There are 56 ethnic groups recognized by the People’s Republic of China, and the Nu people are one of them. The group, who take their name from the nearby Nujiang river, aren’t known for red baseball caps and Adidas tracksuits, however, instead preferring cotton tunics.
As for nu metal, the genre is as popular in China as anywhere else in the world, with songs featured in KTV lounges and kids in Linkin Park shirts abound (the band’s 2015 tour of the country undoubtedly added to their popularity there). If you were to ask the average young adult in China who their favorite “rock band” is, they’re likely to say Linkin Park.
At the Sonic Shanghai festival in 2013, Korn and Limp Bizkit rocked a packed house, and the show saw Bizkit perform a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s highly subversive “Killing in the Name” in spite of the Chinese government’s notorious scrutiny over and censorship of foreign acts:
As nu metal experiences its revival with bands like Tetrarch, Tallah and Dropout Kings leading the charge, groups from nations other than the usual ones have been rapping, growing out their dreads and infusing turntables and spooky samples into heavy music for years. While a number of the world’s largest nu metal bands have yet to play the country — Chinese Slipknot fans will travel to Japan to see them, for example — the domestic nu metal scene is thriving. Here are some home-grown bands who are part of the nu breed; are you ready?
Scare the Children
The theatrical element of nu metal has always been one of its defining factors, with Slipknot, Mudvayne, Motograter and Mushroomhead donning either masks or makeup. Beijing’s Scare the Children continue the tradition, a Grimm Fairly Tale come to life. The mask-wearing shock rock ensemble resemble Mushroomhead or Slipknot in appearance, but the hard-hitting sounds they have concocted can be as cheery as they are disturbing, with keyboard tinges punctuating the metal as if from a greasy and perverted dark carnival. The horrific masks they wear are absurdly effective and crudely endearing, putting a literal face to their songs about possessed dolls and haunted kids. Check out the band’s highly theatrical video for “The Seduction of Little Timmy” off of their debut album, Odyssey, which according to the band was inspired by a true story.
Mega Soul 萬重乐队
Truly punishing in a live sense, Mega Soul are a band who wear their nu aesthetic on their sleeves but produce songs that are anything but hokey. Like Mudvayne at their heaviest, the bass sound jumps out of the speakers and possesses people in the pit to do their own “digging.” The few cliches like tormented, Roots-era Cavalera vocals and phat, Munky-business riffs are done with gusto. With lyrics in Chinese, you’re going to have to guess what the source of anguish is fpr Mega Soul, though you can certainly feel their angst. They sometimes do a tease for Korn’s “Blind” during concerts, but then tear into one of their original tracks.
The Samans 萨满
It truly is impossible to ignore Linkin Park’s popularity in China; walk down a street in Beijing on any given day, and you will see at least one person wearing a bootlegged Minutes to Midnight shirt. Hilariously, Linkin Park is often spelled Knkn Park (an S&M version of Linkin Park?) on these cheap pieces of thread, but don’t tell that to the passionate Chinese youngster (or uncle) who proudly wears the knockoff. Samans is more of a folk metal/industrial hybrid, but on “Whalesong,” the Linkin Park influence is clear, with a chorus lifted directly from “Numb.” Their other tracks such as “Death March” are leaps and bounds heavier, bringing to mind Rammstein’s grittier moments.
High Song 骸骨形态
High Song look like the Chinese version of Slipknot, but their music is more like a roaring mesh of Rammstein or Linkin Park symphonics with good cop/bad cop vocal delivery. The band of seven jump-suited, often masked members pound out some keyboard-sprinkled industrial metal with memorable hooks. Even if they ultimately can’t hold a candle to Rammstein or Linkin Park, they’ll make any audience bathe in lush dynamics during slow numbers and march along as if they were part of the “Link 2, 3, 4” cavalry during their heavier tunes.
Liquid Oxygen Can 液氧罐头乐队
Remember that meme where a bunch of different flavors of Slurpee all come together in one cup to form Limp Bizkit? Similarly, a lethal dose of Chinese rap metal is what you get with Liquid Oxygen Can. Formed in 2001, this rapcore act rival Hed PE in their ability to mix rap with heavy riffs. In a live setting, they often start off with a freestyle, which leads into a brutal breakdown. With a skull logo surrounded by two bottles of what I imagine to be vodka (but could be baijiu), Liquid Oxygen Can are equal parts street and sawmill. In a real life recreation of Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin” video, Liquid Oxygen Can invite women up on stage to dance to a final sickening outro ready made for people to Jumpdafuckup to.
Yaksa are mainstays of the old guard of Chinese scene, putting out what is widely regarded as the first Chinese nu metal album, Freedom (自由), in 1999, when the genre was at its most popular around the world. Named after the often-mischievous spirits of nature, Yaksa present aggressive rapping, turntable scratches and meaty riffs on their marquee track, “Chinese Way.” As the years have gone on, Yaksa have only gotten heavier, shedding a lot of their “nu skin” for a sound based more in metalcore and deathcore, a bit of a shame as that nu sound has finally found a level of respect and acceptance once again.
Catching String 扣弦乐队
The Kunming-based group Catching String offer a ferocious blend of feline-like female roars mingling with sweetly sung sections, bringing to mind bands like Kittie or Otep but with chuggier riffs. The six-piece band makes use of their dynamic vocalist’s full range, with certain parts of songs feeling like indie ballads. When it’s time to go heavy and turn on the distortion, there is a lot of (sic)ness to be found in the tracks by Catching String, their Monster Lady EP easily earning its name.
The unholy alliance of nu and industrial metal comprise the sound of Beijing’s AK47. Formed in 2000, the band churns out riffs which are straightforward and militant while the gruff vocals are delivered with a hip-hop inflection, not unlike the style Max Cavalera mastered on the first Soulfly album in songs like “Bleed.” But hey, don’t forget about those crucial clean choruses! The band wears their backwards baseball hats proudly while muscling through rather optimistic tracks about re-invigorating the spirit and achieving your goals.