異族亡魂 / Alien Avenge - 第五太陽紀 / Tonatiuh (2010) - A weird mixture of styles that goes nowhere - 47% (15/07/14)
Alien Avenge is a strange Taiwanese band labeled as melodic death metal. The band is surely innovative, but is quite hard to digest. The band has so many different faces that it’s hard to get what the six musicians are actually trying to accomplish on their first record, Still, Tonatiuh performed surprisingly well in Asia, and even got some attention from European countries thanks to the recommendation and participation of Chthonic’s bassist Doris Yeh.
To begin with, we have short and not very appealing instrumentals on this record, such as the disharmonic and almost random piano interlude “81025”. This interlude sounds like a missed attempt at creating a bastardized UneXpect and X Japan instrumental hybrid. I really can’t make any sense of a song like this. On the other hand, the band also comes around with one rather promising instrumental, “Ice”, featuring acoustic guitars and progressive keyboard sounds. This is the kind of music I would expect to hear on a new Opeth release, for example. Why are these instrumentals here? I have no clue, because they don’t have anything to do with, and don’t fit in with the rest of the record. They rather slow the record down instead of adding a well integrated new dimension to it. Maybe these songs were just quickly made to stretch and fill the record with more music, or maybe they’re here on purpose to mix us up just like the rest of this album. Maybe it's just me and I don’t get it.
Other than that, we’ve got a few brutal, fast-paced modern extreme metal songs that are influenced by bands such as Children Of Bodom, In Flames, and Soilwork, but also something like Nevermore in the more atmospheric moments. Some tracks have an apocalyptic touch, such as “Revenge War” or “Melting”, featuring Chthonic’s bassist Doris Yeh, who performs some piercing screams on this song. Both tracks convince with their well-suited keyboard parts, gripping riffs, and well performed melodic guitar solos. The latter track even has a few slightly progressive transitions and is among the best pieces on here.
Other tracks like “Torment” or “Hung War” are much more straightforward, and yet way too chaotic for me. The vocals in these tracks are somewhere between death and black metal styles, and could appeal to those who liked the last Sigh record, for example, or some songs made by Absu.
There’s also an epic track called “Intrusion Collapse”, that approaches the ten minute mark. This is somewhat of a highlight amongst this record’s weirdness. The track starts promisingly, with epic keyboard sounds that make you expect a power metal track, but the song shifts to a melodic black metal anthem in the key of Chthonic or Dimmu Borgir, before it suddenly gets a clear death metal touch again. The mixture doesn’t work all too badly once you get used to it. But just before the five minute mark, the song seems to be over, and we get a few seconds of silence before a rather calm and atmospheric interlude leads us into an equally strange second part of the same track. These parts are clearly jazz influenced. At this point, I’m not surprised by anything anymore. Once you start to enjoy the calmer mood with atmospheric keyboards and great guitar melodies, the madness kicks off again and we get some blistering extreme metal. The entire track represents the record very well. The song is promising and has its moments. The technical abilities of the band are quite good, but I feel that nothing fits together well at all. Even after multiple spins, this song and record remain completely inaccessible to me, which doesn’t happen quite often with my preference for the experimental. I had less headaches watching David Lynch’s entire “Dumbland” series than listening to this record.
In the end, this record is a truly confusing output. From addicting genre tracks to overwhelmingly chaotic songs, you get a whole bunch of more or less gripping variations of the melodic death metal genre. Short instrumentals and overlong tracks make this record very hard to digest. The album feels too ambitious, directionless, and totally overwhelming. Even the lyrics vary from Chinese to English from song to song without any apparent reason. The tracks don’t really fit together, and this record has no clear guiding line apart from its genre categorization. Even the songs themselves have parts that don’t fit together. We get sudden breaks in some tracks, and one thinks for sure that a new song has started, but according to the track labels, it’s still the same song, but has completely changed.
Yes, this band has got some talent and they surely have loads of ideas, but they don’t manage to put them into consistent song writing. That’s why this record is rather frustrating and quite hard to sit through. I can only recommend this album to chaotic and destructive minds and die hard extreme metal fans that look to try out everything from this genre.
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