Review of 飞狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow. by Demogorgon

Band: Demogorgon
Album: 飛狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.
Release Date: 31 October 2016
Record Label: Pest Productions
Buy on CD ($9.99) or digital ($5) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Dilemma. Revenge. Snow. by Demogorgon

As 2016 comes to a close you’ve probably seen countless end of year lists of albums, often listing many of the same popular releases. We don’t like ranking music here at DCHM (our album reviews aren’t given a score for this reason as well) so at the end of the year I always give my album review writers the chance to pick an album of their choice from the year that they feel deserves more attention than it received. It doesn’t have to be a local band, and in fact this year they have both chosen bands from outside the US. First up is DCHM writer Tal’s in depth review of the debut release by a new black metal band in China. Be sure to stream the track at the end of the post to give it a listen while you read and stay tuned for our next end of year album review post coming up shortly.

I am once again enthralled by the literary theme of an atmospheric black metal band – this time Demogorgon, a project of members from established Chinese black metal bands Zuriaake (atmospheric black metal), HolyArrow (epic black metal) and Destruction of Redemption (primitive black metal) as well as the eponymous Demogorgon, a major figure in the Chinese metal scene as one of the founders of the magazines Extreme Music (《极端音乐》) and Dragonland Music (《金属乐界》).

These metal masterminds teamed up to produce a short debut based on the martial arts novel Flying Fox of Snowy Mountain (《雪山飞狐》) by one of the founding fathers of the modern martial arts novel, Jin Yong (金庸). I actually started reading Flying Fox, in Chinese, over the summer, but didn’t finish it yet. Still, the context of an exciting, bloody and yet romanticized story set in the world of wuxia (武侠, the martial hero) immediately caught my interest and made this musical work richer for me.

This release contains only two tracks, although it still clocks in at about 25 minutes total. The first song is called “飞狐” (“Flying Fox”) in Chinese and “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” in English — I figure this is because non-Chinese speakers may not know the significance of Flying Fox or be able to understand the lyrics, so the English title gives them an idea of the themes of the song. The song is 14 minutes long, in fine atmospheric black metal form. It has four distinct sections, which are so clearly separated that they might as well be individual songs.

The first section introduces the setting and the story with all the gradual buildup of a movie soundtrack. It starts with a few martial horns blaring and isolated drumbeats, and then distorted guitar notes like thickly falling snow with a dreamlike sad melody floating above. Then it launches into chugging atmospheric guitars, drumming with an irresistible marching rhythm and harsh screams. A duet of clean, solemn vocals poetically describe the desolate wintry landscape:

A cold night with few stars
Shadows vanish and voices retreat
Floating clouds sink away
The white moon is silent and bright
The frosted river, cold and lonely
The mountain forest stands desolate and solemn
Icy peaks like white cranes

The verse ends proclaiming the entrance of the hero: “Through the snow flies the fox!”

The second verse describes the lonely life of the wandering, vengeful martial hero in the same style:

Vengeance spanning generations
Half a lifetime spent wandering alone
Grass and trees flourish and decline
The swan geese fly away and return
A deserted village listens to the rain
I’m alone with my sorrow

The verse ends with an octave jump on the last word, followed by wordless singing in a higher, more emotional register – where before the vocals were solemn, now they give voice to the hero’s loneliness.

Around four and a half minutes, the second section begins, as the chugging guitars abruptly fade out and are replaced by synthesized reed and string instruments, whose long, clear and melancholy notes evoke vast snowy expanses. The harsh vocals that start a minute later sound like the howling of a blizzard. Distorted guitar notes blend discordantly with the vocals, adding to the impression of being lost in a storm.

This time the vocals are conveyed in a harsh, half-drowned scream, once again describing the solitary life of the martial hero:

A free spirit all my life
A wandering swordsman
Used to favor and vengeance
Drawn sword whistling through late autumn

This is followed by a Summoning-like bridge with distorted guitar arpeggios and a gentle keyboard that’s more counterpoint than melody. When the vocals start up again, the vocalist’s extended screams and the vistas of nature evoked by the music make the human feelings in the lyrics epic-sized:

Love and hate are so difficult to lay down
I dream of joy and sadness
And my tears fall in solitude

Just before the nine minute mark, the third section begins with ominous, brassy and discordant notes, like horns sounding before a battle, but in a gloomy key. A repeated clean guitar arpeggio adds to the sense of anticipation before the song plunges into an avalanche of distorted guitar backed by percussion like the clashing of swords and overlaid with harsh screams. The vocals are slightly different again, the screams higher and more desperate-sounding, and the driving, repetitive guitar arpeggio evokes a relentless onslaught of blows. Obviously, this section describes combat, specifically the hero’s prowess:

Blade like sudden thunder
Imposing as the mighty heavens
The vigor of my sword sweeps through the cold sky
The mountains shake with the tiger’s roar
My jade disc travels as a fierce dragon

Then, without relenting its musical onslaught or distraught vocals, the song reverts back to describing the hero’s loneliness and sorrow:

Cherishing
The icy heart of the orchid
Sighing
At the hurried moment of joy and love
Turning my head to look back
The lonely stars weep
A sad moon rises

Then, while the martial drumming, battering distorted guitar and even the harsh screams continue, the solemn duet from the beginning of the song returns for a final sorrowful verse, reprising lyrics from earlier:

The lonely stars weep
A sad moon rises
I dream of joy and sadness
And my tears fall in solitude

In the fourth section, the last 30 seconds of the song is filled with the mournful reed and strings from the start of the second section, as though snow blankets the landscape in the aftermath of battle, and the tragic story fades into memory.

The second track, “悲月 / Sadness Moon,” is very different in style, belonging to the genre of dungeon synth rather than atmospheric black metal. Dungeon synth is a genre of synthesized music that has a medieval feel. This particular track also has a somber, mournful feel at first, as befitting the title. It starts out dominated by long, low tones of synthesized pipe organ. Eventually, resounding drumbeats and a synthesized choir and strings join in, and then a synthesized reed instrument plays a dreamy but lonesome melody similar to the one that opened the album. The second half of the track has a grander and more martial feel, with a marching rhythm, but the final organ tones close the album on a solemn note.

The album purports to “vividly depict the vast lands of northern China” and to evoke the jianghu (江湖, the quasi-outlaw society of martial artists in ancient times). I think it succeeds in creating a certain impression of these concepts, anyway. Both the white-noisey sound of distorted guitar and the solemn or melancholy clean parts lend themselves well to describing desolate, snowy landscapes. This impression is heightened if you watch the lyric video for “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” where you can actually see the mountain scenery (in the form of a traditional Chinese painting) as the song unfolds. The jianghu described by Demogorgon, meanwhile, is a solitary existence full of loneliness, longing for lost love, obsession with vengeance, and epic-sized violence – ideas conveyed both by the lyrics and the sorrowful or martial sound of the music. These are not the only or the most important features of the jianghu of Chinese martial arts novels, however – loyalty and seeking after justice are a few others that come to mind – but they are the qualities conveyed by Demogorgon’s work.

That’s not to say I don’t like it, though. Sad atmospheric music is exactly the kind I enjoy, and if it has an epic story tied to it, so much the better. The harsh and distorted nature of atmospheric black metal means that non-metalhead fans of Chinese martial arts novels may not be able to get into the album, or the first track anyway, but by contrast, one does not need to be a fan or knowledgeable about Flying Fox or martial arts novels to enjoy the music as a metalhead. The brooding mood and solemn vocals remind me a bit of Caladan Brood, so fans of that sort of music would probably enjoy the first track, “Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.” The second track, “Sadness Moon,” is not as strong or memorable in my opinion, but then again I’m a bigger fan of atmospheric black metal than of dungeon synth. In any case, the first track is diverse and epic enough to be worth four songs, and a must-hear for 2016 in atmospheric black metal.

飛狐 / Dilemma. Revenge. Snow.:

Premiere of Lost In Time music video by Borracho

Cover of Atacama by Borracho

It’s the holiday season and what’s the best gift every year? New Apple products? World peace? Of course not! The best gift is brand spankin’ new heavy metal tunes! Washington DC’s own Borracho are three wise men who are stuffing your stocking with extra helpings of stoner riffage this year. Their brand new album, Atacama, just dropped today and you can download it digitally ($8) or get it on CD ($12) from Bandcamp right here, right now! If recordings of these tunes just aren’t enough for you be sure to catch Borracho in action at their CD release show on Thursday, December 15th at Slash Run. You can get all the details on that show here.

Can’t wait until the 15th for that sweet Borracho live experience? Well then you’ve got to check out the music video for their new song “Lost In Time,” one of my favorite tracks off of Atacama. This video was recorded at the Velvet Lounge on U Street and I’m going to have to warn you, if you’ve ever been a bit buzzed watching Borracho perform live then this video may trigger some flashbacks of the face melting kind! Well what are you waiting for, click play on the video below, crank it to 11 and drift off to the land of riff.

Pig Destroyer ticket give away

Pig Destroyer at the Rock & Roll Hotel

Pig Destroyer is playing the Rock & Roll Hotel this Saturday, December 3rd with Deceased! That’s a couple of pretty big bands in a pretty small room and you know it’s going to be a wild night. Since we love giving stuff away at DCHeavyMetal.com and since today is Giving Tuesday, we’re going to give one of you lucky readers a free pair of tickets to this show. But wait, there’s more! The winner will also get a copy of the show poster (seen above) by artist Craig Horky that is signed by all of the members of Pig Destroyer. To enter just leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite metal album of 2016 has been. At 5pm EST this Thursday, December 1st, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets and signed poster. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly for $18 here.

Pig Destroyer is a twisted grind band from the DMV area and they’re known for putting on intense shows! This show at the Rock & Roll Hotel is sure to be a blast in front of their home town crowd. And let’s not forget Deceased, one of the area’s oldest underground metal bands. They have been cranking out their metal of death with a strong focus on horror movies since the mid-80s. Also on the bill is “The Grindfather” Richard Johnson’s band Drugs Of Faith. When he isn’t screaming into the mic for Agoraphobic Nosebleed he leads DoF with their pioneering of the Grind ‘n Roll style. The opener is Cemetery Piss, a Baltimore based band that lies somewhere between crust, black metal and sludge. This is one hell of a line up that is much more than your average “locals” show! Now check out these awesome videos of the bands playing below and leave a comment telling me what your favorite metal album of 2016 has been!

Pig Destroyer – The Diplomat

Deceased – It’s Alive

Drugs Of Faith – Insanity

Cemetery Piss – Rest In Piss

Review of Meshuggah at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Many of you that go to concerts regularly in our area may know Metal Nick for some of the awesome photos and videos he shoots of metal bands. Well last Sunday he was at the Fillmore to photograph the Meshuggah and High On Fire tour for DCHM and he wrote up this review to go with them. Enjoy!

On Sunday, November 6th, 2016, Meshuggah and High On Fire rolled through Silver Spring, Maryland, at the Fillmore Silver Spring. This was the final show of the tour to support Meshuggah’s latest album, The Violent Reason of Sleep. High on Fire opened the show. The building had filled in quickly so they performed in front of a large crowd. Their live shows have always been full of large, crushing, sludgy guitars and drums which set the mood with the crowd almost immediately. After they finished their first song vocalist Matt Pike yelled out “Hello Baltimore!” I am not sure if that was a joke or he really thought he was in Baltimore. Once the drums started rolling in the beginning of “Turk” a huge roar of joy came from the crowd, it seems that was the most anticipated song of the night. They played for 35 minutes and surprisingly the Meshuggah fan base was really welcoming to their sound.

Meshuggah went on next and came out to a really creepy sounding intro that fit the vibe of their live show. They opened with the first track off The Violent Reason of Sleep titled “Clockworks” which made the audience at the Fillmore go crazy. It wasn’t long before the crowd surfers started coming over the rails, even Ant Scot, the famous wheelchair crowd surfer, made an appearance. Their progressive metal sound was complimented well with their flashy strobe light that very rarely contained any color lights. All in all their set was very enjoyable consisting mostly of songs off their last three albums with a few older tracks sprinkled throughout the set. One tune I was surprised to hear was the 9 minute song “Dancers To A Discordant System” off the Obzen album. Throughout the night there were a lot of chants for “Bleed” and when Meshuggah finally played it the pit became more aggressive. They closed their set with their classic song “Future Breed Machine,” off of the 1994 album Destroy Erase Improve, which is always a huge crowd pleaser. I would say that if you haven’t seen this tour go check it out, but this was the final date of this particular tour, hopefully both bands will hit the road and come through again in 2017.​​​​

Matt Pike of High On Fire

Matt Pike of High On Fire

Jeff Matz of High On Fire

Jeff Matz of High On Fire

Des Kensel of High On Fire

Des Kensel of High On Fire

Ant Scot riding high

Ant Scot riding high

Jens Kidman of Meshuggah

Jens Kidman of Meshuggah

Dick Lövgren of Meshuggah

Dick Lövgren of Meshuggah

Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah

Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah

In Flames ticket give away

In Flames at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Regardless of how you feel about the election results this week I think we can all agree it’s been a long and stressful election and we all could stand to blow off some steam. On Monday, November 14th, we’ll get the chance to do just that when the Swedish melo death masters In Flames perform at the Fillmore Silver Spring! We’re going to be giving away a pair of tickets to this very show to one of you lucky DCHM readers, whether you have an “I Voted” sticker or not! To enter: just leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite metal band from Sweden is. It can be a Gothenburg band like In Flames or anyone else from Ghost to Entombed to Amon Amarth. At 5pm EST this Friday, November 11th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Live Nation for $29.50 here.

In Flames is probably the most famous of the melodic death metal bands that rose out of the Gothenburg, Sweden, area in the 90s. They’re have a new album out this Friday, titled Battles, and this show will be a great chance to hear some of those brand new songs live! Also on the Forged In Fire Tour is Hellyeah! from Dallas, Texas. Formed by Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul and former Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray, the band has made a name for themselves in their own right. The opener of the show is a new band from Pennsylvania called From Ashes To New. Their debut album came out in February this year and charted at #53 on Billboard. Now check out these videos by the bands playing as you leave a comment below telling me what your favorite metal band from Sweden is!

In Flames – The End

Hellyeah! – I Don’t Care Anymore

From Ashes To New – Through It All

Gwar ticket give away

Gwar at the 9:30 Club

Is there anything more in the Halloween spirit than witnessing those Antarctic alien scumdogs known as Gwar lay waste to the legendary 9:30 Club? This Sunday on Halloween Eve (that’s Sunday, October 30th), Gwar will be performing at the 9:30 Club and to get you all in the spirit of the season we’re giving away a pair of tickets to this very show! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite Halloween and/or horror movie is. At 5pm EST this Friday, October 28th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to win the tickets. Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. If you can’t wait to see if you win or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets from Ticket Fly for $25 here.

Gwar is always a fun show to see live and there’s no better way to cap off your Halloween weekend than being recruited into Gwar’s slave pit! But they’re not the only band on this bill; local melo death legends Darkest Hour will be playing this hometown show as well and you know they always go a bit extra hard when they play in DC. Opening the show is a band known as Mutoid Man which features members of Cave In, Converge, All Pigs Must Die and Bröhammer. Now check out these videos of the bands playing and let me know what movies I should watch this weekend, errr I mean, what your favorite Halloween and/or horror flick is!

Gwar – Let Us Slay

Darkest Hour – Convalescence

Mutoid Man – Bridgeburner

Pagan Science beer release at Oliver Ales

Pagan Science by Oliver Ales

If you’ve ever wanted to day drink with Metal Chris of DCHeavyMetal.com (and honestly who the hell hasn’t wanted to?) then this Saturday is your chance! He will be at the Oliver Ales brewery in Baltimore this Saturday, October 15th, from noon to 5pm for their release of the Pagan Science double IPA. As usual Metal Chris will have some metal concert tickets to hand out, including pairs of tickets to see Helmet (on 11/7) and Napalm Death, The Black Dahlia Murder and Pig Destroyer (on 11/13) both at the Baltimore Soundstage! Best of all the event is free to attend and it costs nothing to enter to win the tickets!

So what exactly is this Pagan Science beer you ask? It is an 8.5% DIPA showcasing mosaic hops that is inspired by the sophomore album by the Austin based doom/psych band The Well. The album Pagan Science is released this Friday on Riding Easy Records, then the beer Pagan Science is released at Oliver Ales on Saturday, and to top it all off The Well will be playing the Metro Gallery on Sunday! The event is free to attend so if you’re in the Baltimore area on Saturday stop by Oliver Ales, try the Pagan Science beer and if you’re lucky you’ll end up with a free pair of tickets to an upcoming metal show too!

Be sure to check out the Facebook event page here: http://www.facebook.com/events/168758763570900/

Give Pagan Science a listen right here!