War and conflict has been a constant of human civilisation. Mass agriculture brought wealth, power and poverty and if the TV news is to be believed, we all should fear the lonely son’s hand on the big red button. Syria is a mess, Trump is in the White House, the Myanmar military seems to be attempting to exterminate the Rohingya people, and if you’re living in the West Bank and Gaza you’ve got the neighbours building flats in your backyard. But the suffering of the West Papuans doesn’t often make the news.
However, there have been some significant recent developments as reported in The Saturday Paper over the weekend. Benny Wenda, a leader of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua took a petition, apparently signed by 1.8 million people, to the UN in support of a new act of self-determination for West Papua.
The same article recorded the historical source of this discontent: “The former Dutch half of the island of New Guinea was handed over to Indonesia in a cynical sop to the late president Sukarno by the Kennedy administration in 1963, on condition of an “act of free choice” being held later. In the resulting 1969 exercise 1026 locals were picked, bribed and threatened by Jakarta’s operatives into a unanimous vote to join the republic”.
This is the second year of Rockin’ for West Papua with events happening around Australia this past weekend. The following four bands rocked out in support of West Papua on Sunday (October 8) at Frankie’s in Sydney last night.
TotoFu are a rock band from the Sutherland Shire. Apart from a broad designation of hard rock/metal, Totofu’s sound is hard to pigeonhole or find bigger name bands to liken them to so as to help describe their sound. This is a huge compliment! They have a grungy demeanour and if pressed, I might compare them with The Melvins or early Tool. They delivered a solid set for the early birds in attendance.
Once Remained hail from the Central Coast of NSW and have recently released their debut album, Victory Or Die. They claim influences such as Trivium and Alter Bridge, something I’d personally keep to myself, however, Trivium are certainly very popular. They are a talented bunch of guys who have worked hard at honing their craft which is essentially meat and potatoes metal.
Unlike Trivium, there is very little flair in a Once Remained live set last night and entertainment value was lost because of it. While they were certainly tight, the set became a bit “samey” after a while. Some excitement was generated via a solid rendition of the title track of their debut album.
Blackbreaks are another NSW band and one with significant pedigree. The band formed in 2012 and have released EPs without a debut album as of yet. Blackbreaks features Chris Dubrow of Insurge fame on vocals/guitar and Kerry Fouke (from MM9). Live, they are joined by Matty McMartin, Mark ‘Milli’ Avery and Sean Burnett.
Insurge released two albums in 1996 and 2000 and for a while had quite the following. Their songs Political Prisoners and Speculator became JJJ faves. Insurge mixed pedal to the medal hard rock with industrial and newer electronic sounds. They were staunchly political as are Blackbreaks. Musically, Blackbreaks lean more to the rock than did Insurge.
Blackbreaks delivered a slick and no nonsense set leading with Alienation from their eponymous debut EP followed by Need Machines from the EP of the same name. Unlike many heavy bands, Blackbreaks have a quality vocalist in Dubrow. Even with a less than ideal PA, Dubrow’s vocals were clear and powerful. A lot of rock bands would do a lot better with someone who could deliver vocally, and this doesn’t mean sounding like Michael Buble. Remember what Butch Vig, producer of Nirvana’s Nevermind said: what really made the album was Kurt Cobain’s vocals.
It is important to have an overtly political band at an event like this and Blackbreaks certainly fit the bill. Someone should drop the Oils a line to give the Free West Papua movement a shout-out on their current tour.
Demonatrix are another local band.They have yet to release an album, but are supporting a new single titled So Scared. It’s a catchy rocker and not at all scary. Their aesthetic is total Goth (black leather and PVC/white greasepaint and black make up) and thematically they fit the Goth bill, but their sound is not traditional Goth by any means. It is better defined as Glam as they themselves partly describe it. They teach music as a day job and they certainly are skilled musicians. They’ve picked a well-trodden path in Glammy/Goth and time will tell if they have an “x-factor” that brings them a significant following.