Asia, the world’s largest and most populous continent, shouldn’t be a surprise package in regards to metal given these facts. Since smaller nations like my own, England, have forged a life long relationship with metal that has lasted the distance and many tough, turbulent times, surely countries from Asia, especially the more advanced one’s, should be able to keep up with the leading pack in the race towards success? Certain areas of Asia have a real lack of depth when it comes to their local scenes and the general underground movement. Of course, this could be stated about most areas of the world but Asia, given its huge populous, should be striving towards the throne without needing to stop to take breath on board. Politics has a part to play in the failing of this area, given the restraints that the government inflicts upon the population, such as, censorship, a theme I have covered in this series already. This region of the world is a mere puddle, only a few inches deep, in comparison to the vast oceans of infinite depths that Europe and North America provides the average metal fan with.
I suppose, as with every metal genre, the further you delve into the blackened depths, the more success you will have at finding a true gem. However, most people are not persistent enough to sift through the tonnes of shit we have to trawl through in order to find the very best that a nation, and region, has to offer. The much coveted American scene, for example, proves this. There are numerous gems hidden within the infinite abyss that only need uncovering before more fall out, one-by-one, but the persistence levels are dwindling given the reputation of the scene which has been primarily based around a few bad eggs. Chinese black metal doesn’t have this problem because the scene isn’t big enough and doesn’t generate enough attention in order to draw flocks of listeners into its embracing arms which craves the love and affection the potential listener, who is tired by now of the Western scenes, but has been neglected thus far because it is easier to search for quality within the Westernised scenes. Since Asia is so large, I have based much of this series around Eastern Asia, with China and Japan taking up a fair amount of my time. I have reviews planned for bands outside of Eastern Asia, but this region has the best that Asia has to offer. I try to avoid Russia because it has ties to Europe and thus an unfair advantage over other areas - like China.
However, bands like Be Persecuted and Zuriaake prove that, no matter where you’re situated in the world, your genetics and ethnicity do not prevent you from producing top quality black metal and, hopefully, in years to come, people from “unusual” areas of the world will start incorporating their own traditional music into the black metal soundscapes. Bands like Melechesh, a band previously situated in Asia, have started to do this and they’re reaping the rewards of their extremely bold moves. Although this Chinese band, named Varuna, do not incorporate traditional Chinese themes, there is a combined sense of authenticity and audacity about this debut, entitled ‘The Epical Trilogy of Vorlaufen I: Night Master’ that makes it a worth while exploit. Despite the relatively young age of the black metal market in China, bands are already proving that they can maintain a traditional vibe by use age old methods such as; tremolo picking and double bass blasts on percussion, whilst accelerating the evolution of the genre by interspersing wondrous levels of creativity that inspire awe in the listener.
Varuna, however, are more brave and adventurous when it comes to exhibiting dynamism through creative passages because they like to stress the avant-gardé in their music by providing the listener with some unconventional structures that work well and includes experimental usage of bass, guitars, percussion and even vocals. Songs like the self-titled ‘Night Master’ prove such an occurrence with its blissful use of exotic and experimental drums that move from one style to the next, never staying long as if it were a nymphomaniac afraid of committing itself to one sound. The drums exhibit a sense of showmanship that isn’t cocky in the slightest. Varuna are comprised of talented musicians, the perfected performance of the guitars, the shape shifting bass (which exudes a coolness on the self-titled song alongside the euphoric guitars that embody a sound worthy of being called avant-gardé - a term thrown around an awful lot) and, again, even the vocals never overbear on the listener with their performance because they’re sparsely used and vary. Varuna take hold of a strange, accessible, electronic style beneath the surface of the material and this, once again, proves that avant-gardé can be a treat when performed well and not in a pretentious manner that eliminates the concept of professionalism.
The production is perfect. Its light, airy and doesn’t resemble that of a band who haven’t put much time, or effort into persuading the listener to note down how good it truly is. The keyboards and synths sections benefit massively from this and as a result, Varuna can easily graze the plains of experimentation, whilst keeping in touch with the roots of the genre by providing watered down rasps, tremolo efforts and a hefty amount of bass work. ‘Generation’ is a fantastic example of what black metal is capable of when the attitudes are right, in regards to experimenting. I imagine there will be a lot of people who cannot relate to this. Its perhaps a bit too “out there” for some, though it is hardly the most outrageous piece I’ve heard. The aforementioned song takes on a different sound from the rest of the songs, providing the listener with a piano base and terrific bass lines that lead throughout, with symphonies subtly storming overhead. At times, this band reminds me slightly of Kekal, the explosive and experimental Indonesian band. The guitar textures sound similar and the unexpected movement from harsh to clean vocals and back again takes up a position that Kekal usually hold. All in all, this should be considered a successful debut and, assuming this to be correct, looks like the beginning of a potentially gifted saga.