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Straits Records Presents Making Waves [Straits Records]

Hardcore has always been a bit of a curious blend of political virtue, personal integrity and the machismo of blood and thunder metal. The infusion of a previously taboo genre into its original punk roots makes for a lasting alloy that transcends early predictions of it being a fad.

Coming almost a decade since the now legendary Lion City Hardcore compilation, Straits Records' Making Waves’ compilation is a testament to the genre's local impact. Featuring 10 bands with two tracks each, the CD is one big revelation on the world of the hardcore Singaporean youth, a hodgepodge of buzzsaw riffings and massive amounts of blood-curling, screaming frenzy, which is entirely cathartic in nature.

Compared to the early ‘90s LCHC-era, the focus this time round is less on the "X-on-hands" Strait Edge dogma but more on the conflicts of awakened young minds in society — especially in one like Singapore. There's a lot of demons to be purged here. Anger is a recurring theme — at society, at the system, at injustice but at the same time there's also lot of emphasis on introspection.

Check out the lyrics from Core Values: "Living in a cold world/Death and torture exposed/Exposed to brutality/Felt it firsthand." Not exactly Asian values, is it?

NewBreed's aspirations are more militant — "We are our own messiah/I'll tear down your flag, your symbol/The only remaining sign of your ending oppression" (State Of Oppression).

Sang Froid's triple vocals and big solos mark them as one of the tighter and less amateurish sounding of the lot. Ditto for Wrath, who spew venom on child pornographers in Darken Image.

The Jhai Alai clearly stand out with their high emo quotient. Dear Death (On A Suicide Note) is a chilling plead cum questioning from a mind contemplating taking its own life. When you take into account that young Singaporean suicides do happen — be it because of school, parents or whatever — then it makes you realise that the common argument that Singaporean kids are from a generation "who've never had it so good," who "don't know the meaning of hard work and struggle’ might not be so true after all. The kids don't all belong to the frivolous bunch eating of the previous generation's hard work and core values.

Jahilia's two tracks that close the CD, Edward Goodlife and Blue Oyster offer a rare moment of humour and musical adventurousness — a trait as common in hardcore as misogyny or devil worshipping. Their lyrics sheet calls on its fellow hardcore heaven-ites to "screw activism/let's all keep playing the E chord/chug chug chug" while in actual fact all you hear is Sore Throat-like screeching.

The rest of bands might skimp on treading new ground but there's an over-riding sentiment of musical honesty in the compilation. Hardcore will probably never attain the marketability of related cousins like nu-metal or pop punk — but the 10 bands here are an affirmation that substance sometimes wins out over MTV rage. — Eddino Abdul Hadi


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