Chthonic / 閃靈 reviews
June 14, 2013 in Reviews
Chthonic / 閃靈
Bú-Tik / 武徳
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Chthonic is without a doubt one of the most famous metal bands from Asia after Japanese outfits like Loudness or X Japan. The band from Taipei in Taiwan was formed back in 1995 and has since released six critically acclaimed full length records. The four men and beautiful female bassist Doris Yeh have just released their seventh record entitled Bú-Tik in Asia, and an English language version will follow for North America this month.
The band’s seventh record is a conceptual effort based upon the early years of what would later become Taiwan. Many songs talk about the exploration of the island, the hard life of the first settlers, and a group of pirates who would plan to overthrow the Ming Empire and the Tokugawa Shogunate. The album title is related to a massacre that occured around the Bú-Tik palace in the year 228. The intriguing album cover depicts the main theme of the record, and represents the idea of an armed body and mind. The image is in fact made of the features of a child, an elder, and a female model.
Let’s start to talk about the music. The band plays well thought-out extreme metal with fitting and none-too-overwhelming symphonic elements, as well as more and more Asian folk influences, as one can hear in the opening and closing instrumentals “Arising Armament” and “Undying Rearmament”. As you can see, these two tracks underline the conceptual approach of the release, as well as a certain kind of cinematographic approach. The band also put a lot of attention, passion, and time into the lyrical concept. The two video clips that have been made for the record underline the ambitious approach and impressed me a lot.
In comparison to several previous efforts, the eight main tracks on this album sound a lot smoother. The record doesn’t come across as overloaded or as hectic as has often been the case before. Most of the songs have a mid-tempo foundation with extreme metal riffs. Faster section, as well as short symphonic or acoustic breaks keep the attention high, and this record never gets boring or too predictable. These parts are well integrated and sound harmonious enough to ensure a pleasant listening experience over forty minutes. While several previous releases included loads of death and black metal riffs, this new release only includes a few truly extreme metal tracks like the passionate “Sail Into The Sunset’s Fire”, which is a true firework of diversity, and should appeal to old fans of the band, as well as anybody who has a heart for intellectual extreme metal.
This means that the sound of this record is much more melodic and technical than what the band has accomplished previously, and could possibly draw in those who don’t care much for extreme metal. The anthemic “Next Republic”, with its melodic guitar solos, is such a track that breaks down the genre frontiers (and could have been written by a band like In Flames or Soilwork). The melodic closing moments of “Between Silence And Death”, where melodic guitar leads, symphonic melodies, and fascinating Asian tonality meet passionate extreme metal vocals is surely one of the greatest parts of the new release. The driving “Rage Of My Sword” and the highly diversified “Defenders Of Bu-Tik Palace” are not a far cry from the latest Ensiferum or Wintersun releases, while the excellent harsher parts of those songs call to mind the legendary Dimmu Borgir. “Defenders Of Bu-Tik Palace” and “Set Fire To The Island” even include a few female vocals by Doris Yeh that add an epic touch to the intriguing concept and well-developed songwriting. The band somehow manages to keep and even expand the trademarks that have made Chthonic one of the milestones of the Asian metal scene.
Chthonic has released a very strong record. Their trademark sound has been pushed to a new level of open-minded musical diversity and technical perfection. The transitions work better than ever, and the conceptual story behind the release harmonizes with the coherent music. While the record includes no obvious highlight or a truly catchy track, each song has its reason to be there, and the record keeps getting better and better with every new spin. Even the songs I liked less in the beginning, like the challenging opener “Supreme Pain For The Tyrant” or the initially too hectic “Resurrection Pyre”, have continued to grow on me. The band members have definitely improved their songwriting talents over the years, and this seventh record is easily among the best of the band’s releases. Old and new fans of the band should adore this record alike.
In my humble opinion, this release isn’t the record of the year, but up to this point, it is one of the finest extreme metal releases, along with Voivod’s “Target Earth” and Dagoba’s “Post Mortem Nihil Est”.
On a closing note, I might also suggest you try out the similar Chinese bands Screaming Savior/惊叫基督, Terminal Lost/天幕落, and Voodoo Kungfu/零壹 if you happen to like Chthonic/閃靈.
4.0 // 5