Everyone’s bucket list should include a Weot Skam concert, assuming that is that you’ve heard of them. Well I had, and I was lucky enough to be in the right part of Malaysia at the right time in order to be able to see them and three other bands from Penang, a generally unknown epicentre of the metal scene, all performing their art at this concert.

Today’s venue, the Lokalhouz, is a community centre come bar come guest house close to the docklands area of Butterworth in Penang state. Butterworth is a gritty sort of place with a container and ferry terminal, a bit like Southampton, but with hot and humid weather, and better food. I like it.

I’d been apologetically warned that the concert wouldn’t start at the advertised time of 8pm. This is a worldwide phenomenon, so apologies were unnecessary, besides which it gave me the chance to take in the venue and surroundings, and meet people. I immediately felt at home.

At around 9.30pm something happened. Sound checks had been going on, then without ceremony De Dang started their set. Most people stayed outside. My one and only previous experience of Asian concerts told me this is normal, and is not any disrespect to the bands. It has to be said that sitting outside in a warm and dusty street in Malaysia is a different proposition from standing in the cold and rain on Camden High Street. My research on De Dang beforehand led to precisely nothing, which is rare in this day and age, so this truly was an underground experience. I confess I am not much further forward with this band now. What I heard was an energetic enough but at times disharmonious heavy rock set, which included a Foo Fighters cover – thanks to Leon Low for pointing that one out. For me there was work to be done to develop a musical personality. De Dang thus faded into the obscurity from whence they came.

I’ve heard of Penang White Coffee and Penang Laksa, but White Crow has the distinction of laying claim in this food heaven to Penang Experimental Metal. Time to find out what it’s all about. Something spicy, maybe? My first impression was the sound of a distant land. This, I worked out later after guitarist Nick was kind enough to share with me the set list, was the start of “Betrothal of Prophets”. The bassist sat on a stool while the rest looked down earnestly – ah, the post metal posture. A dozen or so spectators looked on with three times as many outside, as White Crow bombed their way crunchily through their musical images of a dark and faintly apocalyptic nature. The room was filled with heavy and heavier instrumentals, with the occasional sound of crashing waves and the expanse of explosions. Unfortunately the ringing guitar was slightly off, and I thought the band could have been smarter with their sound samples, which created sonic interferences for sure but in my book were overused to the detriment of a cohesive atmosphere. Without doubt this was an intense and interesting set, but I just felt that the band, who I learnt had been together for a couple of years, need to develop their ideas and let themselves go more on stage. The clear aspiration was in the direction of epic soundscapes, and it was weighty stuff for sure, but a combination of hesitancy and technical factors prevented them from hitting the peaks tonight. There’s no question about the band’s potential though, and they’re worth checking out on whitecrowmy.bandcamp.com. For the record, their set list tonight was: Prelude – Betrothal of Prophets – Decline of an Empire – Brethren and Betrayer.

While we waited for the next band to set up, one of the spectators performed magic tricks outside to the delight of everyone watching. Now that’s a first at a concert. Such highly entertaining distractions aside, it was quite nice to get back in the room where it was reasonably cool with a fan in operation, in contrast to the sticky outside conditions. 

Vigil seem a happy bunch. At 10.40pm, they got into their stride immediately with tight play, a pungent beat and a grungy but pleasant rock rhythm. It reminded me of nights out at the Rose pub in Biggleswade. I guess that’s not the most glowing accolade, as I’m essentially equating Vigil to a pub band, but they were good nights out. The singer, who created warmth with his outgoing personality, had an expressively haunting voice, not dissimilar to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder – credit again to Leon for clarifying my thought here. This was followed by a succession of dreary grunge/fuzz rock numbers of yesteryear. If I’m being charitable, there was a kind of psychedelic blues rock element to it but for this was too much stuck in a time warp and lacking in originality. Vigil did however finish with an upbeat number. As the drummer set the tone, I reflected that this band was much better when playing faster and melodically. Even then an opportunity was missed as the nature of the song could have led to a spectacular blaze of glory to finish but it just fizzled out. This was a schizophrenic performance, with the party rock winning out in entertainment value over the fuzzy grunge stuff. All in all, this was not my cup of tea.

All the people present at this concert tonight were very nice, but most striking were the personalities of the headlining band. Weot Skam look like a mischievous bunch. The drummer couldn’t stop laughing. After a stuttering start, crash-bang-wallop and punk, Malaysian style, was upon us. Vocalist Dzul screeched inaudibly. At the end of the first song “Masih Liar” (Still Wild), the drum kit disintegrated. The drummer wasn’t laughing now. The drum re-assembled and attendant sound quality issues fixed, Weot Skam burst into the anthemic “I Rather Watch Kung Fu Movie than Edisi Siasat”. A bit more hardcore this time. Dzul chatted with the audience of twenty odd. The band then gave a great rendition of Pisschrist’s “Fight Back”. Now if this had been Europe many bands would have sought audience participation, which always strikes me as a sign of insecurity. No such nonsense here and no need as Weot Skam sucked us in to the infectiousness. This was just plain old catchy punk with the required hammer and tongs delivery. Dzul, whose waif-like frame explained why XL t-shirts will never be a best seller here, pogo’ed with his hair falling down his face, and matched the defiant tone which his instrumentalists were setting. Bassist Leon looked menacing and serious with his headband and grim expression, but this was good time punk hardcore: bags of aggression and unlimited motion and energy. Dzul bucked the template somewhat by not scowling or jumping into the audience for a fight. In truth, he didn’t seem the type. The band’s stage persona was one of joy. I came to the firm conclusion that the drummer had been overdoing his intake of laughing gas. “Cheers, mate”, announced Dzul – since when did that gem become part of the Malay language? Off we went into “Kamjat”, helpfully translated by Leon as “Bastard”. Rumbling thunder complemented personality and sheer energy. Weot Skam then played the four songs from their recently released split ep. Mindful of my presence, Dzul thoughtfully translated “Kan Lemma Puki Chow Cibai” as “You are beautiful”. No, I don’t think so, Dzul. I had looked this up before coming, and let’s just say it’s rude. Nice try, mate. The crowd laughed. Weot Skam’s interaction with the crowd was brilliant, but the crowd themselves were largely impassive. Tired out maybe as we passed the midnight hour? Strange that. I felt charged up. Quite aside from Leon’s headswinging, the laughing and joking and general histrionics, the structure of these compact songs was really good with everyone playing their part towards a greater whole. It would be easy to overlook the technical skill, which the instrumentalists have in creating this non-stop adrenaline rush. The set ended with one more piece of angry firepower, “Berhenti Bermimpi” (Stop Dreaming), before the audience expressed its warm appreciation of this dynamic performance, and left to re-join the throng outside.

Weot Skam’s set list was: Masih Liar – I Rather Watch Kungfu Movie than Edisi Siasat – Fight Back (Pisschrist cover) – Knock Out – Kamjat – Laksama Hang Cibai – Apa Lancau – Mimpi Negeri Kolonel Astronaut – Kan Lemma Puki Chow Cibai – Kawan Tetap Kawan – Berhenti Bermimpi.

This was one of those underground gigs whose memory I shall always savour. There was an element of disorganisation about it but so what? I am particularly grateful to Leon Low for being my host and technical adviser, but as in the metal scene generally, I met so many great people and had a really enjoyable musical experience.

Review Andrew Doherty

Photos by Hafidz Adnan