‘The heavy metal scene here is always developing,’ old-time metalhead Wang Xiao tells us. ‘All sorts continue to emerge – stuff like stoner metal, djent and technical deathcore. We’d never seen it before until recently.’
The terms themselves may seem a little technical for the uninitiated, but for Wang, owner of Gulou’s 666 Rock Shop, they’re daily fodder; since 2006, his store has been a one-stop shop for local enthusiasts, stocking albums from home and abroad, and all the genre’s associated paraphernalia. The man himself, however, has been hooked ever since the genre’s initial explosion in China during the early ’90s, with bands like pioneering proggies Tang Dynasty.
666 Rock Shop.
‘Perhaps trends aren’t changing in Beijing as quick as in some of the southern cities, but the capital’s range is still wider than elsewhere,’ he muses. ‘Fortunately, each sub-genre has a dedicated following that keeps them going. That loyalty is invaluable.’
It’s a truism of the metal movement the world over, and Wang himself seems fiercely loyal to Tang Dynasty, who he still regards as one of the city’s best acts. He also points to thrash stalwarts Suffocated, sludgy Sabbath-like stoners Never Before and melodic heavy metal act Dream Spirit as leading Beijing lights.
For both bands and scenes as a whole, talent, recognition and metal maturity takes time, Wang concludes, and indeed, his favourite ‘new’ act in town – aggro thrash group TumourBoy – have already been cutting their teeth for three years. ‘If you want to make an impact, you have to never stop working – on new material, improving technique and increasing your understanding of the genre.’
And the best place to do that? ‘No doubt, Beijing is still the most important city for heavy metal in China. It’s got the most gig opportunities, the most fellow bands and record labels. It’s the centre of the culture.’