How can an album have nothing truly “unique” about it but still come out sounding like one of the most phenomenal albums you’ve ever heard? The answer is simple: the music is simply fantastic. All the tricks and draws of bands trying to find something to set themselves apart from the rest of the metal community won’t help a band if they can’t do one thing: play the music fantastically. That’s what Zuriaake’s (葬尸湖) 2015 opus Gu Yan (孤雁) is an example of just this. This is a fantastic album that doesn’t rely on something special to set themselves apart, they simply play the music itself better than anyone else can. They aren’t a spectacular band in that there is nothing truly different about them, save for the fact that they are first Chinese black metal that I’ve ever heard.
I’m a beer guy so I’ll break it into a metaphor. Zuriaake has written an album that is a lot like the beer that follows the Reinheitsgetbot laws from the 1500s (for those of you who have no idea what that is it’s the German law basically stating beer can be made with water, hops, and barley). The ingredients are limited so it is up the brewer (musician) to come up with something more fantastic and imaginative to stand out from the riff raff. Zuriaake has done that. Gu Yan is one of the most melodic yet brutal albums I’ve heard. Period. It has all the beauty of melody from a band like Opeth or Dissection with the bestial nature of bands like 1349 and Gorgoroth. It can pass itself off as a straight black metal band (one that looks to autumn for inspiration rather than winter) or as a folk metal band.
Zuriaake is a profoundly proficient band, one that sticks to exactly what black metal (or folk metal) has always sounded like yet it makes it sound new and exciting. Without any tricks or gimmicks, Zuriaake has managed to reinvigorate what black metal can be nowadays. It’s a shame that this band is not as big as some of the other bands that play the same sort of thing year after year, album after album. The music is beautiful, raw, clean, and full of emotion. This is the sort of music we need more of in the black metal community. Enough finding something that sets you apart and simply play the best music you can. That’s where black metal comes from, not from finding something no one has done before, but playing music better than anyone else.
Listen and support!