Senyawa

senyawa

This week’s weird band was suggested to us by a reader called Major A, who describes them as “rhythmic and melodic, modern and primitive, simply rich and beautiful.” And I gotta say, Major A, you nailed it. Indonesian duo Senyawa make some of the most powerful, original music I’ve heard in a very long time — and they do it all with just a voice and a homemade bamboo instrument called a bambuwukir. I’m not even going to attempt to describe what they sound like — just listen and watch for yourself:

Amazing, right? What singer Rully Shabara does with his voice is unlike anything I’ve heard. It reminds me a little of a cross between Tuvan throat singing and Mike Patton at his most unhinged, but even that doesn’t really do it justice. And the sounds Wukir Suryadi gets out of his instrument are equally mind-blowing, as he uses it play microtonal drones, screeching leads and percussive fills, sometimes all at once.

Senyawa have been around since 2011 and achieved some international success. In 2012, French filmmaker Vincent Moon made a short documentary about them called Calling the New Gods, and in 2016 they did a split EP with Japanese noise band Melt Banana. But in a Vice Indonesia clip from 2016, they noted that in their hometown of Yogyakarta in central Java, most people still don’t know who they are. “Lots of people in Yogya still haven’t seen us play,” says Shabara. “For some reason, Indonesians who have not seen us perform live tend to assume that our music leans towards traditional music. This is wrong and it makes me so irritated.”

Admittedly, my knowledge of Indonesian music begins and ends with the gamelan and Rich Brian, but I’m pretty sure there’s not much traditional about performances like the one below, taken from something called the Radio Asia Festival in Warsaw, Poland in December of 2017. I get why people sometimes describe their stuff as metal, even though that doesn’t really capture what they do either. I say we dispense with genre terms and just say Senyawa are amazing. Agreed?

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Weird of the Day: Deathgrind violin with Joey Molinaro

Joey Molinaro

Our buddy Folkicide told us to check out this guy Joey Molinaro who does something called “acoustic grind violin.” Intrigued, we clicked over to one of his YouTube and yep, this dude basically plays grindcore/death metal by himself with a just a violin, foot-stomp percussion and the occasional strangled vocal. The results sound like a cross between a mosh pit and a hootenanny, or maybe something you could call Appalachian folk metal. Check it out.

If, like us, you can’t get enough of this shit, there’s plenty more where that came from on Joey’s Bandcamp page.

Tonttu

Tonttu

Did you know that Finland apparently has a huge gnome problem? Not that the gnomes are huge. The gnomes there are tiny, just like they are everywhere else. Finland has a huge problem with tiny gnomes, is what we’re saying. And don’t let those Travelocity commercials fool you. They’re evil little fuckers hellbent on the destruction of all we hold dear.

Fortunately, one band is spreading the truth about gnomes and working day and night to wipe these pointy-hatted little shitbeards off the face of the earth once and for all. They’re called Tonttu and they were the runner-up in our last Weird Band Poll. Why didn’t they win? Fuckin’ gnomes, man. They’re everywhere. They’re even skewing our poll results! Holy shit, that must mean they’re on the Internet now. We’ve got a huge hacker gnome problem. Not that the hacker gnomes are huge…wait, I explained this already, didn’t I?

Anyway, yeah, Tonttu. They’re led by a guy who calls himself the Tonttufindergeneral Hanz-Baal, with the help of another guy who calls himself Großinquisitor Rudolf Von Deer. They call their music “anti-gnomemartialindustrialneofolkmetal.” Most of it is basically just anti-gnome public service announcements delivered in Finnish over music that makes the Schindler’s List soundtrack sound like Katy Perry, although some of it also features maniacal laughter, which I guess is supposed to be what the gnomes sound like when they get together to talk about their plans to murder us all while we sleep. And one track kinda sounds like a Finnish Rammstein, which is pretty cool.

We don’t speak Finnish, but TFG Hanz was nice enough to give us some of the lyrics in English. Here’s a sample:

The most mythical leader of Gnomes, the lump of lard rising up to the sky, the drooling blasphemer Yog-Sothoth
Highest of High Gnomes, in his creepy disguise

The great deception of Christmas flying in the sky,
Dressed in white beard, red jacket
No one should be deceived by that fake beard anymore

Flying in the glow of Fireballs,
Flying from the depths of Mushroom clouds,
Flying in the shadow of deceit,
Taking instead of giving

So yeah, basically, the gnomes are up to some serious Lovecraft shit. We’ve all been deceived. We are victims of a vast gnome conspiracy. Trust no one. Even David fuckin’ Bowie is in on it.

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure your best defense against gnomes is to download one or more of Tonttu’s anti-gnome albums and play them on full blast 24/7. You can buy their two albums, Nekrognomekon and Anti-Gnomen Divisionen 4 (Mastering the fine art of gnome eradication), here and here. Or, if you want start eradicating gnomes for the low price of FREE, email us at weirdestbandintheworld@gmail.com. The first five people to do so will get free download codes from Anti-Gnomen Divisionen 4. That’s how much Tonttu want to protect you from the gnome menace.

We’ll leave you “Pääruoka,” which features that maniacal gnome laughter we mentioned earlier. Sweet dreams! Hope you don’t have one of those stupid little gnome night-lights. You may as well hang a sign on your bedroom door that says, “Kill me now with your tiny, tiny knives and feed me to your tiny, tiny reindeer.”

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Tanzwut

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Sometimes, it would be a lot more convenient if this site was called Weirdest Genre in the World. I mean, when you’re diving into the Renaissance-Faire-meets-Euro-Hesher world of medieval metal, how do you pick just one band as the weirdest? But after an all-night bender of bagpipes and drop-D tuning, I think I can safely say that Germany’s Tanzwut takes the crown.

Medieval metal traces its roots…well, technically to medieval times, I guess, but the whole let’s-mix-Ren-Faire-instruments-with-electric-guitars thing really got its start in the ’90s, when it became really popular in Germany for some reason. Among the first bands to do it was a group called Corvus Corax, who started out playing semi-authentic versions of medieval folk songs on traditional instruments like bagpipes, lutes and something I’d never heard of before called a shawm, which sort of looks like a wooden vuvuzela and sounds, as far as I can tell, pretty much like a bagpipe. (Instruments didn’t have tremendous tonal range back in olden days.)

Anyway, as a one-time experiment, Corvus Corax did a metal-influenced 1996 record called Tanzwut, but it was so popular that they eventually just spun the whole thing off as a separate side project, also called Tanzwut, which apparently translates to “dance-rage.” Only in Germany would there actually be a word for that.

In the years since, Tanzwut and Corvus Corax have evolved into completely separate groups. While Corvus still sticks for the most part to traditional medieval music, Tanzwut has become one of several bands mixing medieval instruments and melodies with a heavy (and sometimes more industrial) rock sound. There’s also the oddly named Subway to Sally, the much more appropriately named In Extremo, and a bunch more you can read about on Wikipedia if that’s your thing.

Again, nearly all these bands are from Germany, although there is one excellent medieval metal band from Italy called Folkstone, who a reader named Michael turned us on to back when we were expounding on medieval metal’s even geekier cousin, Celtic folk metal, back on St. Patrick’s Day. When it’s sung in German, medieval metal kinda makes sense in a bombastic, “Ride of the Valkyries” way. Sung in Italian, there’s something kind of insane about it. It’s like Andrea Bocelli trying to make an Anthrax record. (Side note: Michael has a nifty little genre-mashing project of his own called Blood and Banjos, a work-in-progress melding of black metal and bluegrass. Check it out.)

But back to Tanzwut. Lots of medieval metal bands like to play dress-up, but mostly they just wind up looking like the Capitol One vikings or Game of Thrones fans at Comic-Con. Tanzwut look more like a cross between Rammstein and the world’s scariest Burning Man theme camp, with post-apocalyptic pirate bagpipers and a lead singer named Teufel (“Devil”) who sports actual devil horns (OK, they’re just his hair, but still). They’re also one of the few medieval metal bands who can rock just as hard in an all-acoustic setup. Well, maybe not quite as hard, but dig those hands-in-the-air moves at the 0:28 mark. If you can find us another medieval bagpipe band with that much swag, let us know.

Tanzwut’s live shows look pretty epic, but I’ll leave you with instead with their latest music video, for the title track to last year’s Weiße Nächte (White Nights). It seems to take place in some parallel universe where electricity was discovered in the Middle Ages, but it was only used to power guitar amps and halogen worklights.

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Waylander

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Usually, we don’t get to post much around St. Patrick’s Day, because we’re too busy dodging drunk hipsters and scarfing down free tacos at SXSW. But we’re skipping the Austin trip this year, which means I finally have a chance to honor the patron saint of Ireland with a discussion of one of my favorite obscure subgenres of heavy music: pagan Celtic folk metal.

1993 was year zero for this stuff. That year, apparently by sheer coincidence, three bands popped up that came to define the sound: Cruachan, Primordial and Waylander. Cruachan is probably the most “traditional” of the three, mixing melodies and instruments swiped from Irish folk music with a classic headbanger sound. Primordial is more of a straight-up black metal band that only sounds Irish if you pay attention to the lyrics. But for my whiskey money, Waylander was and is the coolest of the three, since they sound like a knife fight between Sepultura and the steerage band from Titanic. Tin whistles have never before sounded this awesomely evil.

You might think heavy metal inspired by the music and history of pre-Christian Ireland would be a limited field, but there are actually a shit-ton of bands from all over the world who mix some combination of “pagan,” “Celtic,” “folk” and “shred” into their music. Some of the most Celtic-sounding ones aren’t even from Ireland…take Eluveitie, for example, who are from fucking Switzerland of all places and sound like some kind of horrendous mix of the Chieftains, Evanescence, Enya and your kid brother’s shitty screamo band. Technically, I suppose their clash of styles is even weirder than Waylander’s, but I don’t wanna piss off St. Patrick by picking a non-Irish band for this week’s feature.

Two other Celtic metal bands worth mentioning, just because they’re fucking awesome:

Mael Mórdha have been around almost as long as the O.G. Celtic metal bands, but they describe their sound as “Gaelic doom metal,” which basically means they sound even more evil than Waylander. They once appeared on You’re a Star, which is sort of an Irish version of The X Factor, with predictably sad/funny results: The clueless judges forced them to play a cover of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” before sending them packing. (It’s immortalized on YouTube, if you’re into watching noble Irish metal bands humiliate themselves before the gods of television.)

Celtachor are the new kids on the Celtic metal block, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say they rock the hardest of anyone in the genre yet. Give this track “Rise of Lugh” a spin and tell me it doesn’t lay waste to all before it.

Still, I gotta give the weird props to Waylander this week, for being one of the first bands to come up with this stuff, and for still rocking it nearly 20 years later. As I write this, they’re back in the studio hard at work on their fourth album, Kindred Spirits, which they plan to release later this year. I hope they’ll take a break this Saturday to down a pint of Guinness or five.

Bonus video! Here’s a clip of Waylander’s live show. That guy playing mandolin and tin whistle would probably be wearing a kilt if they made one big enough to cover the gigantic balls it must take to play mandolin and tin whistle in a metal band. Oh, and I guess kilts are Scottish, not Irish. So there’s that, too.

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