China and Chinese black metal isn’t as odd as it may seem at first. In fact, Eastern Asia has been developing a really strong bond with metal for a few years now and though it was slow to start, the pace has steadily been increasing with the black metal scene, in particular, growing stronger and stronger with time. Maturity has hit this region of the world only a few years after the black metal waves managed to breach the barriers that were trying to contain it. More developed countries, in terms of its relationship to metal and, more specifically, black metal, have had to wait a much longer time for maturity and wisdom to sink into the skin of the musicians that tried to play this scathing style. Chinese black metal was first introduced to me by the wonderfully depressive Be Persecuted, a band who have held a firm position in my heart to this very day, despite discovering them a while ago now. Though Zuriaake aren’t specifically depressive black metal, a number of their traits can be aligned with this fateful sub-genre that cannot elude criticism.
However, Zuriaake are by no means a one dimensional band. Not only do they cater to the needs of the depressive fan, their seasonal inspired black metal style caters to the more ambient, or atmospheric fan who craves for a little more invention that the depressive spectrum sometimes tends not to offer to its beleaguered followers. I, myself, am a big fan of seasonal bands and by that I mean bands inspired by Autumn and Winter, two of the biggest inspirations behind the black metal scene over recent years. These seasons have become pillars of the community, opening their arms and their doors to all who seek inspiration and a certain amount of beauty with which to reference their listeners back to. Zuriaake, though clichéd at times with the samples of storms, particularly falling rain and thunder over the sombre guitar sections, are a band who like to contrast emotions within their special soundscapes. There is beauty in the destruction that ensues that most depressive black metal bands are simply incapable of achieving and because of this, it incapacitates the listeners emotions and forces them to feel as the Zuriaake musicians felt when they created this divine and lush record.
Inspired by nature, this record definitely gives an accurate depiction of the elemental aspects of life and with the crushing samples that filled the sombre instrumentation with more accuracy also, the band intricately weave in and out of Autumn, specifically, and Winter with a subtlety that grants them more plaudits than is possible to give the majority of depressive bands. The band like to mix and match the sub-genres they take influence from, so whilst the repetitive bass is leaning towards the depressive style, the guitars will mingle atmospheric aspects into the larger picture that creates a diversity that was largely unexpected beforehand. It would be easy to assume that Zuriaake is just another bedroom band, but this act have been around since the late 1990’s, when the second wave was coming to an end and giving way to the next generation of young and talented musicians who were ultimately given the task of paving the way forward for future generations of black metal musicians. Zuriaake, and the Chinese scene, is ridiculously overlooked. I imagine that there must be some sort of image problem with this Communistic region of the world. Not so much due to the political restraints, but the fact that this rather obscure country doesn’t have a long and open history with metal that Western society’s have.
The fact that this area is so obscure means that we, the listeners, might not expect an awful lot of professionalism from the bands that inhabit this region, but that is where the saying, “assumption is the mother of all fuck ups” comes into play and continues to prove itself right. Even taking into account the instrumental songs this debut record puts into practise, the listener is blown away by the awe inspiring beauty and professionalism on the musicians, who’re evidently capable of more than your average depressive record with melodious piano passages and terrific wind instruments sombrely playing alongside its beautiful adversary the piano on incredibly astonishing songs like ‘Moon of Frost’, a typically sounding traditional black metal anthem. There is an ethnicity in the wind instruments that I love. It has a massive appeal and reminds me, to an extent, of an exotic and traditional Chinese song. Zuriaake, whilst maintaining a sense of modern day pain, also like to allow their listeners a glimpse of how the Scandinavian scene influenced their portrayal of the lyrical themes which consists of desolation and sadness. Take one of the bonus songs, for instance, ‘Winter Mirage’, this basically sounds like a Burzum song from ‘Filosofem’.
It takes the keyboard based ambiance of that record and mingles it with the fantastic black metal based material with mirrored vocals, akin to Varg’s, and guitar leads that sound almost identical to the material on the aforementioned piece. This song does sound as if it were created to show respect for bands like Burzum because it does sound almost identical to Varg’s latter day style. Thankfully, clone tags can be extinguished now because this is a bonus song and doesn’t mirror the material on the rest of the record. However, despite the obvious inspirations, this song is mesmerising and excruciatingly beautiful, despite the hateful rasps of the vocalist and the tremolo/double bass aggression. Songs like ‘God of Scotch Mist’ will highlight the fact that Zuriaake don’t lean too heavily towards any influence that much and instead, tread neutral grounds cautiously as they deceive with both traditional aspects - tremolo bass and guitar - and then surprise with unexpected delights - keyboard based symphonies and a number of dynamic bass lines alongside crucial guitar leads that build a fantastic monument to Autumn. Though this band, or record, doesn’t rival its Western counterparts in terms of recognition, it certainly stands up to the challenge based on content and form. Wonderful debut.