Friday Song: Bang your head with Overload

Society & Culture

At the dawn of the 1990s, a record producer from Taipei named Landy Chang — Zhang Peiren 张培仁 — came to Beijing, where his father was born. The label he worked for, Taiwan-based Rock Records, was interested in signing some of the more talented bands from the burgeoning Beijing rock scene. Most famously, he signed Tang Dynasty and three solo acts: Dou Wei 窦唯, Zhang Chu 张楚, and He Yong 何勇. [Editor’s note: SupChina’s Kaiser co-founded Tang Dynasty.] But he signed another band that throughout the 1990s was probably my personal favorite Chinese rock band: Overload, or 超载 (Chāozài).

Overload’s front man was Gao Qi 高旗, an elfin metalist with solid guitar chops and a voice that ranged from pretty to positively demonic. He had been the guitarist and male vocalist of the band Breathing (呼吸), where he shared vocal duties with an ex-CCTV International English broadcaster named Wei Hua. Wei had famously made pro-student comments on-air during the protests of 1989 and was sacked afterward, only to reemerge as a would-be rock goddess. But Gao Qi was the one who would enjoy enduring fame as a rocker with Overload. He assembled some of China’s best musicians, including most notably Li Yanliang 李延亮, a young and very pious guitar virtuoso from Luoyang, Henan Province, who had set aside a career as a PLA officer to make his fortune in music.

Overload made its debut on a tape compilation released in 1993 called Rock China (摇滚中国) with the song “Shadow of the Ancestors” (祖先的阴影), embedded above, which I wore out through repeated listenings and which, for at least the next decade, I regarded as the very best heavy metal song yet recorded by a Chinese band. It’s a thrash metal masterpiece, each of the song’s many motifs built on memorably beefy riffs that evoke some of the great NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) acts, classic metal bands like Black Sabbath and thrash contemporaries like Megadeth and Metallica. Listen loud, let your hair down, and bang your head!

Friday Song is SupChina’s weekly sign-off. In case you missed it this week, Elliott Zaagman wrote about an easily avoidable string of Chinese PR mishaps, our own Jiayun Feng reported on China’s plans to create a national park system, Charles Liu wrote on Chinese gamers’ reputation for cheating, SupChina video guru Jia Guo highlighted Jim Rogers’s adorable daughters, and check out these pictures of a bicycle graveyard.

You’ll be hearing from Kaiser again real soon…but after the weekend. Keep chipping away at those Thanksgiving leftovers in the meantime!