Indonesia’s Grimloc Records began as a hip-hop driven endeavor, but has since grown into a label home for some of the country’s best hard rock artists. It’s a unique trajectory that makes sense when you consider what the Bandung, West Java indie label represents: politically charged lyrics wrapped in passionate malcontent. For all their genre-stylistic differences, Grimloc Records artists share an outward dissatisfaction towards societal injustices, particularly as perpetrated by those in positions of power. These bands occasionally look inward, but save most of their energy to rail against evil external forces.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Grimloc Records has released a compilation CD titled ‘Dasawarsa Kebisingan’, Indonesian for ‘A Decade of Noise’. Sold in a nicely-designed package alongside a thorough booklet filled with liner notes, historical scribblings and credits, it is one of those underground archives with meaning that goes beyond the songs encompassed within.
Other than the title’s obvious nod towards all the aural onslaught Grimloc has wrought on listeners in the last decade, it also references the label’s movement-creating activism, beyond branding through empty sloganeering. Label heads and veteran rappers Herry “Ucok” Sutresna (from ’90s rap legends Homicide) and Gaya “Soulkillaz” (from the hip-hop group EyeFeelSix) have participated in all forms of demonstrations and protests, seminars, and programs that seek to educate marginalised groups like farmers and factory workers, assisting them as they battle powerful entities across the country.
So it’s no surprise that ‘Dasawarsa Kebisingan’ feels like an endless rallying call. The first sound we hear is the crunching rhythms of Ssslothhh’s almost-sludgy opener ‘Eulogy of Passing’, which goes through various rhythmic shifts, from early-’90s Neurosis-style grind to a thrash metal crescendo. Throughout, vocalist-guitarist Vinsensius “Dede” Widi Sulistya stands unwavering in his grievances, wailing against impending destruction: “When the earth shatters / When the world is set ablaze / Remember an insignia / Of a grandiose epoch”.
Similarly impassioned sentiments of holding onto slowly-withering ideals feature in the Sutresna-led band Birds of the Coming Storm’s ‘Ikarus Ibnu Firnas’, which offers Indonesian lyrics that translate as “Bones in the tomb of ideas / Containing long gone slogans / that once danced and bled in a dystopia” within its hearts-on-fire ’80s twin-guitar attack. The song begins on the upswing of hope, with old-school hardcore drumbeats that perpetually lurch forward – dynamics be damned – giving the song a sense of crescendo throughout its whole run. Like Ssslothhh’s contribution, it’s a war cry that also happens to be catchy as hell.
Indeed, whether consciously or not, the album collects the bands’ most immediately hard-hitting tracks, such that even the slight differences in audio output (from recording in different studios) go unnoticed. Almost every track here delivers either strong refrains or hummable riffs and crowd-pleasing beats. Taring’s ‘Solek Gigil Sejarah’ (roughly ‘Dandy Freezing History’) is bullet-train hardcore-metal made for the pit, while veteran band Jeruji’s ‘Rebut, Rampas’ (‘Take, Steal’) offers thunderous, victorious grind (“We’re here / Still standing” goes the last line).
There are some moments of lyrical soul-searching, standing out for their fragility, though the lines are still screamed as if caused by visceral internal bleeding. Goredath’s ‘Manic Depression’ serves up lines like “I’ll never feel quiet inside my heart”, and “A lifetime in cage / Watching the series of collapsing dreams”. Somehow, the Judas Priest power-metal sound that accompanies it makes everything feel more dramatic and theatrical. Other outliers appear in the form of Flukeminimix’s ‘Genjer Genjer’, a post-rock closer with electronic flourishes, and the pulsating hip-hop of Eyefeelsix’s ‘Persetankan Dunia’ (‘To Hell With The World’). Neither is easy listening but they provide some sort of dynamism to the 16-song tracklist.
And indeed, the wealth of restless lyrical and musical unease here isn’t easy to process in one or even two sittings. ‘Dasawarsa Kebisingan’ is exhaustive in detailing its grievances, which can also make it an exhausting listen. It sets a certain mood that is Grimloc’s calling card, and makes for an even record with only one moment of awkwardness (the ironic cutesy melody in Mesin Tempur’s ‘Detkor Kapiting’). It’s great music that can make you feel not-so-great afterwards. With compilations such as this, especially those by labels that have built their own sub-scene such as Grimloc, it’s sometimes more about the story than the songs. ‘Dasawarsa Kebisingan’ is a necessary archive of timely art released in a world on fire.
- Release date: November 21
- Record label: Grimloc Records