Live at Club Nokia in Downtown

Los Angeles, California

September 27, 2011

Chthonic are the opening band of the Khaos Legions in support for Arch Enemy's latest North American tour.

I have been aware of Chthonic for a bit now, having listened to their latest release, "Takasago Army". Chthonic fall into the symphonic black metal category in terms of intense guitar driven songs and harsh vocals in combination with symphonic keyboards, but they also offer a rather unique twist on this genre as well.

Chthonic hale from Taiwan, and as far as I know, they are the only internationally touring metal band to come from this region of the world. Their background comes through in the form of Oriental folk instruments and melodies woven through their metal craft to excellent effect. Their intro to both the live show and the album is entirely made up of traditional sounds, steering the unsuspecting listener into a false sense of ease right before the titanic metal riffs blast forth.

The name Chthonic refers to deities or spirits of the underworld or under the earth. Chthonic cults from ancient times were reknowned for practicing ritual sacrifice.

The band themselves have stated that their goal is to bridge ancient history, mythology, and modern metal music. They also are reknowned political activists fighting for freedom from oppression in their region of the world as well as across the globe, which makes it no surprise that they are banned in parts of China for this type of outspoken behavior.

The band consists of spokesperson and star of Taiwanese FHM fame, Doris Yeh, also known as "Thunder Tears", playing bass guitar and backing vocals, their talented guitar player Jesse "the Infernal", the drummer, Dani "Azathotian Hands", and keyboard player, CJ "Dispersed Fingers", the latter two sporting Slipknotesque masks, and finally their energetic lead singer, Freddy "Left Face of Maradou" Lim, who would frequently pick up the traditional Chinese stringed instrument, called an erhu, as well.

These traditional sounds intermixed with the heavy metal and keyboard pieces really brought their sound to a whole other level and put them into a new category of metal music really. The vocals themselves are extremely heavy and bring to mind Dani from Cradle of Filth in terms of harshness and pitch but still have their own unique qualities as well.

The bassist was very attractive and quickly became the new desirable metal woman with the fans clamoring for her autograph and wanting to meet her when she went to the merchandise table after their performance.

At one point the vocalist took a moment to address the crowd. He said after three weeks of touring with Arch Enemy, many fans had come up to him and asked if there was a metal scene in Taiwan.  He said not long ago, there was no metal scene, there was not even the freedom to wear metal shirts or to partake in this level of artistic freedom but that he was proud to say, "Today, Taiwan is a free country".

Suddenly hundreds of circular papers were cast down from above and cheers went up through the audience. There were quite a few Asian fans in the audience, some of them coming out to support Chthonic even though they didn't readily appear to be part of the metal scene. I later found out that the printed circular papers were said to be "Hell Currency" and that we should not take them home as they have bad luck associated with them.

The lead singer went on to talk about how the tour was cosponsored by Amnesty International, one of the few organizations that are solid in terms of what they say they are doing and what they actually do.

He said that it is important for the world to back fellow metal heads and to look out for each other's human rights so that we can all be free to listen to the music we love. With that thought, they blasted into a song from the new album called, "Oceanquake" which is a heavy hitting dark metal frenzy.

They were a lot of fun to watch on stage, aware of costuming and image as well as exhibiting sheer talent. They had an extremely talented guitarist who played intricate pieces at points while Doris kept the heavy head banging rhythms going with her bass. The keyboard lent a great atmosphere to the songs and was not there just for show.

I would have to say it was a great way to kick off the show and I found them far more enjoyable to watch and listen to than other bands on the tour such as Devildriver and even Skeleton Witch. I highly recommend checking out their newest album as well as catching them live if you can.

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