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Photograph: Wormrot

Metal 101: Understanding metal music in Singapore

There's more to metal music than meets the eye – we speak to three bands in Singapore about the genre

Delfina Utomo
Written by
Delfina Utomo

It is easy to see why metal gets a bad rep, especially among those who don’t listen to it. With the cancellation of Swedish black metal band Watain’s gig last month, it's apparent the genre is misunderstood by the mainstream because of its apparent satanic and violent content. We chat with Singapore's metal veterans to clear the air.

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Subgenre: Grindcore

Arguably the biggest metal band in Singapore with a fanbase that reaches beyond Singapore, Wormrot made history as the first local band to ever play at Glastonbury Festival in 2017. That’s a mean feat for a band known for grindcore, a subgenre of extreme metal that combines speed, short and buzzy riffs, guttural vocals, blast beats and an “all-round angry sound”, as described by Arif Suhaimi, the vocalist of the group.

What are some misconceptions people have of metal music?

Loud, angry music frightens people. To untrained ears, it's definitely deafening. The majority of people don’t wish to understand our art – and it boils down to our dressing as well. We are actually just like any other Singaporean working from nine to five. We have families, bills to pay and responsibilities. Judging a book by its cover happens a lot when we're in public. And that's a shame.

How are your fans like?

Beyond what we could have ever asked for, both locally and globally. They have been so supportive over the years, album after album, tours after tours. The undying love they provide kept us going stronger than ever before. 12 years and counting!



Subgenre: Doom metal

Said to be inspired by horror movies, Marijannah’s stoner rock sound is characterised by slower tempos, low- tuned guitars, heavily distorted, groove- laden bass-heavy sound and melodic vocals compared to other heavy metal genres. A supergroup of sorts with two members from Wormrot, others from Caulfield Cult and Abolition A.D, Marijannah bands together to put out music that is hypnotic.

What do you think people get wrong about metal music?

The biggest misconception that’s been around since the beginning is that everyone who plays or listens to metal music is a devil worshipper and that the music incites violent behaviour and drug use. Technology evolves, nature evolves, Pokémon evolve, but squares don’t.

How do you deal with the negativity surrounding the genre?

It's difficult to change the minds of adults who are idiots and bigots. We see it in business, politics and religion everyday. Just stay out of our way because we've always been out of yours.



Subgenre: Vedic metal

Rudra incorporates Indian traditional music, Sanskrit chants and mantras into black metal, lending a mythical quality to their sound. Starting out in 1992, the band experiments with traditional instruments like tablas, sitars and flutes to complement the harsh vocals, fast tempos and distorted guitars.

How is metal music misunderstood?

People tend to assume that it is a religion or life philosophy. To a few it may be so, but for the majority it is a sonic art form that can be enjoyed.

What do you have to say about the bad rep metal music gets?

The bad rep metal music gets is a bygone issue, perhaps as old as committees founded in the mid-80’s to regulate music – which later shut down in late 90’s. It is an irrelevant issue, just like how sexual and violent themes in art, music and movies are left to people's discretion.

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