Review of the new album from Chthonic titled Bu-Tik, released via Spinefarm Records.
1.”Arising Armament (Intro)”
2.”Supreme Pain for the Tyrant”
3.”Sail into the Sunset’s Fire”
5.”Rage of my Sword”
6.”Between Silence and Death”
8.”Set Fire to the Island”
9.”Defenders of Bu-tik Palace”
10.”Undying Rearmament (Outro)”
-The idea of an armed body and mind–
“The image is made of the features of an elder, child, and girl model. The female model depicted in the cover, Bu –Tik, was chosen of nearly a hundred volunteers candidates.”
One can only imagine the immense political allegory behind it, given the band’s penchant for driven political activism. An element that runs the entire gamut of the Chthonic discography.
No Chthonic review is complete without a brief insight into the deep political well of Taiwan from which their work ceaselessly draws from. For instance let us take the case of their last three records. The critically acclaimed Seediq Bale, the one album that put Chthonic on the international metal map talked about the infamous Wushe massacre where thousands of native Seediq tribesmen were slaughtered by the colonial Japanese. The less successful Mirror of Retribution took to the 228 incident where an altercation between the civilian populace and the then Chinese government developed into a full scale genocide. Finally their last album Takasago Army which portrayed the courage and valor rooted in the heroism of Takasago volunteers. You ought to read about Teruo Nakamura who made his living off an island for 30 years after the bloody great holocaust did come to an official end. Talk about loyalty.
Come to their new album and it is no different in character. It is a beast armed to the teeth with unbridled fury but sometimes found ailing in a few places. Bu-Tik much like its predecessor shows the band partially abandoning their uber-cheese symphonic black metal moments. Seediq Bale thrived on this very fact but was more cohesive overall and was in fact one could their own brand of oriental metal. Although the keyboards had a slightly overbearing edge to it, the eerie patriotism soaked atmosphere overall, held its ground. The combination of the Chinese folk instrument Erhu ,catchy riffage and serene female vocals at exactly the right places together formed the centerpiece of the atmosphere. Yet one cannot fail to conceive the cheesy influences of Dimmu borgir and Cradle Filth running the gamut of the entire album. It was more of the same on Mirror of Retribution and rather sloppily done too. Takasago Army on the other hand was more of a departure from the said sound and relied on the more riff oriented approach. Although nothing spectacular by any means, it did appeal to a larger audience with its share of infectious melodies, group chants and ebullient patriotism.
Bu-Tik picks up where Takasago Army left off, but does so in a far more memorable way. Bands that seek to ride the wave of success of their last album usually end up just regurgitating the same ol.. The result being of a slimy and pallid nature. Well this is not the case here, for one there seems to be a sudden flux of more memorable songs here than on their previous outing. While Takao and Quell the Souls in Sing Ling Temple were probably the only standout tracks on Takasago Army, Bu-Tik have five to six of them in a total of eight proper songs (the other two being the intro and outro). Be it the incipient thrash attack of Rage of my Sword, the rabid groove of Resurrection Pyre or the absolutely majestic closer Defenders of Bu-Tik Palace. Jesse Liu’s exquisite solos populating ably crafted bridge sections and absolutely massive choruses that serve to invigorate the dying conviction in one nation’s past are some of the conspicous highlights. And yes the Erhu ..the serene Chinese folk instrument.. Freddy Lim’s erhu playing elevates the said choruses to a near sublime level which is basically at the heart of every Chthonic song.
Lyrically rather than sticking to a single all-pervading theme, the songs draw upon a vast array of different illustrious incidents dotting Taiwan’s fractured history. The details of which have been neatly rundown by the charming Doris over at Terrorizer. And this is probably one of the reasons why the album feels a bit disjointed in terms of flow. The songs stand on their own, but sadly don’t really develop into a self providing unit. I guess this was deliberate work on the band’s part, for they seem to be more inclined to deliver a bunch of one hit scorchers than make a statement on cohesion. The faults don’t really end there as well, songs such as Sail into the Sunset’s Fire, Set Fire to the Island and the first half of Between Silence and Death are just too lack luster to be given any serious attention at al. On the instrumental side you have the drums just managing to stay above average , a casualty of the now ubiquitous modern sound, and Doris despite her innate eye candyness seems to be doing nothing more than following the lower end of each riff.
These pardonable blemishes aside, this really can be one real good session of oriental metal. With a sound lyrical approach to consolidate their musical output this makes for an interesting listen which grows in catchiness on repeated listens. This is not of a work of ultranationalist and over the brim jingoism; this represents a band mourning and celebrating the travesties and glories of a nation littered with a turbulent past, Taiwan.
Watch their brand new video for their song ‘Defenders of Bu-Tik Palace’ below.