1- Hello there. I am writing this in the accompaniment of the tracks from Versailles, a Japanese speed/classical metal band and God, they are awesome. If you like highly melodic classical stuff, crazy shreds and riffs with modern baroque operatic baritone-esque vocals, then I suggest you try this crazy cross dressing (they call it Visual Kei, its more style then a genre) band. Be sure not to fap over the guitarists cute face, because the last time i checked he is still a guy.
2- If you recognize Florida for its Death Metal (Morbid Angel, Death, Deicide), Bay Area for its Thrash Metal (Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus), Gothenberg for its Melodic Death Metal (In Flames, At The Gates, Dark Tranquility), Norway in general for its regiments of Black Metal bands (Mayhem, Burzum, Dark Throne) then it is only fair that you should recognize this small country of ours called Malaysia with our own brand of metal called Eastern Metal.
3- I know that the name is kinda generic and cheesy and I too understand that Eastern is subjective, but there is nothing that I can do about it. If it was up to me to name the genre, I would have called it a much more awesome name like Malayan Metal. Ok, that too sounded lame. Who cares anyway. What about Barbaric Malayan Metal? Awesome? No? Fuck you.
4- What ever it is, Eastern metal (bare with me guys, stop complaining, fuckheads) was an original concept coming out of the shores of Malaysian waters. I do not know who coined the term Eastern Metal but my number one suspect was Langsuyr's Eastern Cruelty EP which was released in 1996 but I might be wrong since I base my suspicion solely on the term Eastern in Eastern Cruelty.
5- Malaysia back then, like most country in the South East region of Asia in the likes of Indonesia, Philippine, Singapore and Thailand, was a country highly blanketed by Malay mysticism, shamanism and black magic. Although due to the rampant progress of technology, modern mindsets and the widespread of Islam, these ancient tradition, rituals and practices were reduced, ignored and almost forgotten. Almost.
6- But you can still witness these elements in the form of traditional dances of the Malays. The ritualistic royal theater of Mak Yong and medicinal therapy of Main Puteri in Kelantan, the ritual calming of the spirit of the seas in Ulek Mayang in Terengganu, the theatrical battle dance of Kuda Kepang in Johor, just to name a few, are the instances of mystical elements that were still practiced nowadays although for a new different reason altogether. It is also a fascinating to point out that some Malay rulers (Sultans) still adhere to some of these ancient rituals. The ritual of Beting Beras Basah practiced by the Sultans of Perak is one good example.
7- But for me, the more important learning experience behind all these ancient practice of mysticism was not only in regards of its mystic and magic, but the legend, myth and rich history of the vikings of the orient. the ancient seafarers of an ethnic called the Malays, the main ethnic inhabiting the Malay Archipelago since time immemorial. Before I keep on ranting about the history of the Malays here, it is better if I stay on course. Eastern Metal, damn it, Eastern Metal.
8- Musically, Eastern Metal is basically an amalgamation of local dark musical folk riffs and extreme metal especially Black Metal. I dont know but Black Metal seems to suit the unification of these elements, musically and lyrically. The first band that did this (incorporate local folk music into extreme metal) was Cromok in an intro of one of their more famous song from their debut demo, Image of Purity, called Metallurgical back in 1990. It is also important to note that another local seminal thrash band called Freedom Thats Gone (FTG) did also incorporate a local classic musical style called Keroncong in their song titled Kill The Evil from their first EP in 1991 but thats a different discussion altogether.
9- But it was not Cromok who developed the music. The band just paved the way musically. It was a Singaporean Black Metal band called As Sahar that started to champion the mysticism of the Malays lyrically and developed the music into a distinct sound of Eastern Metal with their 1995 demo, Santau (voodoo-ish sort of magic) which was later released by a Malaysian record label called Nebiula Productions in the form of a 4 song EP called Meditation Embun Pagi, in the same year.
10- With song titles such as Stroll in Kafan (pieces of white linen with which Muslims wrap their dead with), basically a song about a Malay ghost called Pocong, and Santau Tuju Angin (Wind Voodoo would be an appropriate term to define it), As Sahar started to develop a lyrical theme and sets of distinctive Javanese based riffs that would later form the basic idea of what would later be known as Eastern Metal.
11- That legendary release, Meditation Embun Pagi by As Sahar, was soon followed by another legendary release by a local legendary band called Langsuyr/Ryusgnal (forest banshee in Malay with the latter being the same moniker spelled backwords, eery), in the form of a 4 song EP called The Eastern Cruelty. It was during this time that Eastern Metal was recognized as a genre.
12- As Sahar continued the eastern metal path with their debut LP called Phenomistik which was released in 1998 while Langsuyr contributed 2 songs in the same vein of Eastern Cruelty for a local compilation called Ipoh Metal Militant: Supremacist.
13- By then dozens of bands started being fascinated with the newly discovered genre. Alongside As Sahar and Langsuyr, other important bands that dwelt with Eastern Metal were Tasyim, Arkhaytul Mayt, Purnamwulan, Kharabanazak, Atrocious, Larrong or the newer ones in the likes of Singhasari and Polong. It is also important to note that even though most of the mentioned bands played either Black Metal or Death Black Metal musically, there were other bands which managed to incorporate Malayan myths and mysticism without the distinctive Eastern Metal sound such as Cryptic Malediction (death metal), Sil Khannaz (dare i say Progrockdeath?) and Uprising (folk metal). Worth checking them out.