Article by Dave Wright & Hector Herrera
In 2016 we’ve had to say goodbye to so many musical luminaries, from Prince and David Bowie to Leonard Cohen and Lemmy Kilmister (that was technically 2015, but we’re still coming to terms with that one). However, there have been incredible new bands and new releases from old favorites to keep us looking forward. Looking locally, Xi’an’s small but dedicated music scene managed to deliver some quality tunes. Here are some of the best, and our picks for Xi’an’s top three albums of 2016.
1. Leviathan– The First Blade
Xi’an has spawned its fair share of -core bands through out the years, but nothing has been quite as assured as Leviathan’s debut album. “The First Blade” is everything a genre devotee could want, and it will no doubt give them solid pole position as they rise into the national metalcore scene. The title track opens with a ripping guitar riff that sounds a bit like it’s being played through an AM radio before the double bass enters in an explosive yet precise attack. “WE’VE CREATED A MONSTER,” the band announces, and they are not exaggerating. Leviathan took their biggest influences (Arch Enemy, Lamb of God, Children of Bodom, Mastodon), camped out in the studio and mixed Groove, Death, Core and Thrash to create a skillfully crafted album. They are definitely on the top of the underground rock scene in Xi’an and it’s only the beginning. They are already in the studio working on their second album, and one can’t help but wonder how much farther these guys can go.
Best Track – The Final Battle
2. 白百 -白日过尽
Frequent patrons of MidiLivehouse are likely already acquainted with白百, a shoegazing, dreampop quartet whose groovy lines get into the blood. Their first EP was released in June and is rather accessible, making it the perfect music to spirit you away when the world starts to get you down. Hushed vocals drift in and out of waves of ethereal guitar lines while the relentlessly precise rhythm keeps driving forward until it comes back around to where it began. It is music to listen to with the lights off, eyes closed, completely tuned out from the world for an idyllic 25 minutes. The final track on the EP departs from the formula, with a faster tempo and a more aggressive guitar sound, but this only adds to the album’s ethos; after calming and reassuring, it energizes us to get back out and face whatever forced our initial retreat.
Best Track – 晨钟暮鼓
3. Lithium –帮凶
This Xi’an supergroup was formed by members from local favorites Sucker and Nude Injection and revived something that many believed was dead after Cobain passed. What makes this album special is not only the clear influence of grunge, but also the heady, metallic riffs reminiscent of bands like Helmet and L7. The first three songs are well-balanced grunge/metal tracks, with catchy licks and a powerful front man that brings to mind a lower-register Babes In Toyland. The 4th and 6th tracks have a Bleach-era-Nirvana aggressiveness, while the last song sounds more like their unplugged material. The most effective attempt to merge their personal tastes into one is track 5, in which Offspring-ish undertones flow with a grunge progression. Despite the myriad influences, the album impressively retains a unity from start to finish.
Best Track – The Final Battle
TBOR – Hypercube
TBOR’s 2016 EP defies easy classification but may perhaps be called “ambient industrial electronic rock.” It won’t be the most accessible record you put on, but it’s got its own unique charm.
Perfect Holiday – 交给盛夏时的自己
完美假日show that they are ready for radio with their release of 交给盛夏时的自己. The album is meticulously crafted, cleanly delivered and possessed of the kind of intoxicating energy that only pop punk can offer.
The Fuzz – The Root of Innocence
Post-punk’s not dead. The Fuzz’s “The Root of Innocence” incorporates all the sounds we have grown to love since the genre’s inception, from disharmonious angst-driven vocals to hypnotic bass lines and reverb-soaked guitar.
Dave and Hector are long-time residents of Xi’an and stay active in its local music scene.