For the uninitiated, something you need to know about Victim Mentality: They’re raunchy as hell. That’s not an exaggeration for shock value. They really don’t hold back on the oversexualized imagery in their show. Their ostentatious leader, Krokodile, wields phallic instruments of titillation. His favorites: a bullwhip and a katana. He waves both around with reckless (but oddly controlled) abandon, punctuating his gruffer tones with a swipe and his thick-voiced falsetto notes with a stab in the sky.
The spectacle of it all might make you think that they’re all flash and no substance. And to be fair, their influence is very obviously the hair bands of the 1980s, so take that as you will. But make no mistake — a Victim Mentality show depends on the music. Without the over-the-top dramatics of the vocals, the power guitar, five-minute drum solos and breakneck pace of what they actually produce in the studio, the actual stage show would have none of its fire.
This is what defines Victim Mentality, what sets them apart from groups who may purport to be made of more “serious” stuff. Victim Mentality is a group of musicians who create incredibly intricate musical compositions and drape it in tongue-in-cheek lyrics about hating hip-hop and political statements about “human trash” running rampant in the music industry. What they do is highlight the art of hiding in plain sight.
There’s a great deal of subtlety in what they do. Scattered among all the bullwhip waving and exaggerated vocals there’s an artful precision. Yes, Krokodile’s vocals are a little overdramatic, but if you actually listen, his range is so wide it should cause anyone paying attention fits. He goes from a gruff lower tenor to a full-bodied falsetto with notes that slap the higher part of the piano like it’s his plaything (I swear to all things holy I’ve heard this man hit a high G over middle C without breaking a sweat). All the while exerting energy to get a real-life katana up in the air for most of the band’s 40-minute set.
This, of course, doesn’t even begin to embody Victim Mentality in its entirety. To Krokodile’s immediate left we have lead guitarist Die-Amond. The first thing you notice … HAIR! This man’s mane of ice-blond is as legendary as the way he absolutely brutalizes his guitar. When I mention the raunchiness of the group, I’m not just talking about the stage show. Die-Amond plays his instrument like he’s got something to prove about his sexual prowess. Never mind the fact that tongue of his doesn’t seem to actually know how to stay in his mouth. His face contorts with every plunge into the strings, every whine that damn thing lets loose when the music gets really good to him. It’d be obscene for anyone who didn’t have a fond appreciation for the music and everything it represents.
Further down on the far right side of the stage you’ve got the youngest member of the band, Scorpion, who might not be as audacious as his bandmates. But don’t let his baby-faced calm fool you. The bassist is just as nasty on his machine as every musician on that stage. He grits his teeth, head bangs and lets his fingers do some serious damage. Those strings hum and buzz, making a sound far deeper and dirtier than any bass I’ve ever heard from any of the bands from South Korea I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.
Of course, you can’t miscount that back beat. Don’t worry. Drummer Cyborg won’t allow you to dismiss his presence on the stage. By virtue of every band stage placement since the beginning of time, he’s in the back. But when it’s time for him to show what he can do, get on board or get the hell out of the way! The man lays into that set like it owes him money. Don’t let a solo get hold of him. The rest of the band knows better and just stands to the side while he loses his mind and puts a hurting on the audience.
Besides the overt sexuality of the band, the most important thing you need to take away is that they are undeniably a unit. No matter how wild any of them may get, when it comes right down to it they’re a powerful force when they’re gathered on that stage. Krokodile, ostentaious though he might be, is the most generous band leader I’ve seen. He slinks over to each guitarist when they’re putting in their work, lavishing them with exaggerated attention. He even crowds in behind them like a secret lover, bringing both hands (one laden with his weapon of the moment) around his band mate to force the audience to focus on what’s happening. At one point he gets so enamored of Die-Amond’s playing he mimes … well, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
It doesn’t matter how many times I see Victim Mentality. Their shows will always, always be spectacular. Getting to see them on their home turf, Krocodile swinging the katana he was unable to get past customs when the men came to SXSW in 2016 and 2018, is something truly magnificent.
(All pictures by Cy.)