“Brothers and sisters of metal!”
Over the sound system comes the deep, rumbling voice of frontman Andrea Ferro. Next to him, in matching black threads, is Cristina Scabbia, who’s spent the last 10 minutes thrashing around the stage while heavy sonic riffs pound the speakers. They’ve only sung one song, but already the crowd response is deafening.
The two are the vocal leads of Italian metal band Lacuna Coil. The six-man metal outfit has been around since 1996, first conquering radio waves in Europe and the United States, before making the rounds at metal festivals all over the world. Hailed as one of Europe’s most successful metal bands, they made landfall in Vietnam just days before as the international component of global tour Tiger Translate, which brings together international acts with homegrown talent. Before Lacuna Coil came on stage to screams and applause, Vietnamese metal bands threw themselves around with their guitars, stirring the crowd into a bizarre, often shirtless frenzy.
“The youth [here] want something that the kids all over the world want, something more rebellious and alternative,” says Andrea. “So it doesn’t surprise me that there might be more and more attention for this kind of music. Metal has always been for the ‘different kid’ that doesn’t want to fit into the normal taste in music.”
The audience, though, is hardly a band of misfits; giggling girls in frilly blouses shove violently against metalheads with stringy black hair and surly expressions. With nearly 5,000 at the free show — some stand confused on the far pavement while others flail wildly against the metal barriers in front of the stage — metal seems like something only some of the crowd came here for.
The varied turnout isn’t anything that surprises the band, though. “In places like America and the UK, metal music is up there with hip hop and rock. Here, I think it’s more like where we’re from [in Italy],” says Andrea. “More and more people listen to rock and metal, but it’s not a mainstream thing.”
The audience, which cheers after every song and erupts in screams when flames engulf the stage in the massive pyrotechnic stunts, stands silent when asked to sing along to the band’s most popular songs. But the energy never dies. Every unfamiliar guitar riff is met with maniacal jumping and screaming, some trying to sing along to the lyrics they’ve only just learnt seconds before. The audience, it seems, doesn’t so much mind what kind of music is coming over the speakers, so long as it’s loud, angry and unrestrained.
The band gallops from song to song while exhausted fans come tumbling out of the pit for a breath of air, before heaving themselves into the mass again. Security guards battle against swarms of spectators that rush the entrance to the pit, cheering and high-fiving as they push past. The question isn’t whether Vietnam is ready for metal, and the unbridled insanity that comes with it. The question is this: How big is it going to get?