Sound — 8
Chthonic are a band from Taiwan. They've been around for 15 years or so, and have remained an underground act for most fo that time. Recently though, they appeared in Terrorizer magazine on the front page to promote their latest release, Mirror of Retribution. The general themes of the album are based around stories and myths from ancient Asia to the second world war and onward. Their sound is primarily melodic black metal, which is heavily influenced by traditional asian folk music. This is apparent all over the album and most of the songs contain use of the erhu, a chinese instrument used all over eastern asia. The band also incorparate keyboards and instruments such as a chinese gong and what I think are taiko drums. What makes this band different from other bands in the black metal scene is their different take on the genre itself. While they follow the standard template (Stage appearance, screaming, high tunings, dramatic and explosive drumming), they have a new idea for each thing. For example, instead of 'corpsepaint', they use elaborate face make-up and sometimes masks, and also use obscure and just as elaborate stage names. There are a few melodic death metal influences as well, such as the riffs from '49 Theurgy Chains' and the main riff to 'Singling Temple'. The guitarist, Jesse, also adds in some deep growls to accompany the vocalists screams. Recording wise, the band use the same style as System of a Down which is having a balanced mix of 1 track per instrument. Basically, everything is recorded separately and balanced in the mix. It makes the guitar tone sound a little weak , theres no multi-layering so theres not much depth to the sound either and the bass is a little inaudable, but its a change from badly made records from Scandanavia. I'd take this over anything from Europe any day.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics are written in mandirin chinise but are sung in english. The themes and lyrics are taken from ancient historical facts and myths from ancient Asia, and from events that took place during the Second World War. Much more different from the traditional black metal norm. While the lyrics aren't particularly complex or detailed, they fit the overall tone that black metal sets. This includes the overall pessimistic nature of the melodies, the speed of the drumming and symphonic backdrops. The lyrics are surprisingly coherent when screamed, but take a little to ingest. As in most black metal, theres no real vocal variaton apart from screaming and the odd death growl, although during a few of the songs, a guest female vocalist makes an appearance.
Overall Impression — 8
I've listened to most of this album for quite a while now, and theres just something about it that doesn't get old. To compare it, there are few bands that have anything close to it. The vocals are similar to Dani Filth, but everything else is different. There are some good songs to look out for, such as the single '49 Theurgy Chains', 'Blooming Blades' and '1947'. 1947 is one of my most favourite tracks, its an ambient instrumental, featuring only traditional instruments and rain sound effects. The overall effect could be considered a filmscore backdrop which is very beautiful and a good pivot point in the middle of the album. What I really love about this album is that its very different from anything else. I can garuntee there will be very few bands that can succesfully meld extreme metal and traditional folk music and make the two sound so close together. I'd really recommend it to anyone, even if you don't like black metal, there are definitly enough songs on this album to make you appreciate it. Its a real gem.