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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

ChthoniC

Relentless Recurrence

Review by Gary Hill

I have to say that I’m not the biggest fan of extreme metal. In fact, cookie monster vocals generally will get me to shut off a CD. The thing is, I really like ChthoniC. These guys bring a gothic approach to the mix and their own particular brand of sound that just works really well. These guys also know that having a bunch of hard and fast songs all lumped together turns into a muddy mess of everything sounding the same. They use the time honored tradition of placing mellower (but equally dark in their case) sounds amongst their furious slabs of metal. This makes the hard rockers feel even more oppressive. It’s definitely a lesson a lot of groups could stand to learn. As they did with their new DVD A Decade On The Throne, the label has really done things well with the packaging on this one. The digipack contains these cool little cards that have lyrics for the songs. These come in an envelope along with a fold out cue card of the music. If everyone pulled out the stops on packaging like SPV and their partners did here, you’d probably find a lot less people downloading music, they’d want the packaging. Overall this is a great product that comes highly recommended to all fans of dark extreme metal. Since this is actually a reissue of their debut disc (originally available only in Asia) it should be mentioned that this is even more impressive given the fact that it was their first offering.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Chapter 1 - Nemesis
A gong starts things off. Then they move into an atmospheric segment based on a female voice seeming to sing a piece of traditional Asian music. Keys and sound effects layered over this lend a creepy texture. They move it out to more classical oriented sounds (still quite dark) to continue. The female voice becomes rather operatic as this works through and then the chanting sort of vocals from the intro return, but very far in the background. It ends much as it began, remaining an ambient mood piece throughout.
Chapter 2 - Onset Of Tragedy
Lest you get lulled into thinking this isn’t a metal album, this one pounds in with a dark and aggressive riff. As it work through keyboard sounds and some effects work over the top. Vocals far in the back create a Cradle of Filth like vibe. After a while they turn this into a more chugging, almost staccato riff. The keys over the surface lend a disquieting horror movie type sound. They move this through a couple of variations and some of the riffs feel like Rush on steroids. The vocals become an orgy of screaming and anger. This is definitely a powerhouse. Fast and furious and incredibly heavy and dense, you won’t find anything quite like this anywhere else.
Chapter 3 - Obituary tuning
A total contrast to the last number, this comes in with a texture that feels like a dark and twisted take on the soundtrack to some Disney movie. It turns more Goth as it carries onward, but remains pretty and atmospheric with piano, waves of sound effects and a whispered female vocal lending a horror film texture.
Chapter 4 - Grievance, Acheron Poem
This is less raw than “Onset of Tragedy.” A swirling keyboard sound moves across the central riff along with screamed, guttural vocals to create another one that should create a lot of strained necks in the mosh pit. This is not nearly as fast, but with a heavy duty riff like it has, how can you possibly avoid banging your heads. The thing is, the first section is really just about getting you ready for the main event. Because they have a short stop and then launch out into incredibly fast metal that could be called “whiplash in a bottle.” Some female vocals show up in the course of this metal monster. They drop it back to symphonic elements in an interlude later. Whispered / groaned vocals emerge over the top of this. An acoustic ballad approach shows up amidst this later, playing intricate patterns rather in the background. Don’t get too comfortable, though, because hey pound out from there again before they are finished, running through short versions of both the slower segment and the frantic one. This is intense.
Chapter 5 - Revert To Mortal Territory
Breaking with the pattern that they’ve established so far on the disc, this is another killer metal tune, rather than an alternating sedate mood piece. This one might well be more ferocious than anything else on the disc. It’s also more accessible than anything we’ve come across to this point. It’s frantic fodder for mosh pit antics and another killer example of just how strong a band these guys are. Some female vocals appear on this one, too. They turn in a rawer, almost hardcore punk segment later.
Chapter 6 - Funest Demon Born
Here we get the respite we expected last time, but this is no restful vacation. Pretty piano lulls you into a sense of letting down your guard and a noisy, dissonant thud on those keys shatters the sense of safety. As this moves on we get more waves of symphonic textures laced across the piece of dark balladic beauty that makes up this cut. It begins to resemble music to a soundtrack after a while. At around the minute and a half mark they scream in with more metallic fury and this seems to fight with the symphonic sounds for control before this instrumental ends.
Chapter 7 - Vengeance Arise
We’re back to the pure metal here, with another frantic screamer. Moving through a variety of sections this one is definitely a great mix of gothic metal and thrash. This has more twists and turns and contrast than a lot of progressive rock songs. Pure death growls show up on this track to take it into heavier, meaner territory than some of the rest of the disc, yet, they also add in a ballad-like section and a pure classic rock guitar solo.
Chapter 8 - Slaughter In Tri-Territory
Feeling a bit like European epic metal on the introduction, the symphonically laced elements remain as they launch into the song proper but the death growls and goth gasping vocals serve as stark contrast. After a full-fledged epic/prog metal movement they fire out into some of the most aggressive raw metal of the disc. These elements all seem to be at war with one another throughout the course of the track. Various things seem to form alliances on one side or the other during the course of this battle. This thing gets quite psychotic at times. The thing is, it also shifts out into some of the most melodic music here, a classic rock tinged, slower paced, prog metal like mid-section that’s extremely tasty. It’s such a tribute to the diversity of this group. After a reprise of the war for the second half of the cut, they turn it to pure symphonic music to end.
Chapter 9 - Grab The Soul To Hell
Dark balladic modes with symphonic elements start things off here. As they pound out into the mid-tempo metal stylings, keyboard maintain some of that symphonic feel. After the first verse they scream out into another frantic mosh pit inducing segment. The cut runs through a series of changes with various furious aggressive metal motifs taking it from time to time. This is guaranteed to force the most stalwart resistance into submission. They drop it back to symphonic sounds as a respite. This atmospheric section is dark, yet quite pretty. Female voices come across in non-lyrical fashion and then a whispered girl’s voice is heard in the background. They scream back out from there in a rather melodic, but quite furious approach. The keys swirl over the top into they rush back out into the earlier themes. This ends after about four to five minutes, but don’t hit “stop.” You’re going to get some silence between here and the final number.
Chapter 10 - Relentless Recurrence (hidden track)
After a couple minutes of silence, this song rises up. Symphonic sounds swirl in a restless manner at first. Then a plodding metallic theme serves as the backdrop for groaned, growling vocals. This gives way to a burst of more furious thrash-like sounds. They alternate this with a mellower, almost ballad-like symphonic-laced segment. As they power back up the strings retain this European metal sound. The music that drives this is built for the most discerning mosh pit, though. This stays aggressive for quite some time, then drops to a more melodic, slower approach that is a lot more sedate. Child-like vocals are laid over this backdrop. This holds it for a while, but then they burst back out into more furious metal to carry forward. Still, the symphonic layers remain. We get a killer guitar solo on this along with a lot of other intriguing elements (including operatic female vocals). It eventually fades out to finally end the disc.
 
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