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In 2007, the Taiwanese extreme metal band embarked on an extensive international tour dubbed "UNlimited," named to protest how the United Nations (UN) limits Taiwan's full participation as an independent country. The moniker also aimed to inspire, says vocalist Freddy Lim: "We wanted to emphasize the 'unlimited' potential of Taiwan and the Taiwanese people. Hopefully, more and more international friends will understand and support Taiwan through the 'unlimited' power of music."
The first leg of the "UNlimited" tour saw the group play 60 shows across North America, highlighted by a second-stage slot at Ozzfest, rock's most popular annual event. Never before had the traveling festival tour featured an Asian band among its performers, and never before had the group's music -- and message -- reached such a large audience. Extensive press coverage followed in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others.
Shortly after playing a handful of post-Ozzfest U.S. shows alongside Cradle of Filth, ChthoniC headed overseas for its first European tour. The band actually skipped one Ozzfest stop a few months prior in order to perform at Germany's largest metal festival, Wacken Open Air, but the group's fall 2007 schedule was far more ambitious: After several UK dates with Ozzfest tour mates 3 Inches of Blood (including a slot at the inaugural Hard Rock Hell festival), the band flew to Lithuania to join Marduk for a tour of Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and Finland. From there, ChthoniC joined Finnish ¡§heroic folk metal¡¨ warriors Ensiferum for a Western European crusade. For a band that prior to 2007 had never been given a chance to properly tour, by year's end it was clear that ChthoniC had made the most of their opportunities.
Although ChthoniC ¡V whose albums incorporate Taiwanese history, myths and culture -- might be a new name to many ears, the group has been building momentum internationally for more than a decade. The Taipei Times has called ChthoniC "the Black Sabbath of Asia," and the band has earned the Eastern Asian equivalent of a Grammy -- an award presented to them by the President of Taiwan.
ChthoniC derives its name (pronounced "THON-ick") from a Greek word signifying spirits of the underworld, and fittingly, the group's albums -- which attempt to bring ancient legends into modern times -- reflect similar mythological themes. Its debut, Where The Ancestors' Souls Gathered, described the perilous sea journey between China and Taiwan. Sophomore recording 9th Empyrean, meanwhile, told of an epic battle between Chinese Han spirits and the spirit gods of Taiwan's aboriginal people, and its follow-up, Relentless Recurrence, relayed a Taiwanese folk legend about a demonic ghost.
Seediq Bale, ChthoniC's 4th studio album, compellingly conveys the tragic (and true) tale of a long-standing Taiwanese tribe whose rebellion against colonial oppression was violently thwarted by the Japanese army in the early 20th Century. Upon its release, the album received rave reviews in such major European publications as Kerrang!, Terrorizer and Metal Hammer, while Asian rock magazine Burrn! featured the group prominently in three consecutive issues. Even America, where the group had never before toured when the album was released, took note, with Revolver praising Seediq Bale as "a booming blend of beautiful brutality and theatrical gloom."
Three songs from Seediq Bale appear on Pandemonium, a compilation released in early 2008 that also featured re-recorded versions of many older, hard-to-find ChthoniC songs. For new fans, "Pandemonium" provides the perfect introduction to Taiwan's most successful musical ambassadors; for older fans, the album makes these cult classics finally sound the way they were always intended to be heard. Like other ChthoniC releases, "Pandemonium" features lavish packaging, including 10 collectible "song cards," a unique digibox with album art featuring Kuan (the "Ghost King" who graces all ChthoniC covers), and a chronology that details the band's decade-long evolution from underground obscurity into one of the fastest-rising international stars in metal.
Although the band's image might recall the black metal legends of Scandinavia, in truth ChthoniC's visual inspiration comes from Taiwanese folklore, in which corpse paint allows certain deities the power to judge good and evil. Similarly, the band's symphonic black / death metal features a decidedly Oriental twist, as the group prominently features the "hena" (also known as the "erhu"), a traditional Eastern two-stringed violin known for its weepy and melancholy sound.
ChthoniC has been pushing boundaries throughout its career, and having singlehandedly launched an extreme metal scene in their home country, the group now sets its sights squarely on the rest of the world. And though the "UNlimited" tour is now a memory, the group hopes its inspirational message reverberates long after the final not