Death Kult Over Black Congregation: The New Wave of Chinese Black Metal

In 2019 and 2020, Pest Productions, A black metal label from China, released two compilations of emerging Chinese black metal on Bandcamp. New bands with a diverse range of black metal subgenres were introduced in the compilations, including old school bm, blackened death, dsbm, nihilist bm, black/thrash, post bm/blackgaze, symphonic bm, as well as folk bm, which gave birth to the New Wave of Chinese Black Metal. This year in January, Pest Productions have returned with the third compilation, bringing more talented Chinese black metal bands to overseas metal fans (I posted links at the bottom of the article of the three compilations which are free to download on Bandcamp). Based on this new extreme trend, I conducted this interview with two of my friends, AymParch and Dyingflames, who have been playing very active and important roles in Chinese underground metal communities.

DY: Can you tell us what are your roles in Chinese underground black and death metal communities and when did you both get involved?

AP: First of all, thanks for inviting us, really appreciate that. I’m currently working for Pest Productions (PR & promotion) and Dienysian Records (co-editor). Dyingflames and I got in touch and quickly became friends over a decade ago via some online forums. In 2015 we were invited by Zquagmire (another old friend and a very prolific artist in the Chinese extreme underground) to start a raw black metal project, together with Huai Wei (bassist for Black Kirin and Skeleton Augury). That project eventually turned into R.N.V. in 2017 when Dyingflames and I decided to start playing live shows. Right now R.N.V. is the main band I’m working on, with Nanjing-based bm veteran Lv Bo (复活 (Resurrection), Holokastrial, ex-Delirious) behind drums. There’s another side project I’m working on with Lv and that’s about it.

I was one of those close friends who joined Dienysian as co-editors after Dyingflames founded it around 2016. We have been long fans of Pest Productions and their music since we first got into the Chinese black/death scene. I met Deng, the owner, in 2016 at their 10 years anniversary show in Shanghai. Since then, I’d been helping Pest with some trivia like translating and writing promos, and eventually became an official member in late 2019.

DF: Thanks a lot for the opportunity here. I work for a venue and manage the shows every day, nearly half of the underground metal and punk shows took place at the club. AP and I are both in Dienysian Records and R.N.V. There is another band I’m in, Holokostrial, a Shanghai-based death metal band formed by guitarist Mammoth and me in 2014, also one of very few active death metal bands in eastern China. As for Dienysian, it is long time ago that I run a website page, maybe 2011 or earlier, we share metal album reviews (sometimes illegal download resources, I’m sorry) and recommend good bands from all over the world to our followers in China, then I changed name to Dienysian Records in 2016, and begin to hold some shows and release some music work. 

It is the same time I met Deng Zhang, just like AP. The Pest 10 years anniversary show was really awesome, almost everyone was there. Deng really helps me a lot on label working, and Dienysian posted many reviews and interviews for bands and releases from Pest, during 2018-2020 we worked closely, then I shifted focus on shows.  

DY: How does Chinese black metal distinguish itself from European or North American black metal? There are quite a few Chinese BM bands that have sort of Chinese traditional elements, and they also gained attention from overseas. But are the themes, or techniques different too?

AP: Music-wise, I don’t really see many differences to be honest, aside from those bands who manage to incorporate traditional Chinese elements into their music. One main reason is, after all, black metal is still a European genre, and we were more or less influenced by those classics and legends and their magnum opuses in the global scene. Also, Chinese BM is really diverse when it comes to writing styles and lyrics themes, so I don’t think there’s a distinct “Chinese sound” like that of Finnish/French/Icelandic BM – on that note, the situation here is somewhat similar to the North American BM scene.

DY: Since you’ve stayed in America and Canada, how do you find the black metal or death metal ambiances in North America different from those in China? 

AP: Personally speaking, I think 2015 marks a turning point for the Chinese underground music scene (including the indie and punk ones), more bands and resources have been introduced to China due to the globalization of the music industry in general and the amount of efforts made by many great underground labels. But they still differ from those in North America since Chinese underground music, in general, is still a niche subculture, compared to the popularity of its NA/EU counterparts. In terms of audiences at shows, it’s really hard to pinpoint their exact characteristics either (China or NA/EU). I do think that the Japanese scene (audiences, livehouses’ general ambiance, etc) stands out as some of the craziest. We had a great time three years ago over there during our Japan tour in support of Cult Of Fire and Zurriake.

DF: Actually, big cities are pretty good, many famous or underground death metal and black bands toured in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou in last 20 years. There are at least thousands of fans willing to pay for the show and other merches. When we took shows in other cities, things changed a lot, unlike NA, it is usual to find metalheads in almost every town or cities, fans are too concentrated in China. 

DY: What are obstacles you met or black/death metal might meet in Chinese mainland? Back to few years ago, shows were sometimes cancelled due to “unseeable reasons.” How is the situation nowadays? 

AP: Yes, censorship is definitely the biggest obstacle that show organizers and bands had to face prior to the global pandemic. We were once targeted by the local police and had to cancel our set. Fortunately, that didn’t affect the entire festival eventually. Great thing is, over the years, organizers have learned to cope with all the procedures, paperwork, and other nonsenses associated with live show censorship. I think Dyingflames can give you more detail since he’s super familiar with that.

DF: Obviously, censorship troubles us. In early days, 2012 or earlier, we can easily book shows we want without worrying about the date or place as long as it is not against government. My first band even played on a 400 people show at those years, our local newspaper posted it for promoting young culture. However, now we need to prepare the paperwork (ID, lyrics of course and more) plus lots of other sh*t, like audio or video of the songs we plan to play on stage, we send these materials to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and then wait one or two weeks for their opinions. Sometimes they don’t like the lyrics, though the lyrics has been “improved” and deleted all negative words. And sometimes they don’t like our dress, they want us to dress normal and keep our face and body clean. 

The worst thing is “report.” Even though we have permission to hold shows, shows could be reported to police office or the Ministry I mentioned. It is not possible that every show we strictly follow the rules, so if someone is not pleased with us, we metalheads, or the loud music, etc, these can be reasons for them to shut down the whole show. Today we meet the challenge from pandemic and policy control as well, increasing the risk of cancellation, every show during these years is under this uncertainty. 

DY: Did you collaborate with overseas bands? And can you tell us about the transnational practice of Chinese black metal or death metal in North America? 

AP: Yes, Pest Productions has been working with tons of overseas bands since the beginning. You can check them out on our official webpage, or do a quick little search on Metal Archives. Some of my personal favorites among our recent foreign releases are the Canadian-based Nordicwinter and his side project Autumn’s Tomb, the Brazilian folk/black metal genius Kaatayra and his other project Vauruvã. We will soon release Kostnatění’s latest EP in collaboration with US-based Dissociative Visions (Mystískaos).

I think a good chunk of the younger generation is represented by some promising acts either living overseas or making music in a transnational way. Such as some of our most recent signings like Merrow, Tomblord, and Golden Cat Pagoda. In terms of overseas labels, Under the Dark Soil (based in U.K.) and WV Sorcerer Productions (based in Paris) are two of our long-time collaborators, both were founded by diasporic Chinese. Go check them out. From my own experiences, it’s much easier right now to compose, record, and share demos with bandmates over the internet than 10 years or 15 years ago. Only bad thing is, you don’t get to enjoy the cathartic fun of regular rehearsal and post-rehearsal drinking bouts that often right now. 

DF: We interviewed and translated many classic articles of NA death metal bands in Weibo (Chinese Twitter), including some of the killer bands like Incantation, spreading seeds of pure darkness. It is more likely in the future we can see Chinese death metal bands working or touring in NA.

DY: How did bands and record labels tackle the pandemic in China? Are shows back?

AP: It’s the most difficult and the most annoying thing right now. Shows have already been back around late 2020, but right now everything’s so uncertain – many shows scheduled ahead could be canceled or forced to change lineups a couple of days before their scheduled date. We have had to already rearrange two major fests since 2022 because of last-minute imposed COVID restrictions.

DF: The shock does not take severely as we imagine, except the uncertainty of some shows, we are quite good. After all, the pandemic cannot make the censorship worse. 

DY: By the end, can you share or give us a list of bands that we can listen to.

AP: I will mostly talk about bands under Pest’s own banner: Zurriake/Yngizarm, Black Kirin, Deep Mountains, Be Persecuted, Vengeful Spectre, Dark Fount (new album coming next month), E.D.I.E.H., Screaming Savior, Urizen Society, Holyarrow. Two young projects I think deserve more overseas attention are Vitriolic Sage and 景湖白 (Scenery of Pale Lake) – highly recommended.

DF: Mvltifission, Globularcyst, 毒蛊 (Dugu), Chaotic Aeon, Ululate, The Dark Prison Massacre, also The Illusion of Dawn, Suriel, Skeletal Augury from Pest Productions.


Links to the Pest Productions Chinese black metal compilations:

- Death Kult Over Black Congregation I

Death Kult Over Black Congregation II

Death Kult Over Black Congregation III