There are many reasons to visit a death metal festival in a foreign city, one of the key ones, obviously, is being a fan of heavy metal. There is also the temptation to head out of one’s comfort zone, or to experience the youth culture of an unfamiliar city. At the end of the day, however, I have to be honest: it’s pretty great simply to be able to tell people about ‘that time I went to the Taiwan Death Metal Fest”. The best travel memories come from doing something new and out of the ordinary, and this festival certainly achieved that.
Truth be told, heavy metal is not particularly popular in Taiwan; at least, not in any mainstream sense. The Taiwan Death Metal Fest, which takes place in late October each year in a basement-level live music venue in Taipei, is one of the smaller music festival to which I have been. That actually works in its favour. This is an intimate, small-scale experience where your fellow attendees on the floor are as likely members of the performing bands as they are attendees. When I attended the 2016 festival I wound up in conversation with members of two of the bands – Malaysia’s Farasu and the Taiwanese-Canadian outfit Stench of Lust.
The vibe of the festival is enthused and supportive, although by Australian standards the local audience is remarkable polite and sedate. The crowd is here to listen to the music, and an attempt to set up a mosh pit halfway through the day I attended seemed to inspire more bewildered amusement than aggressive jumping-about.
The bands, while all playing heavy metal, possessed a range of sounds from the punk-oriented to the more elaborate and refined. All seemed to perform with a solid amount of self-awareness and humour. Humour is a big aspect of metal to me; I don’t think you can be that loud, over-the-top and aggressive without laughing at how ridiculous it all is. The bands came from numerous countries: not only Taiwan itself, but China, Japan, Malaysia, and as far away as Finland (‘crustpunk’ outfit Vapahtaja). As an education in Asian heavy metal music, this festival marks a tremendous opportunity.
Once stamped on the wrist, you can leave and re-enter the venue however often you like over the course of the day. If you want to grab some lunch or dinner, or simply give your ear drums a rest for an hour, the festival’s location in Taipei’s fashionable precinct Ximending makes it incredibly convenient for shopping, dining and even having a wander around the suburb’s back streets and checking out the gorgeous street art.
I had a hell of a time at the Taiwan Death Metal Fest, and am very keen to go back later this year. It has an infectious, friendly appeal that’s difficult to shake.
Taiwan Death Metal Fest
When: 28 October 2017
Where: 10862, Taiwan, Taipei City, Wanhua District, 昆明街76號
Disability access: Entry is down a flight of stairs, however the performance venue and restrooms are all on the same level. Elevator access unknown.