Sun, Sep 14, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Chthonic put spin on Taiwan's past

The controversial Taiwanese band Chthonic have been criticized for mixing politics and music, and have even been prevented from performing in China after being labelled as `pro-independence musicians.' `Taipei Times' reporter Fiona Lu tried to find out what makes them tick after a performance at a pro-Taiwan rally


The five young people forming Chthonic's line-up are Freddy Lin, Doris Yeh, Jesse Liu, A-jay Tsai and Luis Wei.


They extolled the virtues of Na Tao Ji (林投姊), a tragic heroine of Taiwanese folklore, by singing her story in front of the Presidential Office on Sept. 6 when 150,000 people gathered at a rally to promote changing the country's name from the Republic of China to Taiwan.

After being chosen as the best band at the 14th Golden Melody Award, the Mandarin-speaking world's biggest music award, on Aug. 8, they pronounced: "Thank you, my mother country, Taiwan."

They are Chthonic (閃靈), a rock n' roll band categorized as black metal, consisting of five local young people, Freddy Lin, Doris Yeh, Jesse Liu, A-jay Tsai and Luis Wei.

"I emphasized that Taiwan is my mother country, not a homeland, at the Golden Melody ceremony to illustrate my conviction that Taiwan has developed its own history and cultural values that are no longer the same as those developed in China.

"Taiwan is a nation that people have established from their distinctive characters and customs, and that makes this place different to any other society in the world," said Freddy, the lead singer and soul of Chthonic.

Freddy added that sticking to this viewpoint is extremely important when some people, who prefer an ultimate unification with China, always describe Taiwan as a homeland, not a nation.

"To these pro-unification countrymen, Taiwan is only a geographical term identifying its place on the global map, but Taiwan is a nation to me, with an independent people, culture and history," Freddy said.

As the first Taiwanese black metal band, Chthonic has successfully made the leap onto the world stage by performing at international rock festivals in Japan, the US and other Asian countries.

Besides Freddy's relentless vocals, deep drum and bass sounds, electric guitars and keyboards, the addition of the Chinese Er-hu (a Taiwanese violin), have made Chthonic uniquely Taiwanese.

Taipei Times: What inspired you to form Chthonic, performing in the black and death metal genre, which was unfamiliar to most Taiwanese people until now, as early as 1995?

Chthonic: We decided to form Chthonic when the number of listeners and bands of black metal was burgeoning in Europe, the US, Japan and even Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia in the first half of the 1990s.

Black metal, a category of rock n' roll that originated in North European countries like Norway, was characterized by a revival of performers' awareness of their native culture after the region's pagan religions had been forcibly replaced by Christianity for many eras.

The black metal movement harbored resentment towards Jesus Christ and some insist on the existence of Satan as a form of rebellion.

That gave us the idea to form Chthonic, a black metal band to examine values imposed on Taiwanese society by the mainstream Chinese authorities, and to fight against them when they are wrong or oppressing the existence of Taiwanese nature.

The nature of rock n' roll allows its performers to easily say what they want to say in front of an audience. We have an appreciation for the mythology, legends and historical stories in Taiwanese culture, and that fed into the creation of Chthonic.

Our first album, Where Ancestors' Souls Gathered, drew inspiration from the stories of the Han ancestors dreaming about a brighter future in Taiwan, the promised land.

When we did the second album, 9th Empyrean, we told a story of struggle and conflict between the Han and the Aborigines in ancient years. The story is composed of eight mythologies about war and confrontation between the gods of the Han and the Aborigines.

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