Globalization is the word of the moment. As strange as it may be to some, many of us, the initiated, the metalheads are fully aware that metal is playing its own unique part in globalization, has been since a band called Sepultura came stampeding out of Brazil, making all heads bang as they went, or KISS and Deep Purple played their first shows in Japan. Combine that with the massive worldwide tours that have been embarked upon by bands such as Iron Maiden and Metallica, and the metal world is growing exponentially.
Metal music is no longer the sole privilege of the UK, America, Scandinavia and Europe. There are now metal scenes all around the globe. China, India, South America, Africa, even countries such as Iraq, Israel and Saudi Arabia have their own metal bands! Not very long ago, this would have been a bizarre thought. True, many of the bands in these countries do not gain much (if any!) recognition far beyond their homelands, but some have managed. Orphaned Land, Melechesh and Chthonic are examples of this. However, there is one scene which boasts a vast plethora of bands that SHOULD NOT go unrecognized. That scene is in the far-east country of Indonesia.
This scene, as any round the world, consists of many different sounds, many different styles of metal but the mainstay of the Indonesian metal scene is extreme death metal in it's various forms; death metal, brutal death metal, slamming brutal death metal and technical death metal. There are many quality bands to check out; Burgerkill, Jasad, Siksakubur, Trojan, Viscral, Djin, Saffar, Dead Squad, Revenge, Brutal Corpse and Kaluman to name but a few.
By attending Bloodstock Open Air, I was fortunate enough to see Burgerkill and Jasad play on UK soil for the first time, on the same day. I was familiar with their music and was not disappointed by their performances. To me, these two bands represented a scene which is itching to burst loose from its homeland and take the metal world by storm. Onstage they showed conviction, ambition and an invigorating amount of passion for their art. In me, these performances drove me to delve deeper into the Indonesian scene, gain more knowledge about it and ultimately write this article. In order to do this I needed to hear an insiders perspective on this fascinating breeding ground of metal. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with former Before I Die member Ilham Priono, who was gracious enough to answer plenty of questions on the subject. The following is our conversation;
Me: "I have heard a lot about metal in Indonesia, particularly in Jakarta and Bandung...
Illham: "If you wish to know the metal scene's story in both cities, you should check out bands such as Siksakubur, Tengkorak and Dead Squad from Jakarta and Jasad, Burgerkill and Jeruji from Bandung.
Me: "Tell me about the start of the scene in Indonesia"
Illham: "The first metal community in Indonesia was in Jakarta, early in 1988, (that was) the first time the metal community (began) appearing in public. They hung out at the Pid Pub, a small pub in the shopping area of Pondok Indah, South Jakarta. According to Krishna of Sucker Head (Jakarta Death/Thrash band), each night of the week the pub's owner would give bands a stage in the front of the pub. Emerging metal bands continued to play metal music gigs at the venue; Roxx, (Heavy Metal/Hard Rock), Sucker Head playing (Death/Thrash Metal), Rotor (Thrash Metal), Mortus (Thrash Metal), and Alien Scream (Thrash Metal). Subsequently, some of the bands split and created new bands.
These bands were only playing and recording cover songs from other bands. Among them all, the only lucky ones were Roxx (who recorded) their first single 'Rock Echoed'. This happened because they were one of the finalists of Festival Rock Indonesia 5. (They) Got a record label contract, (which) at the time is something quite impossible, because of how difficult it is to penetrate the label with that kind of music at that time. (They) sent a demo to an alternative radio (station). At that time, radio stations who would often play the demo were Bahamas Radio, Radio Metro, Jaya Radio SK and Radio Mustang.
The most dominant was Mustang Radio, because they had a program called Rock 'N' Rhythm every Wednesday night from 19:00 to 21:00. They even once surprised (us) by (playing) Sepultura, when they came to Jakarta in 1992. In addition to radio, mass media that often reviewed the new rock and metal at that time (were) only HAI Magzine, Tabloid Citra Music, and Vista Magazine. Studio One Feel, which is the oldest music studio which allows rock and metal, even old metal bands from the capital never touched this studio."
Me: "What were the first metal bands that influenced the Indonesian scene? You mentioned Sepultura, but were there others?"
Illham: "Indonesian metal in the 90's was influenced by two metal concerts; Sepultura in 1992, and Metallica in Jakarta, 1993. The concerts gave considerable contribution to the development of metal bands in Indonesia. After the successful Sepultura 'burn' in Jakarta and Surubaya, Roxx released a self-titled debut album under their Blackboard label. The album became one of the classic Indonesian speed metal albums of the 90's.
Rotor got the lucky card after phenomenal success opening for Metallica for two consecutive days in Lebak Bulus Stadium, after recommendations from the manager of Metallica. Rotor released 'Behind The 8th Ball' on the first major label in Indonesia, Aquarius Musikindo. Sucker Head (comprised of two members of Rotor) released 'The Sucker Head' after signing with Aquarius Musikindo, (which was a) new beginning in 1995."
Me: "Has there ever been any kind of opposition to metal from religious of political powers in Indonesia?"
Illham: "In Indonesia, many metal bands, just like in other countries are criticized by the government and socially. There are some black metal bands, but not as famous (as the) death metal bands. But there are some bands whose lyrics were very religious. Purgatory (Nu-Metal) filled out their lyrics with stories from the Quran, Saffar (Death Metal) were the same."
Me: "With those two bands putting Islamic stories into their music, have the black metal bands ever openly criticised Islam?"
Illham: "Despite many differences of religion, it's not causing a split in the underground music (scene). So far, no one has questioned the religious differences."
Me: "Considering Indonesia's very extreme sounds, how do the fans view international mainstream metal bands such as Bullet For My Valentine, Killswitch Engage, Avenged Sevenfold, Lamb Of God, etc.?"
Illham: "Those bands have all visited Indonesia several years ago. They play an important role in the metal music industry in Indonesia. Burgerkill have opened as guests for As I Lay Dying and Bring Me The Horizon. They have fanatical fans in Indonesia, including me. I played Metalcore before joining Before I Die in 2009. I think if they come back for a concert, many fans will come."
Me: "Recently Burgerkill and Jasad played their first shows in Europe at Wacken Open Air and Bloodstock Open Air. How much does it mean for Indonesian bands to play abroad?
Illham: "It is very meaningful for us. They've opened the gateway to an international class. Indonesia has a lot of talented musicians who have not been exposed to the world. I hope Indonesian musicians can perform again in Europe. This is the first time Indonesian musicians are playing Europe. So far, Indonesian musicians are always gigging in Southeast Asia and Australia. I often see Australian bands in Indonesia and vice-versa. If there is an opportunity to be able to perform in other countries, surely Indonesian musicians will continue to grow. In Indonesia it is very difficult to hold a metal event."
Me: "Why so difficult?"
Illham: "We have to give a lot of money to police! They are corrupt. They believe that metal music events only cause unrest. I live in Cilegon City; since 2010 the police have banned metal events."
Me: "Are metal shows therefor very secret, to avoid police involvement?"
Illham: "For any events, you must have a permit from the police, if you do not want to be stopped by them."
Me: "Do the politics of Indonesia play a part in Indonesian band's lyrics?"
Illham: "Yes. They criticize the government, too."
Me: "This is interesting to me, as I heard not long ago that Indonesia's new president, Joko Widodo, is a metal fan."
Illham: "Yes, it's true..."
Me: "Do you believe he will act to make it easier to hold metal events?"
Illham: "I don't think so"
Me: "Why not?"
Illham: "I think Mr Joko will be busy with his government system and politics."
Me: What message do you have for western metal fans that want to check out Indonesia's scene?"
Illham: "Just visit Indonesia, a country with culture, but don't forget to enjoy Indonesian distortion too. Let's share the culture."
Along with this unique insight into the beginnings and the challenges of the Indonesian metal scene, Illham was good enough to give me recommendations of Indonesian bands to listen to. It only seems right to share these bands with you all, below. So, have a listen, embrace the crushing brutality of Indonesian metal, and let us all continue to expand this metal world that we are proud to inhabit.
Burgerkill - 'Under The Scars' (Death Metal/Metalcore from Bandung)
Revenge - 'Servant Of The Myth' (Technical Death Metal from Jakarta)
Dead Squad - 'Manufaktur Replika Baptis' (Technical/Progressive Death Metal from Jakarta)
Before I Die - 'Reconstruction Of Murder' (Brutal Death Metal from Jakarta)
Siksakubur - 'Merah Hitam Hijau' (Death Metal from Jakarta)
Undergod - 'Kudak Kadek' (Brutal Death Metal from Bandung)
Saffar - 'Mandatory El Arshy' (Death Metal from Bandung)
Trojan - 'Pleasure Of Sickness' (Brutal Death Metal from Bali)
Djin - 'Ill Millenium' (Technical Death Metal from Medan)
Bleeding Corpse - 'Konspirasi Ajal' (Brutal Death Metal from Bandung)
Jasad - 'Liman Soka' (Brutal Death Metal from Bandung)
Kaluman - 'Eksekusi Mati' (Brutal Death Metal from Bandung)