Freddy Lim: Meet Taiwan’s new rock’n’roll lawmaker

Ponytail-sporting 'black metal' singer defies the odds to win seat in parliament 

With his leather trousers, ponytail and facial tattoos, Freddy Lim certainly cuts a dash among Taiwan’s legislators. 

The frontman of Asia’s leading “black metal” band has just won a seat in Parliament following an election which swept pro-democracy candidates to power.

Standing for the New Power Party, Mr Lim, the lead singer with Chthonic, defeated Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member of parliament Lin Yu-fang, who had held his seat for two decades. 

Mr Lim, who wears facial corpse-paint depicting the “eight generals of hell” in Taoist lore on stage, intends to combine the band’s international festival appearances with his legislative duties.

First female Taiwanese leader

The election ended seven decades of KMT dominance, handing control to the pro-independence Democratic Progress Party (DPP). Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP’s candidate, will become Taiwan’s first female president, sealing the historic transfer of power, which has raised tensions with China. One of five New Power Party legislators elected to the new parliament, Mr Lim capitalised on his popularity among the nation’s youth by staging a 20,000-capacity concert in Taipei’s landmark Liberty Square on Boxing Day.

Described as “the Black Sabbath of Asia”, Chthonic’s anthems include Supreme Pain for the Tyrant, Set Fire to the Island and Venom In My Veins. Their songs incorporate traditional Taiwanese instrumentation and seek to raise awareness of tragic events in the nation’s past. Mr Lim, who adopts the stage persona “Left Face of Maradou” and is a longstanding political activist on behalf of Amnesty International, faced a fierce electoral battle. His outlandish appearance was attacked by his rival, who called on voters not to let a candidate with “hair that is longer than a woman’s and is mentally abnormal” into the legislature.


Chthonic are one of Asia's biggest death metal bands (Getty)

Yu-fang’s bid to influence older and conservative voters failed and Lim won the Taipei seat by more than 6,000 votes, surfing a wave of civic activism inspired by student protesters. 

Banned from performing in China due to the political content of Chthonic’s lyrics, Lim urged voters to examine policy positions rationally in the face of Yu-fang’s “discriminatory” attacks on him. 

“I believe that, all Taiwanese have the right – or even obligation – to be part of the movement to create a party, to create a new age for Taiwan as a nation,” he told voters.

Taiwan’s giant glass shoe

“I will never forget that the victory belongs to all of us,” Mr Lim told his supporters after the result was declared. “The road ahead may be difficult, but our goal is very clear! We are full of hope! I am Legislator.” 

But Mr Lim will not quit headbanging. “I will definitely continue to tour, probably not as extensively as before, but we’ll [play in] London and we’re still coming out with a new album,” he pledged.

The band’s bassist Doris Yeh promised fans: “Freddy will not be replaced, and Chthonic will not be dissolved. The musical creation will continue, and move forward with Taiwan.” 

Mr Lim, whose lyrics urge the Taiwanese to regain an identity distinct from China, is an environmental activist who helped raise funds and carried supplies to typhoon victims.