If you have a fascination for old metal fanzines this will certainly hit the spot. It’s an absolutely packed read which although only 228 pages, which might not sound a lot, is so densely crammed with information and interviews (in 3 columns per page with photos and illustrations) it will take you a lot to trawl through. Like the recently reviewed Maniac penned Ultra Damaged book this comprises of two zines from 1996 and 1999 and a new one from 2017. The writers behind it come from Malaysia, not the most obvious choice of place but a country we too have dipped into following writers visits there and found it to have a more than enthusiastic scene. There is no two ways about it, the two main guys behind this book Karl and Ason who come from capital city Kuala Lumpur are dedicated metal for lifers who have really made this a work of passion. Setting the scene they are interviewed by Cult Never Dies Publisher Dayal Patterson who has reprinted the original texts, warts and all just as they were laid out in the original zines.
Looking at the cover you can get an idea of what to expect here and truth be said, the logos printed are for the bigger bands. We really do dig deep into the underground as the pages unfold and the writers have done a remarkable job tracking bands and people down, especially when you consider pre-Internet days that everything was done via the postal system. This is hugely international and all continents are delved through, not just the normal America and Europe. Be prepared to an insight into SE Asia and beyond as we visit countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, China, Singapore, Turkey, Iceland (they discovered Solstafir before we did that’s for sure and got ex drummer Gudmundur to pen a scene report) and even Costa Rica. Proper death metal is probably the favoured sub-genre, the guys are not averse to the black stuff but do mention that loads of pantomime bands sprung up in Malaysia in the wake of the success of Cradle Borgir and have a certain amount of contempt for them. There are also smatterings of doom, speed and thrash to be found and be assured it’s all the good stuff, no wastes of space or comedy poser bands here! They are adept at finding bands who sign off with the words “only death is real” and each and every one has an interesting tale to tell. It doesn’t even bother them too much if the band is dead and buried, they will go, grab their shovels and dig someone up. Cue insightful interviews with the likes of ex members of Tormentor and Treblinka as examples of this. Many ghosts walk through these pages. I also guarantee that there is likely to be various bands that you have never heard of unless you perhaps reside in their country of origin.
The downside here again is that the English and spelling of it, certainly in the early issues is to put it politely, somewhat basic. This might give you a bit of a headache and mean dipping in and just reading a few interviews at a time. If you cringe every time you see a word like “lenght” be warned. Enthusiasm and answers do make it worth persevering and things rapidly improve by the new issue which takes up a good two thirds of the book. Interviews really do have substance too, they are nice and lengthy averaging about three pages and the guys are good at getting the answers. They do have a certain staple stock of questions but do ask things outside the box too depending on the band. The common questions do get some amusing answers. They ask about good and bad points of each country the band come from, hate and contempt seems universal and they also quiz if the bands have heard of what the scene is like in Malaysia cue lots of polite “nopes but greetings and we would love to play there some day.” There are a few record reviews each issue and it has to be said they are fairly amusing but again that is down to language mainly. The team is not afraid to say when they don’t like something too (poor old Hecate Enthroned).
I particularly enjoyed interviews right at the end of the book mainly perhaps due to the facts that it was not band members being quizzed but ones with Calvin head of Pulverised Records in Singapore and Necromorbus boss Tore Stjerna were particularly insightful. Seriously though this is so packed with interviews by many a band that you could well and truly consider kvlt, you’ll find yourself spending weeks dipping into it. Apparently reaction to the recent 3rd issue of Ultimate Darkness has been encouraging which is great when print titles are having such a hard time of it at the moment. It would also seem that a fourth is in the works too as illustrated by a bonus interview in here with Fredrick Melander a “founding member” of Bathory. I can only wish them every success and say sign me up for a copy. Find the anthology at the links below.