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Plague Fest 2021 - Pest Productions 15th Anniversary Road Show

Live Reviews Monday, 26 July 2021 04:36
Plague Fest 2021 - Pest Productions 15th Anniversary Road Show

Plague Fest - Pest Productions 15th Anniversary Road Show

July 25, 20 Years Livehouse, Tianjin, China


Since 2005, Pest Productions has been the top label in China concerning black and dark folk metal. With the Plague Fest road show, Pest has put together some of the grimmest, darkest and most cutting-edge bands on its roster to celebrate both the label and the current breed of exceptional bands practising the dark arts in the country.

The Tianjin show was the last stop of the two-part festival run which began in May, meaning tonight would be the last stand - an all-out black metal assault from all the bands involved. Throughout the tour, the festival would have different bands playing each night, with some reoccurring acts bringing the star power to each show such as Frozen Moon.

One main difference in this event was the abundance of merchandise on hand - many of the shows I have attended in China offer few things to take home, but Pest Productions went all out, with t-shirts, bags, CDs and patches available. For promotion and merchandising, a band could do no wrong with Pest Productions in their corner.

The poster for the Tianjin show had Obsession listed as one of the bands, though it was The Illusion of Dawn who were the first to take the stage. A body caked in blood and the band members faces smeared in corpsepaint, TIOD are veterans of the black metal scene in China, being active since the mid 2000s. They revved up the audience from the get-go with primal riffs and depressive wails. During the penultimate song, members of the other bands from the festival took the stage for a duet. The final track, “Obscene Benediction” certainly made an impact, with audience members exchanging anguished, obscene screams into the microphone with the band.

I had seen Tianjin’s Bergrisar twice before on different multi-band shows, but these concerts usually had the band as the odd-band out. With the Plague Fest, though, Bergrisar are now right at home among their black metal brethren. Emerging late last year, the blackened death metal band has made an impression in a short time with their debut album and crushing live shows. They burst through tracks like “War” with unabashed fury, but with Bergrisar, there is time for old school ambiance as well. - when the bell comes out for “Prologue”, you know shit is about to go down. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” indeed.

Vengeful Spectre put out what I consider to be a black metal masterpiece with their 2020 self-titled debut album. The hype for them at this show was real, with many anticipating seeing just how the band would deliver in a live setting. Vocalist Fan Bo is also known for being the front man for Frozen Moon, who would play later in the night. With Frozen Moon, Bo’s stage costumes and eccentric, theatrical poses bring the band to the high echelon of live acts in the country. With Vengeful Spectre, he is no different, dressed in tattered robes with his face painted up like the band’s moniker. Unlike Frozen Moon, Bo’s demeanor with Vengeful Spectre is more menacing and merciless, matching the aggressive musicality of the band. The band played through the entire album, with songs like the hypnotizing “Wailing Wrath” bringing the tempo down to further transfix the in-awe audience.

After the life-altering spectacle that was Vengeful Spectre, it was time for the music to get back to its basics. Not burnt, not well done, but meaty, bloody, and raw, Throat Cutter, like their name, offered primitive poundings from a time of darkness. Three men on stage, their faces concealed by hair - possessed by the power of the riff. With Throat Cutter, singing was rare, with the odd scream into the microphone after two minutes of raw pounding - and the crowd loved it. At this point in the night, the crowd was getting anxious to do a little throat cutting themselves, and used the music as a fitting soundtrack to animalistic shoving and dancing.

The primordial grind of an earth lit only by flame continued with Acherozu who brought a dose of blackened thrash to the 20 Years Livehouse. The Shenyang natives don’t opt for the theatrics - being plain clothed without a trace of makeup on their faces. Their musical output, however, is painted fully black. “Sun Katana” is the slogan beneath their name, and the sharp bladed, war themed songs performed by the band gave those in the pit one more battle before the final act of the night.

Like label-mates Black Kirin and Zuriaake, Frozen Moon have built themselves up to legendary status within the Chinese black metal scene. Their genre-defying albums as of late such as the Legend of East Dan EP and enthralling live shows are something to behold, and for the band to play last at the final Plague Fest show, was fitting and respectable. With lit candles, a table with a skull on it as well as other mythical objects, the band slowly emerged from the darkness, ready to mystify and horrify. They broke into the chanty “Legend of East Dan” as the audience got a good look at the band - Fan Bo’s antler-mask gave him the appearance of a shaman possessed by several malevolent spirits. With each shrieked lyrics, his poses grew more maniacal. At one point, he acknowledged the table skull and did a sort of ritual before tossing Taoist Talismans into the crowd. The spell of Frozen Moon continued until they left the stage as suddenly as they appeared, much like apparitions. Did we just see that? Well, the photos prove that this was all real.


- Ryan Dyer

Written by  Ira Hunter
Ira Hunter

Ira Hunter

Ira's bio coming online shortly!

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