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Sunday Old School: Tang Dynasty

Our quest for old school heavy metal throughout the world has taken to so many places and seen such a variation of music. From the anthems of Turkish heavy metal band Mezarkabul to the Satanic subjects of Behemoth and Vader from Poland, there's literally a whole world of metal music to explore. Only last week, the Sunday Old School column featured Kryptos, arguably India's premier metal band and this week will be quite similar, as we head back to Asia, this time to examine the group many have dubbed "China's first heavy metal band," Tang Dynasty.

Tang Dynasty were formed in 1988 in the Chinese capital city of Beijing by guitarist Kaiser Kuo, bassist Zhang Ju and vocalist Ding Wu, with the former being replaced the next year by Liu "Lao Wu" Yijun. The group began developing their craft and gained attention in 1991 when they released a version of the socialist anthem, "The Internationale" in their native language. The following year, they released their debut album, "A Dream Return to Tang Dynasty," which officially sold over 2 million copies throughout Asia, in addition to the numerous bootlegs circulated throughout the world. It earned some excellent feedback from rock and metal fans the world over, who complimented the musicianship displayed, as well as the clear inspiration of Chinese history and culture.

Tragedy would strike the band not long after their debut was released, when bass player Zhang Ju died in a motorcycle accident when he hit a truck on the Zizhuqiao freeway overpas. Despite losing such an important part of the group, Tang Dynasty soldiered on and replaced Zhang Ju with Gu Zhong. In 1996, some joy was brought back to the band when founding guitarist Kaiser Kuo returned to the fold and began writing material with the group again, which culminated in the 1997 EP, "Goodbye Zhang Ju" and then their sophomore album, "Epic" being released in 1998, ten years after their formation and six years after their previous full length, once more to a positive reception.

However it was to be another ten years before Tang Dynasty released another album. In 1999, Kaiser Kuo once again parted company with the band and formed another pivotal Chinese rock band Spring and Autumn. He was replaced by Iron Kite leader Yu Yang, which began a revolving door system of guitarists, with prodigy Chen Lei then joining the ranks before another former member, Liu "Lao Wu" Yijun returned. Finally in 2008, they released their first album as a quintet, "Romantic Knight," taking its name from a famous Chinese poem. That same year, they were featured in the documentary "Global Metal" along with other Asian bands such as Sigh and Kryptos.

In 2009, "Lao Wu" announced his second departure from the band, leaving them as a quartet once more, with singer Ding Wu also taking over the position of second guitarist. Four years later, Tang Dynasty released their fourth album, "Pricks," to yet more praise from the metal underground and Chinese fans. The band are still going today and last month, made their first appearance on Chinese television for sixteen years, though it suffered greatly from technical difficulties and being forced to shorten the title track from their debut album to four minutes from its original four. Given the bands track record with releases, it may be a few years yet before the world hears new music from Tang Dynasty, but their place as one of Asia and especially China's most important metal groups remains unquestionable.

Tang Dynasty - "A Dream Return to Tang Dynasty"

Tang Dynasty - "The Internationale"

Tang Dynasty - "Nine Rhythm"

Tang Dynasty - "Your Vision"

Tang Dynasty - "Ritual of Apotheosis"

Tang Dynasty - "Pathway"

Tang Dynasty - "MV"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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