Metalheads, politicians and old Taiwanese folk come together

By YuLing Koh Hsu

Dani Azathonian Hands (drums), Su-Nung the Bloody String (hena), Doris Thunder Tears (bass), fan Ken Pierce of Piercing Metal, Freddy the Left Face of Maradou (vocals), CJ Dispersed Fingers (keyboards) and Jesse the Infernal (guitar) after a show in New York City.

They have spurred 16-foot mosh pits in California.

Fans have asked them to bite their necks (a girl fan got a kiss on her cheek instead).

They keep smiling despite flat tires, lost instruments and having their masks confiscated at international security.

They have compelled our Taiwanese parents to attend their concerts and endure hours of aural abrasion to show their support for Taiwan.

Heavy metal god Ozzy Osbourne invited them to join Ozzfest as Chthonic (THON-ick, Greek for spirits of the underworld), the first Asian metal band to play the metal festival.

Not only are they Taiwanese, metal and “black” metal, they are political. Rousing yet beautiful heavy metal anthems, guttural growls mixed with Taiwanese myth and history simultaneous with educating a whole new demographic about Taiwan’s struggle to defeat diplomatic isolation.

“I think it’s great Chthonic is incorporating mythology and music with politics,” said Mike B. Walker, 18, of Kew Gardens. “I didn’t know anything about Taiwan before I started researching Chthonic lyrics. Taiwan has its own government, pays its own taxes, has its own army and has its own language! It’s silly. Death to China and death to false metal!”

Chthonic is reaching fans that are generally not aware that Taiwan has been self-ruled since nationalist forces fled there in 1949 after losing civil war with communist forces in China. It had a United Nations seat as the Republic of China until 1971 when China asserted sovereignty and threatened military action if Taiwan tried to secede.

“Our priority to is play metal and play music, to make noise for our fans. And then, as Taiwanese citizens, we have to pay attention to the international situation,” said Freddy Lim, lead singer for Chthonic. “Any painter, teacher, anyone, everyone has to give a shit about your country. We are not politicians so we use our career to fight as best we can.”

Chthonic opened for Nile last Wednesday night at BB King Blues Club in New York City with “Indigenous Laceration” off the latest record, Seediq Bale. Some fans were screaming along, singing about the aboriginal Taiwanese Seediq tribe whose rebellion against colonial rule was violently crushed by the Japanese army in the 1900s. Revolver magazine praised Seediq Bale as “a booming blend of beautiful brutality and theatrical gloom.”

Chthonic’s debut album, Where The Ancestors’ Souls Gathered, describes the perilous sea journey between China and Taiwan. Sophomore recording 9th Empyrean, told of an epic battle between Chinese Han spirits and the spirit gods of Taiwan’s aboriginal people. Relentless Recurrence was inspired by a Taiwanese folk legend about a demonic ghost that seeks revenge.

Even the face paint derives from Taiwanese folklore and art. Corpse paint allows some gods the power to judge good and evil.

Fans quickly agreed that the use of the hena, a traditional Eastern two-stringed violin, adding a female element (the bassist is female) and having a cause makes Chthonic innovative and refreshing in the black metal world that is usually anti-Christian or simply mythological.

“Chthonic is worthy of being called the Black Sabbath of Asia,” said Kurt Williams, 21, of Brooklyn. “I mean, that’s a heavy pressure to have, but I think Chthonic incorporates so many different elements while still being so musically talented, that they can pull it off. I love it. Americans are loving them.”

They ended the night with “UNLimited Taiwan.” The rate of hair-whipping and headbanging rose exponentially as Freddy sang and screamed about how the U.N. is limiting Taiwan’s unlimited potential to rise up in the international community.

Chthonic headlined a special show just blocks from the U.N. on Sunday at Highline Ballroom in New York City and just days before the 62nd United Nations General Assembly session opens.

New Jersey-based rock group Hsu-nami opened. Hsu-nami also features the hena in their music.

Chthonic is continuing to tour nationwide with Cradle of Filth before its European tour with Finnish folk-metal band Ensiferum begins.

Email with subject line “Chthonic” for a chance to win an autographed CD or autographed paper Chthonic dolls. Send your email by October 13, and we’ll randomly pick our winners.
*EDIT* Congratulations to Catherine C. of Cambridge, MA for winning the prize!

Become their friend on MySpace

Los Angeles Times feature on Chthonic

International Herald Tribune feature on Chthonic

Washington Post feature on Chthonic

New York Times feature on Chthonic

Here is the band website. Do not be afraid.

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