October 5, 2009 / 7:13 AM / 10 years ago

Extreme rocker takes Taiwan history, politics overseas

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Pop music-mad Taiwan has bred a mutant that is casting a long global shadow: an extreme metal band that roars about the island’s fractious politics and the dark side of its history.

Freddy Lim and his band Chthonic have made a name over the past few years as the only commercialized heavy metal band from Taiwan, as they take elements of their homeland, including hints of local music and issues such as the island’s struggles with China, to stages overseas.

“Most of the fans enjoy the oriental and sorrowful emotion that we create in this extreme metal music,” Lim told Reuters in an email interview from the United States following his latest album “Mirror of Retribution.”

“That’s what is unique, I think. We are the metal band that most people know in Taiwan.”

Lim, 33, was introduced to music via piano lessons at the age of 4. As he grew older, heavy metal became his real passion and the band was launched in 1995. Chthonic has so far put out five albums and performed in 20 countries.

The Taipei-based group was the first Asian extreme metal band to perform at the Wacken Festival in Germany and toured as part of world renowned rock star Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest in the United States, the band’s website says.

Chthonic performed around the world in 2007 to promote Taiwan’s ill-fated bid to enter the United Nations over the objections of China, a veto-wielding Security Council member that says the island lacks U.N.-required sovereignty.

China itself claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan.

The band’s latest album compares hell to February 28, 1947, when strongman Chiang Kai-shek, whose authoritarian government had recently fled to Taiwan from China, began a crackdown on dissent. Thousands were killed in the years that followed.

“Taiwan was once colonized by China and Japan, and at the same time it’s an island intertwined with the Western world,” said Taipei fan Chiu Li-wei, 29. “Therefore, whether melody or lyrics, Chthonic’s music fiercely shows these features.”

The band calls itself “Chthonic,” a Greek word referring to the underworld deities, because Lim likes mythology and the name “looked cool,” he said.

Lim gained his global fame partly because of partnerships in Europe and the United States, where extreme metal is relatively mainstream, said David Frazier, a Taipei-based arts and entertainment writer. Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano produced the latest album and a 2006 album was recorded in Denmark.

“Taiwan can add a little bit of exotic identity to it with this band,” Frazier said.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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