Take some old school ’70s punk, mix in a little surf-rock, an energetic stage presence, and you get 脏手指, or Dirty Fingers. Imagine the lovechild of the Ramones and the Beach Boys that’s had a few too many glasses of baijiu. Four dudes, ten strings, a couple broken pairs of drumsticks, and a microphone, these guys know how to put on an entertaining show, period. Without the gimmicks of stage theatrics or fancy light shows, Dirty Fingers play some straight up gritty punk rock with fast aggressive drumming, string-snapping guitar riffs, and some savage howling vocals. Inspired by the early days of American and British punk, Dirty Fingers have quickly become the band to watch in the local punk scene. Having recently released a limited edition EP ‘Fuck Me, I’m Famous,’ Dirty Fingers are currently on tour around China for what is sure to be a wonderful mess, or, as they put it: ’60 days, 33 cities, 4 monkeys, 0 budget.’
Spill Your Guts
Punching out some heavily distorted hardcore with a hint of groove, Spill Your Guts is a staple in your Shanghai heavy metal/punk rock diet. A little over three years old and having seen a few line-up changes, this band has consistently lit up the stage with their live performances. If you plan on going to a SYG show, get ready to sweat, mosh, and dive onto your buddies’ heads because they bring a fervent hardcore vitality to the stage, no matter who they’re playing to or where. Though their sound is more akin to modern hardcore punk, there are definitely traces of thrash metal in the band’s DNA. Aside from gigging around China, a select few countries in Southeast Asia have also been lucky enough to bear witness to their heavy brand of hardcore. Having just released a split EP featuring their songs ‘Slip and Fall’ and ‘Snakes’ (also available on vinyl) with Russian band Broken Fist, SYG is showing no signs of slowing down.
There’s no sense in trying to classify Goushen (狗神, literally ‘Dog God’) into a single genre. While they lean a little closer to hard rock, the band still plays around with elements from punk and metal/ Simply put, in their words: ‘摇滚，摇滚，还是他妈的摇滚!’ (‘Rock ‘n roll, rock ‘n roll, and goddamn it! Rock ‘n roll!’). Fronted by rocker-chick Ren Jieyu, Goushen stands apart from other bands by belting out some undeniably great vocals in both Chinese and English. This four-piece has been present in the Shanghai circuit for a couple years, and has a solid 20 songs under their belt, spread over three albums. Originally two separate bands, the musicians eventually joined forces to form the Goushen that we all know and love. They’re just out to bring hard rock to their fellow Shanghainese head-bangers. Keep it coming!
The Machinery of Other Skeletons
Arguably one of the biggest current metal outfits in Shanghai, The Machinery of Other Skeletons blends the best of multiple subgenres into their own unique brand of head-banging metal. Incorporating components from technical death metal, black metal, metalcore, groove metal, and a hint of djent, The Machinery of Other Skeletons dish out what they simply refer to as ‘Unfiltered metal straight from the bowels of Shanghai.’ These guys are definitely not afraid to stretch the boundaries of what it means to be a metal band, while still keeping true to what the genre represents. As if their sound wasn’t diverse enough to begin with, they have also released two collaborative EPs showcasing remixes of their songs by a variety of local DJs. The defining attribute differentiating TMOOS from other Shanghai metal bands is their ability to lay down original, technical, and thrashy odd time signature beats and breakdowns, and still get heads in the audience banging. TMOOS continues to gig around Shanghai in support of their recent EP release, ‘Static Fades.’
Drawing upon influences from northern European metal bands such as Children of Bodom or Arch Enemy, this melodic death metal band cuts deep to the core with their distinct variety of shredding guitar melodies, deep growling vocals, and head-banging double bass drums. According to their website, ‘The Arcbane‘ stands for ‘Thy Hatred Eternally, And Rapture Couldn’t Bury Animosity Never Ever,’ evidence of vocalist Chen Kan’s focus on intensely dark lyrical themes in their music. Chen’s vocal range not only amplifies and gives voice to his lyrics, which he delivers as though they were ancient Satanic texts, but further carries the band’s energy during live performances. Now a strong contributor to the local Shanghai metal scene since 2007, the band continues to play their Nordic-inspired tunes around Shanghai and China, though now at a slightly slower and more carefully planned out pace.
It must be noted that this list is far from exhaustive. Shanghai is home to a plethora of awesome bands, metal, punk, or otherwise, that frequently perform at venues like Yuyintang (851 Kaixuan Lu, Shanghai, China, 凯旋路851号,上海), Inferno (Bund Square, Unit 6-103, 1/F, 658 Dapu Lu, Shanghai, China, 打浦路658号1楼, 上海), MAO Livehouse (3/F, 308 Chongqing Nan Lu, Shanghai, China, 3/F, 重庆南路308号,上海), and others. Shanghai’s circle of bands is also what one might call ‘incestuous,’ as many musicians collaborate and perform in multiple bands. So if you happen to find yourself at one of these venues, be sure to keep your eyes open for upcoming gigs and you might see a familiar face or two.