Dagens Nyheter (link to original review in Swedish)
Entire review in english:
- Swedes have such a hunger. If they want to do something, they just do it. It is so different here.
Deen Djinn is a singer in Singapore band Zushakon and somewhat obsessed with Nordic metal. All of his favorite bands are Nordic: Mercyful Faith, Entombed, Dismember, Dissection, In Flames … He has a Thors hammer and several runes tattooed on his body and think he must have been a Swedish Viking in a past life. Furthermore he thanks metal for helping him through a difficult childhood and upbringing to an orderly life with home and family.
In all its strangeness, he is typical of the people who come forward in siblings Lena & John Resborns magnificent work of hard rock/metal in Southeast Asia, a coffee table volume that collects pictures and stories from a dozen different places in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Rarely do we encounter as fascinating testimony of how global metal (in the broad sense) has become. At the same time, the conditions for the metal in Southeast Asia are not quite as in Western Europe. Everywhere, it is a narrow cultural manifestation seen with strong suspicion by the authorities, who considers the music as subversive on political and / or religious grounds and it often require bribes to be exercised at all.
An impressive work lies behind the book. To even get in contact with the bands is a challenge, but through a web of connections the siblings Resborn succeed to even find an underground scene in the strict Muslim Banda Aceh in northern Sumatra, although it is a remnant of what existed before the 2004 tsunami. The extremely underground punk scene in Thailand’s terror troubled southern provinces – which is characterized by strong anti-everything-message - they never managed to approach.
There is enough variation be amazed by all the same. On one hand, Indonesian Purgatory are wearing masks of Slipknot-type playing nu-metal with a strict Islamic message, and whose fans – Mogers – not even drink alcohol. Or Indian-Singaporean Rudra who is working on a trilogy metal album based on Hindu philosophy, where Part 1 started from the Upanishads and the runner up continues from from the Smriti.
On the other hand Militant Attack from Kuching in Malaysian Borneo, derived from Dajak headhunters who argues that extreme metal is a more modern way to channel the same kind of aggression. Or Karinding Attack from Indonesian Bandung, which has not only introduced the traditional instruments Karinding, Suling and Celempung in their music, but also wants to incorporate fakir art/ magic healing Debus. The stage where you just imitate models from Europe and the U.S. seem to be passed.
The fact that John Resborns photography is evocative seems reasonable, given that this was originally supposed to be a photo book. But how lucky that the project grew and deepened and gave room for so much you had no idea you wanted to know.
By Nils Hanson / DN
Svenska Dagbladet (link to original review in Swedish)
Entire review in english:
When West’s hard rock scene has long been commercialized, expanded and almost entirely less dramatic as a potential threat to society, then our attention turns to that part of the world where metal is still very much an counterculture-movement.
After 2007 and the 2008 documentary film “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” and “Global Metal” comes sibblings Lena and John Resborns image and text description of the punk, hardcore and metal scenes in Southeast Asia. It is an interesting document. For where punk and hardcore music once occurred in a white and angry working class in England and the U.S., and the more aggressive forms of hard rock took a nihilistic and religious distance from the conventional society frames, now the current western alternative culture has largely become stagnant in the sense that the message has no particularly prominent role, or that no one cares about it. The “alternative” is the same, and as harmless as the norm.
Then it may be useful to read about how big brother society in Singapore prevents metal band from playing their music in public places, or how it is enough to do a fanzine in Bali to attract the government censorship department – demanding both meetings and bribes. The death and black metal that was invented in Scandinavia may have created some controversy in the 90s, but is now an almost totally accepted part of our cultural heritage. Far from reality in Indonesia, for example, in other words.
The siblings Resborn has traveled to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysian Borneo where they gathered interviews with a variety of musicians and fans, resulting in a legitimate eclectic portrayal of what the gigantic umbrella term “underground music” is. Much is, as expected, full of interesting contradictions. As Purgatory from Jakarta, who see themselves as Islamic missionaries, and oddly enough, uses the American style of nu-metal to combat the influence of western culture on Indonesian youth. Or Max in the Malaysian band Barbalans who says he is a Muslim, but that he worships Satan. How black metal and Christianity could go together is for Swedish metalheads an old discussion and this takes on a new dimension when it is replaced with Islam.
Lena Resborns text is flanked by John Resborns striking photographs of Balinese kids with similar attractive 16-hole boots, female metal singers with veils, and sweaty live performances. Best looking image is on mentioned Max, a tall Malaysian with corpse paint in a sudden meeting with a man from the local population. Reminiscent of photographer Peter Beste, who had great success with his striking images of Norwegian black metallers, not least from an audience that has never before been in contact with a similar subculture.
Such a picture on the cover, instead of Dinan´s unfortunate murky drawing, had guaranteed the book a place on every hipster coffee table.
By Linnéa Olsson
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