Island of Grind: 16 of Singapore’s Most Brutal Bands
The small island nation of Singapore is a modern day utopia with a cornucopia of nationalities, religions and culture living side by side amidst the city’s glistening skyscrapers.
But on the ground level, below all the glitz and glamour, lies the Merlion, a formidable looking beast which spits out water from its mouth. And it’s that symbol of the country which hints at the devious, harsh, desperate and ravenous beasts of the deep underground: even in Singapore, a country notorious for its harsh laws, metal thrives.
Under its perfect facade, Singapore has amassed a formidable grindcore scene. That such vicious, violent and ugly music produced in such a place seems like a contradiction; the city has canceled planned concerts by metal bands such as Watain and Soilwork. If a piece of chewing gum stuck to the underside of a bench is anti-utopian, what is grindcore, a style of sticky and confrontational music stuck to the underside of Singapore’s club scene?
It isn’t right to speculate that the grind bands in Singapore have a sense of civil unrest about their own nation, but it is true that they play this type of music because they love it in spite of their nation’s squeaky-clean demeanor. So pour yourself a Singapore Sling and read on about the grind scene in Singapore.
Wormrot are the most well-known grindcore band from Singapore, and for good reason: their brand of grindcore is second-to-none, vicious in an almost inhuman way. Legend goes that they were discovered in 2009 by Digby Pearson of Earache Records via a mixtape posted on Cosmo Lee’s Invisible Oranges blog, leading to the band signing with the label in 2010. Since then, Wormrot have made the word “Singapore” come out of many a grind lover’s lips, a battering ram of unhinged jams spread across three albums and several EPs. Their intense, sweat-drenched shows have brought the band to festivals worldwide (including a MetalSucks showcase at SXSW in 2011!). Lyrically, Wormrot cover themes across the board, but evidence of what they truly feel regarding the social politics of everyday life in their home country can be seen in songs like “Deceased Occupation” or “Public Display of Infection” from 2011’s Dirge.
Let’s go back to the roots of Singaporean grind with the legendary Demisor. Starting in 1987, the band started with death metal covers before speeding up their sound and branching out to originals, demolishing cassette decks around Singapore with a series of splits throughout the ’90s and ’00s until they finally released a full-length spewing of hatred, Grind for Life, in 2012. The godfathers of Singaporean grind should be considered a key band in progressing the Asian scene; many of their splits were issued with Japanese bands such as Carcass Grinder while the appearance of Demisor on overseas festivals such as Obscene Extreme has helped put Singapore on the map as a grindcore island stronghold. They ran so Wormrot could sprint.
Magnicide are, like Demisor, grindcore legends of Singapore. The three-piece band is a brutal grind assault which features ex-members of Demisor and Secret 7. Rise to the Annihilation, released in 2009 and featuring spinescrapers on the cover, is a rough, fast and ripping affair with some metal riffage thrown in to change things up once in a while. Recent splits by Magnicide include those with Punished Earth with Black Hole of Calcutta. Shane Embury has said of the band, “old school grind with old school riffs. I’m never too old for a blast beat.” New does not always mean best; give these veterans a shot to hear how it should be done.
Start the countdown: 1999 brought with it the fear of Y2K, the rise of nu-metal and the birth of Singapore’s Volition. Volition emerged as a grimy and greasy addition to the grind scene, like a hidden, juicy cockroach hiding in the corner of a mansion. Their song titles give you an idea of what they are riling up against: “Killing for Greed,” “Animal Abuse,” “Suicide,” “In the Wake of Tsunami” and the most ominous, “I Don’t Trust My Stepmother.” Volition also gave respect to their elders by covering Demisor’s “Silent Grief.”
Warlocks Ov Delisha
The Muslim name Delisha means “A person who makes others happy.” The happy hooded menace of Warlocks Ov Delisha certainly bring joy to a lot of Singaporean grind fans. This hybrid act presents a black metal aesthetic, with Mayhem cloaks, inverted pentagrams and corpsepaint, though the music here ticks off the usual grind characteristics — high-speed tempos, blast beats and short song lengths — thus, blackened grindcore. Cheers to them for committing to the cause, as I couldn’t imagine walking around in the sweltering heat wearing full-on black metal garb. These “Grim Punkz” formed in 2017, with their debut album released in 2020 featuring songs like “Dumbest Heartless Asshole” and “Voter’s Privileged.”
Each and every grindcore scene should have at least a single one-man band in its ranks. On the island of Singapore, Partially Decayed is this very grind virtuoso. His first EP is a rather catchy and chunky piece of work entitled Mephistophelian (meaning wicked or fiendish). The album sometimes mingles with deathcore, with Partially Decayed not shying away from an ear-infecting breakdown or two. His new single, “Desecration,” features a photo of this wicked young man standing in front of a graffiti desecrated wall for the cover. Was he the culprit? Well, let’s not incriminate anyone… Here’s to a few more years of decay and desecration from the Mephistopheles of Singapore.
Whore House Butchery
“Where are the brothels in Singapore?” a sexpat may ask before landing on the island. Well, to find the island’s prostitutes, Geylang is the area a horny man’s dick-compass should steer him to. Orchard Towers, nicknamed the “Four Floors of Whores,” a shopping centre frequented by prostitutes, is perhaps the house this band is named after, as a few homicides have taken place in the building. This grind band with death metal trimmings started in 2009, releasing a demo and split before their full-length, Vice, in 2014. Calling it “the Vice guide to Singapore’s dark underbelly,” the album is a greasy, grimy, used needle and condom-littered affair. The butchers give praise to modern brothers-in-grind Wormrot with their track, “Operation: Wormrot Nation.” Viva Wormapore.
Cardiac Necropsy are another veteran band from the island who went through a history of change-ups before their current form as a goregrind behemoth. Initially, they began in 1991 as a thrash band named Infernal Scum. They changed their moniker to Cardiac Necropsy and began playing a mix of black/death/grind before disbanding in 1993. In 2000 the band got back together and added some blood, guts and perversion to their sound. Their 2011 album. Morbid Scum Division, features a torture rack of colorful tracks like “I Pee Fire” and “Drunken Chinese Girlfriend.” Since then, the band has gone through more change-ups and is more serious in tone, dropping a lot of the goregrind elements, as seen with their latest single, “Malicious Mantra.”
WTN (War Torn Nation)
While Singapore has not seen any recent battles, museums in the country exhibit The Battle of Singapore during WWII. It was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II, when Japan ultimately captured the British stronghold. It doesn’t take recent experience to pull inspiration from the atrocities of war, however, and WTN certainly show us the horrors of war throughout their discography. Starting in 1998, split releases were the custom for WTN until they loaded up their rounds in 2004 for a full-length. Look to Rotting in Pestilence for 47 minutes of late ’80s-sounding thrash/grind, full of clinical, gore-flooded imagery, sounding like Carcass possessed by ghosts of war.
From the never-cleaned cum stains of Analdicktion come the gore grinding power violence troupe Pyogenic Cystclot. Formed in 2013, they only have one proclamation to their name: a split with the groovy ones themselves, BRUCEXCAMPBELL, for an ankle-stabbing romp in the cabin. A band who are fighting the good battle against the deadite trend hoppers, the clot boys seem to have made The Great Singaporean Trendkill with songs like “Utter Eradication of Generic Deathcore.” “Trendy Powerviolence Hipster Bullshit” this is not, but hey, that’s also one of their songs.
This is my Singapore of whatever. Monster Mother fancy themselves “cincaigrind” from Singapore. So, what the fuck is cincai? “It really just means ‘whatever’ but you can also use it to describe an action where one does anything casually or as one pleases.” Okay, so Monster Mother do as they please. We have already covered a one-man grind band, though two-member groups are also some of the fiercest (Sete Star Sept from Japan being a notable example). The band proclaims that they “play as noisy and as fast as we can as a two-piece band” and on their debut, which is nine tracks of blasting grindcore, Monster Mother does exactly that, and there is not much else to say. Whatever.
The meat packing plant that is the Singapore grind scene has produced some new raw meat for the masses with Heraclides. This quartet unleashed their debut this past June, available on an utterly adorable pink and flesh colored cassette tape via Shitresist. The lads self-recorded the effort during a rehearsal session, meaning all the leftover or unwanted gristle is here for consumption. Fans of Agathocles, Dahmer and Malignant Tumour should add this pink tape to their collection.
New kids on the block Con-Formed are “a grinding socio-politically charged band with an amplified iconoclastic dissonant style of attack.” The band blends black metal elements with a potent burst of grind and a dual-rabid dog vocal attack. Their 2019 album Kodrat is a grindcore beating in a pitch-black room, featuring ominous sampled interludes which give it a thicker, denser atmosphere than your average three-piece grind effort. Get the dirty black cassette tape now via Shitresist.
The award for the most eye-catching grindcore album covers go to B.C. In glorious black and white, Brain Damaged portrays a man ripping off his own face, while Face Value is They Live! In spirit, with an alien removing his puppet-like human mask. Ghost B.C. this is not; this is murky, dense and humid stuff that sounds as if Swamp Thing was on bass. The band were lucky enough to open for Power Trip during their Singapore stop. Pick up a tape from Shitresist Promotions and crank it while boating around in your mud motor.
Under 30 seconds. That’s usually the length of most grindcore songs. Atari Teenage Riot just needed 60 for a wipeout. <<<30s resemble ATR in that they have a female screamer in Auji, though they aren’t digital in the slightest. Hardcore, though? Yeah. As for song lengths, <<<30s is true to form for the most part, though they go for broke with the epic-sized 49-second “N.A.T.O” on their self-titled record. The whole thing is an 11-track, under five-minute constant car crash. Hit rewind and buckle up again.
From 2003 to the present, “triad-core” Fallen World have been one of the more politically active bands in Singapore. Their songs are grindy protest anthems, such as “My Name is Capitalism,” and the band aren’t shy about real life displays. In 2017, Fallen World’s drummer was arrested after he put on a demonstration which questioned the 32-year detention without trial of former Elected Member of Parliament, Mr. Chia Thye Poh. Whether on the streets, in the studio or on stage, you can count on Fallen World to fight the good fight.