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Scene Report: Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan Part 1

ancestor

It’s been nearly one year since our initial glimpse into China’s thriving heavy music scenes, and in that time, things have only continued to progress. As with last year’s look, both emergent and established bands alike continue to assert their voices with a slew of new releases and aggressive touring schedules.

This year, we’re expanding our scope outside the mainland to showcase bands from Hong Kong and Taiwan as well. Taiwan, home of multi-decade veterans Chthonic, is currently experiencing a surge in its local hardcore and punk communities. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s burgeoning heavy scene has exploded over the past year with new splits, EPs and full-length albums.

The bands featured in this list are all actively producing new music — either they’ve released something within the past year, or are working towards doing so in 2018, or in some cases, both. Many of the bands included in last year’s scene overview have also released new music, so definitely check back in with them as well.

Accomplices
Punk | Taipei, Taiwan

Accomplices are a straightforward crust band coming hard out of Taipei. Their socially charged music and lyrics are clad in the trappings of punks of yore, with liberty spikes and studded leather featured prominently on the cover of their recent EP 共犯結構. The band recently performed in their home city of Taipei with fellow Taiwan group Defeat the Giant along with Hong Kong hardcore outfit Dagger, both of whom are also included later in this piece. Get a glimpse of Accomplices’s tumultuous live shows with their freshly released live video.

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Alpaca
Stoner/Doom/Sludge | Shanghai, China

Alpaca didn’t take long to carve out a role for themselves at the heart of Shanghai’s heavy music scene with their forceful blend of doom and sludge. With two EPs dropped in 2017, Alpaca are currently working on a 7” split with Japanese band Guevnna, to be released this year. The band are actively engaged in the local Shanghai scene as organizers of the annual Shanghellfest event, and they are frequent performers in the city’s live music venues as both headliners as well as local support for touring acts.

Ancestor
Thrash | Beijing, China

Ancestor’s frenetic take on thrash is steeped in the dark and ravenous aesthetic of the early Teutonic bands. The band toured China twice last year in support of their 2017 debut EP Age of Overload and recently performed in Thailand and at Nepal Deathfest. After heading to Beijing for the Thrash China and Metal United World Wide events, Ancestor will begin recording their first full-length release.

Asthenia
Post-metal | Beijing, China

Asthenia’s contemplative post-metal utilizes lush harmonies and detailed guitarwork to draw listeners into the band’s dreamlike embrace. Just one month after the release of Asthenia’s second full-length Nucleation in November last year, guitarist/vocalist Asthen followed up with a split release of two of his own side projects, Asthen and Fuyu-syogun. Recently, Asthenia re-recorded their very first song “Narcissi” for a special January 1st, 2018 pay-what-you-want New Year’s gift.

Bloody Tyrant
Folk metal | Nantou, Taiwan

Bloody Tyrant have actively evolved their sound since their 2008 full-length debut Dawn of Doomsday, incorporating the pipa and other traditional instruments while shifting away from their black metal beginnings. Their new album Hagakure crystallizes their arrival at an elegant, folk-infused aesthetic. Bloody Tyrant will be supporting the record at Pulp Summer Slam in the Philippines along with Taiwan bands Flesh Juicer and Burning Island.

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CharmCharmChu
Thrash | Hong Kong

CharmCharmChu’s 2017 EP The Delusion may begin with a giddy chant of “Hakuna matata,” but the three-track release is no lighthearted romp through the jungle. On the EP, the quartet deliver impeccable performances rivaled only by the sophistication of their songwriting, with frequent and abrupt shifts in direction through the course of each song. CharmCharmChu are active participants in Asia’s greater metal community, even writing a festival review for Japan’s Thrash Domination.

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Dagger
Metallic hardcore | Hong Kong

Dagger are a new band of old heads — though forming only last year, the group consists of longtime veterans of Hong Kong’s hardcore scene. Dagger recently made their self-titled debut EP available as a free download on Bandcamp while they work towards an upcoming 7” split with a yet-to-be-revealed Hong Kong band. In addition to his band duties in Dagger, guitarist Riz Farooqi also runs pan-Asian heavy music blog Unite Asia.

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Defeat the Giant
Hardcore | Taichung, Taiwan

Defeat the Giant have been in nonstop motion since the February release of their debut album Things We Grab in Shatters. The band recently wrapped up a Southeast Asian tour, hitting Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and just dropped a music video at the end of March. The quintet returned to Taiwan for a weekend of gigs on April 7th and 8th, including a DIY warehouse show in their hometown of Taichung to officially launch their album.

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Demerit
Punk | Beijing, China

Clawing their way to the top of Beijing’s punk scene with their 2006 debut album Never Say Die, Demerit have tenaciously maintained their position as one of the city’s most well-known bands in their genre. The group were featured in the 2010 documentary Beijing Punk alongside the late Lei Jun of influential Beijing Oi! punk band MiSanDao. Demerit will be hitting the US this summer in support of their new album Out of the Fog, released in April on Maybe Mars. Their upcoming US tour includes festival slots at Fuck You We Rule OK 2018 and 71Grind.

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Dismal
DSBM | Hong Kong

As implied in the name, Dismal’s music is as devoid of mirth as it gets. Dismal’s depressive black metal is oppressively bleak, crowned by heart-rending vocal screeches that sharply channel the sorrow and hopelessness of the music. Dismal released their debut full-length album 遺。白 with Pest Productions in October of 2017. In a Facebook post from last December, Dismal remarked that this album is “just the beginning,” though the cryptic band have given no further word on what can be expected in the coming year.

Ephemerality
Metalcore | Beijing, China

Ephemerality released their debut self-titled EP in September of 2017. The five tracks on the self-titled release present a clear identity for the group in the form of slickly produced, highly melodic metalcore seemingly straight out of the mid-2000s. The band features bassist Huai Wei, also a member of Skeletal Augury and Black Kirin — both of whom were covered in last year’s scene roundup, and the latter having issued a new album in November of last year.

Evocation
Blackened death metal | Hong Kong

As a mainstay of Hong Kong’s metal scene, Evocation have been at it since all the way back in 2002. The seasoned group finished fourth overall in the 2014 Wacken Open Air Metal Battle, a first for any band from Hong Kong. It’s been five years since their last record, but Evocation have recently released a handful of mysterious teaser clips highlighting the folk instruments and other atmospheric elements used on their upcoming third album Libation.

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Fatuous Rump
Slamming brutal death metal | Taipei, Taiwan

The duo known as Fatuous Rump are one of a tight-knit group of brutal death metal bands operating in Taipei, many of whom share one or more members between them. Vocalist Larry Wang is a core figure of the scene, fronting Coprocephalic and Gorepot and handling bass duties in Maggot Colony as well as heading Fat Tub of Lard Records. He’s teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Kai Lee to create Fatuous Rump, who will soon be following their 2017 debut album Propagation of the Foul with the upcoming LP Disposing Slobs of Corporal Fatberg.

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Holyarrow
Black metal | Amoy (Xiamen), China

Holyarrow is one of several projects from the seemingly tireless Schtarch, as the band’s sole member is known. As Holyarrow, Schtarch creates epic conceptual black metal written and performed entirely in Hokkien, a language native to his home province of Fujian. His second album To Defend Fatherland is coming later this year and will recount the harrowing Mongol invasion of Fujian in 1276 and subsequent Ispah Rebellion of 1366. Schtarch is no stranger to themes of historical military campaigns, having covered related topics with Holyarrow’s 2016 debut Oath of Allegiance as well as with Rupture, another of his projects.

Part 2 coming next week!

—Ivan Belcic

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