MUSIC

‘Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin’ is a heavy metal concept album by dads with day jobs

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Dalisay’s work will cater to fans who like their heavy metal smart, severe, and profound. Photo courtesy of DALISAY

There may be plenty of superlatives to talk about a metal concept album, but Dalisay’s debut LP “Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin” is truly one of those rare, impressive beasts. No bull.

For one, it covers the basics of a brutal sonic assault set to traditional strains of thrash and death. Yes, it’s also a concept album. The songs are tied together by character narratives that dive deep into social and political ills. Yet, what’s more remarkable than their incisive commentary — usually the purview of punk rock rather than heavy metal — is how the power trio of frontman Jorel Torres (vocals and guitars), Mark Gilberto Saguibo (bass), and Jux Mauricio (drums) make a caliber of noise fit for a band that should be twice the number of members while all being family men — everyone’s a father with a day job.

Though Saguibo and Torres are both based in Southern Luzon — Las Piñas and Laguna, respectively — their drummer lives all the way across the Pacific, in New York City. “We all fell into the abyss of thrash and death metal,” said Torres, arguably the mastermind behind this seven-track arc of despair and suffering. Somewhere at the intersection of death metal Cookie Monster growls, the guttural barks of hardcore punk, and something caught half way between a barbaric yawp and a drunk on the verge of vomiting, Dalisay has found a signature sweet spot.

Dalisay's power trio is composed of frontman Jorel Torres (vocals and guitars), Mark Gilberto Saguibo (bass), and Jux Mauricio (drums). Photo courtesy of DALISAY

Dalisay’s work will cater to fans who like their heavy metal smart, severe, and profound. Apt then, that the themes in the title like “purity” (dalisay) and “leprous” (ketungin) also inform the album art: a death metal, gender inverted Madonna and Child. Body horror and agonizing transformation, you see, are just some of the topics held dear by traditional death metal. Dalisay raises the conceptual stakes through tales of a character named Lazaro, in turn also mirroring how they’ve wrestled with their own personal demons as a form of resurrection; it’s an arguably introspective direction in a musical genre usually just known for chest-thumping braggadocio.

“All the names on the stories of the tracks are actually Bible names and has something to do with their characters except for the song ‘Jetro…’,” confessed Torres, “Because Jetro R Soler is me.”

On "Ang Libing na Naipundar ni Jetro R. Soler" (an anagram of the lead singer’s name), Torres imagines how he might die destitute sans mark on the world, drowned by poverty and hopelessness: “Limampu, tatlumpu, o ilangpung taon makalipas / Mamamatay din ba akong hikaos at wala?” Such willingness to be lyrically vulnerable is more than a stunt, in this genre it’s an act of true bravery.

“That song represents my ultimate fear of dying without leaving something good behind,” explained Torres. “Marilou Diaz-Abaya's ‘Jose Rizal’ and Jose Javier Reyes' ‘Masikip, Mainit, Paraisong Parisukat’ were also huge inspirations for this song.”

It’s a very primal kind of record with blast beasts, snarling riffs, and thunderous bass that, unusually enough, is never too hard to listen to. Yet there’s also a sense that Dalisay likes to lean more towards musical context rather than just showcase technical prowess — that’s not to say they can’t play with celerity, because lighting swiftness on their instruments is a given.

On long tracks like the title track (over 10 minutes!) and "Ang Libing na Naipundar ni Jetro R Soler" (nine minutes), the inclusion of melodic guitar runs, loud-louder dynamics, and a switch from mid-tempo to breakneck speed defines the range of contrast on what would usually be a just quick descent into aural exhaustion.

For those who like ruthless extreme metal, “Hamog” is a personal favorite about living hand-to-mouth as a Filipino in Metro Manila. Certainly not your usual fare of cannibalism and erotic gore — you know, the usual death metal fantasies.

“It was all inspired from what I saw in Avenida, Lawton, Taft, the Manila Port Area, and Sta. Cruz Manila,” said Torres about the song. “Pick pockets, street children, prostitutes, and people who have lost their minds treading the streets.” Heavy in many aspects, it’s that kind of record.

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“Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin” is now available to download on Bandcamp. The cassette tape is available for purchase from Screaming Skull Records (Norway) and the CD is available at Surrogate Records (Ukraine).