Chthonic - LIVE: Sub89, Reading 2011

Supporting Turisas
November 13
Capacity 600

The latest album from Chthonic, Takasago Army, showed a certain shift in direction, developing a sound around traditional Taiwanese folk music and creating a very different style of metal in the process. Whilst still an undeniably heavy release, the album has certainly seen the band lose a lot of their black metal influences, with a sound that could be described as a far-eastern variant of the folk metal sound more attributable to the Nordic countries.

With that in mind, it seemed very appropriate that the band would choose a support slot with Turisas to help promote the album in the UK. This tour saw the band travel all over the UK, although strangely enough not playing London and instead choosing nearby Reading – Chthonic would return to the capital later in support of Arch Enemy. Even in a town like Reading, fans of the headliners had outfitted themselves in the expected regalia and face paint, perhaps even more so than at the band's headline show in London back in March. There was a distinct lack of screams for battle metal during the early hours of the show though, but perhaps that was due to a lack of alcohol so early in the day.

After a reasonably good opening set from Kiuas (playing without new lead singer Asim Searah), Chthonic took to the stage to a respectably busy venue. Adorned in their signature face paint (with partial masks for keyboardist CJ Kao and drummer Dani Wang), the band immediately kicked off their set with Forty-Nine Theury Chains from their last album Mirror of Retribution, quickly followed by Rise of The Shadows from the same album. It did seem a little daring that the band would open up with such heavy black metal tracks given who they were supporting, but the opening gambit went down well – the audience was a wash with flailing long hair, aside from the unexpected mosh pit erupting during Rise of The Shadows.

After this initial burst, the set then shifted to the band's more melodic and versatile material from their latest record. The choices here were perhaps not very surprising, but did comprise some of the best material from the new album. One thing that was observed about the band's performance of this material was how little needed to be on the backing tape. Certainly elements like Japenese Emperor Hirohito's speech during Broken Jade were pre-recorded rather than live (what with Hirohito being long dead and all), but otherwise the more unusual elements were recreated via CJ's keyboards or Freddy's erhu playing. This led to a much more satisfying live show than some bands who'd forego such subtleties.

As for the show itself, the band were highly charismatic, as to be expected. Unlike many bands though, this was a unified charisma and not restricted to one individual. Certainly the male gaze might be drawn to the attractive and photogenic bassist Doris Yeh, but the sheer energy of the band as a whole kept attention on the stage as a whole. The band headbanged in unison whilst Freddy Lim confidently led the band throughout the set, with lead guitarist Jesse Liu his ever present wing-man.

Finishing with Takasago Army's lead single Takao, there were perhaps a few people in the crowd who didn't appreciate such a heavy band prior to the 'easy listening' Turisas. However for the most part, Chthonic wisely chose their support slot, reaching an audience that might have previously ignored them – and in doing so won a lot of new fans in the process. The set itself was rather short and sweet, but hopefully this should sow the seeds for festival dates and maybe even a headline tour in the coming year.

“ highly charismatic, as to be expected ”

Setlist: Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains / Rise of The Shadows / Southern Cross / Broken Jade / Oceanquake / Takao

Written by James Donovan
More: 2011, Black Metal, Gigs,

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