Friday, July 25, 2014


This should have immediately followed the China posts; it didn't because I was swamped with work, but here it is because I have some time.  These are the best (active, music-available) bands in China, most of whom I didn't encounter because I didn't visit their cities, some of whom I didn't encounter because I wasn't there long enough or couldn't really get out of the tourist-available parts.  If you're around longer, try harder to find these dudes, and listen to them in the meantime regardless.

This only covers mainland, non-SAR bands; HK artists are pretty accessible and frequently do promotion in English and/or are allowed to tour elsewhere.

Annihilation (湮灭)
Beijing/Hebei Death Metal Corridor; technical brutal death metal
If you like Gigan, Decrepit Birth, and/or Suffocation, you will probably also dig these dudes.  An absolutely essential listen.

Delirious (精神错乱)
Nanjing; grindcore
Straight grind rather than anything really metallic, this band is also refreshingly devoid of anything resembling compromise in their approach.  Fast, dirty, and 1000% DIY, this is exactly the sort of immediate resistance music that you might not expect from China -- and that you'll be glad to find.

Eblis (伊布里斯)
Yinchuan; old-school brutal death metal
Hearkening back to the early '90s musically and in its conception resolutely anti-authority, Eblis are probably the band on this list most likely to be censured, especially given the growing tensions in China's other Muslim region.  They're also locked in to some good fucking music.

Excruciate (劓刖)
Tianjin/Hebei Death Metal Corridor; OSDM
Virtually alone in China, these dudes practice a grueling style of old-school brutality that will remind New Englanders of Blessed Offal and everyone else of Obliteration or Incantation's slower parts.  Excellent.

Shanghai; melodic death metal
If it was still five years ago, this would be trend.  That they're still doing melodeath when all the other trendies have moved on to emo-ified deathcore and (gods forbid) Crossfaith-esque dubcore, means it's not trend, and if you can't dig this even a little, you have completely lost your sense of fun.  I still like Dark Tranquillity, and so should you, probably, and if you do, you will like this band.

腐尸爱美丽 (Fushiaimeili/Beauty in Decay or something like that)
Chengdu; folktroll metal
Who knows where they found the accordion in Chengdu, but these dudes are regardless the best Finntroll imitators in China (surprisingly, this is not decided just by showing up) and still solidly listenable for those sick to fucking death of polka metal.

Ghost Bath (鬼浴)
Chongqing fuck these North Dakota shitbirds; third-wave black metal
A fully-functional replacement for [insert American third-wave hipster band here], these dudes have gotten some shine from Pitchfork, because of course they have.  Despite this, they're pretty good if not especially true, and you can actually send them a couple bucks by bandcamp for a zip of their album if you like, rather than having to put up with douban.
UPDATE 2016-02-24:  Sounds like American third-wave rather than any of the other bands on this list?  Turns out there's a reason.  All the tumblr cultural-appropriation shit aside, this is legit harmful: 1) it gives a false impression of the Chinese scene and the level of development of metal in China and 2) it wastes the time of people in the place you're pretending to be from.  There is a scene out there, even in Chongqing and other places in interior China; how many inquiries about setting up gigs between Chengdu and Changsha do you think they just dropped on the floor?  If there's a consistent rule in the underground, it's "don't deliberately cause problems for other people just to look cool".  Fuck these posers, listen to Desolate Hills and Duringlifend if you want actual Chinese DSBM or whatever it's being called this week.

合法武装 (Hefawuzhuang/Legal Arms)
Urumqi; German-style darkwave metal
You listen to this, and you're expecting lyrics in German a la Rammstein or Letzte Instanz, but you get them in Chinese.  Why?  Because there are more Uighur expats in Munich than anywhere else in the world, and a bunch more in other German-speaking territories, so musical influences currently live in western China/East Turkestan naturally get passed through a Germanic filter.  It's wicked interesting, and pretty cool for the genre to boot.

Hellward (向地狱)
Xi'an Hell Metal City; blackened heavy metal
A high-speed collision between Sabbat and Metalucifer, Hellward is an awesome feast of headbanging Satanism that puts an eastern spin on the same ideas behind Witchery and Nocturnal Breed.  One of several related bands from the unexpected metal hotspot in Xi'an.

Nine Treasures (九大圣器)
Inner Mongolia via Beijing; folk metal
Finntroll fans will dig the fuck out of this.  People sick of Finntroll will find zero accordions here, replaced with the sweet drone of horsehead fiddles.  Seriously, this is pretty fucking good, even if it's not as deathy as Tengger Cavalry below.

人彘 (RenZhi/Human Swine is probably a good approximation)
Shijiazhuang/Hebei Death Metal Corridor; slammy brutal death metal
If you were bummed out when Proteus and/or Terminally Your Aborted Ghost folded the tents, you could do a lot worse than check this band out; a feast of angular, heavily triggered death metal insanity, this is not real accessible or for the faint of heart, but if you're listening to Chinese death metal you're not worried about that shit anyway.

Tengger Cavalry (铁骑)
Inner Mongolia via Beijing; folk/death metal
With more death metal elements and more traditional instruments than Nine Treasures, this is the version of steppe metal for trueness purists.  Where Nine Treasures reminds me of the open grasslands of Siberia, this has more of a feel of the distant mountains and gray birch forests of the Amur country.  Regardless, it's good fucking music all around.

Yn Gizarm (英吉沙)
Xi'an Hell Metal City; Bathory-influenced black metal
In discussions of Chinese black metal, it is these guys first, followed by "everyone else" a substantial distance back.  Essential, period.

The Hebei Death Metal Corridor referenced multiple times above is not really an administrative division of China (and is actually almost totally contained by the Beijing and Tianjin provinces that got chopped out of Hebei for having too many people), but it is an easy way to talk about something that does exist: an extremely high prevalence of slam-influenced, high-brutality, frequently-technical death metal bands in the strip from Beijing down to the ocean.  (Shijiazhuang is located both south and west of this strip, but RenZhi are about as complete a HBDMC band as exists.)  This is an extreme concentration of population and industry that naturally gives rise to the sort of frustration, anger, and desire for violence that is easily and frequently vented out through instruments plugged directly into a computer, which is doing the drumming, in a tiny, crumbling, concrete apartment overlooking a cement-block factory built on a combination of seized farms and landfill.  There are other good bands, in other styles, elsewhere in the country; there are also good death metal bands elsewhere.  However, nothing is as authentic an expression of Chinese metal culture as the ceaseless violence of the Hebei Death Metal Corridor scene.