Unearthing the Metal Underground: The Taiwan Metal Scene
Each week in "Unearthing the Metal Underground," we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week I am offering a brief glimpse of the dynamic Taiwan metal scene.
In the past few years, the metal scene in Taiwan has exploded and now boasts an active roster of more than 50 bands. This is a significant number for the relatively small island nation of 23 million that lies less than 200 kilometers off the east coast of China—with geographical, political, and historical factors playing a key role in Taiwan’s metallic output. The repressive Chinese government currently has well over 1,000 ICBMs aimed at Taiwan, and has maintained that it will use military force if necessary to bring Taiwan back under its control. Taiwan has been governed separately from China since the KMT was defeated by the Communists in 1949 following a four-year civil war, after which the KMT leadership and soldiers fled across the Taiwan Strait. Since then, Taiwan has held de-facto independence that is only officially recognized by an ever dwindling number of African, Central and South American, Caribbean, and South Pacific states. The perpetually tense political standoff with its impossibly imposing neighbor to the west, combined with an ongoing struggle for inclusion in international organizations and increased diplomatic recognition, has made Taiwan the ideal breeding ground for the world’s angriest, loudest, and fastest form of musical expression.
Here are three such examples warranting your attention:
Hailing from Taipei, Infernal Chaos is a melodic thrash band featuring main songwriter Jesse Liu on lead guitar, who also plays in Taiwan’s premiere metal export thus far, Chthonic. Drawing influences from bands as disparate as At the Gates, Hatesphere, Lamb of God, Pantera, and Killswitch Engage, they have earned a devoted following in the Taiwan scene over the course of their six year existence.
Following the release of their debut EP, Infernal Chaos embarked on a short tour of Japan and has since staged regular shows in the nation’s capital and around Taiwan. Early in 2010, the band also snagged the coveted local support slot on In Flames’ tour stop in Taipei. Catchy hooks, dual leads, a mix of screamed and clean vocals, and one of the most powerful drummers in the Taiwan scene have made IC, as they are known locally, one of the benchmarks in terms of live energy, musical precision, and stage presence for the rest of the metal bands in Taiwan. The band also has a full length recording under their belt, 2007’s "Vision of Disorder," featuring ten tracks that strive to capture the essence of the collective spirit of frustration and uncertainty of the Taiwanese youth. Currently, the band is planning the release of their second, as yet untitled EP.
At the conflux of punk, thrash and black metal lies a band with members from Taipei and the industrial wasteland of Taoyuan called Bazooka. Taking their cues from Toxic Holocaust, the modern era of Darkthrone, the early work of Sodom, Hellhammer, and any number of crust and D-beat bands, Bazooka churns out masterfully evil, straight ahead old school crossover thrash that gets the punks on their pogo sticks and the metal heads moshing.
Formed in 2005, the band recently drew the attention of Germany’s Metal Inquisition Records, who released their debut album, "Toxic Warriors," in 2009. This is an album for anyone who puts a back patch on their army surplus jacket or adds the prefix "old" when describing all their favorite thrash bands. With heavily distorted vocals, prerequisite tongue-in-cheek satanic references, and a seemingly unlimited ammo stockade piled high with simplistic but mercilessly killer riffs, Bazooka brings together all the best elements of metal’s delightfully dark, raucous and unapologetically evil side. This isn’t re-thrash retro worship, it’s the real thing. A lineup change has recently seen Erik (Desecration), the vocalist on "Toxic Warriors," exit the band, leading former drummer Spike to step up to the microphone, with new drummer Curseomind now behind the kit. Bazooka is now considering releasing an EP in the near future, consisting of a few new originals and a couple of covers.
Taipei’s Beyond Cure is on the verge of becoming Taiwan’s "Next Big Thing," and if everything falls into place, could find themselves garnering some international attention. Their first EP, entitled "Chronically Fester," features six tracks of modern deathcore in the vein of Job for a Cowboy, early The Black Dahlia Murder, All Shall Perish, and Whitechapel. After a rash of lineup changes, including a change of vocalists, guitarists, and bassists, the band has finally solidified its ranks and cemented itself as a local live favorite. Though deadly serious about the technical side and consistency of their live performances, Beyond Cure is a band that knows how to have fun with their music and throw a few jabs at themselves, and metal in general. Whether it’s random pig squeals, or a brief stoppage in a breakdown for some impromptu operatic vocals from bassist Larry Wang, Beyond Cure knows how to keep a crowd entertained as well as enraptured.
All fun and games aside though, the band lays claim to a drummer, Owen, who just might have the fastest hands in the Taiwanese scene and looks as calm as Flo Mounier when tackling even the fastest of blast beats, and Larry is hands down the most technically skilled slap bassist of any metal band in Taiwan. Vocalist Dobs brings in elements of Trevor Strnad and Jonny Davy, and guitarists Kenichi and Mick pack a heavy bag full of breakdowns and death metal influenced riffs. The release of the band’s first full length album, the comically titled "Your Head Smells Good" (a reference to the zombie-themed cover art), is scheduled for this June.
This is but a small sampling of what the Taiwanese metal scene has to offer. For more information on metal in Taiwan, check out TaipeiMetal.com, and feel free to mention any other bands you feel are worthy of recognition in the comments section below.
Check back every Monday as we delve into a different scene or genre to unearth some new underground metal bands.
Joe Henley is a freelance music journalist and editor currently living in Taipei, Taiwan. In addition to pulling vocal duty in a death metal band, he maintains a website on the Taiwanese metal scene and writes regular features on the touring bands that come through Taipei for a local monthly music magazine.
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