Shanghai’s tongue-in-cheek death pop duo Death to Giants are Dennis Ming Nichols (Rainbow Danger Club bassist, Tongue ‘n Beats mashup mastermind) and Ivan Belcic (Twin Horizons mogul, former Moon Tyrant lead singer). They are poised to release their first album, Blood Pours Out, at Yuyintang this Saturday, March 2nd.
Ryan Baird recorded the album at swanky dB Studios in Tianzifang. The Horses mixed and mastered it at Studio Pony deep in the bowels of the Juju dungeon. Both parties did a good job. I have listened on headphones and all manner of speakers and have no problems with the album’s sound. It makes your ears bleed on one and all.
By the way, when I said that Death to Giants is a tongue-in-cheek death pop duo, it was not to diminish their chops in any way. Belcic and Nichols are two of the more accomplished musicians on the Shanghai underground scene right now.
As a drummer, I am a fan of Ivan. He plays with a confidence born of intense practice and outright brutality. He is a master of both time and feel, which is an exceptional combination.
On the electric bass, Nichols is as slippery as they come. In my view, he breaks new ground for what can be done with the instrument. I don’t understand how he coaxes some of these sounds out of the bass.
In addition, each player has remarkable vocal range and control. They would make a great house band in Hell.
Anyone who has witnessed them live, especially their sublime Halloween tribute to System of a Down, knows this band packs incredible power for just, “One bass, one drum set, and two big mouths.” [http://site.douban.com/deathtogiants/]
Death to Giants also branch out quite frequently, collaborating with local acts like Acid Pony Club (Death to Ponies), iAmalam (Death to Lambs), and Alec Haavick (Death to Haavick). They explore myriad genres and complex time signatures, which is readily apparent on this release.
What I did mean when I called them tongue-in-cheek is that they bring a sense of humor and self-awareness to the death metal genre that it sorely lacks. This album plays as satire at times, which is fine by me.
Blood Pours Out is a good representation of the DtG sound, albeit a brief one. Although the album features 10 tracks, it is of EP length, clocking in under 25 minutes. However, it is an action-packed listen, full of funny references to Shanghai and culture in general. I think the abbreviated length works well because the music is so intense.
One track with which you might already be familiar is “Anyone Can Learn to Count in Chinese”. The boys made a comical video for it, featuring many local Shanghai underground musical personalities. It has been viewed 69,000 times on Youku.
The song is confounding to me in that I know there must be a pattern to the counting, but I still can’t suss it out. Also, I still can’t figure out how Belcic can play the main beat and sing at the same time.
“Tyr and the Wolf”, the first track, introduces their sound perfectly. The song ping pongs from death metal to psychedelic crooning. It’s over and done with in two minutes and 16 seconds.
“Bigong Bijing”, which translates roughly to “reverent and respectful”, (it’s also the name of a raucous, now-defunct Shanghai band) is anything but. Its main time signature is quite interesting, as well – 19/16!
Here’s a fun exercise: listen to “Uggghhh” and try to guess the lyrics’ meaning. Then go watch the video below. Hilarity ensues.
“Children Play Amongst The Graves While Cities Burn And Humans Are Enslaved” is one of the stronger tracks, an epic affair that passes through multiple killing fields before abruptly ending in less than three minutes.
“Jared Leto” might not like the song that DtG have written for him, but I certainly enjoy it. This one has a catchy riff and profane sentiment. Producer Ryan Baird as “the tool” gives a standout performance.
If you like old school video games, cheat codes, and Boys Climbing Ropes, you will certainly like “30 Extra Lives”. See if you can spot the reference (it’s not that hard.)
Ah, the age-old question: “Girth vs. Length”. Fortunately, the band members’ significant others don’t have to make this Sophie’s Choice (interpret that however you like), but you might find yourself on the fence. Shoutout to Ivan (I think) and one of his many personalities for the legitimately disturbing meat-related vocal interlude at the end of this song. Can’t wait to hear his stance on Vienna Beef.
“Stegosaurus Rex”, possibly inspired by Shanghai oddballs Stegosaurus?, is heavy. Super heavy. To quote Slater from Dazed and Confused: If you saw it live, “You couldn’t handle that shit on strong acid, man.”
Death to Giants saved my favorite song for last, the schizophrenic “Sick and Elastic”. The opening consists of Belcic having an epileptic fit on the drums while Nichols bangs against the padded walls of his bass strings. It quickly evolves into a jazz vamp with Nichols scatting like Johnny Hartman on prozac. From there, they get into lyrics about forcing your ayi to do stuff I won’t repeat in this safe space. Then they move to primitive yawps usually reserved for old ladies speaking in tongues during Sunday Baptist services. From there, the ambiance shifts to deranged carnival barker territory. The band finishes up as rabid dogs. Or maybe they are the itinerant streetwalkers talking to the rabid dogs as they foam and snarl. I’m not sure about that one yet.
Blood Pours Out is definitely worth your attention. Hell, it grabs you by the lapels and demands your attention. Be sure to download this one and catch the release show on March 2nd at Yuyintang. iAmalam, Spill Your Guts, and Astrofuck are opening, and there’s sure to be some surprise onstage collaborations.