Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Chinese Metal Is Here to Save/Destroy Us

Seriously. Driving back up to San Francisco over the New Year I asked my handy co-pilot to do a little Spotify searching while I was driving to see if there are any solid Chinese metal bands. And you know how that goes: typically it's novel to find a band or two from a non-traditional metal country, but they're unimaginative, badly produced, and don't introduce any local elements.

But that's not what you should expect to find in a country with a three-millennium history of music, a population twice the size of the U.S. and Europe put together, and plenty of things to be pissed off about. The Chinese metal scene is fucking amazing, it preserves and extends the best of metal, and how it hasn't so far penetrated the rest of the world more is beyond me. (Here is a Youtube channel for Chinese metal, and another one; also a Chinese metal wiki and here's a blog; as Mirai Kawashima of Sigh says, help spread the plague of Eastern terror.) Sure, many of the bands are technically outstanding versions of metal sub-genres, including those which Western bands seem to have abandoned, but some of them bring in an East Asian melodic sensibility, and some traditional elements like the erhu and throat-singing in more than just a "look, non-traditional instruments" sense. (Of course Taiwan's Chthonic has used erhus for a while.)

#1: Filter (from China, not the 90s American one.) Bands keep saying they're going to record the next Metallica album, because Metallica isn't, but they keep not doing it. I explicitly proposed a bunch of bands getting together to record "the next Metallica album" before, but you can forget about it because Filter has done it. I never knew until now what James Hetfield would sound like if he sang in Mandarin. I love these guys. Someone is finally writing Justice songs again, although there's a healthy dose of Load sensibility too. Here is Filter's No way:

#2: Last Successor is another fantastic band that's described as progressive metal, although they're better described as a very Chinese metalcore band with progressive leanings. And that said, I'll commit sacrilege against John Huntsman's favorite band, Last Successor are a better progressive metal band than Dream Theater. Know why? They don't let their work get bogged down in unexciting, non-metal displays of musicianship, though their chops are clearly there. (Ever miss blistering leads from the old days? Try these guys; their soloist is quite Skolnickian.) They use a lot of keyboards and aren't afraid to put them right in front; despite the keys' prominence, they never lose that drum-plus-rhythm guitar alchemy that metal is about. A good intro is this song from/about World of Warcraft (just "World"):

Abyss also has a lot of nice erhu, as does Release, which takes off right away. If Last Successor has a flaw, it's that in their ballads they veer off a little into schmaltzy East Asian pop land (as in See Jasmine Again), but the same can be said for Western metal ballads wading into sappy lighter-holding territory.

#3: Die from Sorrow is pretty much the Chinese Avenged Sevenfold (which is fine with me). Here's Andromeda:

#4: Hell Savior - Imagine a faster, thrashier Judas Priest with the offspring of Greg Graffin and Axl Rose singing, and somehow working. Here's Guardians of Glave:

#5: M-Survivor - A solid metalcore band like As I Lay Dying. Here's Don't Give Up:

#6: Tiefutu has some nice crunchy bits but you find yourself humming the electronic parts more than anything. (Deceptive, guys. Nice.)

#7: Samans sounds like a more electronic Rammstein. Here's Death March:

#8: S.A.W are the most crunchy bastards ever. Again in the vein of As I Lay Dying, but with some cleaner stops.

#9: Suffocated - aside from the vocals, these guys are the most thrash-like of all the bands I've posted here, and they get right into on this one, When Dreams Entwine:

#10: Ego Fall. I promised you throat-singing and here it is. (Here's some on this blog from before; traditional Western death metal singing is essentially just sloppy vestibular vocal cord vocalization anyway.) Throat-singing is usually done in a tempo and rhythm that has a real gallop to it and this ("Sounding the Horn") is no exception.

#11: Nightmare - Self-destruction

You might also want to check out Dark Haze and From the Red.

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