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Scene Report

The People’s Republic of Metal – The Best Metal In Every Region of China

best metal in china

We have all seen those articles highlighting bands in every US state. China is also a country with many metal bands, and many provinces. Such as the US, the type of metal band varies depending on the region they are from. Cultural influences certainly seep into the music. For example, bands from Inner Mongolia have that trademark Mongolian folk metal sound. Some provinces have less of a scene than others, and some digging was required to pull up a representative, but every province is certainly accounted for here.

Anhui (安徽) — Lingchi

If any band on earth is allowed to use the name “lingchi”, meaning death by a thousand cuts, a brutal death metal band from China would be the first to get the pass. It’s not all slicing and dicing with Lingchi, though, as clean singing and atmospheric intros give songs some healing room. Formed in 2002, the band have released only a few pieces of media, including and EP and compilation album – meaning that fans are waiting for more slices.

Beijing Municipality (北京) – Dressed to Kill

Dozens of bands could have been chosen as the Beijing representative, and for this list my decision was to highlight one in the speed metal genre. Dressed to Kill are making waves in the underground community worldwide as a first-class speed metal powerhouse. Wearing the 80s on their leather sleeves, the band’s 2019 Midnight Impulsion album is another soundtrack to living after midnight, be it in the Beijing hutongs or New York’s alleyways.

Chongqing Municipality (重庆) – Winter Dynasty

The one-man black metal wizard Leo is the leader of three Chongqing black metal projects – Winter Dynasty (nature and mythology inspired black metal), Star Devourer (cosmic black metal) and Starving For Death (black/doom metal). With Winter Dynasty, he has recently released The East Hell, a part of a conceptual series regarding the 18 levels of hell in Chinese mythology. Any of Leo’s projects are suitable to be highlighted for the Chongqing section of this article, so do yourself a favor and listen to them all.

Fujian (福建) — Black Reaper

From sunny Fujian comes quite an anomaly – listen to the universe cave in on itself with Black Reaper’s anti-cosmic brand of black metal. The band churns out a heavy dose of Dissection worship while also paying tribute to Dismember, with their cover of “Life, Another Shape and Sorrow.” Another Pest Productions group, they have released an EP in 2014 and a full length, Celestial Descension, in 2018. Don’t fear the reaper and follow their descent into the black hole.

Gansu (甘肃) — Pupils of Satan

From Gansu Province, home of the Overhanging Great Wall and Jiayuguan Pass, comes the gravel riffed thrash battalion, Pupils of Satan. The band formed in 2007 – taking a leave in 2013 when they changed their moniker to All for Kill. They have since returned as hell’s henchmen once again under their original name. Their style of thrash borders on death metal, which is fitting for the livehouses of hell.

Guangdong (广东) — Vengeful Spectre

Guangdong is home to the sprawling metropolis Guangzhou. Out of this section of the country comes one of the more unique Chinese black metal bands, the incomparable Vengeful Spectre. Represented by the Pest Productions label, the band is a mix of folk and black metal which is entirely suitable for being shacked inside a Buddhist temple during a thunderous lightning storm, best exemplified on tracks like “Rainy Night Carnage” from their 2020 self-titled LP.

Guangxi Zhuang (广西壮族) — Slaves of the Prison

The Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region of southern China borders Vietnam and is known for rivers, caves, and tooth-like karst peaks. Out of the foaming mouth of Nanning comes Slaves of the Prison, a band who have a knack for combining technicality with new school death metal. Their Deathward album is something a group of prisoners all released on the same day might create in a cathartic jam session while guzzling down Tsingtaos.

Guizhou (贵州) — Burns Inside

The mountainous province of Guizhou in southwest China is known for rural villages. Here, metal is hard to come by, but there is a representative with the progressive metalcore act Burns Inside. From Guiyang, the band has played the Rootfest in Chengdu and opened for While She Sleeps in 2019. Judging by their Rootfest video, the band has enough power and technical prowess to light a fire in the metalcore scene in years to come.

Hainan (海南) — Live Venues

Hainan is China’s southernmost province and is a standard vacation spot for people wanting to hit the beaches and eat mango slices on the beach – it can be seen as China’s version of Hawaii. As far as bands go on the island, there really aren’t any aside from the cover bands playing in bars or DJs doing electronic gigs. But that doesn’t stop bands from the north from coming down to Hainan for gigs. The Old School Live Club in Haikou has recently hosted bands Round Eye, Die From Sorrow and Los Crasher while Nalo Livehouse in Sanya also hosts some touring acts.

Hebei (河北) — 人彘 RenChei

Named after the horrific mythical punishment which turns a woman into a human/pig hybrid, RenChei (literally human swine) is fittingly monstrous in their musical approach, being a grunting, teething, headbutting death metal vehicle. Formed in 2006, they have one EP to their name – released under Brutal Reign Productions, 忤逆的遗物 (Relic of Disobedience) is one slop drop after another of raging carnage. The six-track album contains a tribute to Disgorge at the tail end (“Atonement”) so even if you can’t read the Mandarin song titles beforehand, you know you’re in for a beating.

Heilongjiang (黑龙江) — 结界 Sm-bandha

The frigid cold province of Heilongjiang’s capital city of Harbin is known for the yearly ice festival, a Siberian tiger park, MKW Wrestling, and Unit 731. The music scene there is small but tough, with punk bands like Cut Frenzy making noise in the cold. The city of Qiqihar hosts the one-man project 结界 (or Sm-bandha, the Chinese name referring to bondage as well). The instrumental project is of the melodic death metal variety – suitable for those days when you need a soundtrack to icy cold winter swimming.

Henan (河南) — Obsession

How raw do you like your black metal? The production and thematic quality of Chinese black metal is usually second to none, with bands like Ritual Day and Black Kirin being examples of bands which are bound to the dark arts, but nice on the ears. Bands like Obsession are rarer – being as raw as a freshly cut off limb in terms of production and song writing – not choosing to be “folk” in any way – instead, taking their sound as far into the underground as it can go, with lyrical themes going into war horror history with songs like “731”.

Hubei (湖北) — Hellfire

Wuhan, before being known as ground zero for COVID-19, was also known as ground zero for China’s punk scene, with its headquarters, the Wuhan Prison. But we’re talking metal, and Wuhan has a few bands worthy of worship. One of which is Hellfire, a raw, blackened thrash band who proclaim themselves as “evil metal”. From their debut 2009 demo Kill More to recent The Return of Hell and Fire single, Hellfire sound like that obscure cassette tape in your dad’s collection you’ve been meaning to get around to because of the lurid cover art.

Hunan (湖南) — Dust Lost

The Hunan province was the birthplace of Mao Zedong. Following in his footsteps, while leaving a dusty trail behind are the thrash metal band, Dust Lost, who are sure to make as big an impact as the immortal chairman. Though they only have one EP to their name, 2017’s Absolute Conspiracy, the band’s technical know-how shows they have the potential to rise up the ranks and be spoken of in the same breath as another band with dust in their name.

Inner Mongolia (内蒙古) — Nine Treasures

Inner Mongolian folk metal is one of China’s greatest musical treasures. Nine Treasures, founded in 2010, create a fusion of metal and traditional Mongolian instruments such as the morin khuur. The lyrics, utilizing throat singing, evoke nature, history and mythology. A brand-new best-of album featuring re-recorded tracks from their career, Awakening from Dukkha, is available now.

Jiangsu (江苏) — Delirious

Out of Nanjing, the infamous site of the Nanjing Massacre which took place during WWII, comes a musical maiming with the grindcore veterans Delirious. Their self-titled 2012 album set the precedent for grind to come in China, influencing acts like Impure Injection to commit to the cause. Short, puncturing tracks referencing mental illness and suicide fill up the album’s run time. Their recent output has been split albums with the likes of Suicide Forest.

Jiangxi (江西) — Explosicum

A pasty thrash explosion, Explosicum came onto the scene in 2005, releasing three full lengths since. Thrash metal in China has a number of flag bearers including Ancestor and Suffocated, but Explosicum conveys the grimy street sense of 80s thrash probably more-so than the other bands with songs like “Mosh or Die” bringing to mind the pure, anti-glam, poser bashing mindset of Exodus or Overkill.

Jilin (吉林) — Black Kirin

Black Kirin are a band who are always evolving. While remaining a blackened metal spectre with Chinese folk influences, their songs often take on a life of their own and feel like operatic productions. Some deal with Chinese history: an entire album was even devoted to the brutal Nanking Massacre of WWII. On stage, they pile on the theatrics, with backing videos and additional on-stage choirs helping their message get across vividly.

Liaoning (辽宁) – Punisher

With speedy instrumentation, shrieked vocals, and buzzsaw riffs—does just as their name indicates: punish the listener. Taking cues from classic 80s thrash acts like Annihilator or Kreator, the band is usually no-nonsense in their thrash attack. At a live show, audience members can be seen locking arms, swinging their hair in unison. Recently having their music catalogue deleted from Chinese music apps, they have now placed their material on Spotify, so make sure to take a listen.

Ningxia Hui (宁夏回族) – Doppelganger

Ningxia Hui is a tiny province containing a dark secret – that being the mirror imaged version of the self in the form of Doppelganger. Beast vocals, pummeling breakdowns and groovy drumming take the listener on a slamming journey of piledrivers and suplexes. Before your ass is knocked out, you might find yourself dancing, though, as catchy grooves are also abundant in the music of Doppelganger.

Qinghai (青海) — Tation

On the verge of entering the Tibetan region, you’ll find a post/Instrumental rock band from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Tation. They specialize in blending Chinese folk music elements with rock, electronics and experimental music. The multidimensional band seems to absorb the divine powers from the region, creating truly unexpected compositions. The band thrives in their domain, even filming videos in the Qinghai Xianmi forest.

Shaanxi (陕西) – Leviathan

The Terracotta Army isn’t the only one you’ll find in the capital of Shaanxi Province, Xi’ an. Leviathan, a new cavalry with deathcore used as their musical weapon, has been laying waste to festivals around China since their emergence on the field. The band incorporates some well-placed keyboards into their breakdown filled assault which add a bit of beauty to the brutality.

Shandong (山东) — Impure Injection

From Zibo, Shandong province, talented grinder Gore Geng’s Impure Injection is as relentless as an acid splash on bare skin. Influenced by bands ranging from Repulsion to Exhumed, Impure Injection is sometimes a one-man project live, while he sometimes has a few other maniacs helping his cause. In 2019, his release Genetically Modified Utopia is a savage omen of what is to come from the Chinese grind scene.

Shanghai Municipality (上海) – Rampage Time

One look at Rampage Time’s Die Without Regrets album tells you what you are in for when it comes to this band. Looking like a grenade went off in someone’s mouth – the new school beat-down mixed with slam sounds like a dirty bomb ignited in your ear. Shanghai is brewing up a lot of savagery as of late with Alpaca and Haematemesis representing the new wave of artists from the suffocating metropolis.

Shanxi (山西) — Throat Cutter

The Pest Productions record label represents some of China’s finest black metal artists. Among these grim individuals in corpse paint are Throat Cutter. While not having been on the scene for a long time, they have made waves with their so-raw-its-bloody EP Battle of Blood Heaven and recent single Purge. Perfect music for frightening away door-to-door bible salesmen.

Sichuan (四川) – Knivesrain

The Sichuan Province is known for its spicy cuisine, and Chengdu’s Knivesrain are a band that can certainly make you sweat like you’ve just swallowed a handful of Sichuan peppercorns. Their deathcore rooted style borrows a lot from bands like Crossfaith or Crystal Lake, with electronic elements driving the tracks, as seen on songs like “NOVA”. If those knives were a storm of lightsabers, you’d get a more fitting depiction of their sound. Listen here.

Tianjin Municipality (天津) – The Dark Prison Massacre

From the gray city of Tianjin, known for the explosion which took place in the Binhai area in 2015 comes an explosion of slamming brutal death metal in the form of The Dark Prison Massacre. Slamming riffs with monstrous vocals by dual singers is their forte. Their themes go from the oppression and brutality of the government and prison system to animal cruelty. A band you shouldn't miss live if you're in China, they have made slam something to be celebrated and respected with their off-the-hook shows, soon becoming heroes in Tianjin.

Xinjiang Uighur (新疆维吾尔族) — 合法武装 (Lawful Arms)

Aggressive music can come from the least expected places. One of the only bands out of the northwest province of Zinjiang Uighu are 合法武装, an industrial metal hybrid. So far, they have only released one EP, 2013’s 躯壳 (The Body). Factory riffs, Rammstein inspired keys and gruff, desert area vocals make up Lawful Arms sound, but one can’t help but contemplate what type of first-hand accounts of regional strife has inspired their music.

Yunnan (云南) — King of Lazy

Slow-as-molasses, tripped out, sludge from the hot and humid province of Yunnan is what King of Lazy brings to the bong. Much like the NOLA bands in the US, hedonism ties in with their location, with Yunnan having restrictions on weed, which have aided the development of reggae and hippie culture in the area, not to mention stoner rock bands like Kunming’s King of Lazy.

Zhejiang (浙江) — Lie to the Silence

South of Shanghai lies the province of Zhejiang, containing spellbinding water towns such as Wuzhen. Like a pack of serpent men coming up from the murky depths of a canal comes Lie to the Silence, whom aim to destroy the town with gnashing deathcore For their album Hysteria, everything has been painted black – “Blacked Silence” and “Blacked Mind Disease” offer shades of symphonic deathcore not unlike Fleshgod Apocalypse teaming up with old Job For A Cowboy. Get in the boat and take a ride down the blacked canal with them.

This was a guest post submitted by Ryan Dyer. For Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau bands, there are additional articles about the artists in these areas for your reading pleasure. Also check out his pieces on Chinese folk metal and Chinese black metal.

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