• Chthonic 閃靈 - 祖靈之流 / Where the Ancestors' Souls Gathered (1999) - The ideas are there but the transitions are not - 70% (03/12/12)

    Chthonic 閃靈 - 祖靈之流 / Where the Ancestors' Souls Gathered (1999)


    The first strike of Chthonic 閃靈 is a melodic extreme metal album featuring many promising and often progressively performed ideas that though lack of coherent transitions and make the final result sounding somewhat confusing.

    This becomes evident in a track like "海息 / Breath of Ocean". It kicks of with clean vocals and melodic guitar riffs that come as a surprise as they rather remind of the European power metal scene. Soon, the band gets back to its basic sound with a few blackened vocals and while I like both styles, they really don't harmonize well together in this song and feel quite torn apart.

    This kind of opposition between harsher and more melodic parts creates a few weird pieces on here. Another piece of evidence comes along with "燕歌行 / Yen Geh Shin" that features a few interesting folk vibes. Minimalist but efficient drum beats meet a few samples of exotic instruments. The song then progresses towards a more symphonic metal influenced vibe with intriguing female vocals. This change is not so smooth but still tolerable but then come fast riffs and unchained male vocals that try to perform along side the dreamy female voice parts and just completely bury them.

    The top of the top concerning weird transitions is though without a doubt "血雲朵 / Bloody Cloud". This one is just too tough to follow even for somebody who is used to listen to stuff from Akphaezya, Ebonylake or UneXpect. The track simply puts a few too many ideas in a rather short running time like their Japanese colleagues from Sigh are used to do. The calmer, mystic parts with clean vocals and occasional minimal folk or symphonic hints work very well but the more brutal and faster parts come in way too quickly and steal the more laid back passages their vital space.

    At least, not everything is too confusing on this rather short release. Some tracks are just a little bit dull and overlong as the epic "母島解體.登基 / Mother Isle Disingrated, Aboriginal Gods Enthroned" that would work much better if it was cut three or four minutes shorter. The song has a few well done breaks and sounds quite coherent to my positive surprise but it definitely has its lengths. While many other songs on this release include too many details in a short running time, this track doesn't offer enough in almost ten minutes that represent more than one quarter of the entire running time of the whole record.

    The track where the two faces of the band work best is the promising album closer "聖戰 / Holy War". That's a positive thing as this track peaks at exactly seven minutes of running time. The combination of slow and mean male vocals and more joyful and slightly folk influenced clean male vocals works quite well on this epic track. The atmosphere is not chaotic but rather of an increasing level of intensity. This song works like a hypnotizing maelstrom of emotions. The band includes several smoothly employed breaks that give the song some time to breathe in form of keyboard dominated instrumental parts. Each change of style feels thought out in this dynamic song that never gets boring. This track almost sounds as if the band had finally found the right balance at the end of the album after a high number of failures and one is almost disappointed that this record ends after this strong album closer.

    In the end, the Taiwanese pioneer extreme metal band shows its instrumental and also vocal talent and already offers a lot of constructive song writing ideas on their first album. The main problems lie in the bad transitions, sudden changes and overloaded parts that appear in most of the tracks while the running time of this record is also too short. The music is everything but bad and one realizes that a bunch of inspired and talented musicians got together on here that are though not very experienced yet and still fail to smoothly combine their creative input. That's why I would only suggest the purchase of this record to the faithful fans and collectors of rare items as the later releases of the band would mostly sound way more thought out than this promising but confusing initial effort.


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