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Chthonic | Seediq Bale | review | metal | Lollipop
Seediq Bale (Down Port)
by Tim Den
Though I'm not a big fan of black metal, Chthonic caught my eye right off the bat. Why? Cuz the band hail from my homeland of Taiwan, and apparently are hugely popular there. No, I didn't know there was a metal scene in Taiwan either (I moved away in '87, at the age of 10, and have only returned once, in '94). Yes, the band's birthplace differentiates them from all the other black metal bands I could care less about. Not just cuz of our shared ethnicity, either: Chthonic, like black metal's pioneers, have done a superb job integrating their cultural heritage into their music. Sure, one could argue that black metal - with its roots traceable back to death, thrash, heavy metal, and rock 'n' roll in general - is in and of itself a Western art form, but Chthonic's use of Chinese, aboriginal Taiwanese tongue, English, and the traditional Asian instrument of er-hu is more than enough to claim their spin on the genre as their own. Seediq Bale, the group's fourth record, recalls the struggle of aboriginal Taiwanese tribes against the invasion of mainland Han Chinese and Japanese forces with skilled, blackened precision. Think Cradle of Filth's peak (Dusk and Her Embrace): Female vocals, descending-into-madness riffs, keyboard flourishes, blast beats and double bass, all recorded with just the right balance of rawness and polish. With the er-hu providing extra sadness, the results are emotional, powerful, and crushing.
And then there's the story. Written in all three of the aforementioned languages, the tale of the Seediq is one of blood-boiling epicness. Especially if you can read Chinese, it's obvious that vocalist Freddy Lin has full control over the language's poetic flexibility. With just the right combination of words, he's able to relate oceans of blood, tears, and spiritual warfare with descriptive ease. Though I don't know if Lin is of mainland Han ancestry, Taiwanese Fujian ancestry, or a descendent of aboriginal Taiwanese tribes like Seediq, the stories contained within this album are enough to make me want to do some researching (I myself am a grandchild of mainland Hans who migrated to Taiwan after WWII).
Taiwan's music scene, as well as black metal in general, has come a long way. With Chthonic as a valued member to both, there is no reason to not dig Seediq Bale.