The 10 Best Black Metal Bands of Southeast Asia: Sub-Tropical Sacrilege
The European and American legions have had their day in the press, so it’s now time to shine a scorching mid-day light on some of the black metal acts who call rainforests home instead of snow-capped ones.
The bands from these countries can not only stand toe to toe with their Western counterparts when it comes to the quality of their music, but some also share a history of bloodshed, controversy or conflict with the government and religious groups.
Grab your sunscreen, camo shorts and sleeveless concert shirts… we’re going on a trip Southeast of heaven.
The Philippines – Deiphago
Hitch a ride on the satanic jeepney, for we are going into a realm of Godless chaos with the Filipino black metal savages in Deiphago. Their deal with the devil was inked in 1989, and since then the three members have been bestowed as “the most violent band on the planet” and “the death knell for conservative black metal.” Deiphago’s crusade has taken them abroad, making instant believers of audiences in the U.S., Thailand and Costa Rica (their new home). I, the Devil, their 2019 album, is a true modern black metal monster and sounds like a team of hell’s henchmen ransacking God’s penthouse suite and having their way with his servants.
Indonesia – Pure Wrath
Indonesia is known as a multi-island stronghold for death metal and slam bands, but there are some truly remarkable black metal artists coming out of the nation. From West Java, the forlorn soldier and multi-instrumentalist Januaryo Hardy, who calls his vision Pure Wrath, has been composing piano-tinged, melancholic masterpieces of the genre since 2014. Of note is the EP The Forlorn Soldier, which is accompanied by some iconic album art by Aghy Purakusuma of an intimate burial about to take place. The album is an exploration of events during the ‘60s genocide in Indonesia when male members of a family were kidnapped and vanished by a tyrannical army. This and albums like Sempiternal Wisdom are some of the most captivating experiences that atmospheric black metal has to offer.
Brunei – Daemon
Brunei is a country you likely haven’t heard talked about at all in the metal world. On the island of Borneo, the Malaysia-surrounded country is known for its beaches and rain forests, but it is also home to a handful of metal bands. Daemon are the black metal sultans of Brunei; emerging in 1988, this Deicide-influenced black/death metal band is known as the first to release a demo in the country. These early tapes are dark, noisy affairs, Hellstorm being the perfect title in this case. Other acts from the country worth mentioning are Draconaeon, Masyghul, and Nocturn.
Malaysia – Mantak
It’s not easy being a black metal musician in Malaysia. On January 23, 2006, the National Fatwa Council of Malaysia officially placed a ban on black metal, stating “Black metal culture is unacceptable for Muslims and can cause listeners to rebel against the country’s prevailing religion.” This ban has led to incidents like Mayhem getting “banned in Malaysia” and Dark Funeral’s 2012 Malaysian show cancellations. But, as usually happens with bans, the government’s actions have made the genre appeal even more dangerous, further adding gasoline to an effigy that is ready to burn. Along with labels like Goatlordth Records, there are still many bands lurking underground, with Mantak being one of them, fighting the dark fight with their brand of “evil black magic” since 1996. Listen to their thrashing, black metal hell in the form of Sabahell’s Blasphemer and join them in the unholy war.
Singapore – Devouror
The problems Malaysia has with black metal certainly bleed over into Singapore, as a Watain gig was infamously canceled due to pressure from religious organizations, but this hasn’t stopped the local bands from staying true to their blasphemous and truth-seeking nature. Consisting of veterans in Singapore’s black metal scene, the five-man band Devouror describe their sound as “Bestial Deathcult Warfare” with influences like Possessed, Blasphemy, Death, and Sodom. In 2019, Devouror planned an Easter concert in Kuala Lumpur which was canceled after accusations by the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) that it was promoting anti-Christian sentiment. The band still managed to play, albeit a night earlier than the holy day. A statement from the band on the incident proclaimed, “Nothing shall stand in our way of freedom of musical expression; no matter how bizzare, extreme, blasphemous or grotesque it may seem.”
Vietnam – Elcrost
Vietnam has only a handful of black metal acts performing today, with many of the old guard splitting up or vanishing into the darkness such as Sword of Darkness, who gained a bit of momentum after moving to the U.S.. Some of the current bands on the scene include Vong, Rot and Cold Void. One recent atmospheric black metal act making some waves are Elcrost, who emerged in 2019 from the streets of Hanoi. Influenced by bands like Alcest, Ulver, and Windir, they have pushed the genre into effervescent depths with their recent split release with Vixenta.
Cambodia – Reign in Slumber
Cambodia has a history which is both rich and bloodied. The temple complex of Angkor Wat is destination number one in Siem Reap, but disturbing remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime like the S-21 interrogation prison and the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh are sobering reminders of a not-too-distant history. Coming out of Phnom Penh is the blackened crust group Reign in Slumber. Despite being young soldiers in the black army, they come out blazing with songs like “Starve Nation Army” and “Fuck Off and Rot.”
Laos – Hades Ghosphell
Finding black metal bands in Laos is like trying to find a Buddhist monk with a full head of hair. They are hard to find but do exist, just like other bands in the extreme underground realm who lurk in the country immediately north of Thailand. Hades Ghosphell hold the credit of organizing the first black metal concert in Laos in October 2010. The band is all about the denunciation of religious fanaticism and cites Black Witchery, Archgoat, Blasphemy, and Tsjuder as influences. In 2019 at the biggest metal event in Laos, the Metal Destruction Festival, the band shared the stage with visitors to the country like Butcher ABC (Japan) and Punisher (China). Preach and praise the Ghosphell.
Thailand – Surrender of Divinity
Take the tuk-tuk into the blackened kingdom of Siam. Thailand is no stranger to black metal acts of varying styles, such as the occult themed Plaguebringer, the black-folk of Leftmuenang, the blackened thrash of Nuclear Warfare and the depressive black metal of Eternally Riverless. The Thai legends of the genre, however, are the “Siamese Christ Beheading” Surrender of Divinity, who formed back in 1996. The band waved the blackened flag for Thailand for years, releasing a genre classic in Oriental Hell Rhythmics and playing with international acts like Archgoat. But in true black metal fashion, a gruesome incident became a part of their history, as their original bassist/vocalist Samon “Avaejee” Traisattha was stabbed to death by a fan in his home in 2014.
Myanmar – Yagan
The country of Myanmar (Burma) is a sweltering place in which wearing corpsepaint may leave you looking like a grim, melting zebra. The humid country is certainly dry when it comes to black metal, with only a couple of bands to mention. Collapsing Decay is a raw — extremely raw — black metal project with production that makes Burzum albums sound like they were done by Rick Rubin. Depressive one-man black metal band Yagan, perhaps named after a form of satirical Burmese poem, emerged in Yangon but later migrated like a black sparrow to the equally sweltering Sacramento, CA. Of note is Yagan’s III: Human Breeding album, which features a baby in the womb on the cover and features songs like “You’ll Never Grasp the Full Extent of My Revenge but Know That I Respect Nothing and That Includes You.”