The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a cradle of civilization that is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world’s largest standing army, the world’s second-largest economy and is the world’s largest trading power. Even the Chinese space program is one of the world’s most active, and is a major source of national pride together with its technology companies such as Huawei and Lenovo. In fact we’re all aware of how China’s economic and political goals, and are held as a source of national pride. But behind this immense Science, technology and economic, corporate revolution, that has invaded the world exists a handful of Chinese individuals capable of forging roads into unexpected and unexplored spheres.
Nan Li is one of those individuals. He is the founder, leader and front-man for the dark Heavy metal group Voodoo Kungfu – the most famous heavy metal band in China. The former Berklee College of Music student claims that his first great achievement was to be permanently expelled from an Irish Catholic school in 1997. This event led him to form Voodoo Kungfu. Nan Li soon travelled and gathered influences from Mongolian and Tibetan traditions, culture and religions, which he promptly blended into the music. This included Na Richa playing a horsehead traditional string instrument, which mixed with the heavy and cruel background instruments and Nan Li’s voice led people to describe Voodoo Kungfu as “the most terrifying metal band in China.”
In 2008, after a near-fatal Cobra bite and falling into a coma, Na Li recovered miraculously after seven days, then walked into the studio and recorded all his tracks within 2 days to finish Voodoo Kungfu’s debut album, “Mongol-Temporal Side”. That same year the band at the Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany, where they were billed the “best Chinese Heavy Metal band.” Thereafter Voodoo Kungfu became the headline band in some of the biggest rock festivals in China, but due to its political attitude they were hence banned from major festivals and also missed many opportunities to perform abroad. The Chinese government labeled them as an “Anti-humanity Band.”
In 2012 Nan Li left China to study at Berklee and continue Voodoo Kungfu’s music in the USA. Now in 2015 Voodoo Kungfu is busy executing what is called “The Event”, which starts with a simple video but goes well beyond. The band has been in the studio concluding work on their new album, “Celestial Burial”, which is produced and mixed by Ben Grosse (Marilyn Manson, Sevendust, Disturbed, Breaking Benjamin and Fuel etc.), and also features symphony scores by movie composer Ian Honeymoon. Voodoo Kungfu are preparing their current audiovisual onslaught, armed with the experience of dominating 50,000 capacity crowds, swarmed into delirium by the band’s fusion of dark Oriental elements and vicious heavy metal.
Nan Li (Vocals), Ike Kawaguchi (Guitar), Murv Douglas (Bass) and Devin Lebsak (Drums) craft sonic metal masterpieces, putting plenty of emphasis on extended symphonic arrangements, powerful rhythm work, and apocalyptical vocals. The songs are complex yet very easy to enjoy at the same time because the band has amassed so many immortal melodies from exotically varied influences. The songs involve plenty of elaborate passages laced with fiery lead riffs, and stomping rhythmic anchors. Nan Li utilizes his full spectrum of vocal talents. He goes for some clean singing as well as his instantly recognizable throaty delivery that borders on manic roaring and screaming.
The rhythmic tandem on the Voodoo Kungfu songs is amazing. The drum tones are full and organic, engaging in intricate fills and twisted blast beats. Sack grooves and thrashes with ease, and the addition of blast beats certainly lends the pieces an extra dimension. Murv’s bass tone is perhaps just about the most sinister I’ve ever heard. Guitarist Ike is responsible for churning out his trademark riffs; they are dark and churning, and have a lasting impact. There probably are few rhythm guitarists that shape the sound of songs so profoundly. That noted, Ike also proves he is equally adept at soloing and lays down several lead solos to contrast and complement the tracks.
The production is sharp and threatening. The mix is so punchy it moves air, and it does not hide a single note, which results in everything coming through more effectively and sounding more organic. But all of the above is only a part of what 2015 Midi Award “Best Live Performance” winners, Voodoo Kungfu, will be bringing to “The Event”. Ninety percent of the song lyrics are in Chinese, while Nan Li’s Asian persona is a rarity in heavy metal circles. Mixing dark oriental musical elements with heavy metal is another unique twist on the genre. How many metal bands do you know that use elements from Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism or the nomadic people of Northern China in their music? Can Voodoo Kungfu finally bring on a new cultural and musical revolution in China and how will the rest of the world react to this foreboding musical phenomenon?
Without a doubt, these answers will all be timely unlocked once you become part of the ongoing “The Event”. In the meantime Voodoo Kungfu have been playing to sold out houses before bewildered audiences on their 2015 China Tour, and are just about ready to take on the world!