Aug 122011

At the risk of boring our longer-term readers, here’s a reminder about how this MISCELLANY game works:

We keep a constantly evolving list of new bands whose music we’ve not yet heard, based on various sources, including band e-mails we get, reader recommendations, press releases, and stickers left on urinals at metal clubs we frequent. Whenever I can manage, I pick a few names off the list, I listen to at least one of their songs, I write about what I heard, and then I stream the same track(s) so you can make up your own mind about whether to explore the bands further.

It’s a good way to discover new music, and I wish I could do it more often. But it’s a bit risky for readers, because even if I hear something I wouldn’t normally recommend to you, it still goes in these MISCELLANY posts. For today’s edition of this dice-roll, I listened to Deus Otiosus (Denmark), Shangren (Australia, I think), and Forever Revenge (China). Here we go . . .

DEUS OTIOSUS

This Danish band e-mailed us late last month and gave us the chance to check out their 2010 debut studio album, Murderer (the band also released a live album in 2010, preceded by a split and a demo). According to The Font of All Human Knowledge, the band’s name is Latin for “idle god” and refers to a “theological concept used to describe the belief in a creator god who largely retires from the world and is no longer involved in its daily operation.”

I’ve always thought this was an interesting concept, and it does provide an answer (if you’re a Deist at least) as to why the human world has been such a brutally fucked up place for thousands of years: The creator had some kind of inexplicable fun creating the earth, and then checked out.  (more after the jump . . .)

And when the creator has checked out, at least you can fall back on death metal for your salvation. The great thing about playing a game where you make the rules is that when you cheat, you have no one to fear for retribution except yourself. And so it was that I listened to the first song on Murderer, and then the second, and then the third, because I got into what I was hearing and wanted to hear more.

There’s an old-school flavor to Deus Otiosus, a flavor of down-tuned grinding with the aroma of decaying corpses in your nostrils, but there’s also a rhythmic affinity for thrash and an approach to song construction that embraces the reptile brain-stem’s attraction to a big hammering groove. These Danes have a foot on the boat and a foot on the dock, the old-school and the new, and a vicious desire to split you in two. Let’s dive into “Wall of Violence” — the third song on the album. Prepare to be carved like a succulent roast.

[audio:http://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/3.-Wall-of-Violence.mp3|titles=Deus Otiosus – Wall of Violence]

Murderer can be ordered in CD form directly from the band at this location. Digitally, the album is available on iTunes and at the band’s ReverbNation store. Hell, I had no idea ReverbNation had an mp3 store for bands. You learn something new every day.  You can snoop Deus Otiosus on facebook here.

SHANGREN

As best I can tell, Shangren is now a one-man project consisting of one Leonard Ong, who, as best I can tell, lives in Australia and is working on an album to be called Rise of the Dynasty. Until that arrives, we have a six-track debut release that appeared in early 2011 called Warriors of Devastation, on which Ong was joined by two other musicians, Andy Suppradit on rhythm guitar and Eve Nathan providing the keyboards.

I discovered Shangren through a MySpace message from the band a while back that billed their music as “Chinese folk/war metal”. As I look back, I wonder, with a description like that, how I could have waited this long to listen.

Folk metal and black metal draw on ethnic traditions from around the world more frequently than any other kind of metal, and Shangren is one of the rare albums I’ve heard that incorporates traditional Asian musical instruments into the heated, rolling fury of blackened metal.

Yes, I cheated again, because I was so enthralled by music that genuinely sounded different.  I was caught up, like a hawk on a column of rising, heated air, by the fusion of memorable melody, liquid, black-metal riffing, and the unusual sounds of unorthodox instruments delivering sounds I’ve never heard before in metal. This music is brilliant in conception and in execution. It will make you want to pound your head into the floor and then bolt upright in surprise. I can’t resist serving up two of the songs I heard, but seriously, every fucking song on this album is awesome:

[audio:http://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/shangren+thebattleofwaterandfire.mp3|titles=Shangren – The Battle of Water and Fire] [audio:http://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/shangren+monkeyking.mp3|titles=Shangren – Monkey King]

You can legally download all the tracks on Warriors of Devastation at the band’s Soundclick page. For more info, Shangren’s facebook page is here.

FOREVER REVENGE

Shangren’s music may be Chinese-themed, but Forever Revenge is actually from China — Hong Kong to be precise. By population, China is the largest country on earth, with more than 1.3 billion people, but as far as I can remember, Forever Revenge is the first Chinese metal band whose music I’ve heard.

The band is the creation of a 16-year old dude named Eliel Chen, who is originally from Finland but now lives in Hong Kong. The Finnish pedigree, of course, is a positive sign.

Eliel e-mailed me a link to the band’s debut album Break Through the Dead End, which is on the verge of an official release. From the e-mail, it appears that Eliel wrote the music and also handled the production, in addition to providing the vocals.

I cheated on my own rules for this album, too, but for a different reason. Instead of getting hooked from the start and wanting to hear more, I continued listening after the first track, hoping to hear something in which I would find a spark of the unusual. Everyone here at NCS knows that our philosophy is not to write about music unless we can recommend it. If we don’t have something nice to say, we just pass on by.  But this series is the one exception to that philosophy, because the point of the game is to faithfully report the results of an experiment.

Break Through the Dead End is a classic example of a young band who haven’t yet found their own sound. For the first five tracks, what I heard was imitation, and not particularly memorable imitation either. Falling somewhere between the stylings of metalcore and deathcore (but without big, booming breakdowns), the songs just didn’t sound free or natural. They sounded simple and stiff, as if following a formula without true conviction. There’s some skill in the playing, but the music doesn’t sound like it emanates from the heart.

Eliel’s vocals are a prime example of what I’m trying to explain: There are a multitude of vocal styles on the first five songs, from high-end screeches to bass-register growls to pig squeals, but they sounded stilted, somewhat forced, and lacking in passion.

Imitation is not an inherently bad thing — everyone must start somewhere, and everyone begins by emulating what they know and like until they develop the confidence to make their own decisions. But for the first five songs on this album, I just didn’t hear anything interesting. And then came the sixth song, “Bleeding in the Darkness”, and that’s where I heard a crackling spark of potential.

On this song, Eliel’s vocals change again, to a frigid black-metal style scraping, but they sound more effortless and natural than any of the other vocals I heard before this song. The drumming takes off, achieving a speed and fluidity I hadn’t heard before. And the song itself includes interesting changes of pace, with a balance of loud and soft, the quieter passages carried by solitary guitar arpeggios and the rushing faster segments fueled by a stream of tremolo notes rather than the relatively simplistic chugging of the earlier tracks. I do like this song. It’s memorable. It shows potential.

I know absolutely nothing about the metal scene in Hong Kong, or in the country as a whole. Maybe the more prosaic songs will find an audience there despite their lack of flair and originality. But in my country or in Europe, I think they would attract little interest. My constructive criticism, coming from a listener who couldn’t play a note if his life depended on it, is to take chances, to push further in the direction of “Bleeding in the Darkness”:

[audio:http://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/06-Bleeding-In-The-Darkness.mp3|titles=Forever Revenge – Bleeding In The Darkness]

The Forever Revenge facebook page can be accessed through this link.

21 Responses to “MISCELLANY NO. 32: DEUS OTIOSUS, SHANGREN, AND FOREVER REVENGE”

  1. Phro says:

    I really, REALLY like Shangren’s music, but the vocals just didn’t completely fit for me. Especially on the monkey king–there were parts that would have benefited from clean vocals (sorry to say it). Actually, the first song started off like an Iron Maiden song, I thought, so maybe that’s why. Either way, excellent, excellent music–but I just felt like the vocals were…wrong??

    Maybe it’s all the bleach I’ve started drinking since ElvisShotJFK told me I could drink as much as I wanted. If nothing else, it’s made it easier to talk to the octogods.

    The Forever Revenge song was pretty okay. The vocals (again) kinda killed it for me. Mr. Chen, if you’re reading this, keep going. You’re off to an excellent fucking start! I, for one, look forward to hearing your progression! (Even if you do keep with the black metal vocals.)

    Deus Otiosus was just plain, old good death metal. Very foot-tapping-en-ing-ing…ing.

    WHERE’S MUH GODDAMN BU-LEACH AT!?!?

    • Islander says:

      Elvis has unintentionally become your enabler. I feared this would happen. I’m trying to think on the bright side: at least your esophagus and stomach will be a nice gleaming white color.

      • Phro says:

        AND THE BONES. THE BONES WILL BE WHITE.
        WHITE LIKE THE PALE MOONLIGHT THAT STALKS ME IN THE NIGHT AND LIES IN WAIT
        IN THE DAYLIGHT.
        THE MOON, THE EVIL LITTLE SLUTTY BITCH, HE HAS IT OUT FOR ME. HE WANTS MY BLOOD.

        HE WAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNTTTTTTTTTTSSSSSSS MYYYYYYYYYY BLOOOOOOOOD!

        (This message was brought to you by Woolite. Eat your heart out, Rob Zombie.)

        • Islander says:

          Gulp. Not really my business, but you might think about going easier on the bleach. Maybe replacing it with a good brand of detergent, perhaps with a fabric-softener chaser.

          • Phro says:

            No. IT will know. And IT will not be happy about changes to ITS plans.

            But I could go for some fabric softener. Make my anal cavity downy soft for the octogods artificial insemination.

            SIPPIN’ ON BLEACH WITH BLASTANUS ON BLAST! BLASTING MY BLAST WITH BLASTIFUL BLAST!

            • Trollfiend says:

              This is how the Massive Wall of Penis started. Phro is like the blog equivalent of a zombie virus outbreak.Or he’s drunk a lot. I’m still undecided.

  2. Trollfiend says:

    Out of the three, I’d have to say Shangren pretty much blew me out of the fucking water. I look forward to hearing more from them.

    • Phro says:

      So you liked the vocals then? Maybe I need to get my ears checked.
      But there was much blowing being down! Particularly out of the water.

      • Trollfiend says:

        Yeah, I didn’t find them out of place at all. Though I agree that some clean bridges might have worked.

      • Islander says:

        I liked the vocals, too, but I guess that would be predictable. Some cleans wouldn’t have been out of place, but I’m happy with them the way they are.

      • Matt says:

        Nah, I see where you’re coming from. I think the vocals sound a little too airy and sort of weak. Loved the band still

  3. Utmu says:

    Utmu enjoyed all these songs, Shangren stuck out the most though. Folk metal is one of those sub-genres that I wince at in my mind, thrash is another one (which is weird, cuz I like a good amount of thrash). I liked the Deus Otiosus song because it had… a rhythm? I think that’s the word I want.

    The thing that I liked most about the Forever Revenge song were the vocals. They were scathing and/or grating, but in a good way like breakdancing on sandpaper. Based simply on that song I would think that band has a lot of potential.

  4. hk says:

    Im from Hong Kong and ive been following this blog for a while.
    Its a surprise to me that theres a review about a band from hk,
    but then at the same time i feel sorry for u that if Forever Revenge is the first band from China u’ve ever heard.
    Since they came out and put music on the interenet i think they’ve received more negative opinion than positive.
    They were once called See Me Bleed but they thought this name was too “death metal” so they changed it to FR.
    I couldnt help but laugh..
    They had their record out but still never played a show.

    I know they are still young they might have the potential, i do hope that they can improve in the future.
    If u want to hear some other metal bands from HK i would suggest Evocation, Hyponic and Elysium.
    Evocation (although has the same name as the swedish metal band) and Hyponic are two of the longest lasting extreme metal bands in hk.

    http://www.myspace.com/evocationhk
    http://www.myspace.com/hyponic
    http://www.myspace.com/elysiumhk

    • Islander says:

      Thanks for these suggestions. I think those of us here in the US are woefully ignorant about the HK scene, and need to get better educated. These bands are a great start. And as for Forever Revenge, I think you have to give kudos to guys who push so hard to get their music out there beyond the borders of China, and I do think they have the kind of potential that makes them worth watching.

    • hk says:

      oh and Shangren is awesome!
      thz for the suggestion

  5. […] (If you’re wondering, it’s vaguely similar to Shangren, which has been featured on NCS before.) […]

  6. […] also the name of a pulverizing Danish death metal band we spotlighted for the first time in a MISCELLANY post during August […]

  7. […] been following the Danish band Deus Otiosus since 2011, when I first discovered (and wrote about) their 2010 debut album Murderer. Since then the band have released two more albums, 2012′s […]

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