Trudging through the deep dark depths of Bandcamp rewards the adventurer with dirt, rubbish, and occasionally, a shiny piece of titanium. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a demo by 毒蠱 (which translates to “Poison” from Chinese to English) a few weeks ago which featured a fair share of original songs and covers. The Chinese murder crew is back with their second demo ― same thrashing metal madness, better recording quality.
Not much is known about 毒蠱, although this isn’t due to some sort of information deficiency; more-so an issue with my inability to read Chinese. Anyways, who cares about the bio section as long as the music’s good, right?
As mentioned above, 毒蠱 translates to “Poison” in English, but for the sake of no one confusing them with the American hair metal band, I’ll keep copy/pasting the Chinese characters. It is unknown whereabouts exactly they come from, or who their members are (other than their metal aliases), but thank goodness they have a Bandcamp account in addition to a working drumkit.
Demo II is their Bandcamp page’s stated second release, successor to the unsurprisingly-named Demo I. The band has grown considerably since then, as their featuring of covers has dwindled alongside an increased exposure to the music production world. Demo I featured delightful covers of Morbid Saint’s “Damien” and Incubus’ “Sadistic Sinner”, showing the band’s overwhelming affection for old-school death/thrash. While their previous work featured originals as well, Demo II flies in with a more complete stature, featuring two originals from Demo II re-recorded, in addition to two new tracks and a Slaughter cover. The group is simply treading the waters in terms of releases, presumably on a tight time and money budget, in addition to sweltering under the various pressures of their Communistic rule.
Luckily, we’ve all got the world of metal to fall back on. Demo II carries 毒蠱’s raw brutality proved beforehand, but this time with a clearer and more distinguishable production (hence the re-recording of two previously-released tracks). This latest release incorporates the full-frontal assault style of the original bands who pioneered this subgenre of metal, although 毒蠱 seems to favour the expansive ad unpredictable. If you’ve listened to Oxygen Destroyer’s newest release, you’ll understand what I mean. Veering away from the traditional thrash metal song structures (who’s predictability tends to ruin my adoration for the subgenre), our friends from the East chart into new territory with Demo II, both in terms of track listing and song structure.
The demo kicks off with “Hex”, an album-opener that not-so-subtly warns the listener of 毒蠱’s forward-thinking flair. Starting with a Twentieth Century Fox-sounding intro with trumpets and drumrolls, the release soon transitions into a gut-wrenching buzzsaw guitar tone, accompanied with a set of steady drum beats; the two carry on for a few minutes, meandering their way around the note scales. The interesting instrumental opener serves both as a burst of creativity and an impregnation of atmosphere, as the track’s soundscape harkens back to an ancient 1950s/1960s evolving China, as the vintage trumpet sample suggests. The rest of the release expands on this notion, judging by the decaying artifact on the album cover and the primitive sorcery-influenced track titles such as “Bewitched” and “Haunted Tales”. The whole vibe reminds me of those old Chinese black/white films which depict the country’s deeply-rooted religious culture melding with the influx of post-World War II technology and ideals. Going briefly into greater detail to implant my vision, the catastrophic times of Mao Zedong’s failed plans such as The Great Leap Forward with its consequences of famine and drought are tied to 毒蠱’s work which manifests as either a satirical promotion or blatant defamation of the country’s historic mishandling. I feel like Demo II wants to feel like a relic of that specific time, but that may just be my Western impositions. Listen to “Hex” below:
The tracklist presents itself in the form of a chunk of four original songs, sandwiched between the aforementioned intro number and the Incubus cover. These four tracks all offer various atmospheres, some working as blaringly-fast smoke shows and others slowing down to a groovy crawl. This broad take serves great purpose for the format of release, as it does exactly what a demo should do, which is to show off one’s music to prospective labels and listeners.
The blatant increase in production quality serves Demo II well, as a full listen is no longer tedious and loud (in the bad way) due to low budget recording. While I feel like 毒蠱 still needs to hone in on their sound, this release is a great step in the right direction. It should be noted that my rating below corresponds to my reactions of a proper release, as some demos these days are made to be listenable (almost like mini EPs); see my glaring Snorlax demo review. Anyways, check out Demo II and jump on the bandwagon before the wheel is invented.