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Awesomely Creative Vocals! Technical Melodies! Thunderous Beats! Epic Lyrics and Earth-Shattering Keyboards! Yeah, Chthonicâ€™s â€œSeediq Baleâ€ has it all.
This is a genre Iâ€™m relatively unfamiliar with, but if more bands sound like this, consider me a fan of symphonic black metal.
Seediq Bale has a dark theme and overall sound to it, while it also possesses a somewhat poetic undertone. It has great production quality, giving you a nice full effect of the album. The songs are full of explosive vocals, fast-paced melodies, alternating time signatures, heavy riffs, and well-placed solos. Everything works together as a whole and you can hear every instrument clearly. Every song is enjoyable and thought-provoking.
Vocals: This album is comprised of 3 different types of vocals. Harsh, high pitched, almost sadistic sounding vocals. Deep guttural, growling vocals and my favorite, clean female vocals that are executed beautifully. Most impressive about these differing vocals, is how well they work together. Chthonic is very good about using the right vocals in the right places.
Drums and Bass: The drums have the perfect amount of everything. Nothing gets overused, but there is still enough substance to keep things different from track to track. They carry the vocals and the guitars wonderfully. I find it absolutely fantastic when the clean vocals and the thundering sound of double bass kick co-inside. I canâ€™t recognize the bass in too many songs; itâ€™s usually going alongside the drums or carrying the guitar-work.
Guitars: These are wonderfully eerie on â€œSeediq Baleâ€. Fast melodies that produce the dark sound on this album. They are excellent at interchanging the time signatures with the rhythmic sections and heavy riffs. Pretty decent solos, that fall into place at the perfect time. Each song has its own unique sound and nothing is overused or repeated on the following track.
Keyboards: Definitely my favorite thing about this album, hands down. The keys on â€œSeediq Baleâ€ seemingly come to life. They stay side-by-side with the guitars, speeding up and slowing down as needed. CJ can play some ridiculously fast parts on his synthesizer and pianos. These definitely give Chthonic their extra-ordinary sound.
Oriental Violins: These guys just donâ€™t stop impressing me. They have two different oriental violins in the band. Thus, adding the perfect Taiwanese element that makes â€œSeediq Baleâ€ so different from other melodic/symphonic black metal groups.
Overall High Points: Very original, unique, and hard to find. Every instrument works perfectly with one another. Chthonic knows when to use what sounds, where. They constantly mix it up from song to song. This album produces a very non-forced, non- over the top sound, things all too common with symphonic, power, melodic, and horror metal. You donâ€™t hear this kind of musicianship too often.
Overall Low Points: None I can think of.
If youâ€™re a fan of symphonic, power, melodic, or just plain black metal, give these guys a listen. Itâ€™s probably nothing youâ€™ve heard before.
Favorite Songs: Progeny Of Rmdax Tasing, Indigenous Laceration, Bloody Gaya Fulfilled, Quasi Putrefaction.
Chthonic on the surface seem to be a fairly run-of-the-mill melodic/symphonic black metal band, albeit they are from Taiwan rather than Northern Europe. However, Chthonic not only do what they do very well, there are some interesting and unique facets to their sound, most notably the Er-hu, that permits them to stand out from the pack. This is again an album from a genre I normally don't have much interest in that absolutely blew me away.
Chthonic have all the standard symphonic black metal elements in place - orchestral keyboards, at times almost Gothenburg-y guitars, lots of double bass, raspy vocals, etc. However, while the metal element of their sound is pretty good, it is actually the other aspects of Chthonic's sound that takes them to the next level. First and foremost, the female vocals are excellent. Whether wordlessly providing backing vocals or singing in Mandarin (if I have my dialects correct), Doris' voice is enchanting and fits perfectly within the framework of the band's sound. She, along with the Er-hu, are truly what makes Seediq Bale a great album. She is the perfect opposite of Freddy's standard black rasps, and her voice is, simply put, beautiful.
Much has been said of the use of the Er-hu in Chthonic's music, and for good reason: not only is it unique, but it's mournful sound provides a solid counterpoint to the blasting occurring throughout the album. Sounding almost like a weeping woman, the capabilities of the Er-hu are fully explored on this album, accentuating the melodic moments while not being used so much as to be a gimmick. Witness "Bloody Gaia Fulfilled" for perhaps the best use of the Er-hu on the album, as well as the best female vocals.
There is not a single bad song on this album, although the metalcorish "Indigenous Laceration" was initially off-putting. Chthonic know when to blast and when to be melodic; rare is a symphonic black metal band that does not lean too heavily on either the blasting or the keyboards, but Chthonic have found a comfortable region to operate in without letting any one aspect dominate the sound. Lyrics are excellent and quite different from your standard Satanic fare, and the fact that this album has been banned in parts of China for its lyrical content should make it obvious that what this band is saying is unique to say the least.
The only real gripe of the album is that the production could be clearer; everything tends to blend together in the blasting parts. This is a minor gripe, but with an album as good as this, a reviewer must resort to nitpicking to find a serious flaw in the music. An excellent album from an excellent band.
Chthonic – Seediq Bale 2007
Perhaps the most interesting band I've came across, released earlier last year, Chthonic's – seediq Bale has only became available in the UK recently. Currently banned in parts of China for they're radical views, this Taiwanese Black/Death Metal band really demand your attention. Using traditional Chinese musical elements and instruments, with lyrics concerning old myths and Taiwanese legends, this band bring along a very unique sound and experience.
Beginnings of this album, initially brings an unexpected Epic feel, courtesy of superb keyboard patterns, combined with excellent operatic female vocals. But this flavour is short lived as the tones change to a lower and darker eerie sound is created. This eerie sound persists throughout this album, with its heaviness due to very impressive use of double bass drumming and heavy but melodic guitaring. With almost instantly enjoyable tremolo picking, only adds to the eeriness, and gives each track very catchy riffs. Vocal patterns are of an impressive range from low growls to a high screaming vocals, backed by brilliantly and beautiful female vocals.
The overall sound of this album is impressive and hugely enjoyable, ceaselessly heavy with fast palm muted guitar riffs, and with a complex sound, this album is very varied and unique in its style, making this album a rare must have for any death/black metal enthusiast.
Best Tracks: Bloody Gaya Fulfilled, The Gods weep, Quasi Putrefaction
If only I could articulate the percussive tremblings of my jaw squarely hitting the ground as "Progeny of Rmdax Tasing" rumbled from my speakers, written here would be a near audible review of the album. A way of purely descibing the trancendal brilliance of this black metal masterpiece is not so easily attained as that, though, so what makes this great?
It could be the superb vocals courtesy of Freddy "Left Face of Mardou" Lin, a wielder of both a brilliant black metal scream and a grade A death growl. It could be the efforts of Jesse "The Infernal", a superb guitarist who's riffs are alternatingly overbearingly brutal and subtly melodic, but never less than exemplary to the symphonic black metal genre. Maybe Dani "Azathothian Hands", a criminally underused drummer, or Doris "Thunder Tears", who overcomes her hilarious name with superb bass work and beautiful choiral vocals, or CJ "Dispersed Fingers, who clearly belongs outside of the "obligatory black metal keyboardist" box is what makes this so essential. Perhaps it's the avant-garde nature of their music, personified by the excellent Su Nung "Bloody String", who skillfully makes his Oriental Violin relevant to their music.
Whatever makes this such a worthy rebuttal to black metal's otherwise localized nature, this is by any measure a great album. It's epic vision is fulfilled with a flourish, and every moment of listening to it is a joy. Near-flawless production makes sure that every nuance of artistry is encapsulated. Broad, ambitious concepts and immence artistry are explored with a genuine and infectious passion, as well as a viscious heaviness present throughout that reminds of this great band's relevance as a black metal band.
My only complaint is in the layout of the disc itself; it has four files on it which are Video CD movies, and as such, may confuse the CD Player. But that's an increadibly insignificant quibble about such a masterpiece of extreme metal.
This is a superb album full of originality and style, and despite being short, it's never less than increadible. This won't fail to appeal to even the most jaded of metal coinnoisseurs.
Whoa...this album gave me the same reaction that Vader's classic "Morbid Reich" demo did back in the day, which was "Huh? I had no idea there was metal out there!" And "Seediq Bale" is an album that will either break Chthonic on the international scene or bring them one step closer to it, because it is most worthy.
I deleted points because while the production is relatively clear and the mix is pretty good, it's mushy and needs more separation overall to make the album a more effective listening experience. It lacks just that much more clarity and directness that the typical Andy Sneap production woul to take it over the edge. Jan Borsing did a good enough job, but it's a case of "almost but not quite" to these ears. If they get Andy or someone comparable to produce their next album, this will be rectified, I'm certain.
Then again, Chthonic have such a densely layered and outwardly chaotic sound that it's no wonder the mix seems lacking in clarity. The keyboards and the guitar are fighting it out half the time in the mix to be heard and it results in a bit of a mess. Then you have the Chinese er-hu violin trying hard to make itself heard as well, and when it does come through it has a pronounced effect with its emotional, moaning/crying tones. Most of the time it blends in with the wall of sound and its notes add an indefinable extra something to their music.
This is by no means the band's fault, mind you. They are skilled players and it shows throughout this album's course. Guitarist Jesse mostly pumps out a variety of riffing styles from atonal black metal tremelo picking to palm muted chugging to pedal point riffs, and he does it well, and when he does step out to solo it's short and eloquent, displaying a good degree of technical skill. Dani is the star of the album, though, with his dexterous and confident drumming--too bad the drums are obviously triggered--and he navigates the band with ease through their convoluted songs.
Freddy Lin's vocals are typical of the genre--bloodcurdling high-pitched shrieks and ugly guttural growls--and he does well enough at that to merit praise. He in fact pulls off some prolonged screams worthy of Mr. Dani Davey in his prime that are impressive. The keyboards frequently introduce all manner of melodies riding over the music with a pronounced classical feel, and only occasionally seem out of place. Bass diva Doris not only lays down a solid foundation (though buried in the mix as always), but contributes some beautiful and haunting clean vocal work, whether chanting in Mandarin or cooing wordless moans. This is one of my favorite aspects of the album, actually, her vocals, as they really add an extra level of emotion and character to the proceedings. Especially at the beginning and end of "Bloody Gaya Fulfilled", her vocals have a plaintive yet triumphant feel to them that adds immeasurably to the song.
Song wise, the album starts out strong with "Progeny of Rmdax Tasing" with a menacing voice growling in Mandarin and a full-on thrasher follows this intro with a great example of their sound in a nutshell. Doris' chorus vocal part in Mandarin is easily the most memorable part of this song. And yes, "Indigenous Laceration" has a metalcore sounding guitar part, with some Gothenburg influence popping up, but it works well. "Enthrone" is a short and sweet bit with a slower tempo, and "Bloody Gaya Fulfilled" is easily my favorite song on the album, with its er-hu and female vocals beneath the ugly male vocals, and is a real tour de force for them as they go through a convincing variety of tempo changes and melodic motifs and ideas.
The rest of the album does not falter, either, musically, it really holds up well throughout. And I like how they vary the tempos instead of blasting all the way through (are you listening, Krisiun and Hate Eternal?) and getting boring that way. They are an exciting band in that respect, and I dare say that they are doing Dimmu Borgir better than DB themselves have been for the last several years and albums now.
This is a primo mash-up of Dimmu, Cradle of Filth, and even a little bit of Emperor influence, and I thoroughly encourage people to seek this album out! Give these guys (and girls) reason to tour America and expand their following; they've the chops and ideas and talent to do it and do it well. Give this a chance and see what I mean.
From what I can tell, Chthonic are underrated. Vastly underrated, actually. This album shows them at their creative peak, and, for a change, every single song is perfect. On their previous albums, you would hear stand out songs, and songs that slipped out of your head quicker than you could say "Er-hu." But here... every song stays in your head. The whole album is of a rare kind: the kind where there isn't a single bad song. From the opening moments of "Progeny of Rmdaxtasing," with it's drums, tremolo picked guitar riffs and organ synth; to the end of "Quasi Putrefaction," this album doesn't let up. While few of the songs are on par with their greatest and most recognisable ("Be Ming Ge" from Relentless Recurrence, and "Breath of Ocean" from Where The Ancestor's Souls Gathered), they nevertheless hit close to the mark with each.
The album's genre is up for discussion; it seems to fluctuate between Cradle of Filth of the "Dusk" era (with haunting melodies and female vocals), Emperor's "In The Nightside Eclipse" and Dimmu Borgir's "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant," but also throws in some modern "metalcore" style riffs, most notably in "Indigenous Laceration." However, the riff works well with keyboards behind it. Maybe the metalcore bands should try it sometime, it might make their albums more interesting.
Up to this point, I've made only one reference to Chthonic's main attraction: the er-hu. An Oriental string instrument, similar to a violin, but with only two strings, it's used throughout with great effect. Both the singer, Freddie, and Su-Nung, the er-hu-ist use their instruments to make the music quintessentially Oriental, despite using Western riffing patterns. The Er-hu, if it has to be compared to something, would be similar in sound to a crying woman. It's a mournful instrument, used perfectly to symbolise the grief felt by the band, and maybe all of Taiwan, at the destruction of the Aboriginal Taiwanese idols and religion after the Han Chinese and the Japanese invaded the island over the years.
On this record, the lyrical theme is about the Seediq, a Taiwanese folk legend about a being born of trees and rocks. The only way to pass the gates to eternal life comes from being tattooed with the mark of the seediq, gained by passing an extremely hard trial. When the Japanese began to govern Taiwan in the 1800's, they banned the culture and rites of the Seediq, which began an uprising led by Monarudao against the Japanese soldiers.
This album is probably their most cohesive offering yet, which is why I believe it is their best. It gives great track after great track, and even the minute-long Enthrone is an essential part of the album. This is also the only album they've released without an 8+ minute long song on it, which allows the songs to remain sharp and to the point, without losing the momentum that they build up.
Standout tracks: Progeny of Rmdaxtasing, Enthrone, Bloody Gaya Fulfilled, Quasi Putrefaction.