Album Review – Chthonic / Battlefields of Asura (2018)

Embark on an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals to the sound of the new opus by the Taiwanese masters of Orient Metal.

It might have taken five years for one-of-a-kind Taiwanese Melodic Black/Death/Folk Metal icons Chthonic to strike again with their high-end fusion of a captivating storytelling and their unique and exotic music that several people like to call “Orient Metal”, but the excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Over those past years, since the release of their 2013 masterpiece Bú-Tik the five members of the band have turned new pages of their lives, with lead vocalist Freddy Lim (林昶佐) having organized a new political party and being successfully elected to a seat in the Taiwanese parliament. Nonetheless, they never forgot their promise to their fans to deliver a new album, culminating with the release of Battlefields of Asura (政治) now in 2018, the prequel of their four albums with related story including Seediq Bale (2005), Mirror of Retribution (2009), Takasago Army (2011) and the already mentioned Bú-Tik, all combined with the acoustic album from another dimension Timeless Sentence (2014), the expanded novel Day 578 After the War (2014), and the movie Tshiong (2017).

And the story told in Battlefields of Asura by Freddy and his bandmates Jesse Liu (劉笙彙) on the guitars, Doris Yeh (葉湘怡) on bass and backing vocals, CJ Kao (高嘉嶸) on keyboards, synths and piano, and Dani Wang (汪子驤) on drums throughout the album’s 11 tracks is an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals, as explained in detail in the band’s “Souls Resposed” series. What lies ahead is full hostility, murderous emotions, walls of iron that are difficult to conquer, and lusts and desires that are not easy to bid farewell to, but there is also courage that inspires infinity. At the end of the adventure, it turns out to be a quest for the perpetual prajna. When you feel tears on your face, that’s when you will finally realize this is where all the stories told in Chthonic’s past albums come from, always embraced by the band’s harmonious, thunderous and unparalleled metal music.

Drawing Omnipotence Nigh, featuring Fang-Yun Chen on dizi (a Chinese transverse flute), is an insurgent battle-like intro only Chthonic can offer us, setting the stage for  the melodic and imposing The Silent One’s Torch, the perfect opening for their upcoming live concerts with Dani dictating the rhythm with his piercing beats while Freddy’s roars grow in intensity and rage as the music progresses, not to mention CJ’s always inspiring keys. Even more harmonious and thrilling, Flames upon the Weeping Winds has all it takes to become a fan favorite, with Doris not only shaking the foundations of earth with her bass punches, but her backing vocals also sound superb; followed by A Crimson Sky’s Command, another inspiring creation by Chthonic where CJ’s keys and synths sound and feel the most “Taiwanese” of the entire album (if we can say so), with highlights to the passionate growls by Freddy and the cutting riffs by Jesse.

Featuring Lamb Of God’s own frontman Randy Blythe on additional vocals, Souls of the Revolution is a flammable and rebellious anthem thoroughly crafted by our beloved Taiwanese horde where Jesse and Dani are on absolute fire and in perfect sync, elevating the song’s impact to a whole new level (not to mention it’s perfect for singing along with the band), whereas Taste the Black Tears carries a beautiful name for a crushing and epic tune, with Doris and Dani spearheading the band into the battlefield. Furthermore, the keyboards and synths by CJ bring an extra dosage of epicness to the overall result, with the music flowing powerfully form start to finish. And in One Thousand Eyes a dense and bold intro evolves into classic Chthonic, with Freddy gnarling like a demonic entity while CJ brings balance to the sonic havoc blasted by the band with his smooth keys, all boosted by the song’s extremely effective and exciting backing vocals and Jesse’s gripping guitar solo.

Chthonic Battlefields of Asura Box Set

Then we have Masked Faith, a whimsical and at the same time fierce bridge to Carved in Bloodstone, bringing elements form Epic Metal to their core Orient Metal. However, what starts in a promising way loses its strength after a while despite its imposing backing vocals and pounding drums, but that doesn’t last long as Chthonic are back on track with the fulminating Millennia’s Faith Undone, featuring Denise Ho (also known as HOCC) on vocals and Su-nung Chao on erhu (or hiân-á violin). This is undoubtedly the closest song to their previous installments Bú-Tik and Takasago Army, sounding epic, dense and electrifying, with highlights to the slashing work done by the band’s stringed duo Jesse and Doris, resulting in a true battle hymn by those unrelenting Taiwanese metallers, flowing into the ominous and stylish outro Autopoiesis. In addition, don’t forget to check the song’s acoustic version called Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version), just as epic as the regular one.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of Chthonic or a newcomer to their sonic realm of rebellion and war, you’ll certainly have a blast listening to the top-of-the-line music found in Battlefields of Asura, proving why they’re perhaps the best metal band the East has ever provided the world. Needless to say, this is a must-have album in your metal collection, available at several locations such as IndieMerch, but if I were you I would go for the Battlefields of Asura Box Set available from the Ciong Zo webstore, including a long-sleeve shirt reflecting the song “Flames upon the Weeping Winds”, a cap reflecting the song “A Crimson Sky’s Command”, prayer beads reflecting the song “One Thousand Eyes”, a badge of honor reflecting the song “Taste the Black Tears”, a candle cup reflecting the song “The Silent One’s Torch”, the Taiwanese version of the album in CD format,  a special “Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version)” 7″ vinyl single, and a treasure box reflecting the song “Carved in Bloodstone”. Then, and only then, you’ll be properly (and fully) armed to join Freddy, Jesse, Doris, CJ and Dani into the Battlefields of Asura.

Best moments of the album: Flames upon the Weeping Winds, Souls of the Revolution, Taste the Black Tears and Millennia’s Faith Undone.

Worst moments of the album: Carved in Bloodstone.

Released in 2018 Ciong Zo

Track listing
1. Drawing Omnipotence Nigh (feat. Fang-Yun Chen) 2:07
2. The Silent One’s Torch 4:02
3. Flames upon the Weeping Winds 3:10
4. A Crimson Sky’s Command 3:31
5. Souls of the Revolution (feat. Randy Blythe) 4:39
6. Taste the Black Tears 4:49
7. One Thousand Eyes 5:15
8. Masked Faith 2:18
9. Carved in Bloodstone 2:57
10. Millennia’s Faith Undone (feat. Denise Ho & Su-nung Chao) 5:05
11. Autopoiesis 2:04

English Version bonus track
12. “Battlefields of Asura” Album Concept Description by Freddy Lim 1:55

Limited Edition Box Set Disc 2 (Vinyl) bonus track
12. Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version) 6:15

Band members
Freddy Lim (林昶佐) – vocals, erhu
Jesse Liu (劉笙彙) – guitars
Doris Yeh (葉湘怡) – bass, backing vocals
CJ Kao (高嘉嶸) – keyboards, synths, piano
Dani Wang (汪子驤) – drums

Guest musicians
Randy Blythe – additional vocals on “Souls of the Revolution”
Denise Ho – female vocals on “Millennia’s Faith Undone”
Fang-Yun Chen – dizi on “Drawing Omnipotence Nigh”
Su-nung Chao – erhu on “Millennia’s Faith Undone”
Chi-Jen Chen, Ching-Lan Hsu, Chun-Yu Yang, Hsiang-yi Wei, Hsuan-Yi Chen, Joey Kuo, Po-Jen Liao & Wei-Shun Liu – backing vocals, choirs

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Album Review – Al-Namrood / Enkar (2017)

Unafraid of exercising their freedom of speech in their homeland, three dauntless Saudi black metallers keep fighting against tyranny, oppression and authoritarianism with their brand new, distinct and acid album.

Forged in 2008 in the fires of Dammam, the capital city of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province and the sixth largest city in Saudi Arabia after Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina and Taif, Black/Folk Metal trinity Al-Namrood is another one of those cases where no matter how talented and bright the band members are, the religious and political leaders of their homeland will do whatever it takes to end their career (not to say something even harsher than that), restricting their reach and forcing them to remain anonymous to stay alive (as you can read in an excellent and very detailed article titled “Witch Hunts, Resurgence and Defiance: Heavy Metal In The Middle East”, published by an online publication named The Quietus). However, the only Black Metal band in Saudi Arabia doesn’t seem to be scared to exercise their freedom of speech with their brand new album Enkar, where once again Al-Namrood translates into first-class metal music their austere position against their own country’s authoritarian regime.

Al-Namrood (or (النمرود‎ in Arabic) means “Nimrod” (which translates to “the non believer”), a Babylonian king who ruled the world maliciously and stated “I am the God of all creation”, and the group chose the name as their form of defiance against religion. After the successful release of their 2010 album Estorat Taghoot, the band decided to shift their focus away from the ancient Babylon land to a hub with deeper Arabian aspect, pronouncing the utter darkness of the Arabian Peninsula and therefore playing what can be called “Arabian Occult Metal”. If you love Black Metal in the vein of bands like Marduk, Darkthrone and Bathory mixed with the most obscure and anti-religious aspects of the music by Candlemass, Black Sabbath and Kreator, all embraced by the unique tones and sounds from the Middle-Eastern culture, then you must take a listen at Enkar as soon as possible, as this album might change considerably your view of underground Extreme Metal.

And those sounds from the Middle-East are joined by metallic lines to form a unique musicality led by the enraged and sick vocals by Humbaba in the opening track, titled Nabth, a feast of eccentricity and sheer madness, with the guitars by Mephisto sounding truly mesmerizing. In addition, the song’s official video, with its images of protests, riots and police brutality from across the Middle-East, match perfectly with the music played by Al-Namrood. Enhancing the lunacy flowing from the guitars, the band offers us Halak, a great display of Orient Metal tailored for banging our heads and prancing together with the band, with highlights to the electrified beats by Ostron; followed by Xenophobia, another acid creation by Al-Namrood that deals with an extremely controversial topic, with Humbaba firing some truly demented vociferations from start to finish to make the final result even more impactful.

Estibdad brings forward a kick-ass hybrid of Folk and Orient Metal where all band members are on fire, in special Mephisto with his slashing riffs, not to mention you can feel the anger and rage flowing from Humbaba’s desperate growls. Efsad keeps the momentum going with its rhythmic drumming and Middle-Eastern-inspired riffs and bass lines effectively delivered by Mephisto, whereas Estinzaf, perhaps the most Heavy Metal (or I should say Black Metal) of all songs, presents more traditional guitar lines and drums, but of course still bringing the band’s own regional twist. Moreover, Humbaba sounds like a Saudi version of the iconic Mike Patton (Faith No More) during the whole song due to the level of lunacy and the weird noises he produces with his voice, which in the end is a very positive complement to the overall result. And in Ensaf we face a darker sonority that grows in intensity as time goes by, with even the vocal lines by Humbaba sounding more obscure and sharper than before, culminating in a mesmerizing pace with hints of progressiveness and Folk Metal elements to boost its taste.

In Egwaa we’re treated to what’s probably their most primeval mode, a hypnotizing and stylish break from all madness from the rest of the album deeply rooted in their own homeland’s traditions and sounds, with their smooth but at the same time extremely potent percussion stealing the spotlight. Then when it looks like that gentle break will still go on for a while, the band returns with an imposing, epic tune titled Ezdraa, transporting the listener to the darkest side of Saudi Arabia, with Ostron kicking some serious ass with his intricate drumming, before Entiqam, a nice ending to such distinct album, showcases a more-demented-than-ever Humbaba, leading the band’s ominous and classy musicality while the song’s Middle-Eastern elements sound heavier, crisper and more piercing than in all previous tracks.

You can enjoy all the madness, violence and hatred from Enkar by listening to the full album on Spotify, and of course purchase this Saudi gem at the Shaytan Productions’ BandCamp, on iTunes, on Amazon, on CD Baby or at Discogs. Al-Namrood, who can be found on Facebook despite the fact the band members have to remain anonymous, not only continue to pave a fantastic path in underground heavy music with this idiosyncratic album, spreading their music all over the world and always moving forward against all odds, but they also serve as some sort of inspiration for other musicians in Saudi Arabia and from any other countries with very strict laws to keep pursuing their dreams and to keep fighting against tyranny, oppression and authoritarianism, all in the name of freedom and metal.

Best moments of the album: Nabth, Estibdad and Ensaf.

Worst moments of the album: Estinzaf.

Released in 2017 Shaytan Productions

Track listing
1. Nabth 3:55
2. Halak 3:17
3. Xenophobia 4:24
4. Estibdad 3:23
5. Efsad 3:03
6. Estinzaf 3:17
7. Ensaf 4:28
8. Egwaa 4:02
9. Ezdraa 4:24
10. Entiqam 5:18

Band members
Humbaba – vocals
Mephisto – guitars, bass, percussion
Ostron – keyboards, percussion

Album Review – Whispered / Metsutan – Songs Of The Void (2016)

Armed with their powerful fusion of Melodic Death Metal and eccentric sounds from the East, these unstoppable Scandinavian samurais strike again with another thrilling tribute to the Japanese culture.

Rating4

whispered2400pixThe term “Samurai Metal” might not make sense to most fans of heavy music who have never had any contact with Melodic Death/Power Metal act Whispered. And if you think the band hails from Japan, you’re absolutely wrong, as those metallic samurais come from a country well-known for their Heavy Metal bands, but that has nothing to do with the Japanese culture and history. Whispered are a group formed in 2004 in the city of Tampere, Finland by lead singer and guitarist Jouni Valjakka, and despite all members having a pure Scandinavian background, their hearts are filled with the passion, talent and courage of real samurais from the “Land of the Rising Sun”.

It’s not only their Samurai-inspired face-painting, outfits and lyrics that refer to the ancient Japanese culture, but the music itself is a fusion of Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal with Japanese folk music, blending heavy riffs and growls with the sounds of traditional instruments such as the shamisen, the shakuhachi and the koto. After releasing their debut album Thousand Swords in 2010 and the more brutal Shogunate Macabre in 2014, both which led them to share the stage with renowned Finnish bands like Korpiklaani, Turisas and Ensiferum, appearing in major festivals like Tuska Open Air and Nummirock, and even supporting Battle Beast during their 2013 tour in Japan, it’s time for Whispered to strike again with their guitars and katanas in Metsutan – Songs Of The Void, their third full-length installment.

The very entertaining intro Chi No Odori (or “the dance of Chi” in English), with all its wicked sounds and voices, tells the listener the battle is about to begin in the fast-paced hymn Strike!, with its lyrics depicting the relationship between a Samurai warrior and his sword (“And he moves / with the swift pace unrivaled / unseen by the aspirants’ eyes / And he knows / in his heart so unbridled / That he’ll soon execute / the flawless / STRIKE!”). This is the perfect example of how awesome the mix of Melodic Death Metal with Orient Metal (as well as other elements from Japanese culture) can be, with the guitars by Jouni and his fellow swordsman Mikko Mattila adding a lot of electricity to the musicality. Exile Of The Floating World is fury to the second power, a melodic devastation led by drummer Jussi Kallava where the elements from the East become even more evident; followed by Sakura Omen, a thrilling Melodic Power Metal madness showcasing Arch Enemy-inspired riffs and a headbanging rhythm in what is undoubtedly one of the best of all tracks in the album. At this point of Metsutan – Songs Of The Void, there’s absolutely no doubt that “epicness” is a word that can be used to describe all songs by Whispered, don’t you agree?

whispered_promopicWhile listening to Kensei (or “restraint” in English), it truly felt like watching a Japanese anime or a tokusatsu due to its totally adventurous pace and background elements. However, it’s the band’s furious Melodic Death Metal that stands out in this good composition where once again Jussi is relentless on drums; whereas in Our Voice Shall Be Heard the band simply slashes the listener with their razor-edged instruments, with all atmospheric breaks, guitar solos and ancient sounds being inserted in the right place and moment, therefore boosting the song’s impact. And in Tsukiakari (or “moonlight”), the second longest track of the album, a calm intro represents the serenity of our warriors before heading into the battle, with highlights to its melodious passages and riffage following the lines of classic Swedish Melodic Death Metal.

Warriors Of Yama, a three-minute instrumental track that pays homage to the Asian culture, introduces us to the violent Victory Grounds Nothing, with its lyrics portraying the fortunes of a Samurai life (“Age of strife has finally turned away / Fear so strong and sound fades to bliss of the day / Bloodstains on the sword will scene the tale / manifold test of might, honor, verdict and pain”). This high-speed composition feels like a sharp sword cutting our flesh, where Jussi and bassist Kai Palo craft a solid base for Jouni and Mikko to keep delivering their blazing riffs. And lastly, we have Bloodred Shores of Enoshima, the longest and most epic of all tracks divided in 5 distinguished acts: “五頭龍 – Gozuryu”, “The Chord of a Goddess”, “Divine Affection”, “The Fury of the Five” and “龍口山 – Tatsu-no-kuchi Yama”. Each act has its purpose, ranging from imposing and symphonic instrumental passages to pure metallic music led by the growls by Jouni, all enhanced by its outstanding background choir until it reaches its climatic ending, resulting in a masterpiece of the East.

Featuring a powerful artwork by Japanese artist ToK, Metsutan – Songs Of The Void can be purchased from Record Shop X, iTunes or Amazon, and in case you want to know more about this exciting fusion of Scandinavian and Japanese music you can go check the band’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud. As an admirer of both Finnish and Japanese cultures, I must say it’s impressive how these Scandinavian samurais are capable of creating such a powerful fusion of Melodic Death Metal and different sounds from the East without sounding cheesy, incongruous or even desultory. And that, in the current state of heavy music, is definitely worth gold.

Best moments of the album: Strike!, Victory Grounds Nothing and Bloodred Shores of Enoshima.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Chi No Odori 1:51
2. Strike! 4:50
3. Exile Of The Floating World 4:12
4. Sakura Omen 7:31
5. Kensei 5:29
6. Our Voice Shall Be Heard 5:43
7. Tsukiakari 8:05
8. Warriors Of Yama (Instrumental) 3:07
9. Victory Grounds Nothing 3:20
10. Bloodred Shores of Enoshima 11:23

Band members
Jouni Valjakka – vocals, guitar
Mikko Mattila – guitar
Kai Palo – bass
Jussi Kallava – drums

Concert Review – Paganfest America Part V (The Opera House,Toronto, ON, 05/01/2014)

An awesome multicultural festival in the world’s most multicultural city.

paganfest_2014Let me start by asking a very simple question before I actually talk about the amazing festival that happened last night: who the hell had the brilliant idea of scheduling a festival at SIX O’CLOCK ON A THURSDAY, a  day and time where pretty much EVERYONE is still at work and there’s also a lot of traffic? Because of that, I guess many people that attended PAGANFEST AMERICA PART V yesterday at The Opera House, in Toronto, missed at least the opening act, American Folk Metal band Winterhymn, and maybe even some of the other bands. Fortunately I was able to get there before 7:30pm and could watch half of the concert from the following band and the rest of the festival, which is where this review starts!

VARG

01paganfest toronto_vargPeople dressed up accordingly (which means Viking, warrior and/or pagan costumes), corpsepainting, lots of good and cold beer, friends hugging each other and dancing together, metalheads screaming with their fists and horns in the air, and German Melodic Death Metal band Varg kickin’ ass on stage! The first impression from the festival was very positive, and knowing the Pagan Metal community in Toronto is so big was great for me. Not only that, getting in contact with Varg for the first time was also amazing as their music has that kind of energy I love, and although I don’t know German (they sing only in their mother tongue) it was easy to follow their message in each song. Highlights to the excellent song Guten Tag and to the girls the band called on stage to headbang like crazy, and I promise I’ll go after more of their material in the future.

Band members
Freki – vocals, guitars
Managarm – bass, backing vocals, guitars, lead guitars
Hati – guitars
Fenrier – drums

CHTHONIC

02paganfest toronto_chthonicA few microphone issues, a relatively short setlist and the absence of keyboardist CJ Kao didn’t prevent Taiwanese Orient Metal warriors Chthonic from delivering an unforgettable performance at The Opera House. “WE ARE CHTHONIC FROM TAIWAN!”, screamed an all fired-up Freddy Lim to the fans, who promptly responded screaming and raising their fists in the air. The band looked pretty excited to be back in Toronto for the first time since their tour with Arch Enemy in 2011, and their music sounded even more powerful and cohesive this time.

After the beautiful intro Arising Armament, our beloved Taiwanese icons Freddy, Jesse, Dani and, of course, the stunning Doris Yeh, kicked off their concert with the superb song Supreme Pain for the Tyrant, from their 2013 album Bú-Tik, and it was impossible not to scream at full force with them “Let me stand up like a Taiwanese! Only justice will bring you peace!”, lyrics that make total sense even for non-Taiwanese fans like myself. We’re all together in this war, right? By the way, almost the whole setlist was based on the Bú-Tik album, with the exception of the classics Oceanquake and Takao, which closed the show. Highlights to the great songs Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire and Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace, which sounded even more amazing live.

Last but not least, all band members are not only exceptional musicians, but also really good people. It’s easy to be mesmerized by Doris’ performance on stage, or by the unique sound of the erhu beautifully played by Freddy, but things get even better when you have a chance to interact with them offstage. Freddy, Doris and Jesse were extremely relaxed, happy and very, very considerate of all their fans, taking pictures, answering any questions and having a beer with everybody. At least for me, that explains a lot why they are so successful and becoming so important in the world of heavy music. All I can say is THANKS, CHTHONIC! It will always be my pleasure to “stand up like a Taiwanese” with you guys!

Setlist
1. Arising Armament (intro)
2. Supreme Pain for the Tyrant
3. Oceanquake
4. Next Republic
5. Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire
6. Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace
7. Takao 

Band members
Freddy Lim – vocals, erhu
Doris Yeh – bass, backing vocals
Jesse Liu – guitars, backing vocals
Dani Wang – drums
CJ Kao – keyboards*

* Missed the concert in Toronto due to personal issues.

TURISAS

03paganfest toronto_turisasIn my opinion, the show by Finnish Symphonic Power Metal band Turisas was the most anticipated concert of the night, and also the one where you could see the highest amount of smiles on the faces of the crowd. I don’t remember seeing so many people dancing and prancing like yesterday, especially when they played their cover version for the discotheque classic Rasputin, by Boney M., but they kicked ass during the whole gig, of course.

There were very few moments where either the songs were too long or too slow, but the fans didn’t care too much about that and enjoyed every single second of that “Viking fest”. Besides the awesome craziness of Rasputin, the most memorable songs were Battle Metal, Stand Up and Fight and We Ride Together. Did you notice all their best songs are related to battle, courage and loyalty? That’s what has always made Heavy Metal so powerful in regards to inspiring people to face their fears and challenges in life, and I’m sure all fans that are studying, working or doing anything else today are a lot happier and feeling better than during the previous weeks or even months.

The whole band was on fire, especially frontman Mathias “Warlord” Nygård and violinist Olli Vänskä, who didn’t stop banging their heads for a single moment. Those guys love what they do, and will keep on rockin’ for the rest of their lives without a shadow of a doubt.

Band members
Mathias Nygård – vocals
Jussi Wickström – guitar, backing vocal
Jesper Anastasiadis – bass guitar
Jaakko Jakku – drums, percussion
Olli Vänskä – violin, backing vocal

KORPIKLAANI

04paganfest toronto_korpiklaaniAfter Turisas were done, many people had to leave as it was getting really late and they probably had to get ready for a full day at work the next day. Unfortunately those who left missed all the dancing in between concerts when the DJ played some excellent old traditional Finnish songs, but the fans that could stay to the end of the festival were able to enjoy that and, of course, another “dance party” with Finnish Folk Metal band Korpiklaani and their music tailored for drinking beer and dancing with your friends.

It was my first Korpiklaani concert and I was impressed by frontman Jonne Järvelä’s charisma and bassist Jarkko Aaltonen’s technique. Jarkko is a beast with his bass, which could be easily appreciated in fun songs such as Tuonelan Tuvilla, Vodka and Ievan Polkka. How come this awesome bass player has never been mentioned in any lists of “top bassists” that I’ve seen? Or maybe I’m checking the wrong lists? Anyway, it was another great heavy music concert, which made every cent spent with the event ticket even worthier than before.

Band members
Jonne Järvelä – vocals
Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi – guitars
Matti “Matson” Johansson – drums
Jarkko Aaltonen – bass
Tuomas Rounakari – violin
Sami Perttula – accordion

And that was the end of a truly multicultural festival with bands from the United States, Germany, Taiwan and Finland, with fans from several different backgrounds speaking different languages, in the most multicultural city in the world. Honestly, I have no idea how it can get any better than this. Maybe Paganfest VI next year can answer that question, right? Well, until then, I’ll proudly wear my Chthonic’s NEXT REPUBLIC T-shirt on the streets to show everyone that it doesn’t matter if you’re Canadian, Brazilian, Taiwanese, German, Finnish or anything else: if you’re a headbanger, you’re definitely part of the unbreakable and unique republic of HEAVY METAL.

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Metal Chick of the Month – Doris Yeh

doris01

Set Fire to the Island, Doris!

There’s nothing better than starting this year with a special post about the charming musician and activist Doris Yeh. Born in Taipei (or Taipei City), Taiwan on September 19, 1976 (at least, this is the date I found after a lot of effort!) and nicknamed “Thunder Tears” in her band Chthonic, this Taiwanese beauty is a good example of how music and imagery walk hand in hand on the path to success nowadays. Her exotic Asian traces, together with the powerful heavy music played by Chthonic, are leading her and the band to stardom not only in the East, but in the whole world of music.

Doris herself doesn’t like to define Chthonic’s music style as Extreme, Death or Black Metal. In fact, she prefers calling what their band does as “Orient Metal”, especially because the Western definition of heavy music is not the same as the one in Asian countries. We have to agree with her and the rest of the band that what Chthonic do is totally different from the traditional North American and European Thrash/Death Metal, because despite being heavy music they add many different elements (like the interesting instrument Erhu) and have a unique way to express themselves visually.

In one of her interviews, Doris said she used to play the piano when she was a child, and kept playing it for about 10 years before starting playing bass. She then joined Chthonic in 1999, replacing bassist Xiao-Yu, recording her first album with the band, 9th Empyrean. After that, she recorded the albums Relentless Recurrence (2002), Seediq Bale (2005) and Mirror of Retribution (2009), but her best albums with Chthonic are without any doubt Takasago Army (2011) and their most recent album, Bú-Tik (2013), where it’s easy to notice her improvement as a musican and her growing importance to the band’s current success.

Giants like Iron Maiden, Nine Inch Nails and Slayer, and more obscure bands such as Emperor and At The Gates, are among her biggest influences in music, and when asked about a great female bass player she enjoys, Doris mentioned the American alternative rock musician Kim Gordon, showing she’s not only connected to heavy music in her life.

Doris Yeh’s onstage performance is always amazing, not only due to her talent as a musician but also because of her beauty and energy. I had the privilege to see Chthonic live in Toronto during Arch Enemy’s North American Khaos Tour 2011, which also had DevilDriver and Skeletonwitch as opening acts, and I was impressed by her nonstop headbanging and total commitment to the band’s music and to the fans.

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After a couple of years with Chthonic, Doris became the band’s official spokesperson and business manager, taking over the responsibilities from the band’s founder and lead singer Freddy Lim. She is also seen as a sex symbol (surprise, surprise!) and often works as a top model too, appearing on the cover of different magazines in Taiwan and in the rest of the world, like Body Magazine, Revolver Magazine and FHM Magazine. Not only that, Doris also joins her Metal friends Angela Gossow and Alissa White-Gluz in the world of activism by supporting the Awakening Foundation, a Taiwanese organization founded in 1982 which main goal is promoting women’s rights and self-awareness.

In October 2012, Chthonic released a very special 96-page book of sexy photos of Doris taken at the Green Island in Taiwan, entitled Set Fire to the Island, which also includes a single that according to the band is a “symphony with piano, strings, and wind music, so that you may enjoy it not only with your eyes, but also with your ears.” Well, I still prefer Chthonic’s regular music, but I must admit that those astonishing pictures of Doris together with some good symphonic music are a delight for any fan of Chthonic’s unique bassist.

Equipment
Bass: ESP – Andromeda (5-string signature bass)
Amp – head : Ampeg SVT 450
Amp – cab : Ampeg SVT 410HLF
Effects: MXR M80 BASS DI

Doris Yeh’s Official Facebook page
Doris Yeh’s Official Twitter

“‘Dream big’ won’t make you a great person, ‘Do it’ will.” – Doris Yeh