Thrashing Hong Kong: Metal bands on the rise

Thrashing Hong Kong: Metal bands on the rise

A look at how Hong Kong label Trinity Records is helping Asian metal come of age

The Hipchingse (協青社) is on a back street, sandwiched by high-rises. It looks like a school. Inside is one of Hong Kong's less-hyped indie music venues, Hang Out (蒲吧), where a heavy metal concert is in full swing.

Myproof, an underground melodic metal band from Tokyo, is cracking Japanese ballad-influenced growls on stage alongside four Hong Kong metal bands. And although some people find it hard to imagine the infamously shy Hong Kong audience in a mosh pit, there is, indeed, a mosh pit. The metal genre has a following in Hong Kong that is emerging strong, nurtured by concert producers like Sunny (who only wants to be known by his first name), owner of Trinity Records and founder of the Tomahawk Metal Fest. Sunny is watching the mosh pit like an adoring father.

"It will take time, maybe another generation for people to understand [metal]," he says about the local metal scene. Sunny had to start from scratch when he first started to promote the genre in Hong Kong in 1990s. There wasn't much going on and it was hard to get the attention of the fickle, trend-chasing public.

Half-Chinese, half-Sri-Lankan, Sunny came to Hong Kong and began working at the age of 18, doing whatever he could. One day he went to a friend's house and put on a Black Sabbath record. From that point on, two decades were spent chasing music, dreaming metal. He bought a cheap guitar, played at least five hours a day, formed a thrash metal band named Azylum, put out a sold-out EP, disbanded, and opened a shop in Kowloon City that imported metal t-shirts and mail-ordered metal albums. That was over a decade ago, the fetal stage of Trinity Records.

When business became steady at the store, Sunny started signing metal bands. "I said, look, these people need to be pushed. Bands who sent me demos in Asia are so talented. We need to actually grow them," The first official band to sign under Trinity Records was Deathguy, from Thailand, then Sword of Darkness from Vietnam. He then signed a couple of European and American bands to make the label "recognized as Asian, but global" and later continued to sign bands from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. Now, with a dozen or so Asian metal bands under its belt, Trinity Records proudly chants the slogan "Inspire a New Wave of Asian Metal."

While close friends advised Sunny to give up, he stayed positive. Many concerts he organized ran on a deficit, but he believed the record shop would make money to fill the loss. This year, a Thrash Metal Fest is in the works and the Tomahawk Metal Festival takes place regularly.

"Kids now start with Jonas Brothers. But what comes after Jonas Brothers? There needs to be something. Say, Green Day. Great, Green Day, but what are their influences? Metallica. Let's research Metallica! Then they get bored and want something heavier ... Slayer! Slayer just had a great album!" He goes on and on -- the typical progression of exposure to metal for a Hong Kong kid. The conclusion is ambitious. "You can say it's a music movement. I am part of that." 

Hong Kong band Maniac.

Japanese band Myproof. Black Wine at Hang Out.Ho Mei, guest drummer of the Darkness Pool.

Getting there

Hang Out: 1/F, 2 Holy Cross Road, Sai Wan Ho, tel +852 2568 1110

Born in Taipei, raised in Hong Kong, educated in Chicago, and now based in New York and Hong Kong, Thomas meanders between the East and the West working as a journalist-artist.
Read more about Thomas Lee