TRACK-BY-TRACK: Chthonic – Takasago Army

Taiwan isn’t a usual origin for death metal for us over in the UK, but be assured that it’s there, and Chthonic are ensuring that we get a taste of it for ourselves with their recent visit over here for their slot at this year’s Download Festival. Prior ro that, the Taiwanese hard-hitters dropped their latest bludgeoner ‘Takasago Army’, and vocalist Freddy Lim has decided to share with us the background behind the record and its tracks:

Background Story:
The Pacific War broke out after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and more than 200,000 young people from Taiwan, which was a Japanese colony at the time, were drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army. Having grown up under the education that encourages Japanization, many of them joined the military to prove that they were not “second class subjects” of the Japanese Empire. Among them, the Takasago Army, consisted of the Taiwan’s Aboriginal peoples, were especially brave on the battle ground, and had won respect even from the Japanese. A squadron of mostly Aboriginal Taiwanese soldiers was even completely annihilated during a mission, and many Taiwanese also served as pilots in the kamikaze suicide attacks. Today, there are still relics of fortified airplane garages to be found across the country, reminding people of those kamikaze bases that once existed during the Pacific War period.

Japan left Taiwan after World War II, and the Allies trusted the territory of Taiwan and surrounding islands to China, which was under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime, and former Taiwanese soldiers who fought for Japan, became “traitors” all of a sudden. Some of them hid their identities, while others were drafted by the KMT with lies to fight against the Chinese Communist Party army in the Chinese civil war in China. In Taiwan, people grew impatient with the KMT regime’s authoritarian rule, its takeover of farm lands and crops, and were upset about the currency reform that led to the most severe inflation in Taiwan’s history. In 1947, the Taiwanese revolted against the KMT regime across the country, and the regime responded by sending troops from China and violently cracked down on the uprising, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and elites. The historic event was later known as “The 228 Massacre”.

Some of those former Taiwanese soldiers who fought in the Pacific War were urged to come down from the mountains to fight the KMT troops by the militia. However, due to the large difference in number, the militia was completely annihilated in the Battle of Puli (a town in the middle of Taiwan) at the Sing Ling Temple.

In the past centuries, Taiwan has been occupied and colonized by many foreign countries. In different times, under different regimes, properties and lands of the Taiwanese were taken away, the people were brainwashed about national identity, and their dignity as human beings belittled and humiliated.

This album, ‘Takasago Army’, seeks to expose the part of Taiwan’s history that the government attempts to cover up through the interior conflict on identity of former Taiwanese soldiers. The album also seeks to showcase the quest of the Taiwanese for values and dignity as human beings through the tragic roles of the Taiwanese during World War II.

Bridging the story of the fourth album ‘Seediq Bale’, which took place in 1930, and the story of the fifth album ‘Mirror Of Retribution’, which took place in 1947, the latest album ‘Takasago Army’, which recounts the story that occurred from 1940 to 1945, was actually the last puzzle of Chthonic‘s trilogy.

This is an album that all East Asians would feel emotionally attached to, and it’s also one that would surprise all metal fans around the world

01.) The Island:
Intro of this album. Besides orchestra and hena, the 2-string violin that we usually have in our songs, another Taiwanese instrument called pgaka flute is played in this song. The main melody of this intro is transformed from the chorus of ‘Quasi Putrefaction’, making this intro a perfect connection to the first episode, the ‘Seediq Bale’ (2005) album.

02.) Legacy Of The Seediq:
For a long time, you have wanted to be somebody, but at last you found out you are nobody but yourself. You don’t have any route to follow, you have to discover your own roads to your goals. We believe this was how the soldiers of TAKASAGO ARMY have felt, and this is what we all have to face. This is one of the first few songs that I wrote for this album. During those days for writing, I searched back to my teenage days and found out a deeper root of Taiwanese culture, and naturally mixed the Taiwanese opera kind of melodies into this song.

03.) TAKAO:
The future is always unknown, and your thoughts are always complicated. We don’t have a crystal clear future ahead. But, sometimes putting yourselves in the harshest situation on purpose is a good way to help you find out what is the most important thing in your life.

04.) Oceanquake:
In the harshest battle field, digging deeply in your heart, finding your faith and gift. It’s your destiny and it makes you live honestly.

05.) Southern Cross:
Everybody is different and alone in this world. Today is different from yesterday, and tomorrow is different from today. Day by day you are different, day by day the world is different. The only partner with you is the demon inside you. This song is Jesse‘s favorite. He wrote one of the best riffs on this album for this song.

06.) Kaoru:
This song might be the favorite one of the band. We have Taiwanese Enka in this one and it sounds fucking killer. This is totally different from the Western way of female singing style. This song is about the suicidal attacks during the last few months of the Pacific War. It’s not about right or wrong, we just want to write this history into metal. Most of the people know about the suicidal attacks from Japanese imperial army, but very few people know about the Taiwanese soldiers who played very important roles during these attacks.

07.) Broken Jade:
This song connects the sixth song, ‘Kaoru’. It’s about how you keep fighting ’til your final failure. Everybody has to die, we all share this destiny, nobody can change it. But, what we can is to decide how we fight and how we die. This song has the most touching melodies of hena violins on the album. Doris just loves it!

08.) Root Regeneration:
Pgaka flute with Seediq poem. This is the ancient tune of Taiwanese tribal music. After all the heaviest fights, it’s about time to take a rest and get back to your soul.

09.) Mahakala:
Jesse has written many cool riffs and solos in this album, and ‘Mahakala’ has both! This song shows how aggressive metal can mix with sorrowful and touching Asian flavours!

10.) Quell The Souls In Sing Ling Temple:
After the whole concept story goes through nine songs, the last one connects to ‘Mirror Of Retribution’ (2009), the 3rd episode. This is the most dramatic song on this album. Wubus, the character of this album died for Tsing-Guan, the character of the last album. Looking at all the unchangeable historical moments, the only chance for Wubus is to put all his faith on Tsing-Guan to change the history, but if you know the story of the album, ‘Mirror Of Retribution’, you will know the end of Tsing-Guan‘s mission…

‘Takasago Army’ is available now on Spinefarm Records. You can read our review of the album here.