Taking on a metal lifestyle is always a risk. In China, it might be even more of a risk as walking down the street with corpsepaint is basically always frowned upon (search the news for a girl who was stopped from getting on the subway in Guangzhou because her goth makeup was “scary”). For both males or females, the support from peers is essential in achieving any amount of success in these subcultures. Bands are born as a result of having a stable place to practise and play – and more importantly, a place where they are accepted. Most major Chinese cities have at least one or two main punk or metal bars where musicians will find this support.
Along with overseas bands such as Made Out of Babies, Arch Enemy, Girlschool, Halestorm, Otep, L7, Epica, Nightwish, and so on, aspiring female musicians in China need someone close to home to look up to for inspiration in order to make their punk or metal dream a reality. They need to know that they can damn well do it too. This crop of current metal bands within China are currently making history by showing countless fans that it is perfectly normal to express yourself in a way that may not be accepted by Chinese culture, while taking the genres they play into new territories by adding their unique spin on each.
Formed in 2008, this gothic, symphonic metal band reigns from Tianjin and is truly an inspiring case – not only in metal but in music in general. Their name comes from “One Winged Angel”, or “Single Winged Angel”, the epic final boss battle music for Final Fantasy VII and implies that even with a missing wing, the band can take care of business – producing epic, Nightwish/Epica-esque tracks with furious shredding at the forefront, lush, backing keyboards and soaring, operatic vocals on top. The missing wing in question refers to their talented vocalist, who is an inspiring case – bound by a wheelchair, she hits the stage undeterred while her long-haired, guitar-wielding band mates surround her like knights protecting a goth queen at her throne.
Newcomers to the scene Li Dao’s name translates to Power Blade. A power metal band with folk elements entwined, their stage presence and storytelling is akin to a Peking Opera; the band members all perform in costumes (such as a death mask) and bear character names. Their upcoming album ‘Beyond the Great Fire Wall’ may seem at first like a reference to the great number of websites block on the Chinese internet, but the album tells the epic story of a Peking Opera singer who is attacked by an evil sorcerer, causing her to go on a quest to retrieve the Power Blade, a mythical device with enough magic to resurrect 3000 slain whom lay at the bottom of a lake. Naturally, the resurrected are needed to build an army for revenge.
Hyper Slash hails from Canton and were formed in 2015. The band members sport strange pseudonyms such as Soon on vocals and New Folder on guitar. On their social media band page, they proclaim “Our music is inspired by a lot of different elements in life, and we always love to spread positive energy and love” Okay, but what exactly do they sound like? Well, nerdcore is one of the hashtags they use on their posts and that certainly describes it. Chugging, djent styled guitar riffs accompany screamed female vocals one minute and auto-tuned singing the next, while electronic blips sparkle in the background. Hyper indeed.
Electric Lady conjures the spirit of 70s acts for fuzzed out psychedelic rock. Because it feels like a time machine is required to get to the venue to see Electric Lazy live, they are perhaps even more niche than the other bands on this list. Their debut album, Queen of Electricity and Her Coming Kingdom is gritty and low-fi. Though it’s not on vinyl, you can still almost hear the wear and tear of the album as if it came directly from that era. Residing in Beijing but being “from outer space”, Electric Lady have been active since 2013 and are set to release another heavy blues inspired throwback album in the near future, or is it the past?
China is always said to be a “developing country” and such is the same for its musical genres. The brutal metal scene in China is small but certainly strong and developing at a rapid pace. The support is seen in such events as the yearly Brutal Fest, which was started by Abnormal Infected’s vocalist, Nicki. It has seen, in addition to Chinese bands such as Impure Injection and Rectal Wench, guests from Japan like Needle Contaminated Pork and Invictus. Abnormal Infected are one of the slamming, brutal death metal bands in the country and their brand of slam – combined with female beastmode vocals is certainly novel and progresses the mostly male genre into sick new sonic territories.
Ready to Die
Considering old-school death metal, finding a quality band in China is something of a rarity. Ready to Die are even rarer, considering that they are fronted by a talented female vocalist. This juggernaut was founded in Beijing in 2007 and hold the claim as the first band in the Middle Kingdom to utilize female vocals with a classic American death metal style, taking inspiration from Floridian death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse and Obituary. The band’s bludgeoning riffs and Butchered at Birth-esque vocal style create a massive, six feet deep sound that would impress any death metal connoisseur.
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