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Album review: 'Communion' by Belantara

Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, August 24, 2018  /  10:28 am
Album review: 'Communion' by Belantara

'Communion' by Belantara (Belantara/File)

The nine songs on Belantara’s debut album Communion showcases a metal band whose intensity matches its ambition. 

Formed in 2012, the band began as a side-project of (now former) members of popular acts Siksa Kubur and Straight Out. With Communion produced by respected metal label Lawless Records, the band clearly aims to be on a trajectory of becoming the next recognized name in local metal music.

For the band members, Belantara (the name is Indonesian for “Wilderness”) also acts as an escape of sorts; it was their way of channeling a sense of experimentation that didn’t really cut it with their former groups. It is, as guitarist Renaldi A. Rimbatara puts it, a way to exact “revenge” on their old selves. 

“We did a lot of things musically that we didn’t do in our old bands,” he says, “Like infusing some elements of ethnic and traditional [Indonesian] music into Belantara. So far, the aim is to keep things fun in a way that is satisfying to us.”

Aside from injecting touches that are closer to world-music than conventional metal, Belantara also has Renaldi and his two bandmates — vocalist Septian Maulana and drummer Budi Supriono — focusing more on spirituality. 

Whether this spirituality in the lyrics refers to religiosity or something more universal is vague. 

What is clear is that the title Communion does not refer to the religious sense of the word, but to the sense of shared “spirituality” that, Septian says, the band underwent together during the prolonged production process — the kind that tested their friendship and loyalty to each other. 

Indeed, the band lost numerous members during the process, with only Renaldi and Septian staying on from the original lineup. 

“The topics [in the songs] shows you what really drove us together. It is about human as being part nature,” says Renaldi, mixing English in his words to get his point across. “A lot of perspectives and questions that required us to answer it ourselves. Sometimes it felt a little forced, but it was fun.”

He points to the song “Holy River: The Bathyalpelagic”, the lyrics of which are more about water, Septian says, still keeping it open to interpretation. What he does not mind making clear is that that element of aquatic fascination extends to the blue-hued visuals that permeates the album sleeve. 

Musically, the band’s underlying heavy rock takes as much from international bands as it does local acts, such as Seringai, which band members run the Lawless label. 

“We listen to a lot of local bands, which get a thumbs up from us. Indonesian bands have our own color and ways,” Renaldi exclaims. 

Like a lot of underground bands, that passion sometimes runs into issues that are on the technical side. In Belantara’s case, it was the loss of files in the middle of the recording process, which forced them to re-record everything. 

The band also moved around different recording studios for a variety of reasons, which added to the sluggishness of the whole process. (Most of the production was eventually done at Ben and Co studios in Bogor, however).

With only three permanent band members, Belantara is joined by Idzrial Iman on guitar and Keany on bass, for live performances.

The band has even prepared a “Fan chant” song with the track “Kawanan Belantara” (roughly a “Flock of Wilderness”), which it hopes will fire up its growing fan base when it performs it live. 

“We just want to keep it as honest as possible when we play live. We just let things flow as naturally as they can,” says Septian. “The goal is to have never-ending fun. We’ll always want to do this.”

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