoes Syahrizal Zainal Abidin and Lily Zahara Razali set up the concert with the goal to introduce metal to a more mainstream crowd by having the bands cover two pop tunes and play three of their own original songs. I've never heard any of these bands live before and intentionally brought two non-Metalhead friends with me (they usually to listen to EDM or indie Pop / Rock) to get a wider perspective. To my surprise, the organisers had tricks up their sleeves too, inviting a secret judge to pick two acts with the best pop covers of the night.

Another feature of the night was Backyard Entertainment's collaboration with the Red Ribbon Youth Club (RRYC), which comes under the Malaysian AIDS Council, to raise awareness of the AIDS disease and help raise funds through merchandise sold at the RRYC booth and through tickets sold, which will contribute RM 5 for every ticket sold. At around 4 pm, the venue was teeming with liveliness and the audience was ready to go. Japanese Metalcore band DAZED GARDEN opened the show with an electrifying and blistering set – the quartet were so energetic that their short stint on stage was like an espresso shot to counter the gloomy weather that plagued KL that night.

First of the local acts was SLEEPING SORROWS, a seven-man Metalcore outfit from KL, recognised as one of the scene's youngest talents (their ages range from 17 to 23). The pop hits they covered were "Diamonds" by Rihanna and "Alejandro" by Lady Gaga. I never liked either song by either diva, especially "Diamonds", which I find incredible annoying, but SLEEPING SORROWS changed my mind. The double shot vocals of Ekyram (who projected lower vocals) and newest member Asyraff (who had killer banshee screams) were perfect together, gelling immaculately and complementing each other, making their act the most vocally dynamic of the night.

Next up was the legendary BLACK TERRITORY, one of the more prominent Metalcore / Melodic Death Metal bands in KL. They have a darker edge over many of their counterparts and a more underground vibe, making them significantly heavier, and when I say heavy, I mean the shit that makes the ground shake. They had the most sophisticated covers with Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" and Dido's "Thank You", the latter of which I really commend due to its structure, which is hard to convert to Metal, and the nature of Dido, who is so unique and individual that it's difficult to shake her looming vibe. But the band managed to making the song very much their own, so much so that they didn't look like they were performing covers.

Third in the lineup was THE PADANGS, an energetic Metalcore quintet from Kajang. Typically, Kajang is known for satays and random open spaces, but it is now apparent that it also exports a new breed of Metalcore, one that has experimental and pop influences. Covers aside, THE PADANGS do have a Pop-ish edge with generous use of the keyboards and a refreshingly crisp sound and image. Their first cover of the night was Justin Bieber's "Baby", which I consider the night's most danceable cover. They also covered Justin Timberlake's "Mirror", but I still preferred "Baby". Something about its utter Pop-ishness made it the best candidate to be ripped apart with every Metalcore punch the band could produce.

BALLAD FOR LAYLA was the next band to take the stage. Identifying themselves as "melodic Metalcore", they broke into a rapturous cover of Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble". Personally, that cover took the cake home for me that night. BALLAD FOR LAYLA's version is hands down the best Metal cover of that song I've heard, and it's mostly because of vocalist One Jet. He was at the top of his game and was one of the vocalists who could pull-off singing at a really high-pitch. They also covered Britney Spears' "Hold It against Me" but their thunderous cover of "I Knew You Were Trouble" was the louder and heavier one of the night, also more memorable because the Metal-fying of the song added more meaning to it. Previously, it was just about a girl whining about some guy. But played in the metal style, it takes on dozens of other dimensions and becomes applicable in a whole new light, and that's the beauty of metal.

The next band does not identifying strictly with any particular metal subgenre, but DRAGON RED are real veterans in the music scene – they're really comfortable onstage and have natural, arresting charisma. Vocalists Adam Lobo and Landslyde sound like professionals who sing for a career. If you're talking about the most (technically) perfect live act of the night, DRAGON RED was it. They have everything going for them – incendiary drum and bass grooves, blues-y guitar work, and gods for vocalists. They very expertly covered DURAN DURAN's "Come Undone" and Adele's "Skyfall", the latter of which brought the house smack down completely through their expert use of performance dynamics and musical climaxes. They also very briefly covered NIRVANA's "Heart Shaped Box" and did a full-on performance of COAL CHAMBER's "Loco". As emcee Ahmad Syafiq Zakaria said, "Loco" saw the audience at their liveliest the entire night, proof that DRAGON RED is one of those really professional bands that level out an entire venue and leave a lasting impression.

"Hardcore music is about performing from your heart. It's the passion that counts and it's about following your dreams, and our dream is to be here performing for you all tonight!" These were the words of AZURE FOR JANNE (A4J) vocalist SanJay – a truly endearing band due to the honesty of their sincerity. They tore through Kesha's "Die Young" and Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child" where they proved to be the most unique amongst the other Hardcore acts. They have a refreshing take on rhythm that can be quite complex and technical at some points and they were the most on point that night in terms of timing. All the other Hardcore acts took on their covers by playing the verses the way they would normally play breakdowns except this time with chords instead of just on open strings and the choruses would be played full on with the chords, but A4J's their take on rhythm adding a different dynamic to the Hardcore genre in terms of songwriting.

The next act has been referred to as "the closest you can get to LAMB OF GOD in Malaysia". Hailing from Subang Jaya, SACWRATH opened their set with the popular "Oops I Did It Again" by Britney Spears. As a Melodic Death Metal act, I expected them to follow CHILDREN OF BODOM's cover of the same song note for note, but they took a bold step and switched it up to make it more groovy and jazzy with some Rock sensibilities, in a way, bracing the audience for the calm before the storm. They did one cover before launching into a medley of original songs, and this is where SACWRATH truly shone, whereas most of the other bands' standout moments were during their covers. They were the most technical band of the night and gave audiences a refreshing dose of pure heaviness and originality. I consider them the heaviest act, for their intensely technical riffs to blazing guitar solos and for the first and only time that night, a drum solo. Malaysian Metalhead's, fear not if you can't catch LAMB OF GOD live, SACWRATH is here to carry the flag.

At last, headliners and 2012 Shout! Award winners for best new artist MASSACRE CONSPIRACY took to the stage, much to the excitement of fans. The majority of people were there to see MASSACRE CONSPIRACY, and the band wasted no time in obliging their fans by tearing into their rather cheeky covers, "The Call" by the Backstreet Boys and "Tearin' Up My Heart" by N'Sync. The Metal crowd never ceases to amaze me – they had been headbanging and at some points even moshing since 4pm, and by 10pm they were louder and crazier than ever during MASSACRE CONSPIRACY's set. Audience and band interaction was at its absolute high point by this time, and I attribute this to the band's absolute finesse in executing an impressively chiselled performance, despite how chaotic the audience was. In the end, the secret judge, revealed to be Kombat (ex-THE PILGRIMS, current KUGIRAN D'TEPI PANTAI), chose DRAGON RED and MASSACRE CONSPIRACY as the two bands that performed the best pop covers – giving them the chance to perform at the prestigious Sepang F1 Circuit's upcoming event and also rewarding them with some goodies courtesy of Backyard Entertainment's sponsors.

But since tonight was catered more for non-Metalhead's, let's hear what my two guests had to say: "The Metal versions of pop songs were so much better than the originals! I know that metal music is loud, but I didn't expect it to be that loud! My ears exploded and I felt like Satan was emerging somewhere from the smoke machines. I now appreciate Metal music more and don't just see it as 'noise' as I realise the technical difficulty required and its energy is contagious," said Victoria. However, she admits that she still feels intimidated by Metalheads, but said that metal music does not make her feel violent and bloodthirsty, only motivated and empowered. Abigail said she was taken aback at first when her eardrums were attacked by the "onslaught of a massive array of crashes and riffs that I was not used to". "It was truly a beautiful sight to behold as I watched the ones that society would stereotype with negative connotations based on their looks simply headbanging and letting loose while the music spoke to their souls in ways an outsider wouldn't understand," she said. She kept her distance from the stage though, only observing what she called a "spectacular amalgamation" of "pulsating lights, angst beats and unintelligible screams".

I am happy to report that both Abigail and Victoria's ears rang for several days after the concert.

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