One of the best things about doing this job is that you are frequently exposed to music that you may never have otherwise listened to. In the case of Chthonic I’m damned glad, because this is a fantastic album.
First track, ‘Autoscopy’ nicely sets out the bands horror-themed stall by mixing up satanic-sounding voices and screaming to terrifying effect. ‘Blooming blades’ then hits the ground like vintage Cradle of filth before blending in traditional-Taiwanese folk music with remarkable effect. Not convinced? No, well neither was I when I read the band’s press sheet, but this works so well and sacrifices none of the heaviness that the band bring to bear. ‘Hearts condemned’ is next, and showcases not only the band’s awesome power, but also the talents of guitarist Jesse Liu who throws in power-metal passages and brutally chunky power chords that tie perfectly with the keyboards which, while defiantly present in the mix, never over-power it. Meanwhile vocalist Freddy Lim gives Devil Driver’s Dez Fafara a run for his money with his authoritative bark complimenting the bands frenzied riffing perfectly.
One of the best things about this band is the sheer weight that producer Rob Caggiano (Anthrax guitarist) has imbued this album with, while maintaining the subtleties of the folk aspects of the music. Far more powerful than many death metal bands, this brings to mind the heavy-weight production of bands such as In Flames or Kataklysm, rather than the paper-thin production of Dark Throne. Quite simply if you haven’t been obliterated by the opening tracks, then by the mesmerising ‘Forty-nine theurgy chains’ you’ll be in thrall to every hammer-blow of Dani Wang’s drums. Another huge plus is that carful thought goes into the lyrics, with historical references cropping up in the bands music (although you may be hard pressed to identify them without the lyric booklet): “The story behind this album combines true historical fact with an ancient myth of hell. Amongst other things, we make reference to the famous ‘228 massacre’, which was the biggest massacre in Taiwanese history.”
Intelligent and politically aware (Chthonic are the only band to appear in this year’s Free Tibet concert) Chthonic are a fascinating, new spin on the death metal sound and will appeal to a broad spectrum of metal fans thanks to the uncompromising production, folk melodies and weighty material. If you’ve never heard of this band, do yourself a favour and go and pick up a copy of this record as soon as possible. This is a great record setting a new benchmark in a genre already crowded with innovative and technically gifted bands.