招魂 (Evocation) [China]
Melodic Black/Death Metal
The rage has been on for Oriental extreme metal, heralded by bands such as Taiwan’s ChthoniC and their heavily Chinese-oriented melodic black/death metal, with releases that see the band singing in their traditional Taiwanese dialect. Hong Kong’s Evocation presents their black metal with a rather similar twist, and with this year’s release 天靈靈 地靈靈, introduces me to my very first Canto-black metal release.
However, 天靈靈 地靈靈 is hardly my first encounter with Evocation, with the band’s debut in 2008 in the form of Take Your Soul being the first exposure to the band. While the release failed to really capture my attention, right from the start of 戰．魂．序, Evocation manages to turn heads with the sounds of chants quickly bringing one to the scene of a Chinese funeral, with the foreboding atmosphere being evoked through the ominous riffs of Tai and Tomy, along with the backdrop that includes the sounds of bells chiming. The band quickly kicks into overdrive with 越空復仇, and one is instantly treated to a melodic, yet aggressive brand of black metal. With the band’s rather Eastern take on the genre, one can’t help but bring up comparisons with the black metal days of ChthoniC, with moments on the album reminding one of Seediq Bale.
Unlike their Taiwanese counterparts that have for quite some time now indulged in Taiwanese mythologies, 天靈靈 地靈靈 seems to take a more straightforward approach lyrically, with a focus on power, war and chaos, though with a touch of influences from the Chinese concept of death and hell. This is brought out through the usage of the traditional Oriental instruments such as the guzheng (or the Chinese plucked zither) that reinforces the haunting atmosphere in the music, most effectively on 兵荒馬亂. The blaring horns on 黃土 even sounds like a funeral procession/traditional Chinese opera, depending on which point of view that one chooses to take.
The thing that definitely helps to make 天靈靈 地靈靈 such a powerful album is the production on the album, and one is reminded of recent releases of ChthoniC and the remarkable Anthelion debut album with the nice and clear production quality. The drums of Man are mixed rather high, and this is certainly a nice touch, helping to bring out much of the power and energy of the album.
Just like how the Taiwanese bands have charmed with their usage of their traditional dialects in their music, Evocation presents the same charm and I have to say, my first encounter with Cantonese black metal has certainly been extremely enjoyable and memorable.