Having paid its dues for some years now, the rock band has released an unrelenting cranium crusher of a debut.
We might nearly be 30 years removed from 1985 today but that doesn’t mean Malaysian rock music can’t dip its toes into its own history for inspiration. The Carbolics values the nation’s rock past, which is why the band has paid homage to that heritage in its all-pleasing debut long player Episode 1 & 2. And if street cred is a source of debate, the Klang-Valley based outfit even got Malaysia’s rock queen Ella to sing on a track.
Episode 1 of the album features Malay songs while the second part English, ensuring that this effort of two halves reaches out to all and sundry.
Apparently, the album was originally intended as a double EP, but fate had other ideas. “It’s like getting two CDs on one ... Malay listeners can enjoy the Malay songs and English listeners the English tunes,” revealed bass player and driving force Jai Kanth, during a recent interview of the album’s two-in-one concept.
The album boasts the raw power of the hard rock genre, with the mandatory ballads thrown in, of course, and what’s clear is, these boys know how to rock.
The band, currently comprising Jai on bass, Lawrence Soosai on guitar, Alex Subryn Luis on vocals and guitars, Kamarul Ariff on vocals and Ahmad Ikhwan on drums, has pedigree, too, having formed in the late 1990s (when it was called Carbolic Smokeballs, the name lifted from a fundamental case study in law), gigging heavily at the start of the new millennium at indie band haunts of yesteryear KL Jamm Asia and Paul’s Place.
All the band members had paid their dues in various bands before the game of musical chairs finally concluded, finding the quintet in its current position.
More recently, the band earned third place in RTM’s Rentak Juara band competition in 2008, receiving the “most popular band” nod from the organisers in the process. And the latest stat for the band to trumpet: it just won the best song plaudit for its song Dreams at this year’s VIMA awards, Asia’s first independent music awards.
As much as the band’s sound leans towards 1980s rock, Jai himself was weaned on rock music through the decades, from the 1970s to today’s grinding modern rock sound.
“I heard Deep Purple’s Highway Star as an eight-year-old, and thus began my love for rock music. After that, there was no looking back,” said the bass player, who cites the likes of Black Sabbath, Queen, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses and Avenged Sevenfold among his influences.
Songwriting in The Carbolics is a collective effort, unlike most bands where one person tends to helm the creative process.
“We usually jam on a couple of ideas in the studio and then work on melodies and lyrics from there,” Jai said, intimating that the band – whose members are aged between late 20s and late 30s – writes about a range of topics, including love, child abuse and the state of the music industry.
The 11-song album kicks off with the knuckle duster wallop of Gigil before navigating through ballads Di Langit Cinta and Ceritera Cinta, ending on a high with the soaring, 1990s-flavoured In The Line Of B. Of course, Voices is of particular interest given Ella’s unmistakable vocals on it. Likewise Rock N’ Roll, which features hip hop artiste Balan Kashmir.
And how did Malaysia’s rock queen come to lend her voice talent to a band finding its feet in the recording industry?
“The Carbolics and Ella shared the same producer for our most recent projects, Amirrudin Syawal. One day, she popped in the studio during one of our sessions, heard the song and offered to sing on it,” Jai revealed.
Getting a major record label like Warner Music Malaysia to distribute an album is a major coup for a new act, but Episode 1 & 2’s contemporary sound and style were too good to refuse. And just when all the doors were slammed in their faces, metaphorically speaking, the band found an ally in the label’s legendary A&R man Che Mokh.
The dust may have barely settled with the fanfare from Episode 1 & 2, but the band is already planning its next onslaught. “We are already working on our next album. We want to keep making music that’s unique and challenging, so look out for Episode 3 & 4 soon,” Jai cheekily offered.
Episode 1 & 2 is available at all leading music stores and can be downloaded from iTunes. For more information on The Carbolics, go to its Facebook page.