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ChthoniC is a Taiwanese melodic black metal band that is here to prove the existence that there are excellent metal bands in Asia. Once again with their 5th album, “Mirror of Retribution”, they have proved their excellence and might once again.
Generally speaking, the album’s production is cleaner than their previous outputs. Their music also is more melodic compared to their former works, but this album still has the aggression black metal has, and also, this album has its death metal tendencies which will make you bang your head a lot. Though I’ve seen a lot of critics saying that this band sounds like Cradle of Filth, someone who hates Cradle of Filth shouldn’t be discouraged to listen to ChthoniC. The band has its own unique charms, you know. The aggressiveness the vocals and the riffs give, which is prevalent on the intro of “Bloody Waves Of Sorrow”, and the melancholy the keyboards and the er-hu (a two-stringed Chinese violin) give, which is leading on the ending of “Sing-Ling Temple”, is much felt by the listener.
The vocal performance is the first thing people will notice in the album. From shrieks a la Filth to grunts a la Nergal, every vocal moment is sure to keep your head banging. The riffs are more melodic than your usual black metal, but they’re still damn aggressive. Tremolo pickings aren’t much of a staple here, which adds more death metal tendencies. The addition of the er-hu attracted me more to the music, for the instrument adds more melancholy alongside the aggression of the riffs. Although the album features solos, especially on “Venom in My Veins” and “Hearts Condemned”, the solos are quite short, though I’m not quite surprised for this is a black metal record.
One last thing I liked on the album is that it is devoid of fillers. There is no moment, except for “1947”, that this album will barely leave you time to take a break. Overall, an almost flawless album that never fails to impress its listeners. Just go, snag this album without any second thought whatsoever.
Originally made for http://mystifymyserie.blogspot.com
Taiwanese black metal band is perhaps one of the biggest extreme metal bands out of the Asian region, proving global metalheads that Asians can come up with quality black metal as well. Perhaps more well known in Taiwan as outspoken icons and pushers for Taiwanese independence, ChthoniC do not let listeners down with their latest offering, Mirror of Retribution.
Compared to their previous works such as Seediq Bale, Mirror of Retribution features more melodic music and a more polished production quality (courtesy of Rob Caggiano). From their opening track, Blooming Blades to their closing (and title track), Mirror of Retribution features blazing fast guitar and drums work, giving listeners barely enough time to breathe in between tracks (with the exception of 1947, an instrumental/spoken word track).
What sets this band apart from your typical melodic black metal band is the utilisation of the er-hu (or commonly known as the Chinese two-stringed violin) in the music, providing the emotions and atmosphere n the music, in addition to the presence of the keyboards. The sound of the er-hu can sometimes be reminiscent of the sound of a woman crying, while at times set the mood to become more surreal/atmospheric. Freddy's vocals are also worth mentioning, with the ability to go from a high pitch shriek (think Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth) to a low death metal styled growl.
Lyrics-wise, ChthoniC has definitely gotten more political, and their intense passion and belief for freedom and independence definitely shows through their music. This can be seen through the release of the bonus track, suitably titled UNlimited Taiwan, a song that was composed in conjunction with their tour with the similar name.
A music video for the song, Fourty-Nine Theurgy Chains was released. (which looked pretty damn professional.)
Recommended for fans of ChthoniC's older works, Anthelion, Cradle of Filth and melodic black metal in general. This is an album not to be missed.
This review was based on the English version of the album (released on Spinefarm Records). A Taiwanese version of the album, with the lyrics in the native Taiwan language is also available in Taiwan.
Written for Heavy Metal Tribune (http://heavymetaltribune.blogspot.com/)
Chthonic, a Taiwanese melodic black metal band many may be familiar with the band if they follow the Asian metal scene. Also featuring on the OST of Samm Dunn's global metal documentary is a track from their earlier amazing work “Seediq Bale” gives a good idea about the band's caliber. And their music is basically pretty solid melodic black with usage of Er-Hu (two stringed violin like instrument), I'm a sucker for usage of unconventional instruments and Er-Hu is one of my favourites now thanks to this band.
I've only listened to their previous album, “Seediq Bale”, and after listening to that album they became one of my favourites and news of them releasing a new album made me very excited as to see if they will be able to live up to the previous work or even surpass if that's possible. And I was not disappointed in anyway, starting with a creepy intro to set the mood of what's in store for the listener, a twisted and melodic assault to the ears. Without wasting much time the opening track kicks in with amazing riff with drums filling in perfectly for the maddening vocals by Lim, then we are introduced to the Er-Hu within the first half minute of the song, the addition and usage of this particular instrument is what makes Chthonic unique in their sound without hampering the metal's brutality and feel, it flows in with the music and creates a maddening atmosphere for example on “Rise of shadows”, and melancholic atmosphere for example in the instrumental track “1947” and “Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains”. Thats about the uniqueness of Chthonic for including this beautiful instrument.
The overall sound of this album is pretty much the same as previous release which is a good thing but production of the instruments is much clearer maybe Rob Caggiano has a role to play as he has mixed and produced this album, every instrument can be heard clearly without overriding or suppressing the other. Guitar Riffs play an important role in the overall sound of the album, the rhythm section is basically the well known usual melodic black metal tremolo picking but overall guitar sound is not just limited to this, various progression in the riffs can be found on this album without sounding too much out of the way or disturbing the atmosphere, some tend to be aggressive progression and some mellow down the pace from the rhythm section. Solos are rarely found, the tracks “Blooming Blades” and “Hearts Condemned” have solos of very short duration, so those who are keen on solos in their metal this might be a little off putting, but the variety and progression of riffs from the main and rhythm section pretty much covers for lack of solos. Drumming is as solid as previous album, it has balanced mix of crushing blast beats and some interesting rolls one of the best examples would be on the track “Blooming Blades” as the music progresses with different tempo the drumming compliments it really well without ruining the the song. And the addition of keyboards is inevitable Chthonic being a melodic black metal band, but the keys are used in moderation and balanced perfectly with the other instruments without sounding too much drowned in the keyboards which majority of melodic bands tend to do in attempt to create an atmosphere. Vocals are handled by Lim and his vocal abilities certainly needs to mentioned as they are varied throughout the album, they can go as low as death metal type of growling to the high pitch howling which are much better and powerful than what Dani Filth tries to achieve these days which can be heard in song “Sing-Ling Temple”. The bass are just present to complement the overall sound, they don't shine as much as the other instruments.
“Mirror of retribution” is truly very enjoyable and twisted at the same time, some might find similarities to sound of the band everyone loves to hate Cradle of Filth. Be not afraid this album is better than many of Cradle's releases (I'm a fan of earlier albums and their latest effort is not half bad), So those who always loved the music of Cradle of Filth but were put off by Dani Filth's voice, this is your chance to enjoy that sound only with much more variety and better vocal performance of course.
I recommend this to any Melodic Black metal fan, and also for those who stay away from this sub genre for albums being too much keyboard driven, this certainly is not. Give it a try and you'll see the sub genre with different mind set. I can rarely sit throughout a melodic black album, but Chthonic successfully kept my interest rate high with their twisted,beautiful and brutal sound. I'll certainly look out for forth coming releases, as this band never cease to amaze me.
Standout Tracks: Blooming Blades, Hearts Condemned,Sing-Ling Temple,1947 (Instrumental), Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains
Since I wrote my review for Seediq Bale nearly 3 years ago, quite a lot has happened in the world of ChthoniC. Not long after I wrote the review, Seediq Bale was released in Europe (in a wonderful digipack at that). Also in 2007, Relentless Recurrence and Decade on the Throne were reissued in the West, and the retrospective Pandemonium featuring re-recorded versions of old songs came out on SPV.
And In 2008, the DPP lost the election.
For a metal band to be affected by politics is quite a rare thing (unless it's in a country where metal is outlawed), but as ChthoniC are more politically motivated and involved than most of their peers, this is probably the event that inspired the basis of this album. The party that won the Taiwanese elections, Kuomintang, are the same party that lost the Chinese Civil War, retreated to Taiwan, and after the 228 incident (which is what the lyrics of this album concern themselves with), implemented the White Terror and a martial law which lasted from 1947 until 1987.
The last few albums, released under DPP leadership, were strong. They primarily concerned themselves with mythology though. 9th Empyrean is about a war between Han Chinese and Taiwanese gods, Relentless Recurrence is about a vengeful spirit, and Seediq Bale was about the Seediq tribe's rebellion against Imperial Japan. This time though, they've got properly political. In focusing on the 228 incident, which is the basis of much of Taiwanese life today, they have the rage and ability to produce an album which is terrifying in its conviction.
From the opening moments of Autoscopy, you feel something going wrong. It's as if they want you to be present at the scene of the story, rather than just listening to the music. This effect recurs throughout, such as at the end of 1947 and the beginning of Rise of the Shadows. These sound effects add to the movie-like feel of the album, which is more than can be said of Seediq Bale (which actually did have an accompanying movie, which you can see clips of in the video for Quasi Putrefaction). Despite this, the keys are slightly scaled back on this album, leaving the aggressive guitars forefront and centre. The erhu is now used more for emphasis than as a predominant instrument, which is probably the best route to take with the "heavier" nature of this album.
However, despite all this, I have to give it a lower score overall than Seediq Bale. I love the album, but it still seems to lack something. Maybe I'm still wanting another "signature" song, one that jumps out and assaults you. Relentless Recurrence was a great album mostly because it could keep grabbing you and pulling you back in, despite the worse production and tacky drumming. Seediq Bale was brilliant, despite lacking the "hit" factor, because it didn't let up. From beginning to end it didn't stop.
Mirror of Retribution does slow. It nearly stops. It gets you hooked and then goes along a completely different path. Don't get me wrong, I like left-field stuff, but this is a slight complaint in what is a brilliant album.
The production is excellent, the instruments are performed expertly. It just doesn't quite top Seediq Bale.
The inclusion of UNlimited Taiwan is a big bonus though.
Standout tracks: "The Aroused", "1947", "49 Theurgy Chains", "Spell of Setting Sun", "UNlimited Taiwan".
An autoscopy is the act of seeing oneself, usually through an out-of-body experience. There you are, looking down on yourself in a fitful sleep, blurred figures bent over your body, whispering in voices that get louder and louder until you awake and find yourself back in your body. And then all you can hear is your own gasps for breath, growing louder in your ears as sleep and sanity drift further out of your grasp.
So starts Chthonic's Mirror of Retribution. After this intro - which will have your skin crawling depending on your CD player's volume and the amount of light still coming into your room - you may think you are back in familiar territory with the explosion of classic second wave Black Metal that begins the second track, Blooming Blades. Until seconds later, the guitars drop into back-place for the album's first erhu solo. The erhu, my friends (and the bloody word processor doesn't even recognize the word) is a Chinese violin, that actually sounds halfway between a fiddle and a cello. It is typically played at funerals and by homeless guys in parks late at night. In far east Asia it is also associated with a long tradition of ghost movie soundtracks. If you are lucky enough to have heard this beautiful and mournful instrument before (and if you haven't, I recommend the work of Chinese-Japanese composer and erhu player Jia Peng Fang) then you will find your immersion into Chthonic's dichotomy of Chinese tradition with English and European Melodic Black Metal already well on the way. Later, the track Sing-Ling Temple ends with a yearning Erhu strain that will have you weeping like an elderly Taiwanese lady in front of one of those historical love stories they are known for. Or attempting to play the air erhu. The instrumental track 1947 twins a synthesized soundtrack with a lengthy solo on the erhu that should give you a greater understanding of the instrument; it is possible to play very simplistic melodies on it while still capturing an exquisite sense of sorrow and wist.
This album isn't all cheongsams and tearful goodbyes however; Venom In My Veins (the title is a possible homage to a Trail of Tears song of the same name) blasts along with the rhythmic fury Cradle Of Filth tried so hard to attain with Thornography, and on the closer Spell Of Setting Sun: Mirror Of Retribution there is a melodic guitar riff that will remind you of Dusk...and Her Embrace. These guys have done their homework, but rather than simply referencing their favourite bands they use sounds from throughout the history of Black Metal to create a varied and interesting album.
The more typical BM sound of previous release has been updated with crisper production and heavier tendencies. The Aroused has the cascading wall of sound of classic Emperor, while Sing-Ling Temple begins with Freddy Lim bellowing with the throaty might of Behemoth's Nergal over a crushing death metal riff. On Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains he shrieks like a mid-nineties Dani Filth. The same track features more thrilling blast beats and jagged riffs than you will be able to process on a first listen, each riff not dominant for more than 30 seconds before the track shifts focus again and of course there is eventually an epic erhu solo. Ending with an extremely satisfying 'Uuggh!!' from Freddy, the song is their greatest technical and compositional achievement here and would stand up to anything offered by the European scene this year. Rise Of The Shadows has a coruscating guitar riff with all the menace and malevolence this genre used to have... seriously, blaze up and stick this shit on your headphones and you will wonder what you ever did without Taiwanese exports. Jesse Liu almost singlehandedly dominates the middle of the album with raging guitar riffs and tempo changes; just with the guitars and a drum track it would still be an incredible album. Her tremolo scales on Bloody Waves Of Sorrow make you feel like you have NEVER heard Black Metal before, before crashing into a doom-laden riff Candlemass would pay good money for.
Behind the venomous vocal delivery is a revolutionary lyrical message drawing upon the 228 Incident in Taiwan; the name refers to the date, the 28th of February, when an anti-government uprising in Taiwan was responded to with vicious force by the Republic of China - which was put in place by the Allied Forces - resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of Taiwanese. This began the White Terror of Taiwan, weeks of bloodshed that led into a period of martial law, only ending in 1987. Put it this way; a couple of decades ago, Chthonic would have been in prison for their Black Metal long hair, let alone their lyrical content. However, the 228 Massacre is now spoken of openly in Taiwan, with the families of people killed in the 228 Massacre pardoned and absolved of all crimes. Taiwan is making a name for itself as a country which, much like South Korea, has a freedom of speech and action far more sophisticated than its neighbour (The People's Republic and North Korea, in these cases). This allows Chthonic to try and breathe new life into the history and culture of Taiwan that was lost with the assimilation of Taiwan by the Han Chinese and the Japanese. What will surprise you the most is that in Taiwan, they are more popular than Dimmu Borgir is in Norway; their visit to Europe to promote themselves and conduct interviews was accompanied by the Taiwanese ambassador, and their Best Band 2003 Award was presented by the President of Taiwan himself. You may feel I am digressing somewhat; well you are wrong, this history of Taiwan is essential to the context of the band.
These trials and tribulations are why Chthonic play with such vigour and fury, why their production is almost obsessively crisp to allow the searing guitar riffs to really make your ears bleed, and the frantic drum patterns to break your neck. The ever-controversial form of Metal is ideal for their startling message. Dimmu Borgir play their brand of Black Metal with the relaxed air of those who are creating a concept album about religious hypocrisy aesthetically, while Chthonic reach the end of Mirror of Retribution with the impression that they still have more to give. Their indignation and fury at the destruction of their mythology and heritage by Han insurgence is fresh, blood-drenched, raw and stinging in their minds, and not even an album of such blinding quality can right the wrongs done to their people. So you can be certain they will be back, they will teach you more about Taiwan, and they will continue to rejuvenate the ailing Black Metal scene (blighted as it is with Wolves In The Throne Room and their many, many knock-offs) with driven, meaningful political music that most importantly will rock your fucking socks off.
This deserves a classic rating. Don't believe me? Just you wait for the copycats.