Chthonic - Battlefields Of Asura review


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Band: Chthonic
Album: Battlefields Of Asura
Release date: October 2018

01. Drawing Omnipotence Nigh
02. The Silent One's Torch
03. Flames Upon The Weeping Winds
04. A Crimson Sky's Command
05. Souls Of The Revolution
06. Taste The Black Tears
07. One Thousand Eyes
08. Masked Faith
09. Carved In Bloodstone
10. Millennia's Faith Undone
11. Autopoiesis

Political life has not dimmed Freddy Lim's musical talents in these last couple of years - and why should it have? Chthonic has always been a band that puts its money where its mouth is, in one form or another; Freddy's new day job is merely a formality. Chthonic delivers even when everybody's also busy running the government.*

Battlefields Of Asura sounds like a combination of Bú-Tik and Takasago Army, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the best possible thing that can be said about a new Chthonic album. This is easily Chthonic's densest album, so the crisp production of Bú-Tik has softened in the midst of so many layers, but this is also Chthonic's most epic and elegant album; the latticework of orchestral artifice starts us off at the grandiloquent high where Bú-Tik culminated and rides on the energy of that high throughout.

Layers of strings and horns work in tandem with traditional instruments to produce an ever-present symphonic backdrop that tempers the band's chaotic front end; these are elements that have always been found in Chthonic's sound since the beginning, but are now amplified to a greater extreme. Battlefields Of Asura also boasts a very diverse vocal palette, with choirs frequently joining the orchestrations and clean backing vocals pervading with sometimes untranslated Taiwanese choruses - something that I'm glad to hear, as I gravitate towards the Taiwanese versions of Chthonic's albums myself. Freddy, for his part, keeps to his "screeching" voice much of the time, using deep growls sparingly; that decision makes sense in light of the heavy use of clean vocals in the background, as Freddy can support a melody better with his throat-ripping highs than with full-on hoarse growls, and this technique is more unique to Chthonic.

Individual musicianship is a great strength of Chthonic's, one that has developed along with the band's overall sound. Jesse Liu in particular has made himself a distinguished force on the guitar over these last few albums and he and drummer Dani Wang together put forth a lot of effort to pull this album through all the metal genres that Chthonic has historically laid claim to: black metal, symphonic black, folk, extreme power, melodeath, whatever else you want, all with CJ Kao's luxurious keyboard facades that range from the epic to the ambientů and that's before we even address the fact that Chthonic is based heavily in traditional styles, and then there's the fact that they can tie layers together like nobody's business.

"Taste The Black Tears" showcases Chthonic at its best: numerous instruments and layers of vocals all passionately flying through intertwining melodies that build and build, combining an increase in scale with little expert moments that make the song so memorable. The instrumental tracks "Masked Faith" and "Autopoiesis" hark back to Chthonic's earlier albums, which prominently featured the ambient side we haven't heard so much of lately, but the two songs in between, "Carved In Bloodstone" and "Millennia's Faith Undone," show us just how much Chthonic has evolved in the last 20 years. The former is a brief but adventurous folk-heavy tune that sounds like a perfect translation of Ensiferum's power-folk style into a Taiwanese context, while the latter, a magnificent showpiece featuring Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho, answers the last album's "Defenders Of Bú-Tik Palace" with a ceaseless flood of dark, devastating, and unquestionably, uniquely chthonic sounds.

With the force and direction of Chthonic's evolution over these eight albums and two decades, it is safe to assume that the band is nowhere near at its end - nor will the next album likely sound the same as this one - but it is also clear that Chthonic has passed a turning point after which all of their albums will continue to grow in scale and personality. Chthonic is a singular band releasing singular material. As stated earlier, Bú-Tik is the nearest point of comparison, followed by Takasago Army, so fans of those albums should get the most from Battlefields Of Asura, but this is also a musical work all its own and one that I only wish there were more of.

* I feel I should also mention, while we're discussing things that have happened since the last Chthonic album and might have had an effect on the production of this one, that Freddy Lim and Doris Yeh, heavy metal's most adorable husband-wife tag team**, also welcomed a daughter in the time since the last album, which, it strikes me, is probably the most absorbing and significant change to have affected the band during that time. Running a country is probably less difficult than running a family. That's what light-hearted family comedies tell me.

** I love you, too, Sigh, but you guys creep me out.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Production: 8


Written on 03.10.2018 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 2   Visited by: 41 users
16.10.2018 - 08:10
2018 best metal album ever
16.10.2018 - 09:32
Cynic Metalhead
Atrocious Virgin
The fusion of this record spreading all around the mags is insurmountable. I heard they've record one of the best album to this date. Still in a pipeline to toss this up, but the hype is fucking amazing. I'm extremely excited to look forward to new Chthonic.

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