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Yin: Unholy Crypt Noise from Sainkho Namtchylak + Zuriaake

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Yin (音, “music”) is a weekly RADII column that looks at Chinese songs spanning hip hop to folk to modern experimental, and everything in between. Drop us a line if you have a suggestion.

If you needed further proof that 2019 has been one of the cruelest on record, here it is: Jinan black metal greats Zuriaake have returned after a four-year gap in their discography with a new release of unholy noise. Following up on October 2015’s Gu Yan (孤雁; “lone goose”), in August Zuriaake released a two-track single entitled Resentment in the Ancient Courtyard, and I know Halloween just ended, but the dead are always with us. Have you ever hard a more sinister cackle?

 

What you’re hearing in the opening strains of “Evil Spirit” is a guest vocal performance by world-famous Tuvan throat singer Sainkho Namtchylak. The 62-year-old performer has long been admired by the Wire set for her bold and playful experimentation with the ancient steppe tradition of Khöömei, or overtone singing. Here she channels an unearthly timbre, sounding like a vengeful spirit seeping up through the cracks of a post-earthquake Yuan dynasty courtyard after having been entombed within for centuries. Brutal!

The cover art for this EP, by Guang Yang, echoes this vibe, which is further backstopped by the b-side, “Forlorn Tomb”, on which Zuriaake vocalist Bloodfire chants:

Tombstones shattered beneath dark clouds.
Desolated were the tombs, cries the wraith,
A reign of terror, adieu the soul with no faith.

 

Bonus round: though it was originally released in 2013, this May Zuriaake re-upped a solo album by Bloodfire (under the name YN Gizarm) called For the Motherwolf (狼王), which gets straight to business with an intro featuring storm sound effects, a bleating goat you just know is about to get slaughtered, and an ominous, reedy incantation on suona. What follows is six tracks of epic black metal, an atmospheric tempest in which vocalist Bloodfire’s ululations mesh seamlessly with screaming guitars and inerrant blast beats. Enjoy:

 

More Chinese metal:

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Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.