Off Bleat #1: Backdraft
Our Bloggist Looks Back at Formative Influences

This is a space that I’m reserving to feature stuff that I enjoyed while growing up – albums, movies, books, video games, etc. As kids, we really only consume what are readily available, and we do so with very little prejudice. Whether we like it or not, most of the stuff we got exposed to when we were younger informed and even influenced us. We rarely got to choose what these would be. Inevitably, some of them may turn out to be popular, although a handful of them may not. The less well known, in my opinion, are much more interesting to talk about. In sharing how much these things mean to me, I hope this little piece becomes its own justification. Here is the first installment, as necessitated by an upcoming event…

I was but a wee impressionable laddie when I discovered the devil’s music. This was in the 90s, when the devil manifested itself through cassette tape in order to appeal to listeners with a limited budget. I was a student, and I’m pretty sure I forewent many a complete lunch for these devil cartridges.

At the time, I considered Backdraft, Wolfgang, and Razorback to be the local rock triumvirate. I even professed this to the girl I had the hots for. This was possibly why she promptly dumped me, even after I pled with notebook poetry and threatened to kill myself with 90s lyrics.

Weapons of mass destruction.

Wait… Razorback, Wolfgang, and what’s that? Well, I’m glad you asked. Backdraft just happens to be my all-time favorite Filipino metal band named after a Ron Howard film about firefighters and starring Kurt Russell. I don’t recall when I actually bought Backdraft the band’s 1994 ‘self-titled’ debut on devil-cassette, but I know that it’s called “Impiyernong Kinagisnan” because I’m an insufferable geek. I held it in reverence. These were ten tracks of metal sung in (mostly) Tagalog. At a time when artists tried to write in their ‘best’ English, Backdraft dealt out themes that didn’t really see much Filipino interpretation. These songs – nine originals and a cover – benefited from the rawness of Tagalog. The album came across sincere, for sure, and despite the aggression and dark overtones, it rarely felt threatening. It was as threatening as any, however, for a band whose resident shredder was called ‘Mirt’ – later becoming ‘Möt’, less muppet and more METAL.

For the album, I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite track among the ten. To be sure, I like the opening surge of “Sugo ng Dilim”, the dirge shuffle that’s “Dama de Noche”, and the Maiden gallop of “Munting Hari”. These three, together with “Manyika” (cue maniacal laughter), provide a brilliant horror-komiks counterpoint to the dance-y backbeat that propels “Sinungaling”, and “Asong Ulol”. For the slow songs, it may be argued that the band’s take on “Himig Natin” is easily one of the best Juan dela Cruz covers ever attempted. Furthermore, the ‘power ballad’ “SMB”, which contains the only English lyrics on the album, boasts of a rather satisfying transmogrification – the second part, in Tagalog, may even be considered catharsis. On that note, nothing could possibly be more cathartic than “Hoy!”, which lovingly includes the best utterance of “Pooöötahngyeeeeehnaaaumwoooooååaarglegargleglugh!” ever committed to tape.

The CD cover is a photo of the vocalist recording that take. [thanks, Backdraft]

I would know, later on, that had I gotten the CD (I didn’t yet have a CD player), I would have gotten an eleventh track, “Anak ng Gabi” – my quintessential Backdraft song. It had the reliable 90s theme of self-loathing but swathed in the oblique references to lower Filipino mythology that I so love about the band’s lyrics. Isn’t this song essentially an update of Mike Hanopol’s “Jeproks”? Dick Verzosa’s valedictory “Impiyer-NONG kiNAw-GIS-NAAAAAWUNglurgh!” is priceless. This is the lyric that inspired the (non)-title of the cassette it was left out of. I do own the song on my “A Dozen Alternatives” compilation, of course.

I would also know, much later on, that had I gotten the CD, I wouldn’t have had to spend most of my adult life looking for it. I have upgraded my cassette collection into CD for the most part, but Backdraft’s albums have been the most elusive for this digitization effort. Recently, I discovered that the first album has been made available on MyMusicStore. I bought those very songs at PhP 15 apiece, but found that some of them have skipping noises. I would recommend downloading the album from Amazon and iTunes, except I haven’t tried their versions yet.

Backdraft released their second album, “The Shadowland Deep”, in 1996. This was notable for the fact that the band recorded this with new member Anton Yap after original guitarist Ferdie Aquino slipped into a coma, something that unavoidably colored the proceedings. The album felt more mature. It was also more ambitious, and the band suddenly had seven-minute songs. Shadowland had everything one expected from the band, except rawness had been traded for a more focused kind of aggression. For me, the most enjoyable tracks are still the ones sung in Tagalog: “La Propaganda”, “Mötspeed”, “Sino?”, “Nasaan ang Liwanag”, and “Sa Dagat ng Apoy”. On the other hand, “Empty”, and the appropriately titled “The Epic” are classic slow-burn anthems in the vein of “SMB” from the previous album. “Gorgatz” and closing track “The Man With No Face”, meanwhile, are generous in-your-face excursions into monolithic rawk. Despite the understandably serious tone of the album, the band still manages to show their lighter side in those two songs: “Gorgatz” is an instrumental with lyrics credited to drummer Jigs de Belen, while the latter ends with killer carnival fanfare.

It’s a serious album – just look at the 90s lens flare. [thanks, Backdraft]

I have never seen the band live, I must confess. My one personal encounter with them would be through a short email I sent in 1997 to their bassist, Tyrone, then webmaster of the nifty Shadowland Site:

Animated GIFs died after the 90s, unfortunately. [thanks, Backdraft]

I sent an email to commend the band and the site design (because I had taste, dammit). I found out earlier that same day that I made the dean’s list for the first time. As a college freshman, this was big, so I couldn’t help but put that in my first attempt at fanmail (thereby communicating that I was a nerd via Eudora attachment)… “Dear Backdraft combo, great album, guys. Great site. I am a freshman and I made the dean’s list today, thankyouverymuch.

The reply I received was something to the effect of: “Thanks, Ronan. Congratulations on making dean’s list, but try to take it easy. It seems that you work too hard on your studies. Come see us at a gig soon.” It was an epiphany of sorts. I took the hint and promptly dropped out of college to become a hobo.

With a shotgun. [thanks, Hobo]

But that’s not important. Listen now. Backdraft, who have been inactive these past fifteen years, are playing a one-off reunion gig in Makati this July 14. This is like an alignment of the planets because the band members are now based in different countries. Proceeds for the concert will go toward the ongoing recuperation of their friend and former bandmate, Ferdie Aquino. Please find tickets available here.

Stop, drop, and rock & roll! [thanks, Backdraft]

The poster for the event shows the band in their strapping Keempee-haired 90s incarnation. They’ll no doubt be as debonair in the reunion concert. They’ll be – err – on fire. Based on the promotional material, maybe even literally. A little known fact: their fiery debut album cover was later reused by their record company… but since it was too manly, Viva opted to just use the flipside:

Pooöötahngyeeeeehnaaaumwoooooååaarglegargleglugh! [no thanks, Viva]

See you all on July 14.


Please head on over to Backdraft’s Facebook page for more info.

Should anyone know where to source decent copies of the two Backdraft albums, please let me know. Should anyone know where to source Viva Hot Men, you don’t have to (but thanks anyway)!

Categories: [events], [music], [nostalgia]

[2] Comments


  • Tyrone says:
    July 2, 2012 A.D. at 8:16 AM

    Ronan, thanks for the support. See you on July 14!!

    • Ronan says:
      July 3, 2012 A.D. at 1:34 AM

      thanks for visiting, tyrone! sorry for making you think i became a hobo. =) i also hope i get to apologize to mirt for the muppetization. i feel bad now, hehe. see you all on the 14th!



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