16 June 2023
The Inevitable Rise of Asian Heavy Metal
After four days of Download, Road Hounds has been impressed by the diverse programming at the festival and has noticed something. A bunch of new(ish) bands from Asia. Could this be the New Wave of Asia Heavy Metal? Let’s take a closer sniff.
Mongolian band The Hu blend the guitars of heavy metal with traditional Mongolian guttural singing. They wear leather jackets, skull rings and bandannas alongside intricately carved Mongolian horsehead fiddles. They look amazing.
This fusion is not random but comes out of a tradition that began several decades ago when Mongolia transitioned from a satellite of the Soviet Union to a democracy. Western influence flooded in during the late 1980s and musicians chose to preserve Mongolian culture while also adapting new influences.
Mongolian rock combines traditional Mongolian instruments, like a horsehead fiddle (morin khuur), Jew’s harp (tumur khuur) and Mongolian guitar (tovshuur) with the pounding bass and drums of rock. It sounds amazing.
It also involves throat singing while throwing heads back and forth reminiscent of headbanging. Combine all of that with horse culture, and the emphasis on freedom and heroes and the appeal to Metal fans is clear. Let the horde consume us.
Bloodywood are a four-member band based in India’s capital Delhi who started out uploading metal covers of popular Hindi songs on YouTube and have just become the first Indian metal act to play Download.
They mix folksy sounds and textures with the classic chug of heavy metal using some traditional Indian instruments including flute and dhol (a percussion instrument). While metal music has a strong global community, the genre hasn’t completely taken off in India but Bloodywood’s recent success has sparked hopes of reviving Metal in India.
Bloodywood have pushed their music in political directions that have changed the way people perceive the genre in India. Many think of Metal as nonpolitical but Black Sabbath tackled socio-political subjects through their songs for decades, right from the start.
Bloodywood roar against sexism, religious violence and political corruption. Road Hounds is proud to roar (or should that be howl?) with them!
Japan has had a much longer tradition of Metal than Mongolia or India with bands like Loudness emerging the early 80’s. The last big metal phenomenon from Japan was Baby Metal but that was some time ago now.
The new kids on the block are SiM (Silence iz Mine) who have a distinctive blend of hardcore punk, alternative/nu metal, reggae and ska.
Their single “The Rumbling” is the opening theme for the popular anime series “Attack On Titan: The Final Season Part 2” and raced to the top of the charts on release.
So we have at least three bands who are fusing Metal with traditional sounds and images from their native lands. They have a fan base at home but are gaining a global audience through the Metal community. They are not afraid to be political either. Let’s hope that many more follow.
And let’s take the time to honour a few Asian metal pioneers who came before them. Burgerkill is an Indonesian heavy metal band, originally from Bandung, capital city of West Java. They fuse metalcore, thrash metal, death metal, groove metal and even prog into a compelling whole. They won Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards for Metal as F*ck category.
Skyharbor is an Indian/American progressive metal band with members from New Delhi and Mumbai, India. Skyharbor plays a style of progressive metal drawing elements of orchestration and dream pop. There is considerable emphasis given to heavily layered ambient guitars and vocal harmonies. Yummy.
Pineapple Express are a progressive fusion band from India, mixing Carnatic, Rock, Experimental, Electronic and Progressive elements. They are mainly known for exploring a diverse range of genres and delivering high energy live audio/visual performances. It’s wonderful stuff.
Honorable mentions too for South Korea and Taiwan. Madmans Esprit is a South Korean black metal band, influenced by visual kei, formed in 2010 in Seoul. Chthonic is a Taiwanese heavy metal band, formed in 1995 in Taipei. They have been called “the Black Sabbath of Asia.” The group incorporates influences from traditional Taiwanese music, including adaptations of folk songs and the use of traditional instruments. Yes please.
But it’s not just dudes at it. Let’s hear it for the ladies too. Voice of Baceprot (VOB) are an Indonesian all-female rock trio formed in Garut, West Java, in 2014. Their particular blend is Nu metal, funk metal, thrash metal and rap metal. They sing in English as well as Sundanese.
Metal is a force for change, and a change for good. Road Hounds is proud to champion it.
Here’s a playlist to get you started: