I am constantly on the prowl for new and exciting music, primarily of the heavy metal persuasion.  Metal is my favorite genre, but alas, it has worn out its welcome and it's rare to hear something genuinely fresh these days.  There are plenty of awesome bands out there that rock and thrash till the cows come home, but eventually, it all starts to blend together, and many attempts to create new sounds/genres fade quickly or fail outright.

However, there are bright spots on the increasingly bleak metal horizon, and I'd like to share some of my recent discoveries with you.  As an aside, I don't endorse any particular band's message or beliefs; I'm just commenting on their style and sound.


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Powerwolf - Blood of the Saints

I would describe this as epic Catholic mass metal.  Yep, you read that right.  Very tight, energetic heavy/power metal, not too pretentious or virtuosic, and absolutely dripping with choirs, organs, operatic vocals, and medieval liturgical atmosphere.  If there ever was a band that would qualify to rock the Gothic off the Notre-Dame Cathedral, this is that band.

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Blood Stain Child - Epsilon

Melodic death/trance metal from futuristic Japanese cyborgs!  Seriously, if you want to mosh, shake your booty, swing your hair like a maniac, or slither and gyrate like a KTV temptress, this is your drug.  Super-synthesized and effects-heavy female vocals, alongside death growls, soaring solos, blazing double bass, and enough rock and roll coolness to make a schoolgirl squeal with delight.

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Fleshgod Apocalypse - Agony

Mozart Metal.  This is the definitive orchestral death metal album.  This isn't death metal with symphonic/orchestral bits sprinkled here and there for atmosphere; no, my friend, the orchestra never stops.  It's part of the band, and every song is epic beyond belief.  Regular death metal will seem flimsy and decaffeinated after your ears are ravaged by this masterpiece.

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Skindred - Union Black

Skindred was one of the last bands I saw in concert before I left the USA and came to China.  I'd been a fan since their debut and their reggae/dancehall/funk/punk/nu metal atomic bomb decimated the crowd.  Their latest offering is even more chock full of bounce, swagger, riddims, riffs, and mayhem.  You'll think it's 2004 all over again as you find your dreads swinging and your voice roaring in a Jamaican accent.

 
 
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Pop music is pretty lame across the world.  Now I confess to shaking my moneymaker from time to time but I know that pop music is fluffy music for happy times and nothing more.  For meaty chords, searing lyrics, and jaw-dropping vocals, I'll turn to other genres.

Chinese pop music is lamer than lame.  Ask anybody.  There are a few bright spots (Jay Chou, early Jolin, etc.) but that's like saying this is the healthiest hamburger at McDonald's.  It's still gonna kill ya.  Now this wouldn't be so bad if all this audio cancer was only bombarding your senses for a couple hours a day.  But no.  You take the bus, walk past a clothing shop, get a fruit smoothie at those trendy drink stands,  you've got some girly-boy striking gangster poses with a posse of hotties squeaking out the most infantile lyrics imaginable, or some Barbie doll  pop tart crooning about her broken heart while mugging for the camera, hoping to get invited for a photo shoot in a fashion magazine, 'cause that's where the real money is anyway. 

Now even this constant assault on one's very soul would still be tolerable if there were other alternatives to this auditory trauma.  But no.  That's all everyone everywhere is listening to.  You no likey?  Tough beans, McSam.

Now there would conceivably be the slightest sliver of light in this maelstrom of misery if the girly-boys were becoming ever-so-slightly more macho, or at least maintaining a constant state of ball-less-ness.  But no.   Back in the day, China had Hong Kong rockers Beyond, and more recently hip-hop found a few fresh faces, such as Wang Lee Hom and Jay Chou.  The girl's music has always been cutesy and bouncy but that's forgivable.

What's not forgivable is where the music is at today.  As a university teacher, and with the majority of my students being girls, I get the 411 on what's popular in the pop music scene, and the television stations are also up on the latest musical trends.  In the 4 1/2 years that I've been in China, I've noticed a serious decline in testosterone levels in popular music.  Boy bands like Super Junior put the likes of the Backstreet Boys and N'Sync to shame with their commitment to girlishness.  The only bright spot in this black hole is that they're Korean, not Chinese (though one of their members is in fact Chinese).

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Every day I hope and pray for a macho revolution in China's music world.  Or at least some diversity.  I mean DAMN, how many times must we watch Michael Jackson wannabes until the novelty wears off?  China's underground is brimming with talent in electronic and rock genres but they'll never get serious publicity until someone plucks these pop-and-locking feather dusters.
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Tang Dynasty, now there was some Chinese music with balls.