By Ryan Dyer
Dubbed the Las Vegas of Asia, Macau is a tiny city which acts as a special administrative region of China. Like Hong Kong, it is a part of China, but also has things which are not allowed in Mainland China – casinos being the major attraction (which are illegal in China), which reel in tourists from China by the thousands who want to win big but may end up crossing that border back to Zhuhai with their bank accounts emptied. Like Vegas, there are nightly shows at the casinos – for example, the Parisian has hosted concerts by Celine Dion. The House of Dancing Water within City of Dreams is a spectacle you also shouldn’t miss, which is like a Cirque Du Soleil show involving death defying acrobatics above a giant pool.
Macau is small, but don’t let its size fool you – the dense city of 640, 000 people is very multicultural – containing Portuguese settlements from being the first European holding in China and the 15th century A-Ma Temple, while the people found there include Filipinos, Chinese, Indians and so on. Within this small but vibrant population there are also bands who dabble in the heavier side of things. It seems metalcore is the brand of choice for young musicians in Macau, but there are a select few doing other heavy forms of music. Once you’re done checking out the Ruins of St. Paul and get finished drying your tears after singing along to “My Heart Will Go On”, get to a local live house and check out one of these bands.
“Life is a game that gives you cancer.” This metalcore band refuses to stay in 2005 and equips itself with whichever updates are presented to them in the heavy music spectrum. Electronic and brutal deathcore elements appear in songs like pop-up porn ads but are no unwarranted. In the video for “Collect Skins”, the band’s live footage is mixed with a garbage dump of pop culture media, which appears to be a commentary on how the consumption of it can morph a person, perhaps changing their proverbial skin. The lyrics are a refreshing spew of misanthropy to boot “Dig your grave. End these days. Get annihilated. Rest in violence. Destruction is your only way.”
The menacing jokers in Villain have been at it since 2009 and have gone on record in saying that the metal scene in Macau is very weak and that most people there prefer listening to pop music. It’s no real surprise. When I visited Macau, attending a metal show was, for once, one of the last things on my mind. I just didn’t expect there to be any bands. But as their name implies, they have existed in the city in spite of the crowds being sparse and the musicians being into other forms of music. The brand of metal produced by villain is core-centric and checks off every facet which makes the genre listenable, though Villain’s vocal style is more like Killer Croc than Joker.
Amulets have been engaging audiences in Macau, Hong Kong and beyond since 2013. Song structure wise, you will find elements of shoegaze, metalcore and rock, but the band chooses to be ever diverse with each passing single. Much like pinpointing what a Macau native looks like in the mind’s eye, Amulets brings something more to the table than cookie-cutter metalcore songs. The washed-out video for the single “Falling into the Sea” evokes feelings of melancholy and confusion – maybe falling into the sea is the only reprieve from this mental anguish! They recently cooperated with Macau female singer and songwriter Rachel Liu Yunqing to promote their single “It’s Fine” which shows a gentle side of the band below their metallic muscle.
The youth always need bands to confide in on an emotional level. Be it Nine Inch Nails, Korn, or any other artist who wears their angst and tales of love lost on their sleeve, these bands will always resonate with people maybe more-so than a band with virtuosic guitar shredding. Zenith are heavy but their songs contain that ever-important clean chorus that fans can shut their eyes, make a fist and scream along to at the top of their lungs. They also specialize in shoegazing metalcore ballads, which are perfect for those evenings of self-reflection while on the bus back to the Macau airport, thinking of the friends you’ve made, and the money you’ve lost.
“Gimme scars and gimme pain. I can do this all day.” Blademark puts emphasis on the word blade as something important to remember, such as a scar you would look at years after getting stabbed, cursing the bastard who did it and their weapon. They were established in 2005 as an indie rock band but sharpened their blade into something sharper as the years went on. The current crop of songs from Blademark from their 2019 self-titled album have refreshingly discernible lyrics mingling with noticeable djent fixings on some tracks, but the band, like the others on this list, refuse to be characterized by a single genre and mingle with different levels of loudness and emotional dynamics, depending on the song.
Free Yoga Mats
I am sometimes surprised at the subcultures found in Macau. For example, during a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe, I saw a biker gang. I wondered how much biking they actually did, as they’d probably have to cross the border into China to get some mileage out of those vehicles. Free Yoga Mats are another anomaly – a group of leather jacket and lucha wrestling mask wearing dudes of varying cultures playing beer guzzling punk. Even they realize the chances of their coming together were one in a million, as their bio states “Five young blokes in search of nirvana, found each other on the journey. Now together they make Zen sounds from the street corners of Macau.” Their debut EP is prideful about their location, being titled Made in Macau, but their songs veer into different geographical locations, such as “Tokyo”, which is an anthemic love letter to the Japanese city.
Forget the G
Forget the sunshine. Forget the casinos. Forget the bright colored Portuguese styled buildings. Forget the G takes the listener on a despairing journey filled with melancholic, ethereally satisfying post metal songs which are perfect for those long days when the rainy season hits. The mood is almost exclusively doom filled, with their Dark Times album featuring songs with titles like “IfIdieIdie”. Their video for “Rain” off of Doomsday Lovesongs has a Leaving Las Vegas vibe, showing that this city of dreams is also full of broken hearts and minds, and that behind excess is often emptiness.