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CHTHONIC – Takasago Army

  • Review by: Ishaan Kumar

The Taiwan typhoon strikes yet again! The Far East’s ‘ghostpainted’ quintet return with their 6th full-length album and the third in a series of tributes to Taiwan’s culture and struggle for independence (along with ‘Mirror of Retribution’ and before that, ‘Seediq Bale’). The album name refers, in fact, to the Imperial Japanese Army’s volunteer soldiers recruited from the Seediq, one of Taiwan’s oldest aboriginal tribes. Incidentally enough, the album released  on July 6th, 2011, just a few months before the slated release of the Taiwanese feature film ‘Seediq Bale’ (trailer here).

A melancholic war horn heralds the album through the intro track ‘The Island’. It is a symbolic, ambient reminder of the horrors of war that both Japanese and Taiwanese people alike would meet with, finishing off with trademark ehru harmonic. ‘Legacy of the Seediq’ finally sets the metal into motion. Right from the start, one notices and evolution in style. The tunes are more melody-oriented, the keys are a lot more ambient and regular and the beats are a bit towards the experimental side. Vocally, Freddy Lim frequents a lot more in Schuldiner-inspired death growls than the regular black metal shrieks and screeches. Overall there is a bit of a gravitation towards melodic death metal styles that seems to take place. However, regardless of the exact style, the music really hits home.

A personal belief of mine is that every good album has an ideological ‘through-line’. ‘Takasago Army’ definitely does. Throughout the album there are constant reminders of strife either through the low tremolo barrages or through the clear, ringing ehru/keyboard harmonics. Freddy Lim’s choice of shrieks and death-growls are quite well placed within each song and the regular Traditional Han dialogues and lyrics also ring a patriotic bell. Musically, the tracks are well-connected through the regular keyboard overtones among the arpeggiated hooks. A few places here and there fall a bit flat on the emotional content but one may argue that dull moments make the exciting ones even more worth the wait. Tracks that stand out for me are ‘Takao’, ‘Oceanquake’, ‘Southern Cross’, ‘Kaoru’ and ‘Broken Jade’ but more in the sense of the bigger dimsums in a box of really good dimsums (if I may use a regional simile).

Being a representative of one of the few internationally successful metal acts from the Far East is not easy, even less so when the nation you represent STILL fights for total independence. Chthonic are active supporters of Taiwanese independence even outside the musical realms, being known to have made trips to even the United Nations to ask for total self-recognition of their nation. ‘Takasago Army’ is powerful enough to awaken a lot of people outside of Taiwan to their cause and at least cause them to show even the littlest of verbal or moral support to it. If you’re a fan of Kalmah, Stormlord or the golden era of Children of Bodom, do not miss this album under any circumstances. Xièxiè shǎn líng.