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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.