Monday 10 October 2016

METAL HISTORY: TURBIDITY (Bandung Slamming Death Metal) live @ East Bandung, 9 October 2011

TURBIDITY, February 2011 line-up. Left to Right: Dada (vocals), Iko (drums), Mamay (bass), Daniel (guitar).
At the show with TURBIDITY in Ujung Berung, East Bandung, Sunday 9 October 2011 by Kieran James aka Jack Frost

At 4pm on Sunday, Bobby, Popo, and I headed for East Bandung to attend a rock show to be headlined by the young, first-rate death-slammers TURBIDITY. It was a 45-minute drive from the northern suburbs of Bandung out through to the residential areas near Ujung Berung and then to the border with the countryside. As we headed into the residential or the suburban areas the roads narrowed, buildings became closer together, the graffiti on walls became more prominent, and the traffic began to thin out. Popo told me that this was near to Ujung Berung, that near mythical working-class locality, much like California’s East Bay for legendary punks RANCID, where the first death-metal bands developed and a supportive but demanding death-metal brotherhood emerged. In Ujung Berung the older death-metal bands have always mentored the younger bands and pushed the younger bands towards excellence. Popo states that she knew Man of JASAD within the metal community of Ujung Berung before she even became a death-metal vocalist.
The neighbourhoods we went through were not completely poor – here and there we saw what were obviously higher status houses and apartments but they too lacked arrogance and pretension. The area has a harmony and cohesion, even in the midst of apparent chaos, a statement which could even apply to Indonesia as a whole where everything and everyone appears to be in perpetual motion but where social behaviour still remains highly regulated and controlled.
Kieran and Dada, 9 October 2011, East Bandung
We eventually reached a road where, to cite RANCID again from the 2009 song “Disconnected”, “the city was on the left and the country was on the right”. Heading towards the show this lyric actually reversed itself as the rice-fields, in the shadow of the mountain and perhaps less than a kilometre away and shrouded by eternal grey cloud, were on the left and the houses of East Bandung were on the right. The ancient rice-fields on the left, a sight which must have remained unchanged for generations, were interspersed with modern-looking petrol stations with their MNC brand-name logos prominently displayed. Such are the contradictions of Indonesia.
As soon as we had reached the rice-fields, 500 metres or a kilometre ahead on the right, around a bend in the road as it curve rightwards, was the music venue and its large compound. It was hard to be sure what the music venue was primarily designed for. Certainly the parking area compound was very spacious and there was a long internal entrance road after you entered the front gates.
The music venue was a large hall, much larger than the Cibinong venue and perhaps 50 metres long and fifteen metres wide or even 60 metres long and 20 metres wide. The roof was raised very high and in one corner there was a staircase leading up to a balcony. The balcony stretched along the entire back internal wall and was around ten metres deep. We exited the car to see all of the death-metal community of Bandung, or so it appeared, relaxing on a low brick wall running parallel to a side wall of the building. There was a line of around fifteen metalheads seated on the low brick wall, holding court as it were, with others sitting on the ground and crouching in front of them. The seated metalheads were smoking, passing around bottles of traditional “arak” wine, and staring peacefully out over the sea of parked motorcycles inside the compound to the mist-shrouded mountain beyond. Bobby, Popo, and I (Daniel may have been with us as well) enthusiastically greeted the seated metalheads.
Glenn Bloodgush, Uus Bleeding Corpse, Kieran James
There was a real atmosphere of community and brotherhood which was very obvious to everyone. Although this was just an ordinary rock festival it had also become a death-metal community event because local East Bandung favourite TURBIDITY was the headliner. On closer inspection of the seated people it seemed like some unofficial ranking system was being observed. As my pictures of this show reproduced here in this book reveal, Glenn [the 25-year-old lead vocalist of the emerging death-metal band BLOODGUSH] was seated third or fourth from the left as you approached the group. To his left was the smiling veteran of Ujung Berung death-metal, the BLEEDING CORPSE guitarist Uus Death. Clearly he was the most highly respected metalhead present at the show. He was wearing his denim jacket replete with sew-on metal patches of the type associated with the Western metalheads of the 1980s. Everyone was very relaxed and cheerful. This was a regular Sunday afternoon home gig in East Bandung of the type that Uus and Glenn must have attended hundreds of times before. Dada Rosadeath, vocalist for TURBIDITY, was floating around, wearing a red tee-shirt and cheerfully greeting people. Respect was being shown by younger metalheads and friends to people such as Uus, Bobby Rock, and Dada. I took pictures with two young and attractive teenage fans who were not dressed as metal chicks.
Once inside the venue it was apparent, and conversations confirmed it, that this was a mixed show and a mixed crowd. There were some death-metal fans in black death-metal tee-shirts, mostly dancing, slamming, and headbanging in a group of perhaps 100 in the moshpit directly in front of the stage. Others leaned against the side walls and watched proceedings. Other rock fans among the crowd wore tee-shirts and hoodies of a variety of colours and this was clearly a completely different crowd from the 100% death-metal crowd at the previous night’s gig in Cibinong. The senior metalheads outside did not appear to be too interested in going in to watch the bands. Clearly they were all waiting for TURBIDITY and enjoying the cool Bandung breezes, the wine and cigarettes, the companionship, and the mountain views. However, as befitting a non death-metal show, many senior metalheads were missing, including Ferly, Abaz, and Man of JASAD. Man may or may not have by this time returned to Bandung from his trip to visit his mother’s home.
I moved around out in the car park area sitting with different people, chatting with Uus and Glenn, and taking pictures for this book. I met one interesting character, a young man who is a serving but off-duty Indonesian policeman [see picture in this book]. He informed me that he had been part of the death-metal scene before he took up his current job and that he kept up-to-date with developments in the death-metal scene. He had a heavy-metal denim jacket buttoned up over his police uniform and to everyone’s delight he stood up to take off this jacket so he could be photographed with me in his full police gear. Clearly the guy enjoyed juggling and trading off his multiple identities although he wanted to make clear to us that his death-metal scene involvement predated his current job. This statement signalled his authenticity and sub-cultural capital to the death-metal scene. He was keen to make it clear that he was not a police spy or a police plant which was important given the tense relationship presently existing between death-metallers and the police in Bandung due to the eleven deaths at the BESIDE show.
The crowd inside appeared to be mostly teenagers. Due to the vast size of the hall the group of 100 dancers and headbangers right at the front looked somewhat lonely and isolated. The show lacked somewhat in atmosphere due to the large size of the hall and the mixed nature of the crowd and the bands on the bill. This lack of atmosphere was certainly not the fault of TURBIDITY as the band tried their best to perform with total passion and ignore the empty spaces in the venue and the lack of atmosphere. Most of the floor space of the hall was empty with groups leaning against the side walls. The senior metalheads, including Bobby, Popo, and Uus, headed to the raised balcony section at the back of the hall while I chose to stay at the front at ground level to headbang. For a time I leaned against the side wall talking with two teenaged guys who proclaimed to me that they were “death-metal”; asked me if I was “death-metal”; asked me if I spoke Indonesian (“sorry no” was the answer); and also asked me whether TURBIDITY was really going to play or not. Given that TURBIDITY’s name was top of the bill and listed on the giant wall poster behind the drum kit the guys’ faith levels did not appear to be very high. I presumed that they had had negative past experiences with bands not showing up at gigs or showing up but not playing. I told the two teenagers that the TURBIDITY vocalist Dada was already here and I pointed him out to them.
Iko (drums) and Daniel (guitar), 9 October 2011
TURBIDITY finally hit the stage as night fell outside and the headbanging and dancing began in earnest down at the front. Dada moves around a lot on stage and the large stage here suited him. He has the hardcore look of short hair, tattoos, non-black tee-shirt, and cap (featuring the communist hammer-and-sickle logo, a logo which is still illegal in Indonesia). Dada adopts the hardcore genre posturing of arm holding the microphone raised up high, so that the forearm is parallel to the floor and the microphone is very close to the mouth. Dada’s body is in a permanent crouch and he places one foot on the amplifiers. Dada is very unlike Bobby Rock whose style is more that of a classic or traditional metal front-man with very few hardcore genre influences. This is probably to do with the generation gap as Dada is much younger than Bobby and he grew up under the inspiration of the 1990s hardcore genre influenced styles and sounds of bands such as BIOHAZARD, MACHINE HEAD, and PANTERA. There was almost a hardcore genre style of death-scream and the music simply did not slow down or stop at all except for the few seconds of silence between songs. If you go to a TURBIDITY show expecting melodic power-metal or even 1 second of melody in the whole show then you will be disappointed! In complete contrast to Dada, Daniel really looked death-metal style, in black death-metal tee-shirt, baggy shorts, and with a scary and brutal expression! He stood by himself to Dada’s left or to the right of Dada if viewed from the moshpit [see picture in this book]. He indeed looked like a magnificent, solitary death-metal warrior with no-one else coming within two metres of him.
Dada and Bobby Bleeding Corpse (vocals duet)
The death-metal kids at the front were totally enjoying themselves in the presence of TURBIDITY and a group of four girls aged around 15 or 16-years-old were dancing around enthusiastically and just as crazy as anyone at the back of the moshpit. It was hard to be sure whether these four were death-metal chicks but probably they were not. No-one interfered with anyone else and the atmosphere was courteous, cordial, and non-threatening while not losing any of the tough-guy look that is expected from death-metal. For the four girls I think the afternoon was an exciting time of dancing and they were very safe in the crowd. Later I saw them walking away from the show, still together in a group of four, along the internal entrance road of the compound.
To my surprise, Bobby Rock joined Dada on stage, each one giving the other considerable space and respect, and they performed a death-metal duet. There were happy cries of “Bobby!” and many phone cameras were raised above heads as their owners tried to capture a shot of Bobby. On the next day at the band interview, Dada showed me in his shop “Deathstar Tattoo” a video-clip of TURBIDITY playing at Bandung Death Fest 4 (2009) and, on that occasion also, Bobby Rock joined TURBIDITY on stage. I was very surprised later to hear from Popo that Dada has left TURBIDITY. Bobby Rock joining Dada on stage is a warm and fraternal gesture which shows to fans the unity and brotherhood of the Ujung Berung death-metal scene. Just as when Ferly and Man of JASAD invited Popo onstage during JASAD shows in Bandung and Malang [East Java], Bobby’s actions can be seen as an endorsement of TURBIDITY to the crowd. On these occasions, Man, Ferly, and Bobby acted in their accepted roles as elder statesmen of the Ujung Berung death-metal community. The importance of UUs Death (Bleeding Corpse)’s presence at this show should also not be under-estimated.
Tonight was a night when the Ujung Berung death-metal community honoured its own local heroes and enjoyed camaraderie in a very easygoing, home-town atmosphere. It was like probably hundreds of local gigs that the senior metalheads have attended in Bandung over the past years. The atmosphere was not great because the venue was too large for the size of the crowd. However, TURBIDITY played with pride, passion, and professionalism and the 100 teenaged death-metal fans up the front enjoyed the TURBIDITY set tremendously. The enjoyment of the TURBIDITY set was clearly added to by Bobby’s surprise appearance on stage. He has many young male and female fans and the fans saw firsthand the unity, respect, and brotherhood that prevails in the Ujung Berung death-metal scene. This unity and respect has been one factor behind the rapid rise to prominence of TURBIDITY. The unity and camaraderie and mutual support of the Bandung scene has clearly given its members a charm and an easy self-confidence which has allowed Bandung death-metal to occupy a prominent place in the entire Indonesian scene. Bandung death-metal today is a combination of Man of JASAD’s charm and intelligence and Ferly’s analytical and humble nature and sense of fairness, compassion, and integrity.

JASAD’s professionalism has also been a major influence on BLEEDING CORPSE and TURBIDITY. For JASAD, death-metal is a serious business to be approached professionally reflecting Ferly, Man, and Yuli’s decade-plus experience as death-metal musicians. However, their genuine love for death-metal music and for the death-metal scene, still the same as when they were all in junior high-school, shines through on occasions and gives the Ujung Berung movement durability, inner strength, integrity, and simple joy. When Ferly talks about his favourite death-metal guitarist [James Murphy] and album [OBITUARY’s Cause of Death] you are left in no doubt that he genuinely loves this music and its rich global history. There are no Lars Ulrich-type temper tantrums or Gene Simmons-type lawsuits within Ujung Berung death-metal. Man still loves his mother (!) and his community, and Ujung Berung death-metal reaps the benefits of this warm, humble, and very Indonesian approach to life. Yuli’s closing advice to fans at our 10 October 2011 interview was “love your mum!” and while he was smiling and enjoying the humour involved in making such a “non-brutal” statement in a death-metal interview we don’t doubt that he meant it as well! Long live Ujung Berung Death Metal!

[This review is published in my book Struggle Anger Hate in the Indonesian Underground by Jack Frost which you can buy from Sofyan Hadi in Jogjakarta.]
Left to Right: Bobby Bleeding Corpse, Dada Turbidity, Daniel Turbidity, Kieran James, Mamay Turbidity, Casper Hell Turbidity (Manager) @ Bandung, 10 October 2011.
Daniel Turbidity discusses the food order with the waitress while Bobby Bleeding Corpse and Popo Demons Damn look on @ Bandung, 9 October 2011.

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