Dec 032023

Promises to keep.

Yesterday in Part 1 of this roundup I said there would be a Part 2 and that it would include “three bands from the same archipelagic country, all of which fall into the big-surprise category”. And so, a day late, here’s Part 2. (There will still be a Shades of Black column later on today.)

As hinted yesterday, all three bands are from Indonesia. All three were new to my ears and all are very good, albeit in very different ways stylistically. Hence, the surprises, and my decision to include these three bands together in their own segment.

HAUL (Indonesia)

More than a decade after their first release and seven years after their last one, Haul returned this year with a new EP named Adamar. Transylvanian Recordings released it digitally and on tape on December 1st (I found out that Disaster Records also released it on CD last March).

Having heard nothing of Haul‘s previous releases, I gave it a listen because of Transylvanian‘s enthusiastic recommendation. Here’s part of that enthusiasm:

This is some next level musicianship, think of experimental bands like Oranssi Pazuzu & Bolzer mixed with the ferocity of bands like Funeral Chant & Exhumation that incorporates elements of Indonesian Rock and you have an idea of the realm that HAUL is operating in. These folks are one of the deadliest bands from Indonesia and are absolutely worth knowing about!!

Listening to the three genre-bending dazzlers on Adamar made me extremely enthusiastic too.

The opener “Persefonisk” hits like a raucous and rampaging barrage, driven by punk beats, berserk vocals, and bursts of needling riffage, but it’s got more twists and turns than a pretzel. Guitar arpeggios weirdly and brilliantly ring, the bass hums, and the song begins to sound like an auditory hallucination. When the hammering and the screaming resume, the guitars still sound like opium in the lungs, until they start veering in elaborate and extravagant ways.

That startling interweaving of ingredients persists through “Sajah Kumus” and the title song. The music has a rough, raw, and loose feeling, yet the inventive intricacy of the songcraft and the technical skill of the performances still shine through.

The tempos and the moods change without warning in these songs, and there’s even some witchy choral singing in “Sajah Kumus“, along with another big dose of audio psychedelics, as well as haunted-house keyboards at the end.

Adamar” (the song) is also bewitched and bewitching — the guitars sound like black sorcery and shamanic vapors — and it too includes singing with an Indonesian flair, but it will also vigorously rumble your bones and rattle your skull, and the harsh vocals remain thoroughly crazed.

Trust me, I’ve only managed to hint at how relentlessly and spectacularly kaleidoscopic these songs are. There’s no substitute for listening.



JAWLESS (Indonesia)

I like to think that NCS covers a pretty broad swath of metal, but I know that we do tend to lean into the more extreme sectors of the metalverse. One of the genres that we tend to give short shrift to is “stoner doom” in its various iterations. Seeing that label affixed to Indonesia’s Jawless, I almost just passed on by. Damned glad I didn’t.

Their new EP The Wrath King was another record in this big two-part collection that was released last Bandcamp Friday, December 1st (by Hawar Press). It includes two brand new tracks and two others from their first album that they “properly reworked in the production process”.

The Bandcamp tags for the EP include “southern rock”, and I think that fits better than “stoner doom”. Jawless do know how to rock hard in that swampy roadhouse way, thanks to a very talented drummer and plenty of head-moving, body-punching bass lines. There’s also plenty of boozy grit in the yelled and wailing vocals, and grit in the guitar tones of the uber-thick, pulse-pumping riffs too.

But on top of that Jawless bring in tripping and bluesy lead guitars and psyche-guitar soloing that wails and screams, spiraling up into glorious delirium.

Mostly these four songs charge ahead like some big road-eating V-8 machine in different gears, not at all like some woozy stoner staggering to and fro. Most of the time, everything sounds like giant pistons pumping or air horns blaring, and some of the guitar leads sound like brass too. Every damned one of the songs is also catchy as hell.

I couldn’t have picked out the band’s location from listening to The Wrath King if I didn’t already know where they were from, so devoted are they to a brand of music that’s so strongly rooted in this particularly southern aspect of Americana. Their devotion reaps benefits. What they’ve done here is a head of a lot of head-bobbing fun.

P.S. Coincidentally, Jawless are from the same location as Haul — Bandung, West Java.



AFRA (Indonesia)

This last band is a young quartet from Kediri, East Java. On December 15th the Chinese label Pest Productions will release their debut album Aruna Cakrawala. At Bandcamp that title is translated as “Blessings at the end of the Horizon“.

As I write this, two songs can be streamed at Bandcamp, “Saltum Naturia” and “Lintang“. If you guessed black metal based on the cover art and logo, you guessed correctly. But what kind of black metal?

Judging from these two songs, one of which opens the album and the other of which closes it, Afra favor the creation of elaborate melancholy atmospheres, but do so with sharp differences in intensity. The acoustic instrumentation and whistling winds at the outset of “Saltum Naturia“, for example, are beautifully dreamlike, but when the band ramp up into a thundering gallop, augmented by crackling snarls, the music becomes exhilarating, with the sadness carried by the feverish trill of the lead guitars.

Plaintive piano keys announce a diminishing of the intensity, and orchestral strings translate heartbreak in soulful tones. But with the bass frantically rumbling and the drums furiously clattering, that vibratory lead-guitar harmony seizes attention again as the song expands to a grand scale.

The closing song “Lintang” includes similar ingredients, some mesmerizing and some pulse-pounding, but again with a down-hearted mood even when it’s panoramically sweeping and tragically beautiful, as it often is. This one also includes depressive singing as well as somber spoken words backed by shimmering tones that recall flutes, strings, and clarinets.

The striking finale includes a rich collage of instrumentation swirling and soaring about the rhythm section’s storming, including a feverishly darting and whistling violin, and it’s hard not to get caught up in that dark extravaganza.


  1. Oh i like Haul. They immediately reminded me of an old favorite, Execration (from Sweden), not just in style and sound, but also album cover. (Check out the cover of Execration’s excellent 2014 album Morbid Dimensions).

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