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Chthonic Mines Taiwan’s History on ‘Mirror of Retribution’

“We took about two years to prepare this new album,” Chthonic bassist Doris Yeh told Noisecreep. But there’s a reason that the Taiwanese black metal band took its time. The band trekked to Los Angeles to record their latest, ‘Mirror of Retribution,’ which is due out Sept. 1. They recruited veteran Rob Caggiano, who moonlights as the guitarist of Anthrax, to man the boards and ultimately “created this album with more straight away and brutal sounds [in order] to express the concept behind the story.”

The album’s intricate, yet interesting, concept relates to the philosophy of Oriental Hell. “There are hundreds of levels of different hells, and ‘Mirror of Retribution’ is the first thing you will meet when you fall into the Hell. Through the mirror, you see all the bad things you’ve done in your lifetime. Each spirit has to face the mirror of retribution and then the ghost king will send everyone to the specific level of hell that they deserve.”

The bassist also says the band was not satisfied with just describing the underworld in their lyrics, and thus, elaborated accordingly. “We found the crossover between Taiwan and Hell,” Yeh said, shedding a little more light on things. “That’s the ’228 Massacre’ in our history.” The ’228 Massacre’ Yeh speaks of is the Feb. 28, 1947-launched uprising against the government in Tawain, which was violently suppressed by Taiwanese leaders.

“We created a main character in our story named Tsing-guan, who is the medium, or psychic, in the temple,” Ye said. “The year is 1947, when the biggest massacre launched by Chinese army in Taiwan’s history occured. This main character tried to use his ability to go to Hell, stealing the Book of Life and Death and kill the tyrant of the Chinese army.”

Clearly, Chthonic mines their country of origin’s rich political history as a source of musical inspiration, and their Taiwanese background allows for unique existence. “I think the most challenging thing for us, being a Taiwanese metal band, is confidence,” Yeh said. “We absorb many styles of expressing our thoughts via music from the western world after World War II. But since we’ve been occupied by many intruders for hundreds of years, most Taiwanese are confused about the roots of their own culture. For an artist, or even a metal band, the songs you create will absolutely be affected by the nutrition of the culture you are breathing in. Know who you are. Then you’ll know where to go. And also the confidence you build up will give you strength.”

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