Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Overseas Foreign Rockers: Filipino rockers Dreaded Mortuary & Tormentress' Gwen Cañete find their audience abroad.

Above: Three of Dreaded Mortuary's members (L-R): Paul, Len, and Mark.
Below: Tormentress with Gwen Cañete who is in the extreme right.

Overseas Foreign Workers Rockers: Filipino rockers Dreaded Mortuary and Gwen Cañete find their audience abroad.
by rick olivares

Gwen Giselle Cañete works as a nurse in a hospital in Singapore. On certain nights, she trades her nurse’s uniform for jeans, a black shirt, boots, and with a Washburn MG30 strapped in front of her body.

Cañete, who hails from Cebu, plays guitar for the all-female thrash metal Singaporean band, Tormentress. The band was signed by French record label, Inferno Records, in 2014 and they released their debut album succinctly titled, “Operation Torment” to good reviews.

“If I wasn’t in a band and if there was no music scene in Singapore, I wouldn’t have lasted this long here (six years and counting),” said Cañete. The Cebuana grew up listening to punk during her formative years and even played in a grindcore band. Gwen was looking to form a punk band in the Lion City when an opportunity to join Tormentress presented itself.

Gwen on guitars!
“I joined the band in 2011 which was my first year in Singapore,” recounted Cañete. “I used to go to shows alone and one time, a friend of mine told me that Tormentress was looking for a bassist. So I sent Neez, the vocalist, a message and for some reason they asked me to play guitars instead. A few weeks later, I met up with the other guitarist Mas, and learned some of their songs and it turned out well so they asked me to officially join them.”

It’s cool to be in an all-girl thrash metal band. We will be opening for Kreator and Vader (German and Polish metal bands respectively) on the 31st of August. I never thought that I would ever get a chance to open for them. I am excited but the pressure is on because we don’t want to mess things up during our set.”

Gwen and Tormentress isn’t the only band living out its rock ‘n’ roll dream.

Quezon City-based thrash metal band, Dreaded Mortuary, after enduring a lot of tough times back home, found themselves signed by a Japanese label, Rock Stakk, who released their second album internationally and to terrific reviews. Furthermore, they were twice invited to partake in True Thrash Fest in Osaka, Japan alongside their heroes, Exciter and Violator (from Canada and Brazil respectively).

“We went from playing small crowds in Quezon City, Marikina – sometimes with no one watching at all – to playing wild and moshing crowds in Japan,” stated bassist and lead singer Len. “And they weren’t only Japanese in the crowd. There were Caucasians too.”

Upon the urging of a friend, the band submitted a demo to Rock Stakk who in turn picked up 10 CDs of the Dreaded Mortuary’s self-produced debut, “All Out Killing!”

‘We got in touch with the label,” added guitarist Mark, “and they told us they sold out all 10 CDs on the day it arrived. We sent a second batch of eight CDs and that sold out in a day as well. That is when the label asked if we’d like to release an album under their label.”

“We thought it was a joke,” smiled Paul, the band’s other guitarist. And no, it wasn't a cruel joke. The band's second album, "Vulgar Way to Die" was pressed and printed in Japan complete with the obi. “That was like a dream. We couldn't believe it. We were like kids looking at the CD and the obi. And when we got invited to play in True Trash Fest, we didn’t believe it until we were on a plane to Japan.”

During the show, one of the organizers told the band that they had to go outside to meet some fans. “Fans,” wondered Len. “We have fans? We still kept thinking everything was one big joke.” Outside there were indeed fans holding up their CDs and wearing their merchandise.

“We didn’t bring a lot of shirts and they sold out really quick,” added Mark. “The medium and large sizes sold quick. What was left were the XL or XXL. There were these guys who had small frames and they bought whatever shirts were left even if they were several sizes bigger.”

“We went, ‘wow!’ this is insane,” smiled Paul at the memory.

“We have fans from all over the world – France, Argentina, Canada, Japan, and Germany posting pictures of themselves holding up the CD and saying they like our music,” shared Mark who is still in disbelief at the response they have gotten from metal fans from all over the world.

The international release has somewhat helped Dreaded Mortuary’s popularity back home.

“The kind of music we play is somewhat niche here in the Philippines,” said Mark. “Fortunately, we found an opportunity abroad.”

With all that has happened for Dreaded Mortuary since 2014, the band has been given hope. “We’re looking to record our third album that will reflect everything we have experienced over the past few years. And we also hope to shoot our first video. If possible too, play abroad once more.”

“There are offers,” summed up Mark. “But let’s see what happens.”

On her part, Gwen admits that her parents grudgingly listen to Tormentress’ album. “My parents used to play our cd and they’d tell me they don’t like this kind of music but they only do so because I’m in the band.”

“My friends though are forever supportive,” she said by way of a comeback. Their label on the other hand, has tireless promoted the Singaporean outfit in Europe much to the girls’ appreciation.

Outside Singapore, Tormentress has played in Sabah and Malaysia.

Tormentress only recently returned to active duty after two of the members took a leave after they became mothers. “We have not played for two years because work and family.” admitted Cañete. “But after a long hiatus, we are planning to write new songs and play some shows. We also have a few invites to play overseas. I hope all goes well so we can go. I love travelling and checking out the local scenes so I'm sure it’s going to be fun.”

Dreaded Mortuary's bassist and vocalist Len

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