While grindcore is a relatively obscure genre compared to black and death metal, the grindcore bands from East/Southeast Asian region are all quite memorable. Different regions lend to different forms of strife, and though not every band here is politically inclined, many are grinding out social injustices within their content, albeit with a regional twist.
Many of these acts have made it to the grind utopia known as the Obscene Extreme Festival both in its Asian form and the original European one, which no doubt any grind band worth mentioning should put on their bucket list to play. Here are the most memorable grindcore bands in East Asia.
The Philippines – Tubero
The Filipino plumber heroes of grind, Tubero are like the Philippines’ version of Brujeria – grindcore with a sense of regional humor and a disdain for common bullshit seen in everyday life situations in the country. The band members themselves have called the project a “joke band”, but there is no denying that Tubero’s legions of fans connect with the working-class subject manner of their songs such as in their animated video for “Kapitbahay”. Their recent video for “Pweh”, gives Napalm Death’s “You Suffer” a challenge for being the shortest song recorded. Someone call up Guinness.
Japan – Swarrrm
Kobe, known for its high quality and very expensive beef, has also been exporting high quality experimental grind since 1996. Swarrrm is the group, and those extra two letter R’s are for “razzmatazz” and a little bit of “rectalgia”, as anyone who has gone to their chaos-in-person shows can attest to a little pain from the ass kicking the band gives. Browse through their dozens of splits, or just listen to their full lengths, Black Bong, Flower, Beginning to Break or I Dreamed… for experiments Mike Patton could only wish he had lab access to.
South Korea – Little Puppy Princess
Underneath all the K-Pop nonsense, there are fierce musical styles lurking within Korea. As far as grindcore goes, look no further than Seoul’s Little Puppy Princess (LPP). Anti-scum human grindcore is what LPP labels itself and that is also the name of their 2017 album. The band doesn’t get paid by the hour, creating bursts of violence that mostly rank under 1 minute in length. The three-headed Korean Cerberus are obviously inspired by the more irreverent stylings of AxCx, and live, bite as much as they bark.
China/Inner Mongolia – Pig Cage
China is experiencing a renaissance of grind, fronted by Impure Injection, though since I have written at length about them, let’s talk about the king of pig squeals. Pig Cage is a one-man band from Inner Mongolia who uses pig sounds instead of human vocals in order to voice his strife over political and social concerns within the country (Inner Mongolia being a region that is proud of its culture and heritage but is still controlled by the Chinese government). The band was created by a human named Maihem, who sampled pig noises due to not liking the sound of his own voice. Screaming Pig in China is a pig/grind hybrid album sounding like Ganon from The Legend of Zelda started up a grind band in one of Hyrule’s horse stables. Prepare for the slop drop.
Taiwan – Stench of Lust
What’s that smell? Ground betel nuts? Taiwan isn’t exactly known for grindcore, with bands like Gore Pot and Brain Corrosion being on the precipice, but leaning more towards death metal. With Stench of Lust, we get a group of lads who are slaves to the grind. Out of Saskatchewan Canada, vocalist Joe Henley formed Stench of Lust in 2013 after coming to Taiwan. The aptly titled Smell the Stench EP is only 7 minutes long, but we all know how some quickies can be quite memorable, and this is one repugnant piece you’ll tie to your olfactory memory.
Indonesia – Noxa
Indonesia is a breeding ground for dark and brutal death metal, but grind has also found an island of its own to fester on, with several key bands sprouting up among the palm trees. Formed in 2002 in Jakarta, Noxa come out swinging with socio-political grind with humanitarian lyrics along the lines of the grind godfathers, Napalm Death. Tragedy struck Noxa in 2009 when drummer Robin Hutagaol died in a motorcycle accident, but the band soldiered on, releasing their third album Legacy in 2011 and cementing themselves as Indonesian grind diplomats by playing Obscene Extreme and Japan’s Askusa Deathfest.
Thailand – Failure Trace
When we are all able to vacation again, Thailand will be many people’s first stop for both beaches and sordid nights out. Perhaps after a ladyboy show, you can catch a set by Failure Trace. The Thai-grind ensemble is a multinational band, with members of Mexican descent and Thai-Indian. The style produced by Failure Trace, is, in their words – ADHD Nihilistic Grindcore.The nihilistic factor comes up in their original moniker, Failure Trace Of Human Race. Since 2003, the band has been waving the grind flag for the land of a million elephants, and have played Obscene Extreme Asia in 2015, in addition to two appearances at the big show in the Czech Republic.
Malaysia – Compulsion to Kill
From the nation's capital of Kuala Lumpur comes the hyper-speed, violence in a blender attack of Compulsion to Kill. The band is high on low-end, making their songs sound like a whirlpool of treacherous bass – with a vocal attack being like sharks in this funnel of grind. From their sound to their flyers, everything about Compulsion to Kill brings a sense of nostalgia for those times in the late 80s when the genre wasn’t so played out. There really is a sense of purity in this compulsion…
Singapore – Con-Formed
In spite of Singaporean authorities not seeing eye-to-eye with the artistic merits of metal concerts in the country (see Watain) and canceling them, Singapore has produced some of the most vicious grindcore bands on the planet. Wormrot is no doubt the most famous band in the genre from Singapore, though there is more to be found here. Con-Formed is “a grinding socio-politically charged band with an amplified iconoclastic dissonant style of attack”. Their 2019 Kodrat is a blackened burst of grind with dual-vocal shouts of strife and dissatisfaction and ominous sampled interludes, making this little album denser than the air during a heatwave in Singapore.
This was a guest post submitted by Ryan Dyer. For Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau bands, there are additional articles about the artists in these areas for your reading pleasure. Also check out his pieces on Chinese folk metal and Chinese black metal, best metal bands in China and women in the Japanese grind scene.