Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bandcamp Picks: Pest Productions

Based in Jang Xi, China, Pest Productions has been around since 2006. Though they have artists from all over the world, I'm primarily interested in their roster of Chinese black metal; as such, they give a pretty good overview of what's kvlt and trve in the Middle Kingdom. [As an art school dork, I would be remiss if I didn't note the visual design on their releases, which evokes black metal and Far East folk art at the same time. Simply top notch.] All their releases are available as $6 digital downloads through Bandcamp.

Despite only forming early last year, Nagzul is one of the more accomplished black metal bands on the Pest roster. Summon the Spirits makes for an engaging listen, as the pacing varies throughout from depressive black metal a la Bethlehem to full on blasting, to even the occasional chugging moments, Anaal Nathrakh style. If "True Chinese Black Metal" becomes a thing, Nagzul would be a great representative of it.
[As an aside, apparently "Nagzul" is the band's "English" name... their actual Chinese name "Yin Chai" allegedly refers to creatures from the Taoist mythological underworld. Way more interesting than a token - and taken - Tolkien reference, in my opinion.]

If traditional Chinese landscape paintings could be re-interpreted as black metal, Zuriaake would be the ones to do it. "Epic" is a term I use sparingly, but few other words sum up the kind of atmospheric black metal done on Afterimage of Autumn. The only mis-step is the instrumentals, which skew to the twee side of "symphonic" - it's like those sections in a Zhang Yimou film when the wuxia badass stares off into the distance and talks about his feelings ...yuck.

A one-man black metal project will immediately bring comparisons to Burzum and Xasthur, and there's no denying Dark Fount contain several elements of those bands, not least of which is their ultra-fried guitar tone. A Sapless Leave Withering In The Night Fog follows a well-travelled style of primitive black metal, but that rarely brings complaints when the results are this good. Something for the introverted misanthrope in all of us.

Not sure what the label is talking about when it states that Deep Mountains uses "traditional Chinese musical elements" on its self-titled debut; what I hear is more reminiscent of Agalloch's early work, with forlorn acoustic passages morphing into long stretches of atmospheric black metal. Occasionally things speed up, as on the Darkthroning closing track. Quibbles with promotional rhetoric aside, when it comes to the forest metal, you could do worse.

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