Silver Ash 银色灰尘 is a Chinese glam rock band often touted to be the first of their kind in China, and their rise in popularity went a long way in raising the interests of Chinese fans in the Visual Kei genre, from which the band draws their inspiration.
The Japanese Visual Kei movement has always been something of an enigma – a genre defined not so much by musical style as wardrobe choice, and needless to say, rather glamorously outlandish ones at that. Yet, it’s known to have one of the strongest cult followings in the world.
My first introduction to Visual Kei was through my sister a couple of years ago. It’s a completely different experience purely listening to their music versus watching their videos, the appearance really does change everything, something I am reluctant to admit.It wasn’t that they were scary in any way, it was more like they weirded me out, a judgement that I’ve tried to correct over the years. Visual Kei certainly is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there are tons of good music to be found if one learns to accept, or at least overlook, the appearance.
Anyway, back to Silver Ash, I stumbled on their new comeback single – “Pretty but Evil” – earlier today on Bandcamp. Totally not knowing to expect, it was a catchy, sexy, rocking piece sung in a mix of Mandarin and (decent) English. It’s significantly less heavy compared to some Japanese bands, but extremely satisfying to jam to, arguably a mix of Dir En Grey and Radiohead. Instrumentation complete with gothic keyboard chords and Ling’s mild Japanese-brand vibratto, Pretty but Evil comes off as naughty, but fundamentally optimistic and fun-loving in spirit, rather distinct from the dark, engulfing, psychological depths of much of Japanese Visual Kei music.
Released worldwide in January 2013, Pretty but Evil marked the beginning of the band’s comeback after many years on hiatus. The band is now gunning to be a transnational, cross-cultural band.
In April 2013, they released their official comeback single titled “Reborn”, an angrier song composed of heavy metal dubstep proclaiming their return to glamorous domination and form.
When I was crying out, and no one heard my voice
I’m rising from the ashes, now I’m back from hell
When I was falling down, and no one cared to help
You should be afraid, now I’m back from hell
Much more heavy on the electronic, Reborn displays the band’s confidence and determination to return to their music, while also flipping the bird at the 8 long years of toil in between their 2005 album and today.
Despite their popularity, the band’s journey has been rough.
Formed in 2000, Silver Ash were signed to Scream Records, releasing 1 Single and 3 albums under the label. Their first single, “Organum” (2001), proved that singles could compete neck-to-neck with full-length albums, revolutionizing the Chinese rock industry.
Their eponymous full-length album Silver Ash (2002), topped Chinese rock charts, “selling 30,000 copies within the first few weeks of release”.
Their early releases reflect greater similarity to bands like Gazette, combining strong guitar riffs with haunting instrumentals and darker melodies. (Ling’s vocals have significantly improved since then.)
The band amassed a large following, fans attracted to their brand of theatrical, flamboyant, affective rock music. The band’s popularity also paved the way for other visual rock acts in China, such as Glazed Rose and Autumn Insect.
However, luck turned and things started to go sour: a US tour was cancelled due to the SARS outbreak in 2003-4; government censorship barred them from festivals and radio shows. Their one and only music video, “The Daughter of the Sea” was made in 2007.
Eventually in 2005, the band left Scream Records, leaving them stranded alone without a record label until today. Some members were forced to leave the band, including their guitarist and bassist. They released a collection of unpublished songs titled “Wei Jin Ji” 未尽集 in 2005, the last of them until now.
Going as far as changing their music style and “becoming more pop”, as vocalist Ling recounts, wasn’t enough for companies to get behind the band. Losing hope, they went their separate ways. The band’s current lineup consists of Ling (vocalist), Yue (guitarist), Zhen (drummer) and their newest member, Cain (bassist + mixer).
Looking through their newly created website, leader Ling posted a blog post earlier in February, describing his thoughts and vision for the band in the past and in the future.
We are honored by this title of “The First Visual Kei band in China,” but it is not the most important thing to us. First, we are rockers; then, we are visual rockers. I feel responsibility to our music, not to a title.
Our dream now is for Silver Ash to become a truly international band and have the opportunity to perform everywhere around the world. We really hope this dream will come true!!