Qiu Maojing, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
The Taiwanese rock band ChthoniC formed in 1995. Led by singer Lin Xuzuo (Freddy Lim), the current lineup includes bassist Ye Xiangyi (Doris), guitarist Liu Shenghui (Blackie), drummer Wang Zixiang (Danny), and keyboardist Gao Chiarong (Curly).
Taiwan’s premier heavy-metal band, ChthoniC originally performed “black metal,” though its music is now difficult to categorize, band members characterizing their sound as “Oriental metal.” All of ChthoniC’s albums focus on Taiwanese history. For example, Where the Ancestors’ Souls Gathered (1999) describes Han Chinese immigration to Taiwan; 9th Empyrean (2000), is a fictive legend of battling Han spirits; Relentless Recurrence (2002), a reworking of the Taiwanese folk tale “Lin Toujie,” a ghost story, won the 2003 Golden Melody Awards “Best Band” prize; Seediq Bale (2005), Mirror of Retribution (2009), and Takasago Army (2011), collectively known as the “Souls Reposed Trilogy,” are theme albums, respectively dealing with the Wushe Incident, the 228 Incident, and the recruitment of Taiwanese soldiers into the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. In addition to Mouna Rudao, 1 an actual historical figure, the albums feature two fictitious characters, Pan Zhengyuan, a young psychic from the Nantou County town of Puli, and Wubusi Bawan, a member of the indigenous Seediq tribe.
Takasago Army tells the tragic tale of Taiwanese men drafted to fight in the Japanese Army in the Pacific theater in WWII. The songs are sung entirely in Taiwanese (Holo), the lyrics written in Chinese characters, examined and approved by the Li Kang-khioh Taiwanese Language Culture and Education Foundation. In addition to the erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument similar to a violin, compositional elements included the pgagu, an aboriginal flute; old Taroko 2 melodies; and composer Li Sanlang’s classic “Come Home Soon.” The recording also incorporated a broadcast of Japanese emperor Hirohito’s “Imperial Rescript on Termination of the War,” with Taiwanese (Holo) singers Yu Tian and Zhan Yawen taking part in the project as well. The record broadened the band’s appeal, introducing a wider audience of Taiwanese music lovers to the world of heavy metal. The single “The Souls In Sing Ling Temple,” which connects the three parts of the trilogy, is a must-listen.
ChthoniC followed the “Souls Reposed Trilogy” with Bu-tik (2013), an album in a similar stylistic vein, featuring guest appearances by singers Tang Meiyun, Cai Zhennan, and Chen Mingzhang. Timeless Sentence (2014) marked a departure from heavy metal and a return to the folk-song tradition. Lead singer Freddy Lim traded in his “black-death voice” (heavy-metal howling) for clear, melodic singing, turning classic tunes from Takasago Army and Bu-tik into electric folk songs. From ChthoniC’s first album to present, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the band’s commitment to the Taiwanese language.
1A tribal leader of the Seediq, an indigenous people, Mouna Rudao led a revolt against Japanese colonial authorities in the 1930 Wushe Incident.
2The Taroko are one of the three main branches of the Seediq people
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