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CHTHONIC 閃靈 - 'Battlefields Of Asura' Album Review


1. Drawing Omnipotence Nigh

2. The Silent One's Torch

3. Flames Upon The Weeping Winds

4. A Crimson Sky's Command

5. Souls Of The Revolution

6. Taste The Black Tears

7. One Thousand Eyes

8. Masked Faith

9. Carved In Bloodstone

10. Millennia's Faith Undone

11. Autopoiesis

Well who knew there was a metal scene in Taiwan? I certainly didn’t, but having listened to the new CHTHONIC 閃靈 album ‘Battlefields Of Asura’ I know now. In ancient Greek Chthonic means ‘in, under or beneath the earth’ which translates literally to ‘subterranean’. In English it refers more to spirits or deities which reside in the underworld such as Cthulhu. Subterranean probably fits as a suitable description for CHTHONIC 閃靈 in the UK at the moment, they are very much an underground movement. Chthonic cults in ancient Greece were known to have made sacrifices to the gods of the underworld. Some of the songs on ‘Battlefields Of Asura’ might well work as a great soundtrack to depictions of those sacrifices should Tarantino ever decide to commit those stories to celluloid.

Many of CHTHONIC 閃靈’s songs draw on Taiwan’s folklore and bloody history for their subject matter. Singer Freddy Lim is very active in the politics of Taiwan and supports human rights via the likes of Amnesty International. Bass player Doris Yeh is also a strong supporter of human rights, particularly women’s movements. The band are obviously successful in these areas as the Chinese government has banned them from much of China. ‘Battlefields Of Asura’ is their ninth album and since 2000 all of their releases have a mostly English language version issued internationally. This album proves that geography is not something that can contain or define great Metal. Mountainous riffs, magnificent melodies and a supremely handled “everything but the kitchen sink” production. I believe that a number of traditional Taiwanese instruments are used as well as guitar, bass, drums and keys from a western sense. If I have a favourite track after a couple of listens it is probably the manic Metal of “Millennia’s Faith Undone” which has elements of harsh choral harmonies and a shredding guitar that most of the more established metal bands would cut their hands off for.

Some of the music comes across like Europe’s “Final Countdown” particularly in the keyboard flourishes on songs like “Taste The Black Tears”. However this is a damned sight harder than anything Europe ever committed to tape. The album opens with a marvellous instrumental track, “Drawing Omnipotence Nigh” which lulls you into a false sense about what will follow and then your mind and body are dragged bloody and screaming into the rest of the record by the sheer force of “The Silent One’s Torch”. A further instrumental, “Autopoiesis” closes the album and it is a psyched out work out with an undercurrent of menacing madness that throws you back into the land of the living when it ends. It feels like an outake from Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs’. 'Autopoiesis' is apparently a system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself and is used to define the self-maintaining chemistry of living cells. This album feels like it might develop a life of its own and take over the world. Forget Skynet and the Terminator it is CHTHONIC 閃靈 that will eventually take control of the world, but as a mighty force for good!

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Review - Bill Adamson

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