In the last fifteen years, you would be hard pushed not to mention Agalloch as one of the most relevant metal acts. This unusually North American band — for the time it was formed and genres it was related to — has seen its influence spreading all over the world and in more than one specific style. There are many projects that, for different reasons, owe something to this Portland, OR, based quartet: The Morningside, Gallowbraid and many more spring to mind.
I believe the most curious case is the Chinese band 深山 (known abroad as Deep Mountains), hailing from Shandong province and currently signed to the biggest independent metal label in China, Pest Productions. 深山 released their first eponymous EP in 2010, quickly receiving receiving critical acclaim. What makes this project peculiar is their returning to a definitely Chinese school of thought — namely Taoism — as if it got back to being part of the Chinese discourse again by means of a foreign tool like black metal.
The band formed in Tai’An, known for its vicinity to Mount Tai, one of Taoism’s sacred mountains. The album cover shows a mountainous scenery, painted in the traditional black ink style, the band name is written in a form highly resembling Chinese calligraphy. Deep Mountains play a well-varied form of black metal, with folk elements, slower parts, post-rock influences, all of which clearly show their knowledge of the foreign influences. All lyrics are written in Chinese and highlight the natural landscape of the area, as in “松林賦” (“Ode To Pines”): “归鸟唱晚,夜风微寒，泰山北麓，松林黑暗，魂游山间，不觉影单” (“Birds sing until dusk, the night wind [blows] cold, on the Northern slope of Mount Tai, in the shadow of the pine woods, the soul travels through the mountain, unaware of loneliness”).
Although Agalloch’s influence is undeniable and remains clear throughout, here we have one of the most interesting albums in the rising Chinese black metal scene. The major local influence is arguably Zuriaake, the founding name of the whole black metal sound around here (although more on the “depressive” side). The main difference here is that landscape is more of a vehicle for spiritual grandeur than a theatre for painful reflections (still to be found anyway). Despite it being their first EP — available on Bandcamp — this work is indeed personal and mature, indicating great promise for their future.
The band is currently working on the first LP which, according to Pest Productions, will be released in the second half of this year. Naturally, we will be there to review it as soon as possible.