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Manila's Metal Musicians

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

Manila is a music town. It doesn't have the cachet of Austin or Nashville nor, even, Manchester or (parts of) London. But it's a town where music is part of the fabric of the city. The district of Intramuros is home to some fascinating heavy metal musicians. And they don't play a note.

Ka Freddie's is a music venue in central Manila where ear splitting guitars and gut-sloshing bass and drums are the norm. In the bar, a young man came up to this writer, the only Caucasian in the bar. "Have you heard of Piranha before?" he asked. No. "I've recently joined the band. I play second guitar. I grew up listening to these guys and to be able to play with them was always my dream." As the band played the music from its new EP, New Waters, it's clear: the future of rock in Manila is in good hands, even with the limitations of a tiny venue with no mixing desk and the PA fed through the speaker stacks on the stage rather than the enormous speakers that hung ominously from the ceiling. Dream well met: the band is tight and melodic with good, solid rock. There are no surprises, just the good stuff.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Mostly, Manila is new but the old Spanish City, Intramuros (between the walls) is both old and superbly restored after wartime devastation. Recent planning restrictions have blocked the development of tall buildings and the tiny roads and even tinier alleys have maintained the centuries' old feel.

Intramuros was a fortified, walled, city built by the Spanish and its thick walls and cannon give testament to its original purpose. But today, it's a recreational space, with the fort a stop-off on a walk around those parts of the walls that are accessible and safe. It's also home to a group of metal musicians.

With no obvious attribution, this author is, sadly, in the dark as to their genesis.