King Ly Chee: Hong Kong Hardcore Slams Again (Live Report)
Hong Kong hardcore legends King Ly Chee slammed back into the scene in late December after a four-year hiatus, bringing a whirlwind of chaos alongside local metal powerhouses Sexy Hammer and Parallel Horizons to a city whose tight-knit music scene has only just reawakened.
The band, formed in 1999, is one of Hong Kong’s original – and strongest – bastions of heavy music, charging against the legion of mainstream sounds, covers and smooth dream-pop rhythms that frequent the local charts. Their return, featuring one of King Ly Chee’s original lineups from their 2003 album Stand Strong, marks a new milestone in the fight to reinvigorate live music in the city.
Although generally reopened now, Hong Kong has faced some of the strictest COVID-19 measures in the world – from a three-week mandatory quarantine to the closure of licensed music venues key to heavier acts, driving an already alternative scene even further underground.
Hidden in an industrial building not far from the Chinese border, the night kicked off with Sexy Hammer’s distinctive blend of heavy metal, hip-hop, and punk selections off of their recent 逼孵 (Born from Within) album. Their volatile blend of thrash riffs, crashing symbols and rapid-fire vocals shot into the crowd, wrapped around aggressive Cantonese lyrics alluding to the still-burning flame of struggle in a city weathered by waves of change.
Next, progressive metalcore act Parallel Horizons delivered an unholy set shrouded in darkness from lead singer Naseem Khan’s roaring growls, screeches and brutal shouts layered atop melodic gothic harmonies from songs including "Everlasting" and "Cerulean". Parallel Horizons commanded the room into a moshing seance, firing off hard breakdowns while exhibiting an incredible vocal range and rolling high-pitched solos.
Closing out the night, King Ly Chee took the stage to frantic anticipation, launching into a hardcore barrage of Stand Strong tracks, including "Sickened Eyes", "Frail Hands" and "Refuse". The energy from the historic lineup was infectious, dealing out blasting explosive power rhythms interspersed with lightning-fast drum beats and hard breaks that gave way to wild mosh calls from lead singer Riz Farooqi in a high-intensity mix of English and Cantonese sounds.
Strobes, kaleidoscopic projections and digital noise wove across the stage in an almost hallucinogenic apparition as the audience erupted into chaos – years of pent-up excitable energy channeled into waves of crowd surfers, circle pits and slammed fanaticism.
Despite two years of lockdown and instability, the hardcore and metal communities hold a resilient – even celebratory - energy that is seldom felt elsewhere today in Hong Kong. We caught up after the show with King Ly Chee frontman Riz Farooqi to further unpack that spirit and learn more about the band’s plans ahead.
Check out a photo gallery at the end of the interview as well.
It’s been nearly five years since King Ly Chee took the stage – how did it feel in that room to be back for the band – and together again with the Stand Strong lineup?
“This particular lineup hasn't been together since 2004-ish so it's been a minute. The Stand Strong lineup in particular to me was a very special one because we literally did everything together because we used to practice 4 times a week, including playing shows, doing interviews, and just being an extended family to each other beyond the walls of a practice room [...] we were very much connected on a personal, emotional level that was far more than just being a "band".
It's chemistry at the end of the day...it's hard to deny what is just kind of meant to be.
As for the show itself...every part of it exceeded any tiny expectation we had. From how fast tickets sold out, to how awesome the venue and their staff was, to how supportive and loving the promoters were, to of course the sheer amount of old and new faces that turned out to support us and relive some of the best moments/emotions of our collective lives. And then when we started playing and how within seconds it felt like we all got into a time machine and were transported back to 2003 at the Warehouse again was all completely unfathomable. We had no idea THAT'S what the show was going to feel like. It was so frickin great...we're dying to get back and do it again ASAP.
The show sold out in about an hour, with your forthcoming gig following suit. What did you see in the crowd that night, and in the fans’ hunger for hardcore?
We've all gone through a lot in Hong Kong these past couple of years and nothing seems to be getting better. Lyrically speaking a lot of our songs are about injustices and standing true to what you believe in, and all of these lyrics seem extra poignant today. So that must've raised the emotional level tenfold to begin with but to be on stage with people for whom these specific songs and this band helped them through so much in their formative years, and then to hear those songs again JUST AS explosively now that they're all adults, it was clear that we all needed it.
Hardcore has that stranglehold on people who come from rough backgrounds, traumatic childhoods, or people just experiencing some crap that they need to get off their chest - the music, the lyrics, and more importantly, the community that is formed around this culture, is so important in helping people get through all of this. That night it just felt like the collective room just needed something familiar to be able to get all those deeper emotions out. People weren't just moshing, stagediving, circle-pitting for the sake of "moshing" or because it's what you do at a show, they were doing it because they NEEDED to do it, they needed to get it all out in a very deep cathartic manner.
So thinking back to it now...I'm just hoping that everyone that was there is eager to go through that again at the next show and the next show after that.
We’ve seen the return of live metal – and now hardcore – in the last few months. Despite the new (hopefully temporary) restrictions on live events, how do you see the heavy music scene these days?
I have never seen Hong Kong come out in droves to support local acts like I have seen these past couple of years. It's CRAZY to see how many people have been turning out to shows, how quickly tickets keep selling out, and how hard people go OFF to bands at shows. I've literally never seen anything this CONSISTENTLY good for this amount of time in the decades that I've been involved with live music here.
I just hope that whenever borders open again and bands can start touring around that HKers keep that same love and passion for local bands like they have been these past couple of years. Every show fully gives me the chills watching the audience lose their MINDS to the local band on stage!
With the comeback official, what’s next for King Ly Chee? Any more shows, projects or albums on the horizon?
Yeah this band is back and we're already busy writing new songs - we have about 3 or so now. So the plan this year is to keep playing shows and hopefully get maybe an EP out at some point. HOWEVER, the main goal of this band now is to just have fun. No pressure or stress on anyone. We want it to feel like every time we see each other, we're STOKED to be around each other.
King Ly Chee