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CHTHONIC: The first layer of hell

Interviewing a well booked band isn´t always that simple, lots of things have to be prepared for a tour; especially if this tour takes you across the ocean. Nevertheless, CHTHONIC from Taiwan took their time for us and told us a lot of intresting things about their new album „Mirror Of Retribution“.

Hi, how you´re doing?
Well great at the moment, thanks.

But besides those tons of Black Metal, your new album has a few quiet moments. Is that part of your natural evolution?
I think that´s our natural evolution. We had some quiet places in our former albums as well, because there´re some sad and chill emotions needed to be elaborated through Hena (the crying sound from traditional two-string violin) and vocal´s whispers.

The CHTHONIC trademark are serious, dark riffs, angry vocals and dirty grooves. Can you live with my description: a mixture of BEHEMOTH, ANTHELION and ILLNATH?
I think we´re the mixture of not only these bands, but with Slayer, Emperor, Dimmu Borgier, and the most important with this Taiwanese ex-premier J http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG0yWABcjFs

CHTHONIC however, play a very original way of Black Metal, with a dirty approach, what has you stand out clearly from many other bands. Is this your personal power, or is it just the rough production?
I think to make something naturally based on the principle of what you are and what you really like to do. That´ll help you a lot in making a unique style in your territory.

Despite the high level of variety your new output has a closed overall impression. Is this because you always write the same type of music?
Most of us not get in touch in extreme metal only. We absorb many different elements from folk music, post-rock, traditional culture, history, public issue, and we also act in the movies… because that´s all what we´re interested in and deal with everyday, that´s just what really we are. So that makes us have more different thoughts than other extreme metal bands. Here´s the famous song we made and it hit Taiwan´s pop chart #1 last March: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLYcyC9v-_E&feature=related

The song was been used in Baseball game and President election last year. We´re living in a pretty busy but vigorous life.

How is an album like „Mirror Of Retribution“ written? Do you have the basic riffs in the rehearsal room already finished and work out songs then as a band?
When every time we start an album, we´ll make a concept of the story first as the most important work, then we´ll make a structure and divide the story into several episodes. The members will start to compose the songs according to the different theme of the episode.

How long has the complete Songwrting of “Mirror Of Retribution” taken?
I think maybe around half a year, but if including choosing the theme of the story as well as gathering the history document/information, and also create our own story based on this real history…. It takes us totally about one year or so to do the song writing.

Why have you chosen for the title “Mirror Of Retribution”. Because it sounds good and catchy?
“Mirror of Retribution” is the name of the first layer of Hell according to the oriental philosophy of Life and Death that we talked about in our story behind the album. Every spirit who fallen into the Hell will be first be in here. From the “Mirror of Retribution”, you´ll see all the things you´ve done in your whole life, and according to the sin you´ve done, the ghost king will set you into different layers of Hell to endure the cruel punishment for thousands of years..

Because the story of this album is about the philosophy of Oriental Hell combinds with the real Taiwanese history “228 Massacre“ as background.

In this album, it´s about a young man “Tsing-guan” who is a medium (psychic) and could traverse the veil between the worlds of Heaven and Hell. He was forced to intrude the Hell to steal the Book of Life and Death from the Ghost King. The legendary Oriental Hell has 18 layers and over 100 sub-layers with various brutalities and tortures for the spirits. His purpose is to control the Book and kill the tyrant of the Chinese Army (KMT) which occupied Taiwan in 1947. KMT killed over 100,000 Taiwanese people, which we called “228 Massacre” in our history.

The young man´s friends were all joining the rebels of the “27th Brigade” in fighting back the Chinese army, Tsing-guan made a solemn pact with them that he would leave his earthly body in the basement of “Sing-Ling Temple” to enter into the spirit world and steal the Book of Life and Death from Hell´s deepest and most blood-soaked pits. But in the end, he failed. And he was been punished by Ghost King to stay in front of the “Mirror of Retribution” to see all the lives come and go, to suffer this pain until the earth and all the creatures vanished.

What else is currently in the works?
We´ll tour in North America until Oct 28 with Satyricon and Bleeding Through for about 30 shows. After that we´ll have our European and Japanese tour in the early of next year.

Thank you for your time, there is still something you want to get rid of?
Ha! I like this. Well, we´re the band from Taiwan. Not Japan. And we have nothing related to China. That´s all.


Author: Markus Seibel, transl. Fabio Sgarlato, photos: Chtonic
Date: 2009-09-28

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