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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

October 25, 2007
At first glance, with their screaming vocals, ferocious guitars, fast drumming, dark attire and ghostly makeup, ChthoniC seems like a fairly typical death metal band. But behind the brutal doom and gloom of the band's dramatics lurks something unexpected: its members are Taiwanese, and they're devoted to the cause of a sovereign Taiwan, a state independent from the People's Republic of China.

In a song called "UNlimited Taiwan," vocalist Freddy Lim sings:
"We have the land, the strength, the power
Rise up, overcome, take it over
Ignored too long, we became stronger
Tear down the walls and let us run over."

"We just want to share the same rights, like American or Canadian citizens," said Lim, 30, who formed the band in 1995. "It's quite a simple message in the song and in the campaign: Don't put limitations on Taiwan and 23 million Taiwanese people."

The six-person group, which has developed a following by touring throughout Asia and Europe, brought its campaign to American metal heads on its first US tour, which included two New York City shows last month. ChthoniC's arrival in New York preceded a September's volatile session of the United Nations General Assembly, the international organization expressly "based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace" that nonetheless expelled Taiwan in 1971 and replaced its seat with mainland China.

"The slogan of the United Nations is 'UN is your world,' said Lim. "So it should be our world," he later said, adding that "I do believe if Japan, Korea, France or all these countries [were] put into this kind of situation like Taiwan, their citizens would have the same kind of reaction like myself. We want to fight for our right in any kind of way."

Taiwan figures into ChthoniC's music in addition its members' politics. Although their sound is influenced by European and American death metal, their lyrics incorporate their native Taiwanese folklore and culture. "All the mythologies in the world [have] the same element," said Lim, "which is all these ghosts and gods [that] can do whatever human beings cannot do. But Taiwanese mythology has one more attractive thing to me: The classic Taiwanese stories are mostly tragedies." The melancholy mood is also conveyed musically by the band's use of the hena, a traditional East Asian two-string violin.

Before Lim formed ChthoniC (pronounced THON-ick; the name is a reference to the underworld in Greek mythology) over a decade ago, the closest thing to a heavy metal scene in Taiwan, according to the singer, was a smattering of musicians performing cover songs of American metal acts. "I could only buy [metal] CDs by mail order," he remembered, though he said that there are more metal bands in Taiwan today.

This summer the group played at the metal music gala Ozzfest, an appearance that Lim described as the realization of a dream. "We enjoyed the crowds very much. The American metal fans are fantastic. They are much crazier than Asian fans, and also they hang out with the bands in the backstage area. It's very remarkable."

The band, particularly their political campaigning, has been well received by the Taiwanese government, the president going so far as to present a music award to them. "In Taiwan most of the movie or music awards will try to invite the president to give out the prizes," he said. "I think it's quite normal in Taiwan, but I don't think it's that normal in America."

The singer acknowledged that the members of ChthoniC are musicians, not politicians. But he said that their messages about the Taiwanese situation are getting through to fans, going on to explain that high school students are writing reports about Taiwan in their social justice action classes. "I feel very encouraged that the fans can do much more," he said. "They can spread the message to their classmates and their teachers. Maybe all of these young [people] will be somebody important and can do more to support Taiwan in the future."

SEE ALSO: www.chthonic.org
SEE ALSO: www.taiwandc.org

David Chiu
no biographical information is currently available.

See other articles by David Chiu.



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