Chthonic – Takasago Army

Completing their concept trilogy that started with Seediq Bale in 2007 and continued by Mirror Of Retribution in 2009, Taiwanese symphonic black metalers Chthonic release Takasago Army via Spinefarm Records. Produced by Rickard Bengtsson (Arch Enemy, Nemesis) at Sweet Spot Studios in Halmstad, Sweden, the band’s sixth album brings more of their distinctive blend of oriental folk sounds and extreme harsh and melodic black metal all coated with copious essences of dark spirits, shadows and emotion.

Chthonic (pronounced ‘Thonic’ and a name deriving from a Greek word signifying spirits of the underworld) though deeply placed in the heart of symphonic black metal stand apart from equivalent bands around the world with their thickly added traditional Taiwanese sounds, elements and instruments. In many respects they are like Russian folk metalers Arkona, the instinctive use and influence of their heritage and folklore aurally adds dimensions other bands can only dream of. When hearing them at first Chthonic instantly draw obvious comparisons to the likes of Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and Burzum  but soon their traditional additives, the unique atmosphere they raise, and the refreshing mesmeric emotive flows that weave through the hard intense sound reveals a band of immense quality and individualism musically.   

Seediq Bale started the theme of the three part concept with the Wushe Incident when Taiwanese aborigines were massacred by Japanese colonial forces they had rebelled against. Takasago Army closes the trilogy with reference to the Takasago Volunteers, aboriginal tribesmen recruited and trained in guerrilla warfare by the Japanese during World War II. Chthonic bassist Doris Yeh commented about the release “We’re very proud to present our latest album Takasago Army; it’s a masterpiece of the elements of Orient folk and extreme metal. The background revolves around WWII, and we want to reveal the spirit of finding your own dignity through the most difficult and dangerous mission on the battle ground. The closer you cone to death, the more you know who you are.”

The album opens with the atmospherically layered instrumental ‘The Island ‘, its dramatic texture and sound setting the scene and opening imagery for the album and its emotive content. ‘Legacy of the Seediq’ strikes next loaded with crushing riffs, power and intensity as flowing melodies swoop and sway with precision. Vocally it is definite Dani Filth territory though with more control and variation, not exactly unique but lays alongside the wonderful creativity musically perfectly.

The next track ‘Takaois one of three tracks that especially stand-out on Takasago Army. Relentlessly it surges into the ear with an eager urgency as strong as the lingering impact left once the last note departs. ‘Oceanquake’ and ‘Broken Jade’ stand alongside it parading the extra qualities taking an impressive album to a potential album of the year. The first of the two is an express train of a track veined with melodramatic and expressive weaves and passages, as addictive as it is unrelenting the song is imperial. The latter and the video from the album is a less forceful piece in some ways bringing a respite to the aggressively intense tracks that had invaded previously, though still extremely powerful and sharply edged. Its harmonies and melodic caresses sitting seamlessly alongside the directness it carries, and even in its slightly more subdued attack still strikes deeply and cleanly.

Takasago Army has so much more to reveal but rather than give away all its secrets the suggestion is to go and discover its charms and wonders for yourselves. Though black metal is the influential sound and the basis for their music, Chthonic use their instinctive historical and musical heritage to create something special in the same way the aforementioned Arkona and India’s Motherjane do in their own individual music identities, the result music that if it works for you will become a deep passion in the musical heart.

http://www.facebook.com/chthonictw

RingMaster 03/09/2011

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Anterior – Echoes of the Fallen

From their early days UK death metalers Anterior grabbed attention and interest with their potential and tightly delivered creativity. Shows with the likes of 3 Inches Of Blood and Skindred, the release of their first official songs via their Myspace profile with brought a host of offers from labels, and the signing of a worldwide deal with Metal Blade Records in December 2006 all happened in a short amount of time. Debut album This Age Of Silence was released to a just mass of critical acclaim in 2007, its quality and the bands realised promise clear to see, now with their new album Echoes of the Fallen released again via Metal Blade Records September 13th the band has confirmed and taken their stock even higher.

Echoes of the Fallen has been a long thoughtful process with 2010 being taken off by the band to concentrate on the completion of the songwriting for the release and as the year came to an end the starting of its recording. The album is an impressive and powerful result for the measured effort in its creation, and being the first recording of the new line-up of Anterior the release also shows that as great as the previous album was there is a marked and strong natural unity between this crew that excels and adds more to Echoes of the Fallen.  

The album hits the mark from the off with ‘To Live Not Remain’ leaving a trail of scorch marks in the ear as drummer James Cook and bassist James Britton thrust forth a forceful heavy rhythm attack that pounds the senses whilst the guitars of Leon Kemp and Steven Nixon weave and play around them with red hot riffs and sounds, their play with melodies and direct sounds resulting in incisive grooves that set an eager tone. A strong start to the album immediately raised by ‘Blood in the Throne Room’ where the guitars create an even greater tapestry of impressive interplay between power and melodies, the razor sharp solo a blissful addition. As on the opener and each track on the album vocalist Luke Davies is right on form, his delivery of growls and hoarse vocals a perfect fit to the harsh and smoother sonic sounds.

A feature of the band’s songs that is great is that there is no focal point in the tracks, in most tunes it seems like the vocalist or guitarist takes centre stage but with Anterior each song is a band effort with equal footing and every aspect of the band shines clearly, the album’s best track ‘Tyranny’ a perfect example. A metal core flavoured song it hits hard and low whilst the body is wrapped in stirring and insurgent guitar strikes before delivering again an impressive solo. Whatever one’s view of the release no one can deny the ability of the band and its individual members.

There is a very strong consistency across Echoes of the Fallen though at times also a similarity which does not detract from the release but does feel like it is just missing its potential at times. To be fair with the driving intensity of ‘By Horror Haunted ‘, the rapid response calling of ‘The Evangelist’, and the post hardcore tinged brutality of ‘Sleep Soundly No More as examples any less than positive comment is mere nit picking.

The overall sensation upon listening to Echoes of the Fallen is of full satisfaction with each and every listen bringing a little more to the fore. Anterior will strongly build on their already existing acclaim with Echoes of the Fallen and with more of their highly charged live shows coming up the recommendation is to check them and the album out and soon.

http://www.metalblade.com/anterior

http://www.facebook.com/ANTERIOR1

RingMaster 03/09/2011

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