Chthonic // Bú-Tik
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — Toss me an anchor why don’t you!
Label: Spinefarm Records
Websites: facebook.com/chthonictw | myspace.com/chthonictw
Release Dates: EU: 2013.05.31 | US: 06.25.2013
While first wetting my feet with black metal I came across Chthonic‘s 9th Empyrean, Relentless Recurrence and Seediq Bale albums. I felt a distinct pull towards their use of traditional instruments, their dramatic, aggressive, melodic sound and their bleak, nihilistic undercurrent and for a fair while their screams gripped my attention. Eventually though I felt the inevitable allure for darker and uglier and sank deeper and deeper into the blackness, discovering Nattefrost, Shining, Marduk, and I just forgot about Chthonic, missing out their whole Takasago Army era. I’ve been putting this review off for that very reason; it’s allowed me to spend some time rediscovering an old, long-forgotten friend…
For those not familiar with Taiwanese Chthonic and their oriental metals, they bear some subtle resemblance to bands like Dutch Carach Angren and Japanese Sigh. Chthonic focus on using influence from traditional Taiwanese music along with electrifying symphonic soundscapes and lush, thick, melodic sounding instrumentation, that’s very accessible to the ear, moving away from sounding like traditional, icy black metal. I say symphonic, but I use this term loosely. You’re not going to find operatic vocals or orchestral instruments as such, rather Chthonic make use of traditional oriental instruments like the er-hu (closely resembling a western violin), the zheng (box zither) and the pgaku flute to create layers and mournful textures of grief and sorrow in contrast with their drum demolition and mighty, powerhouse shrieks and growls.
Bú-Tik comfortably and deliberately follows on from 2011 release Takasago Army, keeping up with ‘the idea of an armed body and mind’. Where the two albums diverge is in that Bú-Tik feels more liquid, flowing as a single, watery body from one track to the next without any real definition. Bú-Tik opens and closes with a two-part instrumental track that has an almost Turisas sound and feel and “Arising Armament” well arms you for the near battle metal assault making up the rest of the album.
Dani, Azathothian Hands takes care of the drum decimation, pulling out all the stops on tracks like “Sail into the Sunset’s Fire”, “Rage of my Sword” and “Resurrection Pyre”, punishing the listener with a steady flow of fiery blast beats, interwoven with magnetic fills. The lead vocal styling’s of Freddy, Left Face of Maradou and the backing vocals of Jesse, the Infernal and Doris, Thunder Tears and their crew of extras, duel for your attention [Musically AND on the LARPing circuit — Steel Druhm1]. Tracks like “Between Silence and Death” and “Rage of my Sword” stand out for their stinging screams that lash out whip-like, in sharp contrast to the beastly growls on “Sail into the Sunset’s Fire”. The large majority of the tracks on Bú-Tik follow the tried and tested formula of melodic introduction, with mounting aggression the further you dig. And for the most part I enjoyed this combative approach. What I found disappointing was that the drums and vocals are so in your face that at times you’re too distracted to truly appreciate Jesse, the Infernal’s skillful, sometimes pensive, sometimes animated riffing.
Despite being so melodic, I found Bú-Tik more difficult to get into than Chthonic‘s older albums. The instrumentation is top notch, along with the vocal delivery, but Bú-Tik feels too much like a polished and honed Takasago Army and there’s nothing new here. Yes, I get that Chthonic claim to have settled into their sound and to have grown more comfortable in their song creation process, but with a lack of definite anchor tracks to draw you back coupled with material that mostly sounds like their previous release is a real momentum killer. I don’t feel great compulsion to march on and add Bú-Tik to my playlist.