Chabtan The Kiss of Coaticue 01We’re all familiar with the uncanny valley, yes? When something bears most of the aesthetic qualities of a living being, but a few crucial little details are off and the whole thing gives you the heebie-jeebies? Metal has such a valley, and the ambiguous beast called “modern metal” lives there. He bears many qualities of what we know as metal, but like this creepy fucking thing it’s the beast’s eyes that give it away: “modern metal” seems to see songs as a series of parts thrown together to gain attention via being a stark contrast to what preceded it instead of a unified whole: good cop/bad cop vocals, aggressive verse to saccharine chorus, and sudden breakdowns are the most common methods of this. French modern metal/melodic deathcore newcomers Chabtan try their hand at this style and wind up creating a cluttered, convoluted, and underwhelming painting on a shiny canvas with their full-length debut The Kiss of Coaticue.

Chabtan have a very modern sound, for better or worse. Everything is tight and precise, with genre standard downtuned guitars chugging away behind Swedish flavored melodies in order to sound heavy. It often comes across as a deathcore-oriented take on Arch Enemy (Amott-core?) with breakdowns, staccato riffs, and chuggy dissonance aplenty. There are also American style aggro-groove riffs a la Devildriver to mix things up, but this all creates an emphasis on the immediate jarring appeal that doesn’t encourage replays or reward close attention. You’ll hear an admittedly decent rock-based riff just appear apropos of nothing (“Follow the Darkest Way”) or a breakdown deliver a spinning pit-ninja kick to a song structure that didn’t build up to anything meaningful in the first place (“Reptile”), for instance. Put simply, if you mash together styles of the last ten or so years that were popular with the young neon-sporting crowd, it would come out pretty similar to this.

Of all their disparate parts, the melodic segments are Chabtan’s strongest suit. The guitar hook that truly introduces “Born From Vucub Caquix” and also acts as its chorus shows these guys can craft a solid melody, and “Astral Monsters” winds up as the best song due to its overall cohesiveness and mostly tolerable early metalcore-isms. The chorus of “Anthropomorphic Beast” is bouncy fun that brought me back to when I used to spin The Oncoming Storm all the time, but nostalgia couldn’t exclude the whole: the surrounding song is platitudinous and left me just wanting it to hurry up and get to the chorus again every time I listened to it, and most of the other songs just made me want them to hurry up and end.

Chabtan The Kiss of Coaticue 02

What really hamstrings The Kiss of Coaticue is that much of the music can’t decide if it wants to be punishing or melodic and winds up as neither. This is the uncanny valley, and “Ixtab” is one example out of many. The introductory aggro riff instantly flatlines, the Gothenburg-core verse and blasty prechorus don’t hold catchy licks or much sonic weight, and the ending keys don’t add worthwhile melody to the heaviness because they’re not interesting and the heaviness simply wasn’t there. The title track moves from an acoustic intro that wasn’t really needed, to more insipid core-riffing and a chorus with some off-putting clean vocals that seem like they’re meant to create a hook, but it ends up being neither catchy nor creating an interesting counterpoint, becoming hackneyed and forgettable. The harmonics in “Visions of the Snake” are memorable because they’re irritating, and the uninteresting dissonance behind the recurring lead simply doesn’t work and sounds forced.

On top of all this, The Kiss of Coaticue has a squashed and drab Frederik Nordstrom mix and master, providing guitars that sound over-processed with fuzz added in via post-production, bass that’s probably there somewhere, drums that sound sterile and lack punch, and vocals that fit but don’t excite despite the shifts from gruff hardcore shouts to shrieks to clean singing. I’ve spent a lot of time criticizing this record, and for good reason: Chabtan are doubtlessly professionals when it comes to playing their instruments and presenting their image, but not when it comes to writing songs. All considered, The Kiss of Coaticue winds up boring, forgettable, and an unnecessary listening experience.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Mighty Music
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 05.25.2015

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  • AndySynn

    There are three genre terms (well, more than that, but for the purposes of this post let’s stick with three) that immediately raise a red flag for me:

    “Modern Metal”
    “Groove Metal”
    “Tech Metal”

    As they all tend to be used by bands who aim for the most bland and mass-appeal sound possible. This review seems to continue this trend.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Agree with all of this. To me these are pointless subgenres that produce pointless drivel because they isolate an aspect from a greater band and dumb it down for mass appeal. For example, Onward to Golgotha is technical and groovy, but those aspects yield to the songs themselves and aren’t the end of the songwriting, for lack of a better term. Modern metal is a good description though, as average listeners are so distracted today that the surface level is all that’s often heard. Quick and substance-less writing overloaded with quantity instead of quality of parts plays directly into the modern distracted listening phenomenon, I’d say.

      • Martin Knap

        you vain elitist, I bet the new Yelawolf record isn’t good enough for you, is it? ;-)

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          I’m not sure, what is Yelawolf? Is it a wolf that yells, a yellows wolf, yelling at a wolf, simply yelling “a wolf”? So may possibilities!

          • Martin Knap

            It’s a wolf that sings country music and raps. And whose music comes across kind of like the smile of the japanese robot form your article.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            From the little bit I heard, that seems entirely accurate. What has the world come to?

          • Martin Knap

            I see him as a guy who maybe longs for authenticity, but is unable to connect to a tradition, because tradition is an expression of a way of life that no longer really exist, especially if we talk about a culture of a more communitarian past… In a way we may be all like him :-(

    • Vice-President of Hell

      Srsly, dude. All this genres is too pop. Cyber-noise grind is our choise!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Funk metal

  • sir_c

    I think your critique is spot-on and it has been a while since I heard music sound so bad as this.

    And their composition feels like when you come home from drinking, Sunday 4AM, being peckish: you just chomp your way through every fucking thing you can find in the fridge and then belch so loud your neighbours’ cat shits the carpet.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    “We want the Decapitated: Blood Mantra cover… but with a naked blonde chick”

    • Grymm

      That cover looks like a Magic: The Gathering card gone awry.

      “Circle of Protection (Tech Metal): Tap two Plains and any mana to block damage from bad music.”

    • Allow me to expand on what I think was the artist intent: It’s an attempt to represent Coatlicue, literally “The one with a skirt of snakes”, you could think of her as an Aztec version of Gaia, being a goddess of Earth and mother to all the Aztec pantheon. Only her story it’s a bit more “metal”: She also personifies Death, to the ancient Aztecs the Earth had this duality of Birth/Death since we are both born of this Earth and when we die we come back to her, or rather, are devoured by her.

      One version of her myth says she was also the Moon deity. Which I think it’s part of the cover, with the Moon behind her head and the silvery hair. During the Aztec cosmogony she was decapitated by the Sun god, one of her sons, hence why we see the lunar phases.

      Other version says the Moon and the Stars, also her daughters, tried to kill her in a fit of rage and jealousy when the Sun god was born. As the story goes, he was born fully armed and was able to save her by killing his sisters.

      Her most popular monument represents her with a necklace of disembodied human hearts and hands, also part of the artists’ interpretation.

      It’s not an entirely terrible illustration, probably the most jarring thing to me would be her remarkably European features. Taking into account that the Spaniard Conquistadores took advantage of the natives’ naivety to pose as gods because of the skin and hair color, that particular artistic decision could raise some eyebrows over here in Mexico.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Thanks that’s really interesting and metal! Seems like there’s great scope for quality conceptual metal album based on Aztec folk law…is there a Mexican equivalent of Amon Amarth or Bathory?

        • I think Yaotl Mictlan is the closest thing. Candlelight recently re-released Dentro del Manto Gris de Chac on bandcamp. It was reviewed by AMG back in the day. It’s a really good album. The only problem would be the lyrics are mostly in Spanish.

  • Sorry to be *that guy* again, but it should be “Coatlicue.” She’s a feminine Aztec deity that I find incredibly odd the artist chose to represent as a silver haired, clearly Caucasian person, but hey, we already have a lively debate about tone deaf “cultural representation” on the Civil War review.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      We’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt and say it was reinterpreted that Coatlicue came back and promptly became a member of My Chemical Romance, their rivals in brutality.

  • OzanCan

    This blog does not like anything …core apparently. I cant blame you :)