Friday, 26 October 2012

Featured Artiste: Opposition Party

This is a request from JungleKid (look right to the hidden cbox that only smart people have noticed). Rather than go through the band's history as I have with earlier featured artistes, I will share my thoughts on two of the albums I have from this band, namely a compilation entitled 'The Chaotic Years' and their latest LP from 2005, Zombified. Opposition Party can be described as 80s influenced punk, because duhh they formed in the 80s, but have slowly integrated thrash metal as part of their sound over the years. This isn't groundbreaking though, interviews with Slayer and Metallica have shown that punk was the trigger that helped in the development of thrash metal.

Chaotic Years 1989 - 1995

These tracks are supposedly mulled from the band's earlier cassettes, and this shows in the atrocious quality of the recordings, distorted and scarred beyond recognition (incidentally the band's earliest songs 'Brain Fucked'. 'Zombified', 'Ignorance' and 'Taking Us For Fools' would be rerecorded thrash metal style on their subsequent CD, Zombified). Getting past production value, the band reveals itself to be no slouch technically, but never compromise technicality for song-writing. However, how much of an impact does their song-writing have? Taking the point of view from 2012, these two-decade old songs do no seem to have stood the test of time. The sound production was definitely vintage, and there is decent variation in song-writing, the clean intro of 'Suicide Bound' definitely shocked me. However, the vocals leave a lot to be desired, personally, lacking the detachment represented in punk songs from that era, and the energy demanded in thrash metal. Instead, band leader Francis' vocals tread the line between this two, but never managed to create an impact on me. The lack of clarity in enunciation of lyrics also creates a sort of detachment between me and the music, which is a fatal flaw for anarchic punk. However, as said, the guitar work and bass makes up a lot for the music.

An interesting thing about this compilation is that the chronological placement of the tracks have a nice progression, as you see the sound of the band slowly change over time, with the change of atmosphere beginning from 'Dance Of Fire' with its palm-muted riffs reminiscent of early 90s death metal, and a marked change in Francis' vocals, though they never quite make the cut for me.

As said, the music is good, but it does not quite stand the test of time. Marred by the same flaws most local bands have; poor production and poor vocals, this is a hideous irritation because the songs here are very enjoyable, and songs like 'Impending Death' and 'Lonely Realm', by which time the band's songwriting has vastly improved, could have huge potential that could have been a pleasure to experience live, but have no power in studio. Also, the band doesn't have anything unique to offer, it is basically treading the same paths of punk bands all over the world, with the same vocal work and some decent guitar/bass flare. I draw in comparison the local band Rudra. Basically they play black metal but they have stood out from the world and given their own ethnic twist on their genre, even though the band was also marred by the same problems that this band had in their earlier years. Also case in point; a band with the same themes but who have managed to bring their songs to local context; Truth Be Known with their tongue-in-cheek remarks at local ministers. You want something Singaporean from a local band, not a half-baked imitation of the international scene. This would be a nice twist for the band that isn't making full potential of its musical skill.

★★★☆☆ Average - Half of album is listenable


The rerecording shows one secret weapon this band has that I don't think anyone else in Singapore would have: Kazz's bass. From start to end, the basslines dominate the songs, which is quite a pleasure to listen to, and the thought that such musicians can come up in the local scene will definitely bring some pride to listeners. Francis' vocals seem to have a more metal edge to them and it definitely works better with the music.

However, the production is still... lethargic. As said earlier, the band continues to struggle with creating a unique identity. There is also a clash of ideas with the band's new thrash metal stylings, you can see that there is an added emphasis on guitar, but unlike the older songs, the guitars seem uninspired and tired, which must be a flaw in the mix (whoever processes the band's songs ought to be shot). The sterile sound production surely helps Kazz's bass, but this destroys the band's overall sound. The drums by session drummer Alfe sound weak and needle-like, not sharp but whiny. Francis' and Lee's guitar, while technical, seem confused as to whether to go for the tasteful, youthful energy of punk or the technical shred glory of thrash metal, and in attempting to do so sound conflicting and half-baked. There are many times you wish the band was heavier, but the production does not allow for it.

Elsewhere there are several wonderful moments in the songs, the use of police sirens wailing at the back of  'It's Chaos' is definitely unexpected and tasteful, but by no means original. The choruses, while predictable (usually just the title of the song over the riff) are catchy and can definitely translate well in live performances - case in point- 'Good People'.

With a push in proper guitar leads and a heavier sound, this band could be huge, not that it already isn't, but that is my two cents la.

★★★☆☆ Average - Half of album is listenable

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