Gig Recap: Dopamine, MIIIST, The Illusion of Dawn (2021.12.12)

The Illusion of Dawn 黎明的幻象, DOPAMINE 多巴胺, MIIIST 雾 – Bandai Namco 万代南梦宫 2021.12.12

Pest Productions and Unknown Art Productions, two of the alternative metal and punk scene’s most nefarious labels, purveyors of true underground rock, hosted last Sunday’s madcap festival entitled ‘Blackened Shore and The Psych Waves’ – a rabbit hole of psych, doom, black gaze and then some. I popped by to get my yearly dosage of black metal – a scene I all too often avoid yet am always fascinated with. 

Sporting painted black and white makeup and towering above the crowd, Bortala (Mongolian region deep north in Xinjiang) based MIIIST inject their soaring black metal with a soaring old school heavy metal vibe, think Black Sabbath, with a touch of doom. It may be easy to get lost in the theatrics of it all (lanterns!) but much like the other bands, the musicianship is top tier stuff and I kept ogling everyone’s instrumental prowess – not even noticing the singer had disappeared into the crowd never to return (like MIIIST!). 

Next were long-standing Wuhan-based Scandinavian-evoking black metal outfit The Illusion of Dawn, leaning into the genre’s more desperate and harrowing tendencies. It truly does sound like the singer is grasping at life, and the music matched both the rallying war cries and its descents into self-oblivion quite well, at one point even pausing all the music for the singer to go a cappella – likely the closest I’ll get to seeing Shakespeare done. 

I closed out the first half of my night with Nanchang blackgaze legends Dopamine. Blurring the lines between shoegaze, post rock, and depressive black metal, they’re a hauntingly gorgeous descent into pitiless despair a swirl of emotions against deafening crescendos of sound, hurtling drums, and heart-pounding tremolo picking crashing down like waves upon a jagged cliff. So good stuff, and much more accessible to a metal prude like me. 

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