“Let me stand up like a Taiwanese; only justice will bring you peace” are the defiant lyrics of Chthonic’s “Supreme Pain to the Tyrant.” The song exemplifies Taiwan’s struggle to be a sovereign entity throughout eras of occupation, including Japan after the Qing dynasty era and later China after retrieving the island back, which ultimately led to a civil war in which the Republic of China was created. Tensions didn’t cease there, as civil unrest let to the February 28 incident, one of the most important dates regarding Taiwan’s independence. Here, a violent uprising and thousands killed stemmed from an officer killing a civilian due to the selling of contraband cigarettes.
Since then, the Democratic Progressive Party transitioned away from authoritarian rule, contrasting with the People’s Republic of China. Today, Taiwan has made great leaps to distinguish itself as an independent and progressive nation, including being the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019. It was also named the best place to live for expats three years in a row by Internations, a Munich-based expat network.
However, recent events have made Taiwan’s future uncertain. Regardless, the 23.5 million people who live on the island dubbed “the heart of Asia” will continue to stand up, as the lyrics state, like a Taiwanese, who is someone that represents progression and independence. Talk show host John Oliver has noticed the significance of Taiwan, recently featuring it on his program, while mentioning Chthonic and their vocalist Freddy Lim.
Lim says of the music produced by the metal bands of the country, “Because Taiwan has faced oppression for centuries, the songs of Taiwanese bands often imply a spirit of resistance and special historical emotions. Welcome to the world of Taiwan metal!”
Chthonic – Black/folk/symphonic metal
Chthonic, describes deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in the Ancient Greek religion. Some of the most prominent chthonic gods are Hades, Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate. In the world of underground metal, the most prominent musical god in Taiwan is this symphonic/oriental/black metal/folk metal band who have been waving their country’s flag since 1995. Their conglomeration of musical styles has been a vessel for folk, mythological and activist subjects, such as the Wushe Incident, The February 28 incident and the Takasago Army —meaning the band’s lyrics can provide a rough course on Taiwanese history. With Chthonic, their spirit of Taiwanese defiance and Independence reflects the band’s real-life activities, as vocalist Freddy Lim and bassist Doris Yeh have both been active in both political and social movements with Taiwan.
Beyond Cure – Deathcore
It could be because marijuana is classified as a category 2 narcotic, which could result in up to three years in prison for possession and seven years (or death) for trafficking that Beyond Cure are a band who take pleasure in normal, drug-free cigarette breaks. Instead of stoner bands who sing about weed, they have songs dedicated to taking drags from those tobacco-filled devil sticks like “THC” and “We Lit,” both featured on their Medicated album, which shows someone exhaling an extra big puff of smoke on the cover. Their deathcore/djent style certainly reflects the modern sensibilities of Taiwanese people, which is concise and exhilarating—earning them spots on many of the major festivals in the country like the Megaport Festival.
Bazöoka – Thrash
Thrash in Taiwan isn’t as booming as neighboring countries, with just a few bands labelling themselves so on the island, such as Iron Fist, SFR and Sadistic Rapture. Perhaps the most explosive of these bands is Taipei’s Bazöoka. Emerging on the scene during that golden new wave of thrash metal year of 2005, the band cut their teeth on the scene until dousing themselves in the Ninja Turtles’ secret ooze and releasing 2009’s Toxic Warriors. Demos such as Satanic Roadkill followed—and what exactly is that—maybe a big-horned sheep or a gopher who happened to be a fan of Belphegor?
Brain Corrosion – Death/grind
“Jiangshi Grind” (Jiangshi meaning Chinese hopping vampire—a corpse reanimated by a Taoist priest) is the musical genre Brain Corrosion have possessed themselves with, and with their undead theme, they have produced some brutal coffin jams. Since 2007, the trio have been churning out nauseatingly enjoyable death/grind; grisly black and white illustrations accompany their splits with Japan’s Sete Star Sept and fellow Taiwanese grinders Ripped to Shreds, the latter, titled Exhumed From Eastern Tombs conveying true oriental vampire horror you would see in films like Rigor Mortis.
Gore Pot – 血麻 – Stoner grind
血 and 麻. Blood and weed. Gore and pot. The gore-minded stoner’s dream band. But don’t let the name fool you—this isn’t some slow, droning, fuzzed-out Sabbath worship—Gore Pot are one of the most technical and frenetic bands out there featuring a marijuana reference, grinding out those weed nuggets before smoking the listener. In Pot We Trust and All You Can Smoke reflect the Dopethrone worship of Gore Pot, while the band also dwells in the anime-grind section of the manga store with School Girl Sashimi. Check out the warped, mushroom-laced album art by Necrodeviant, who brings the manic trip to rotten fruition.
Fatuous Rump 笨屁肥臀 – Slam
Fatuous Rump are a beast of a slam band produced by three rump grinders from Taipei. Groove-oriented brutal, slamming death metal is their claim to fame, which recently earned them a spot on the worldwide streaming festival out of South America, Sick Dog Fest, where they vomited out fatuous and gluttonous slams for the world to see. Their 2017 effort Propagation of the Foul is a 25-minute compost heap of brutal slam riffs which could be smelled from miles away while their recent additions to split albums have shown how brutal Taiwan can get—as witnessed with songs like “Piss Filled Uterus.”
Flesh Juicer 血肉果汁機 – Nu metal/deathcore
Since 2006, Flesh Juicer have been one of Taiwan’s more visible bands—their appearance no doubt assisting this cause, being that their singer Gigo Pro wears a pig mask The swine face was fitting, as they started out as deathcore with legit pig squeals, though the band have added a lot of melodic hooks to their later songs while also promoting Taiwanese culture in their music. This has paid off well, as the band are now one of the most well-known out of Taiwan. You could say they went from durian juice to papaya. Check out their 2021 effort GOLDEN 太子 BRO for some material that’s both heavy and made to sing along to at KTV.
Inferno Requiem – Black metal
The one-man band Inferno Requiem, the bleak vessel of musician Fog, began in 1999 with the demo In the Nightmare of… The inferno has since spread, with various labels releasing the Taiwan musician’s dark compositions. Horror, sci-fi and arcane components have made up much of Inferno Requiems output, which keeps things always intriguing with the project. Gloomy Night Stories is his first full-length, which is worth investigating for any serious black metal historians, while his latest, Vultures, is an ice-covered throwback to sounds from places with a climate more frigid than Taiwan’s.
Bloody Tyrant 暴君 – Black/death/folk metal
From Nantou City, Bloody Tyrant emerged in 2009 with their debut, the fittingly titled Dawn of Doomsday. The blast beat infused black metal on the record inscribed their position in the annals of Taiwanese music culture, setting the standard for their later efforts. Four albums later and the band has altered their style slightly, being more death than black metal and allowing their folk elements to really let their hair down while concentrating on more melodic song structuring. In 2022, keep an eye open as the Tyrants will be touring Europe with Ultar.
Crescent Lament – Folk metal
Sorrowful stories told within the confines of guitar-driven folk metal is what Crescent Lament have been producing since their start in 2007. While their vocal melodies reflect gothic/symphonic metal acts of Europe, the lyrics being sung in Taiwanese and the utilization of the erhu and keyboards give the band a region-based uniqueness. This is coupled with their song and album concepts—Elegy for the Blossoms and its sequel, Land of Lost Voices, telling the epic story of a Taiwanese geisha during the period of Japanese Occupation through the post-WWII era, where she experiences both heartache and misery, before witnessing the 228 Incident tragedy.
Dharma – Buddhist death metal
Labeled “the first Buddhist metal band in Taiwan,” Dharma blends the abrasive sound of death metal with a message of compassion. The band are joined on stage by Miao Ben, an orange-robed Buddhist nun, who introduces their concerts with chanting and scripture readings, while the band wear black haiqing robes. Dharma has been around since 2018, and while this fusion of spirituality and metal has been done before with bands such as China’s Bliss Illusion, the addition of the nun makes a Dharma concert feel like a trip to an incense filled shrine, being sincere ceremonies of devotion to the religion.
Cover image courtesy of Crescent Lament