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Chthonic (band)

Chthonic in concert at the Metropolis, Montreal, Canada in 2007.
Chinese name 閃靈樂團 (traditional)
Origin Taiwan
Genre(s) Blackened death metal[1]
Symphonic black metal,[2] Oriental metal
Label(s) Spinefarm (Universal Music)
Years active 1995–present
Current Members Freddy Lim
Jesse Liu
Doris Yeh
CJ Kao
Dani Wang
Past Members See: Former members
Official Website

Chthonic (sometimes typeset ChthoniC or ChThoniC) is a Taiwanese metal band, formed in 1995 in Taipei. The group incorporates influences from traditional Taiwanese music including the classical Chinese instrument erhu (the band often calls it hiân-á in their native Taiwanese). The band's stated goal is to use their music to bring ancient history and mythology into the modern era via a pan-green focus, especially to build awareness of the myths of Taiwan and tragic events in that country's history (for example, those of the Seediq people).[citation needed]

Since 2011 their trademark erhu has been complemented with stringed instruments including the koto and shamisen, as well as Tibetan bells and shakuhachi and pgaki flutes, the latter of which are traditionally used by the aboriginal people of Taiwan.[4] The band members are also acclaimed artists and political activists who advocate independence for Taiwan and self-determination for Tibetans and Uighurs. Singer Freddy Lim is currently the Chairman of the Taiwan chapter of Amnesty International. Since their formation, Chthonic has released seven studio albums; the most recent, Bu-Tik, was released in Asia in May 2013 by Spinefarm Records.


File:Freddy Lim, founder of ChthoniC.jpg
Freddy Lim started the band in 1995. He has also been the Chairman of Amnesty International Taiwan from 2010 to the present.
File:CHTHONIC Jade.ogg
"Broken Jade" from Takasago Army (2011).

Formation (1995-1998)

Chthonic was formed in 1995, and the band name "Chthonic" is a Greek term referring to the earth and the underworld. In the west, the term is usually pronounced thonic.[5] The original members were Freddy Lim and some of his classmates from high school and university. The line-up went through many changes before the band released their debut album in 1998. By that point the line-up had settled around Freddy Lim on vocals and erhu, Zac Chang on guitar, Xiao-Yu on bass, Xiao-Wang on drums, and Ambrosia on keyboards and backing vocals. Chthonic became quite popular in the rock scene in Taiwan. They played to a full house at Vibe, the main rock club in Taipei at the time, and played as headliners for large rock festivals like Spring Scream. They released their first single "深耕" ("Deep Plowing") in early 1998.[6]

In their early years, Chthonic tried different styles of heavy metal. Lim sang clean vocals in "海息" ("The Breath of Ocean"); the early song "深耕" ("Cultivating") can be classified as power metal while "母島解體登基" ("Decomposition of the Mother Isle(Aboriginal Gods Enthroned)") is black metal. Keyboardist Ambrosia occasionally sang in the early songs as well. From the start, Lim has written songs in Taiwanese, Classical Chinese, and Mandarin Chinese.[7]

Success in Asia (1998-2002)

Chthonic’s debut album, Where the Ancestors' Souls Gathered (祖靈之流), was released in late 1998. The band released the album independently and it reached #2 on the Tower Records pop music chart for Asia.[7]

In 1999 Zac, Xiao-Yu, and Xiao-Wang left the band and were replaced by Jesse Liu, Doris Yeh, and AJ Tsai respectively. The band recorded their second album 9th Empyrean (靈魄之界) later in 1999; the album was released in Taiwan by Crystal Records in 2000. It reached #1 on the Tower Records pop music chart for Asia and was also considered one of the best ten Mandarin albums of that year by Hong Kong's MCB magazine.[citation needed] This album’s music style is closer to symphonic black metal, with Lim adopting harsh vocals mixed with keyboardist Ambrosia’s female singing. The song "Guard the Isle Eternally" (永固邦稷) was the first Chthonic song to mix Asian pentatonic scale melodies with black metal.[7]

In 2000, Chthonic appeared at the Fuji Rock Festival, one of the biggest rock festivals in Japan, and embarked on their first international tour through Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.[7] In Hong Kong, they signed with Catalyst Action Records, and in Japan, Soundholic was their distributor.[7]

In 2001, keyboardist Ambrosia left the band and was replaced by Vivien Chen. Chthonic then recorded their third album, Relentless Recurrence, which was based on the legendary Taiwanese ghost story "Lin-tou Jie." The album was recorded in Denmark and released in Taiwan by Crystal Records in 2002. The album retains the symphonic black metal style mixed with Taiwanese elements. Relentless Recurrence was also the first Chthonic album written entirely in Taiwanese.[7] In 2002 the band completed their second international tour, and played at the old stadium of National Taiwan University with traditional Taiwanese lion drums and a traditional Taiwanese orchestra.[7]

Success in Europe and the United States (2002–08)

In 2002 Chthonic signed with Nightfall Records in the United States and released an English version of 9th Empyrean in North America. All subsequent Chthonic albums have been released internationally in English versions. In 2002 the band played festivals in the United States, Japan, and Hong Kong; and toured with Swedish black metal band Dark Funeral. In late 2002 keyboardist Vivien left the band and was replaced by Luis Wei. In 2003 the band released the single "Satan's Horns," which was used as the theme song for the Taiwanese release of the movie Freddy vs. Jason.[7] In 2003 they won the Best Band Award at the Taiwan Golden Melodies Award Ceremony.[8]

In 2004 Alexia Lee replaced Luis Wei on keyboards and Dani Wang replaced AJ Tsai on drums. In 2005 the band released their fourth album, Seediq Bale, which is based on the Wushe Incident. In addition to symphonic black metal mixed with Taiwanese elements, Seediq Bale featured increased use of erhu, blast beats, and female vocals (including a guest appearance by pop singer Sandee Chan). The album was released in Mandarin Chinese and English versions, with both integrating some Seediq and Japanese lyrics. This album also supported donations for the movie project Seediq Bale directed by Wei Te-sheng, who in turn donated the film's trailer for Chthonic's use in the music video for "Quasi Putrefaction."[7]

After the release of Seediq Bale keyboardist Alexia left and was replaced by CJ Kao; the erhu player Su-nong also joined the band. In early 2006, Chthonic held the "A Decade on the Throne" concert in Huashan Culture Park, Taipei. To celebrate their tenth anniversary the band released a DVD of that concert, the compilation album Pandemonium, and the book CHTHONIC Dynasty (閃靈王朝) via Eurasian Books.[7] Seediq Bale (English version) was released in 2006 and 2007 in many countries; in Japan it was released by Howling Bull, in North America by Megaforce Records, and in Europe by SPV Records; the album was also released in several South American and Asian countries. Revolver cited Chthonic as "The Band to Watch" and England's Alternative Vision awarded them "Band of the Month."[9]

In 2007 Chthonic were featured as a second stage act at the 2007 Ozzfest tour. The band named that year's tour "UNlimited Taiwan Tour" to draw awareness to that fact that the United Nations does not recognize Taiwan.[10] This symbolic protest was covered by the US mainstream media, including ABC television, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and others.[11][12][13][14] That year they also toured with Nile,[15] Dååth, Obituary, Cradle of Filth, Marduk, Ensiferum, and 3 Inches of Blood while playing in several European countries. A book titled GUTS!, featuring a diary of the UNlimited Taiwan Tour, was released in Europe and Asia.[citation needed]

Recent events (2008–present)

Chthonic released the album Mirror of Retribution in 2009 on Spinefarm Records, produced by Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano. Mirror of Retribution is based on the 228 Incident and features guest appearances by singers Sandee Chan and Francine Boucher of the band Echoes of Eternity. The album was released in Taiwanese and English versions. The British music magazine Kerrang! called the album "Top-notch” metal, and Freddy Lim appeared on the cover of Terrorizer magazine.[16]

File:Doris Yeh Thunder Tears.jpg
Doris Yeh joined Chthonic as bassist in 1999 and appeared on the cover of FHM Magazine Taiwan in November 2008 and June 2012.

During this period, bassist Doris Yeh became the band's spokesperson and business manager, taking over the roles performed by Freddy Lim since the band's formation in 1995. Yeh has since earned a great amount of publicity, speaking about the band's political beliefs in magazines like Monocle in the United Kingdom, Metropolis in Japan, and Cacao in Taiwan.[17] Yeh has also been recognized as a model and sex symbol, appearing on the cover of the Taiwanese version of Body magazine and regularly being selected as one of the sexiest women in music by Revolver[18] and the Taiwanese version of FHM.[19]

Erhu player Su-nong left the band in 2009 to follow his own career path,[citation needed] with Lim taking over that instrument. In the 2009 Terrorizer readers' polls the band was voted #2 for best band, #2 for best album, and #2 for best performance; Freddy Lim was voted #3 for best singer, Doris Yeh was voted #2 for best bass player; Jesse Liu was voted #7 for best guitarist, and Dani Wang was voted #8 for best drummer. Yeh and Lim were also #9 and #10 respectively as best individual performer, making Chthonic the only band to have two members in the top 10 for that category.[citation needed] In 2009 and 2010 Chthonic continued to tour internationally, including stints with Satyricon, Bleeding Through, and Arch Enemy, plus appearances at several major heavy metal festivals in Asia and Europe. In 2010 the band released the digital single "Painkiller," a Judas Priest cover.

Their sixth album Takasago Army was released on Spinefarm Records in 2011. This album is based on the story of Taiwanese soldiers who were forced to fight for Japan in World War II. The album included guest appearances from singers Yu Tien and Chan Yawen, and Taroko musician Pitero Wukah on pgaku flute. Main songwriters Freddy Lim and Jesse Liu stated that Takasago Army marked a reversal in the band's writing, as the songs were first written in a traditional Taiwanese folk format but were then played with heavy metal techniques.[20] Doris Yeh stated that the Western definition of "heavy metal," whether it is black metal or death metal, cannot easily define Chthonic’s style; thus, having to choose a term, the band uses the term "Orient Metal."[21]

Takasago Army reached #109 on Japan's Oricon music chart, and the video for the song "Takao" was nominated for the 2012 Golden Melody Award in Taiwan for best music video. The album was featured in the international metal magazines Revolver, Terrorizer, and Metal Hammer, and was named the year's best melodic black metal album by the critics' webzine Metal Storm.[22] Furthermore, Boulevard Brutal, a French music critics' site, selected Takasago Army as the best black metal album of the year; and the Japanese rock magazine Burrn!! awarded the band a #7 rank for best album of the year and #23 for best heavy metal band.[citation needed]

After more international touring in North America, Europe, and Asia, including stints with Arch Enemy, Devil Driver, and Skeletonwitch, in October 2011 Chthonic organized a concert at Taiwan's remote Sing Ling Temple, a historical landmark mentioned in their last three albums. This concert featured a guest appearance by singer Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, while selected fans from outside of Taiwan were given free plane tickets to travel to the concert. The competition for tickets was covered widely in Taiwanese media.[citation needed] In early 2012 Chthonic released a DVD of the Sing Ling Temple concert and also made some acoustic appearances at Eslite bookstores in Taiwan. In 2012 Chthonic supported Lamb of God in Asia, while ESP Guitars released customized models for bassist Doris Yeh and guitarist Jesse Liu.[citation needed] Chthonic continued to play major festivals in Europe and Asia, with former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman appearing with the band at Japan's Fuji Rock Festival.

On January 15, 2013, the band arrived in Harplinge, Sweden to begin recording for their seventh studio album.[23] It was later revealed that the album would be titled Bu-Tik, and would be released in June 2013 worldwide through Spinefarm Records.[24] The album cover for Bu-Tik was released on April 1, 2013 which depicts a nude female with white hair wielding a sword in her right hand and a prosthetic gun on her left arm.[24]

Activism and lyrical themes

Chthonic singer Freddy Lim is notably active in the Taiwanese political scene and supports that country's independence movement. Lim is also active in the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Amnesty International (serving as President of that group's Taiwan chapter since 2010), and other non-governmental human rights organizations. In 2003 and 2009, he promoted the Free Tibet Concert in Taiwan. In 2007 Lim and other artists organized an international music festival to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident, entitled "Spirit of Taiwan: With Justice We Cure This Nation."[25] Chthonic was then named "Best International Artist" in 2009 at the Tibetan Music Awards.[26]

In addition, bassist Doris Yeh has endorsed the Awakening Foundation, a women's rights organization in Taiwan. In February 2009, Lim and Yeh protested with human rights activists at the Taipei zoo panda exhibit, which symbolizes China's attempts to establish soft power relations with Taiwan.[27] In August 2009, many aboriginal villages in Taiwan were heavily damaged by Typhoon Morakot, and Chthonic donated the proceeds from two concerts to an aboriginal organization.[28] Lim personally carried supplies into the disaster areas.[29] In March 2011, after the northeastern Japan earthquake, Chthonic raised and donated over one million NT$ for relief efforts.[30]

During Chthonic’s 2011 North American tour, they received a threatening letter from unknown Chinese persons.[31] The band is also banned in parts of China for their political views.[32]

The band's lyrical themes mostly surround the defiant spirit of early Taiwanese colonizers, fictional wars between aboriginal gods and Han Chinese gods, Taiwanese folklore and mythology, and historical events such as the Wushe Incident, the 228 Incident, and the formation of the Takasago Volunteers.[citation needed] Prior to the album Seediq Bale most of the band's lyrics were written in Classical Chinese, which is rarely used in contemporary Chinese or Taiwanese music, and sung with Mandarin pronunciation. Starting with the album Mirror of Retribution the lyrics are written and sung in Taiwanese. Some songs may also include verses in Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, or Taiwanese aboriginal languages. Starting with Seediq Bale the band has released alternate versions of their albums for the international market, with some songs remixed with English lyrics.

Stage performance

Chthonic is also known for their shocking and original stage costumes, which are composed mainly of corpse paint similar to many Scandinavian black metal bands. Starting in 1998 Chthonic incorporated some Taiwanese elements and characteristics, like the "8 Generals of Hell" on Freddy Lim's forehead.[33] Keyboardist CJ Kao uses a cloth inscribed with Chinese characters wrapped around his head, which in mythology is a spell to raise Chinese Vampires from the dead.[citation needed]

With the release of the album Takasago Army in 2011, Chthonic changed to military-styled stage costumes. They also stopped using corpse paint because the band members found it tedious to put on before concerts.[34] Fans often toss hell money during Chthonic's stage performances to create a dark atmosphere as well as for fun. People of Chinese culture who are unfamiliar with Chthonic may find this offensive or disrespectful because the practice is considered to be taboo.[citation needed]

The band is also known for burning the flag of the Kuomintang Party, first doing so in the video for the song "Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains" in 2009. This aroused some controversy.[35] Packages containing a flag and a box of matches were later offered as official presents to fans.[36]


Current members

  • Freddy Lim, "Left Face of Maradou" – lead vocals, erhu (1995–present)
  • Doris Yeh, "Thunder Tears" – bass, backing vocals (1999–present)
  • Jesse Liu, "The Infernal" – guitars, backing vocals (2000–present)
  • Dani Wang, "Azathothian Hands" – drums (2005–present)
  • CJ Kao, "Dispersed Fingers" – keyboards, synthesizer (2005–present)

Former members

  • Ellis – guitars (1995–1998)
  • Zac Chang – guitars (1998–1999)
  • Null – guitars (1999–2000)
  • Man 6 – bass (1995–1996)
  • Xiao-Yu – bass (1996–1999)
  • Terry – drums (1995–1997)
  • Xiao-Wang – drums (1997–1999)
  • A-Jay – drums (1999–2004)
  • Ambrosia – keyboards (1995–2001)
  • Vivien Chen – keyboards (2001–2002)
  • Sheryl – keyboards (2002–2003)
  • Luis Wei – keyboards, backing vocals (2003–2004)
  • Alexia – keyboards (2004–2005)
  • Su-nong, "The Bloody String" – erhu (2005–2008)


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 id:erhu  value:yellow  legend:Erhu
 id:lines value:black  legend:Albums

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 at:29/12/2014 color:black layer:back

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 bar:Freddy text:"Freddy Lim"
 bar:Ellis text:"Ellis"
 bar:Zac text:"Zac Chang"
 bar:Null text:"Null"
 bar:Jesse text:"Jesse Liu"
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 bar:Yu text:"Xiao-Yu"
 bar:Doris text:"Doris Yeh"
 bar:Terry text:"Terry"
 bar:Wang text:"Xiao-Wang"
 bar:Ajay text:"A-Jay"
 bar:Dani text:"Dani Wang"
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 bar:CJ text:"CJ Kao"
 bar:Sunong text:"Su-nong"

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 bar:Zac from:01/02/1998 till:15/01/1999 color:guitar
 bar:Null from:15/01/1999 till:01/05/2000 color:guitar
 bar:Jesse from:01/05/2000 till:end color:guitar   
 bar:Man6 from:01/01/1995 till:01/11/1996 color:bass
 bar:Yu from:01/11/1996 till:11/07/1999 color:bass
 bar:Doris from:11/08/1999 till:end color:bass
 bar:Ambrosia from:01/01/1995 till:01/03/2001 color:key
 bar:Vivien from:01/03/2001 till:20/11/2002 color:key
 bar:Sheryl from:20/11/2002 till:01/07/2003 color:key
 bar:Luis from:01/07/2003 till:01/10/2004 color:key
 bar:Alexia from:01/10/2004 till:01/07/2005 color:key
 bar:CJ from:01/10/2005 till:end color:key
 bar:Terry from:01/01/1995 till:01/08/1997 color:drum
 bar:Wang from:01/08/1997 till:11/07/1999 color:drum
 bar:Ajay from:11/10/1999 till:01/12/2004 color:drum
 bar:Dani from:01/12/2004 till:end color:drum
 bar:Sunong from:01/11/2005 till:20/12/2008 color:erhu
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</timeline> <timeline> ImageSize = width:100 height:50 PlotArea = left:20 bottom:20 top:0 right:20 Alignbars = justify DateFormat = dd/mm/yyyy Period = from:1996 till:31/12/2010 TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal format:yyyy

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Studio albums



  • "UNlimited Taiwan" (2007)
  • "Painkiller" (2010)
  • "皇軍 (Takao)" (2011)
  • "Broken Jade" (2011)
  • "Quell The Souls In Sing Ling Temple" (2011)
  • "火燒.島 (Set Fire to the Island)" (2012)


  • "越海 第二樂章 - 深耕 (Deep Rising)" (1998)
  • "夢魘 (Nightmare)" (1999)
  • "鬼王西征 (King of Ghosts Western Conquest)" (2002)

Compilation albums

  • 冥誕七年.加藏 (Relentless for 7 Years, Plus) (2002)
  • 鬼脈轉生 帝輪十年經典 (Anthology: A Decade on the Throne) (2006)
  • Pandemonium (2007)

Live albums

  • 登基十年 演唱會 (A Decade on the Throne) (2006) – Live DVD + 2CD
  • 醒靈寺大決戦 (Final Battle At Sing Ling Temple) (2012) – Live DVD + 2CD
  • 演武 (Ian Bu) (2014) - Live DVD + 2CD


  • 震氣蔓延 1995~2002 (Spread the Qi) (2003) – Double VCD



  • A Decade on the Throne (2006) – Live DVD + 2CD
  • Final Battle At Sing Ling Temple (2012) – Live DVD + 2CD
  • Ian Bu - Live In Formoz Festival 2013 (2014) - Live DVD + 2CD


  • Dynasty (2006)
  • Taiwan Guts (2008)


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  22. ^ "Metal Storm Awards 2011". Metal Storm. 
  23. ^ ChthoniC (January 15, 2013). "New album in progress". Facebook. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 
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  26. ^ Phurbu Thinley, Organiser clueless about low turnout at Tibetan Music Awards 2009,, October 11, 2009
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  28. ^ "The Fanfan carry supplies when the women workers Shining donated long-sleeved T Warm". Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
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  30. ^ "Shining T-shirts and sold raised millions - overnight Internet initiated Japanese fans to thank Taiwan". Liberty Times. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
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  32. ^ "Live! Who: Nile and ChthoniC When: 6 p.m. Monday Where: Jaxx, Springfield". Liberty Times. 23 August 2010. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
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  35. ^ "閃靈斷蔣頭MV Freddy不覺爭議". Liberty Times. 2011-06-03. Retrieved 2011-12-10. 
  36. ^ "Picture of the package content on the band's facebook page". Retrieved 2011-12-10. 

External links