I Am Human Trash for Victim Mentality: A SXSW Tale

It’s official. I am trash.

This is no exaggeration. When it comes to certain artists, I’ve very neatly folded myself into a dumpster and allowed myself to be consumed by the messy greatness of my favorites. The list of those artists to whom I’ve willingly given my entire kingdom is actually quite few. Artists who, in one form or another, have elevated me emotionally and spiritually to the point where there’s no actual other place to go but down… into a trash receptacle.

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Victim Mentality is a favorite here at Rock N’ Seoul, and for good reason. There’s something utterly magnetic, electrifying to the point of dangerous about the band. Their stage presence is undeniable. Their wit and charm uncanny. But what sets them apart from any band I’ve ever seen is the power and promise of their performance style. They undeniably own you as soon as they alight their stage. The audience is captive in their energy, slaves to their musical whims.

I’d always had a great deal of respect and love for Victim Mentality. But their show at the Dirty Dog Bar during South by Southwest took my adoration to levels that very well may be unhealthy. Of course my infatuation began before they even started their sound check. Rebs had interviewed the band for at least the third time, and she allowed me to tag along and finally meet the infamous band of renegade metalheads. To say I was utterly charmed out of my chair would be an understatement and would also assume that I had any composure to begin with. I’m not in the habit of lying, so let’s just get it out of the way: I was head-over-heels from the moment we exchanged greetings. Yes, folks. They had me at “hello.”

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Arriving just as they were setting up, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was in for. Sure, I’d seen them before — two years ago at my first SXSW during the then titled K-pop Night Out. But my first encounter with the band was from the balcony, certainly nothing as close as what I’d managed to be this time around. Armed with my new professional camera, I nestled right in front of the stage, so close I could reach out and touch Krocodile’s whip. (That’s not a euphemism. He has an actual whip that he whorls around when the mood strikes him.) Up close and personal as I was, nothing could’ve prepared me for the mayhem that ensued.

The first notes ring out, and there’s just an absolute cacophony of noise, a wall of sound that would’ve been oppressive if it wasn’t for the wax I’d placed in my ears as they were tuning up. Be that as it may, every ounce of that music muscled its way into my chest and left me breathless. Skorpion’s bass tickled at my guts. Die-amond’s guitar prowess and unsubtle flirtations with the audience tickled my fancy. Cyborg’s drum beat like a hammer at my spine. And Krocodile…. With a sigh and a whimper I remember that man. Not only is he an absolute surgeon on his axe, his voice… his voice. I’m sure that a significant amount of South Korea’s Z Generation was conceived to the sex and sin of that man’s voice. It’s a sound like a hurricane, gale-force winds speeding at a pace that could break the sound barrier.

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This is nothing new for fans of the bygone era of hair metal, as it were. However, for those who either missed the decade’s long craze (or just plain missed its appeal), Victim Mentality evokes a visceral response. You’re compelled to scream, even if it’s not in your nature. Between snide remarks about the intellectual inefficiencies of his bandmates and worshiping their individual skills with hands waving around in the overexaggerated pantomime of a magician, Krocodile led his band through their discography with style and power.

From their ease dealing with faulty microphones to the arrogance in their stride, the men of Victim Mentality are everything you’d expect from a metal band: shades worn indoors, silent, brooding personalities, and leather… lots and lots of leather. But beyond the typical facade lay very competent and intelligent musicians. They put on one hell of a show, but the foundation of all of it is an astonishing musicianship. Their technicality lends itself perfectly to the actual stage show. What may appear to be spontaneous bouts of affectation are actually very calculated moments of improvisation. Their show’s an inventive balance of schtick and sophisticated musicianship. Stripping away all the dramatics, what we have here is just good old-fashioned rock and roll: sexy, vibrant, wild. Metal!

I can’t help it. I’m utter and complete human trash for Victim Mentality.

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All images by Cy.

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