Review Summary: An excellent heavy metal album from big China.
When asked how Chinese metal was different, I had trouble responding. Different from what" Of all the genres of music I listen to, none is so international as metal. Your general metal fan does not stick to American metal: Metallica, Wolves in the Throne Room, etc. There’s the UK, Japan, and Scandinavia, oh Scandinavia along with that, the names from those countries as recognizable to even the most casual metal fan (i.e. me). But the question drove me to get a total of five Chinese metal CDs during my time in Beijing and Shanghai. This one: Chun Xiu (Spring and Autumn) by the band of the same name is the first one I will review.
Unfortunately, I know only a little about the band. Chun Xiu sprung from an older Beijing band called Tang Dynasty, one of the guitarists is from another band I looked into, Suffocated, a thrash metal band which easily on par with anything from the West.
Chun Xiu is strongly influenced by the early metal movement. You can hear Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, metal that was fun and slightly cheesy. The first song, “A New Day” relies on one simple, powerful riff. The riffs drive this CD, they are generally fun and A crisp falsetto goes over the instrumentation. The singer does a very good falsetto, his voice reminds me a bit of James LeBrie of Dream Theater.
The band itself seems like a mix of Judas Priest and Dream Theater: fun and fast metal mixed with extensive, interesting instrumentation. The songs usually start with a simple line from one guitar. The drums come in, then a second guitar playing something else along with bass to back it all up, and then the vocals over this very layered sound. After some verses, there is full instrumentation session, which can go anywhere, depending on the song. Slap bass and drums work together over a guitar in the interlude for “Born of the Storm.” The keyboard gets its own little crazed section in “Murder Room” where it plays like a murderous organ, to borrow a little from the title.
Chun Xiu has an exotic feel to it for certain songs, though not really Chinese. The guitars in the intro, followed by the “la la’s” in “Born of the Storm” have a very System of the Down vibe. The intro to “Legend” sounds like an Irish jig, before some well placed power chords. The keyboard adds a different feel to the songs. It is audible alongside the guitars and sounds almost like a horn from the Middle East. It’s kind of cool.
At times Chun Xiu can get cheesy. The lead guitar parts are often quite over the top, like 80s glam metal. I personally don’t have a problem with that, but some might. Overall, the CD is exactly what I look for in a rock album: fast, fun music, with lyrics that I don’t need to listen to. The ballads (“The Last Page” and “Between the Mountains and the Sea”) are boring, a poor way to end the CD on a…mature note. It doesn’t work. However, I cannot comment on the lyrics, my Chinese is not good enough. The vocals for the ballads are okay, but I much, much prefer the hard rockers to the ballads.
As one of my few metal reviews, I’ve had a hard time describing the CD, if you have any suggestions, I will actually be revising this review, unlike most of my others. I doubt you will be able to find this CD, I myself stumbled across three of my CDs in a store in southwestern China. But Chun Xiu is fun, experimental without being the least bit pretentious, and they just rock-that is what I found most exciting and surprising about one of my only introductions to Chinese metal. Hopefully I will get around to reviewing the other CDs to give you a taste of the growing metal scene in China.
Recommended Tracks: Murder Room, Legend, Born of the Sea