Scene Report: Taiwan – 11 Bands Tearing Up The Island
The following is a guest post by Darice Chang
“Oh, you mean Thailand?”
“No, I meant Taiwan.”
Taiwan is used to flying under the radar. As the only democracy in the Chinese-speaking world, edged to near obscurity on the international stage due to a series of exclusions orchestrated by the People’s Republic of China, you’ll be forgiven for not being able to point to it on a map (hint: it’s the tiny island off the coast of China, just a few thousand miles south of Japan). But size isn’t everything, and what it lacks in landmass, the nation makes up for in population – over 23 million in GDP, consistently among the world’s top 20, and in industry producing 90% of the world's’ motherboards, as well most anything else that connects to a screen.
It’s also a haven for a vivaciously brutal metal scene. The island’s rich history – originally populated by aborigines of polynesian descent before subsequent occupation by the Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, and Nationalist Chinese culminating in what was the longest period of martial law before that title was recently claimed by Syria, as well as a healthy civic society (read: lots of activists) make for plenty of metal music fodder.
Chthonic 閃靈 (Metal/Asian Metal)
The most well-known band to come out of Taiwan, Chthonic is to Taiwan what Black Sabbath is to the UK. Singer and founder Freddy Lim initially conceived of the band in college circa 1996, outraged by the Nationalist Chinese agenda which had until recently controlled the education system, belittling traditional Taiwanese history and espousing instead the Han Chinese legacy. Even the language was banned, in an interview with Lim recalls, “in school, we couldn't speak Taiwanese. We were fined $10 NT for every infraction.”
Image from Facebook.
“Supreme Pain for the Tyrant”
Not one to shy from political themes, one of their MV’s addresses the little-known pact between the KMT and Nazi governments.
Since its founding, the band has focused more on historical narratives, such as the Japanese soldiers and aboriginal warriors. They are probably the only metal band with their own mobile game, as well as a forthcoming movie guest-starring Randy Blythe from Lamb of God.
Trailer for “Tshiong” movie
In addition to the band members are also involved in other pursuits. Bassist and band manager Doris is involved in women’s rights, drummer Dani runs a series of rock schools focused on educating the next generation of musicians, guitarist Jesse “Black” Liu and keyboardist CJ are both music producers, though the latter recently opened an acclaimed braised pork rice restaurant as well in Taichung. Founder Lim is perhaps the most prolific, having served two terms as chairman of Amnesty International’s Taiwan branch and winning a seat in Taiwanese parliament in 2015 — which makes him the first metalhead to hold public office.
True to its founding, the band’s lyrics are sung in Taiwanese instead of state-mandated Mandarin, though for international tours they have English versions that they perform abroad.
Bloody Tyrant 暴君 (Folk/Black Metal) Nantou
A folk/black metal band from Nantou established in 2008. Bloody Tyrant released their first album "Dawn of Doomsday" the same year, kicking their career off to a ferocious start. They were subsequently invited to play with Seed in a Korean metal festival in their home country, as well gracing the stage with Japanese trash metal band Deaflock the following year.
They began to experiment with traditional instruments in 2012, first adding pipa, a plucked banjo-like instrument in “The Overture of Sun Moon Lake” and later incorporating Chinese flute in “The Legacy of Sun Moon Lake”. The blend of beautiful traditional melodies and layered heavy metal are emblematic of their unique sinocentric sound.
“Final Battle of Sun Moon Lake”
Their newest album “Solitary Eagle”, was released in 2017.
Ashen (Grindcore/Death/Metal) Taipei x Taitung
Fast. Hard. Brutal. Everything you want and more from a one of Taiwan’s finest grindcore outfits. The genre isn’t very popular on the island, but Ashen does it well.
“This World Is Not Ours”
When they aren't tearing up the stage, two of the band members own restaurants. Founder and guitarist/vocalist Bruce runs Wengu Cafe in Taipei’s hip Eastern District, serving up house-made waffles, pasta, and other western cuisine, while bassist Chewie is a chef at casual kaiseki style tasting table at Night of Lunar in Taidong, which was recently featured on national television.
Flesh Juicer 血肉 (Deathcore/Metalcore) Taichung
Easily one of the most popular metal outfits on the scene Flesh Juicer is an electrifying mix of traditional Taiwanese religious music and devastating deathcore, mixed with a good dose of electronic elements to boot. Vocalist Gigo Pro is known as much for his hog mask as he is for powerful vocals, especially the porcine squeals that are his trademark.
Among the most active bands on the island, it is easy to catch them playing to an army of die-hard fans. Their limited band merch is notoriously difficult to attain – often selling out within hours of sale.
Formed in 2006 the esoteric themes may be a bit difficult to navigate at first but high production value and raw energy make their songs addictive.
“Event of the Falling Sky”
The concept is based on the melody of Taiwan’s traditional culture and the idea of exposing the secret of the universal prison — the solar system.
In 2015, Flesh Juicer won the 6TH Golden INDIE Music Awards for Best Rock Album. They have also been nominated for Best Album Design at the 2016 Golden Melody Awards, for their unique design which resembles a sutra.
Infernal Chaos (Thrash Metal／Melodic Metal／Metalcore) Taipei
Founded by Chthonic guitarist and Golden Melody award-winning guitarist Jesse “Black” Liu, this solid metal outfit pumps out heavy tunes with excellent production value. Fan favorites “The Mask On Your Face” and the recently released “Society Psychopath” echo a lyrical theme entrenched in disillusionment with the status quo.
“The Mask On Your Face” Music Video
Recent lineup changes include a new vocalist Kenny and drummer Yu.
Body on the Party (Nu Metal/Electrocore / PostHardcore / Metalcore) Kaohsiung
A relative newcomer to the scene but one destined for great places. Their innovative blend of electronica and catchy lyrics combined with face-melting live performances make for a fantastic listen.
“Body on the Party” MV
“八弟 on the Party” MV – punny song. ‘Ba di’ is read the same as ‘body’ but means 8th brother. The song is a fictitious story of the singer’s 6 older sisters and 1 older brother who baby their youngest sibling and his dream to become a singer. A delightful parody on Taiwan’s culture of close family ties — and not too far from the truth as singer vocalist Kenny’s family actually does support his musical career.
Burning Island 火燒島 (djent / progressive) Tainan
One of the more refined bands in Taiwan, their gorgeous music videos draw from a rich bank of metaphoric and fantastical elements, mostly aimed at criticism against the political scene on the island.
Despite the Sinocentric imagery the band sings in Taiwanese, a local dialect, instead of Mandarin, the state standard– initially because “we thought it was cool” and then continuing because they felt it better expressed their sentiments.
Greedy Black Hole (Metal) Taipei
One of the few female fronted metal bands, Greedy Black Hole packs a lot of punch for it’s size. The band name“Greedy Black Hole” comes from the comparison of human greed to a black hole that will gradually destroy the human race.
Originally standing for “Fuck ‘Em All”, the song illustrates experiences with prejudice against queer identities.
Greedy Black Hole’s music consist of technical and melodic guitar lines and Yvonne’s mix of growling and clean vocals.
Crescent Lament (Symphonic Metal/Gothic Metal) Taipei
Hands down the best symphonic metal outfit on the island, their proliferation and skill has earned highest recommendations from resident metal goddess Doris of Chthonic. A gorgeous blend of soaring female vocals and heavy metal blended with elements of traditional instruments such as erhu make for a sound that is uniquely Taiwanese.
They’ve opened for many of the biggest names in symphonic and gothic metal including Lacrimosa, Epica, and Xandria. Most recently they have participated at Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium last year.
The newest album “Elegy for the Blossoms” is a historical fiction centering on a Taiwanese geisha during the Japanese Occupation era of the island. This little-known corner of history is artfully illustrated in 10 tracks sung in Taiwanese.
beyond cure (Metalcore/Deathcore)
If stoner metalcore were a genre, Beyond Cure would be in it. Formed in 2006, Beyond Cure’s straightforward lyrics and brutal beats make for a rich aural experience.
Anthelion (On Hiatus)
Originally I was going to omit this one because they are on hiatus right now, but considering their history and contribution to the scene it seemed disrespectful to not include them. Melodic piano and orchestral elements are their trademark. Soaring female vocals add a touch of beauty to the their dark melodies.
“Obsidian Plume” a song about the raven.
We are looking for suggestions for the next Scene Report. Does your region have a great scene that people should know about? Email us at hatemail [at] metalinjection [dot] net with your pitch.
View previous Scene Reports here.