If you haven’t seen the new Chthonic video for “Supreme Pain for the Tyrant,” then immediately scroll to the bottom of this review and click the link. The video is unforgettable. The setting is 1930s-era Shanghai, in a decadent hall with banners of both the Republic of China and the Nazi swastika draped in the background. There are party guests lounging about and eating bloody steaks. There’s strange choreographed dancing that somehow works beautifully with the music. The band members, in the role of assassins, eventually go on a bloody rampage, murdering one Nazi after another. The video captures perfectly the undercurrent of seething emotion and raw, yet controlled aggression that is Chthonic’s seventh studio album, Bú-Tik.
But it’s a very different beast from the rest of the pack, in particular Chthonic’s previous album, Takasago Army, to which I am zealously devoted. So when I played Bú-Tik the first time, I found myself confused. Why was I not hearing another oriental metal masterpiece like Takasago Army? Repeated listening forced the new material to sink in, at which point I realized I’d made an idiot mistake. As I pointed out above, Bú-Tik is different, it is its own beast. The same can be said about every Chthonic album (listen to them all in a row if you have five-and-a-half hours to spare).
Everything enjoyable about past Chthonic albums hasn’t disappeared with Bú-Tik. You can still hear black metal echoes of Seediq Bale and Mirror of Retribution. You can catch precisely timed leads and epic choruses like those that made Takasago Army such a great album. And above all you can feel the traditional oriental melodies, the spiritual backbone and undercurrent that runs through all of Chthonic’s work, conjuring up memory and history like ghosts. My idiot mistake was listening to Bú-Tik purely through the album that preceded it.
The songwriting and musicianship has grown stronger and leaner. The new songs have a stripped-down feel to them, yet are layered and complex. The production quality and sound mix are outstanding (the band worked once again with Rickard Bengtsson, who also produced Takasago Army). Every song has something to offer. “Rage of My Sword” lives up to its title through its thrashy sound, an unusual move for Chthonic but one that works well.
“Next Republic” and “Supreme Pain for the Tyrant” demand your attention from the start, only to blow you away with an epic and memorable chorus. The soaring emotional register of “Between Silence and Death” is unforgettable. And the female vocal parts, though used sparingly, sound exquisite in “Set Fire to the Island” and “Defenders of Butik Palace.” Bú-Tik is a solid album which will earn Chthonic many new symphonic oriental fans without alienating the band’s long-time following.
8 / 10
Check out the videos below if you haven’t already. They kick ass and so does the band (literally).
The digital format of Bú-Tik will be available in North America June 18, and on CD June25 through Spinefarm Records.