Enemite - Wuyuan
Beijing, China is one of the modern world's greatest industrial hubs. It is a booming city of high-rise apartment buildings and expansive construction projects. Recently, the area has become highly commercial and has gone far to cultivate an image of modern, Western civilization. Some have predicted that Beijing will lead China down the path to glorious success; the Sleeping Giant is finally emerging as the world power it could have always been. With this in mind, a metalhead would be keen to suspect modern, over-produced, and slick heavy metal from the Chinese scene, all off the assumption that the Mandarin music scene is moving in the same direction as its society.
This assumption would be dead wrong. Enter Beijing's Enemite, an obscure and absolutely vital piece of ritualistic dark ambient music. The hellspawn of one Li Chao, Enemite is a direct middle-finger to globalization, Western thought, and abandoning of traditional Chinese ideals. In short, this is very compelling music.
What makes Enemite so intriguing is the fact that unlike most ritual dark ambient (the likes of which is meant to be inspire pagan rituals and acts), Enemite has the fortune of drawing from Eastern ritualistic tradition rather than the more prevalent Western cannons of thought. Li Chao fuses black metal rasps in his harsh, muscle-shredding native tongue to dreary hums and authentic Chinese folk instruments, all of which make for a new level of transcendental headspace. Summoning forth the image of eternally dancing black flames, Wuyuan (or in English, "The Necrolatry," the worship of death and the dead) has a sort of timeless, wise evil to it. Imagine witnessing heathen culture centuries before Christ, Satan, and Monotheism in general. This sort of ancient, starkly traditional malice is what Wuyuan is about. Even better, unlike the majority of this genre of music, Enemite has created an album that can be listened to just for the sake of enjoying it, a sadly uncommon feature of most ambient albums that cross my path. Wuyuan is as crushing as a palm-strike from a Shaolin Monk and every bit as delicate, lithe, and graceful. In fact, it is often quite surprising just how easily this disc f***s with your mind while putting forth very little in terms of complexity.
"Intro: The Resentment" is a chilling prelude, somber bells and wooden percussion slowly drifting down into a blackened abyss of swirling, ebony hum. Washes of poisonous strings come here and there, and this intro leads perfectly into the first real song, that being "The Headstream: River of Death."
"Headstream" is masterful. I simply cannot get enough out of this track. A long, bellowing Cantonese folk horn is played and then the Mandarin cymbals kick in over them as Li Chao howls like a mangy dog into crimson night. Somehow, the song takes traditional Chinese percussion and gives it in an almost tremolo-like sound, giving this track a very black metal feel. At one point, a very bleak portion of eerie near-silence whirls around your harried brain, as Chao laughs and taunts you. It makes for a very frightening moment, excellent stuff. Just when you think it can't get any better, the percussion kicks back in and Li Chao lets loose a spastic barrage of vocals so barbaric you'll think the Mongol hordes are climbing into your room to kill you.
The hellishly tranquil "Blaspheming the Sutra: Disconcerted Mourning Recollection" features monstrously low Monk chants and very spaced-out chimes. Frail skeletons of ambient hum weave in and out, and the song winds into a meditative state with a freakish, psychedelic metronome of Eastern melodies. Things slowly wheel down into a glacial crawl, and the song ends on a disjointed, confusing note, leaving you craving some kind of fulfillment. This is by no means a negative reaction; rather, this sense of vast loss simply unnerves listeners further, and betters the mood with even larger levels of nihilism.
"Beckoning the Pneuma: Malefic Roots" is at first nothing beyond a vortex of black winds buffeting you in a cave of ambient throb. Spacious, open-ended conundrums of guitar wash over you again-and-again, as Chao spits hatred that is unviersal in any language. A quiet interlude of folk horns follows, all of which sound like a pod of whales dying together. Without any warning, the original structure of guitar returns, exploding in your eardrums like a Chinese firecracker.
"Sepulture of All Imago: The Anathema" features an infinitely deep bubbling noise and very graceful Cantonese flute meandering. This song is actually very mournful and captures a strange sense of futile nostalgia. As the song progresses into even darker netherworlds, it becomes increasingly apparent that Li Chao is an expert at perverting pretty much any musical instrument to serve his dark, twisted atmospheres.
"Lake of Mirror: Passing Bell to my Son" is glassy and fluid; the vibe here is that you should be able to look in at something, but cannot. As the song froths in the dark at you, subtle percussion mixes with random howls of noise. It is less a full body of work and more of an interlude for the next track...
Which leads us to the twisting "Ancient Scintilla: Lathsome of Fury." Fluid and serpentice, this winding song is like wispy smoke from the fires of Hell. The percussion is simply mind-blowing, and as for the tempos and melodies, the Eastern perception of rhythm in music is much different from the Western take on things. The end result is a song that is alien, devious, and downright sinister. It truly is a magnificient track.
"Outro: The Resentment" hints at unfinished revenge and loose ends to tie up. Quiet and restrained, the song builds off the hum off the intro, adds different percussion, and some really wicked flute melodies that fade into oblivion. This interesting return to start ends things on a circular note and gives the album a very esoteric feel. You will get the feeling there is something divine and symbolic going on here.
And maybe there is. Wuyuan has a feel of ghostly possession to it, a sense of Cthonic age and dark rituals from before the time of man. Despite these ominous portents of true evil, there is something very human in Enemite. I must admit there is something to be deeply admired in how Li Chao uses the instruments and styles of his culture and even his ancestral tongue to further the most basic of human ideas. Mandarin actually seems tailor-made to these style of screeching, harsh vocals, and as for the instruments themselves they are very unusual and a breath of fresh air in a genre that is usually stagnant and formulatic. Regardless, this is probably one of the most individualistic pieces of music I've ever written about in my column and I highly recommend it. Five stars!
1. Intro: The Resentment
2. The Headstream: River of Death
3. Blaspheming the Sutra: Disconcerted Mourning Recollection
4. Beckoning the Pneuma: Malefic Roots
5. Sepulture of All Imago: The Anathema
6. Lake of Mirror: Passing Bell to my Son
7. Ancient Scintilla: Lathsome of Fury
8. Outro: The Resentment
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