Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 14 News List

CDs: Taiwan

STAFF REPORTERS

Although in a recent interview Chthonic said it had little interest in talking “politics” in its music, some will argue, and rightfully so, that setting the story around the 228 Incident is a political statement in itself.

That said, the lyrics, sung in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), or in English for the international version of the CD, mostly dwell more on what metal bands want to do: convey fear, dread and gore.

Lim concentrates his efforts on creating an “Oriental Hell,” a spiritual underworld based on Taoist mythology. Many of the songs depict epic battles with evil wizards who torture, and “Ghost Kings” who oversee an “Ocean of Blood” where “the shores fill up with corpses.” Beneath the gore and fantasy, Lim shows a keen and elegant sense of storytelling. Mirror, like most Chthonic albums, ends in tragedy. Tsing-guan fails in his mission and is banished to the border of hell, where he is condemned to watch the universe end through the Mirror of Retribution: “And, although there was nothing more to see in the mirror, he continued to gaze; eyes fixed on the void reflecting back at him.”

As with all symphonic metal, Chthonic’s music requires technical precision and clean execution from the band’s five members, each of whom is up to the task. Chthonic adds a somewhat unique touch to its sound by using the erhu (二胡), which drives the melody on tracks like Blooming Blades (刃綻) and 1947, a quiet and gloomy interlude.

The production was given a professional sheen by engineer and producer Rob Caggiano, who is the guitarist for Anthrax. He also helped Lim re-write the lyrics for the English-language version of the album.

Die-hard fans and critics will happily nitpick at Chthonic’s stylistic nuances: one Internet reviewer lamented the band’s shift to a “raw, almost grindcore sound”; another hailed them as “extreme metal’s premier band.”

On the other hand, the uninitiated will hear what one imagines “extreme metal” to be: lots of shrieking, howling and growling, noisy guitars and neck-breaking tempos. But Mirror’s imaginative story might keep them listening.—DAVID CHEN

Mr Why

Jeremy Liu (劉子千)

Warner Music

The son of the famed Taiwanese composer and movie director Liu Chia-chang (劉家昌), singer/songwriter/producer Jeremy Liu’s (劉子千) debut album Mr Why comes highly anticipated. He might be the most promising all-round musician since Jay Chou (周杰倫). Mr Why does not disappoint either, serving a rich array of musical styles handled with superb craftsmanship.

Having composed all 10 tracks and produced the whole album, Liu shows great self-assurance as a musician. The opening song Occupying (佔據) is an infectious folk ballad that celebrates the bliss of love with its stripped-down sounds. Taking a jibe at the complicated come-ons and rejections of romance, the title track Mr Why is a hip-hop-driven anthem with irresistible grooves and very credible rapping by Liu. Rose (玫瑰), a track featured in Jay Chou’s adventure movie The Treasure Hunter (刺陵), is an effective ballad about eternal love elevated by its wise use of a whispering chorus. Thinking (想), a Brit-pop-flavored rouser with electrifying guitar riffs, is a memorable ballad about unrequited love. The climactic track is Empty Scar (空傷), a contagious ballad about frazzled love delivered in virtuostic R ’n’ B vocals with impressive melisma.

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