Welcome to this scorched earth of a fire pit we call Shanghai. You know it’s time to party when half the old men in the neighborhood are flashing bare potbellies. But it looks the party is over for many teens out in the Hongqiao side of town as they will need to find a new bouncy castle due to the legendary Mansion club starting an 18+ policy last weekend.
Flash back to my mom showing up to my first high school keg party. Oh man, that encounter took me down about 10 notches in the rigid '90s social hierarchy of the day. If my guess is correct, this new policy is really due to a fearless Tiger Mother who stormed the Mansion gates dragging her 15 year old out by the scantily clad outfit she changed into at the McDonalds bathroom before hitting the party.
Upon reading the other new Laws of Mansion, they now require “Models Only Can Enter by Showing Their Model Cards”. Shit, after coasting along for years assuming it’s common knowledge that I’m a high-class model, now I have to go down to the union office and pay my yearly dues to get that old model card up to date.
Also, as the poster reads, there is no more "Bagging for Free Drinks"? If your first point of order when hitting the club is to tell the bartender, "Hey that shirt sucks, give me a shot of tequila" or "That perm ain’t working honey now give me a free gin and t", well not anymore. Finally, think twice before you decide to cool down with a canonball in the pool because that will run you a stiff 500rmb fine. Hopefully they accept WeChat Wallet because I don’t carry that kind of cash and you know after a long model shoot and some tequila shooters that pool be calling my name. Oh Mansion you know I kid and I wish you the best of luck with your growing pains.
Today I’m going to share music from two solid Siberian metal bands Neverending Winter & G.Y.K., who are playing Inferno on Friday. If there is any place that could churn out solid black metal I’m guessing it’s mother flipping Siberia. After that we will discuss the ethics of a little metal band called Ghost Bath who gained notoriety and even a record deal claiming to be from Chongqing while in fact they live in North Dakota and just made that shit up.
According to our favorite Shanghai rusky Dima of Spill Your Guts fame, Neverending Winter are actually from Siberia. Dima helped set up their China tour and this show is a real double–sided metal blade treat. The Tomsk based band delves into various metal formats leaning more towards the black. While laying down heavy guitars and solid drums they also include acoustic guitars and interludes that give the band diversity. These days, everyone compares similar bands to Deafheaven, but I’m not going to do that. I mean, there are similarities and the build ups…But no no no, I’m not comparing them to Deafheaven.
Formed out of the ashes of Siberian punk bands StompOut and Louder Than Words, these four boys from the heart of the motherland decided to evolve their style into a more developed palette. Can you imagine going to see a band called StompOut in Siberia? That has be a rough show. It’s always interesting to see the evolution of various scenes around the world and we are lucky enough to get a great sounding representation of current metal in Russia on Friday. Neverending Winter also has no fear about using electronic samples to accompany their music. That's something I was hesitant about before, but over the past couple years have come on board with. Heck, even local Shanghai hardcore and metal bands like Spill Your Guts and The Machinery of Other Skeletons have sampled drums on their recordings.
I think our Siberian friends said it best with this quote from Lands of None: "All the leaves fall as one, and wind walks alone. We march this endless roam, across the lands of none".
Neverending Winter – "Lands of None"
G.Y.K. is also from Tomsk and touring with Neverending Winter across China. To me, they represent a more core sound that echoes some of the great '90s hardcore bands like Unwound and The Locust. While their Bandcamp lists styles that include post-hardcore and screamo, G.Y.K. is to me at heart a pure hardcore band. They are not hardcore punk like DOA or Black Flag. Their kind of hardcore was a separate scene that was developed by bands like Man is the Bastard or Unwound. No need for “post” or “proto” in the description. Semantics aside, G.Y.K instantly gives you that feeling of a legit DIY band that you want to start a zine with and maybe host a Food Not Bombs in the park.
The band writes their songs inspired by books, friends, and topics such as film, like one of their most musically forward songs, “Kubrick’s Last Dream”. Don’t miss this Friday’s show at Inferno as it is guaranteed to be one of the best rock shows of the year.
G.Y.K – "Drops"
A few weeks ago this pasty white Norwegian boy came into my record store here in Shanghai looking for a vinyl record from Chinese metal band Zuriaake. As I’ve never heard of Zuriaake before, and more importantly never heard of any Chinese metal being pressed on vinyl, this Scando bro had my attention. Before telling him "get the hell out of my store you long haired charlatan", a quick discogs.com search showed the Jinan band Zuriaake had indeed pressed a record back in 2007 and it was selling for high dollars in the online marketplace. Now this is before any Chinese labels like Maybe Mars or Genjing Records started pressing on vinyl. I was also surprised to find out Zuriaake’s label Pest Productions 666 has over 80 releases (mostly CDs) of varying types of metal from China and abroad.
Pest Productions is based in a town called Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province. I had heard about the label when I wrote about this band Ghost Bath a couple times over the past year. The band claimed to be based in Chongqing and released an album on Pest Productions last summer. The ambiguous dark metal outfit started to get attention after a Pitchfork writeup in April of 2014. After that, there were a number of articles / interviews on websites like Vice about Ghost Bath and China’s metal sound that eventually landed them a record deal on the respectful German metal label Northern Silence Productions.
Well, after looking back into Ghost Bath it turns out last April it was revealed the band is actually from North Dakota, USA and for all accounts has never even been to China. Now one of the bands biggest self-promotion tactics is that they will not reveal their identities and that people should like their music basic purely on the sound. However, claiming to be from Chongqing and putting Chinese characters on the album is clearly misleading.
Pest Productions Bandcamp page for the album still says about the band "This Depressive Suicide Black Metal/Depressive Rock band from the ancient east might be the most mysterious band in China". The whole "you should only care about the music itself" argument only works with pop music. Coming from a DIY / Punk background, if I’m going to really respect the music this usually comes along with more detailed information on the band and their participation in the scene.
However black metal by nature is about theatrics and over the top dramatics that aren’t exactly grounded in anything. Plus, there are groups like the electronic artist Burial, who has remained unknown for the past decade, with only rumors about the producer's identity and origin. However Burial doesn’t give such specific claims like Ghost Bath saying they are from Chongqing. I’d have to wonder if Ghost Bath claimed to be from Norway then were found out to be from North Dakota what the media response would be. Well Ghost Bath have been receiving a shit storm the past few months sparking a debate on the importance of transparency in metal. Even the bands own Wikipedia page slams them for the false origin claims
I’m going to give them a pass because they were the first to pull a stunt like this. We need to be fucked with every once and a while and the music is solid. However, I won't be so tolerant with the next group that tries this. After reading the updated Ghost Bath situation I couldn’t help but go through the other Pest Productions releases [https://pestproductions.bandcamp.com/] to see if there were any other Chinese imposters among the ranks.
Being that the label is based in the middle of nowhere, it took a couple days to track down someone who has actually met the reclusive label head. After getting his WeChat and some back and forth, I was able to confirm his location. My biggest concern was over the band Zuriaake itself, who started this mystery for me. Even though they have been releasing material for over eight years, the band had never played live. They were scheduled to play the 330 Metal Fast last March in Beijing but that was shut down on the day of the event. Just how far does this scandal go? Was the show shutdown to keep the sham alive? Nope. Turns out Zuriaake re-scheduled and played a few days later at MAO Livehouse (video below).
Even though I couldn’t get a response on why Pest Productions released Ghost Bath as a Chongqing based band, I was able to confirm the rest of their roster and even ordered quite a few CDs from Nanchang. It just goes to show there is always more going on in China than what appears on the surface, and if you ever get comfortable and think you know everything about China’s music scene then you are a fucking idiot. Now let’s check out some of my favorite cuts from the Pest Productions discography and remember to keep it evil Shanghai!
ZALIVA-D - "E.V.I.L"
Zuriaake – "Heaven"
Tomb – "鳳凰絕"
Ghost Bath - "Burial"
Just remember kids, DEATH TO CHINESE FALSE METAL.