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Taiwanese Metal Strikes Back - 96%

Cobranaconda, November 15th, 2006

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.

96/100

Standout tracks: Progeny of Rmdaxtasing, Enthrone, Bloody Gaya Fulfilled, Quasi Putrefaction.