Chthonic are an Extreme Metal band from Taiwan They basically play a kind of Blackened Death Metal but incorporate a variety of styles as well as traditional Taiwanese instruments; most prominently the Erhu, which I think is like a one string violin/theremin thing.
The first time I ever heard of them (2009’s Mirror Of Retribution) I was initially dubious for reasons that are probably a bit racist and judgemental of me. I assumed they’d be a little bit naïve and amateurish. It didn’t take me long to be eating my hat in the face of their brutal riffs and captivating melodies. The folky influences are much more subtle than those used in Viking Metal say. It doesn’t feel at all gimmicky, flows fluidly together with the harsher stuff and lends them a definite uniqueness.
Another thing that goes in their favour is the fact they eschew the genre’s usual lyrical topics and instead theme their songs on the histories and political unrest of their native Taiwan.
Outside of the music the band are all active in various political campaigns relating to their homeland which may account for the lyrical themes.
Bù-Tik is Chthonic’s seventh album. The title refers to the Bù-Tik Palace in Taiwan which the Japanese Government used as their headquarters during their oppression of Taiwan n the 30’s. It was later used as a base for the Seediq Militia during one of several uprisings against the Chinese Government that resulted in many thousands of deaths in the 228 Massacre. They’ve not had an easy time of it in Taiwan…
Chthonic (the Ch is silent apparently) have been slowly honing their music over each album, each time the songs are that little bit sharper, the songwriting a little better and the instrumentation more fluid. Bù-Tik carries on that progression of development.
After opening with a short instrumental Arising Armament, Supreme Pain For The Tyrant bursts forth in an impressive declaration of intent. Freddy Lim’s vocals are part death grunt, park shriek. He kind of duets with himself and it works well. The Erhu wails throughout and adds a sense of grandeur to the song. Guitarist Jesse Liu throws out some nice riffs too.
Sail into the Sunset’s Fire chronicles a large number of people who left China several Centuries ago to find new lands. They eventually settled in Taiwan. The song itself barrels along nicely but the chorus features children’s choir which is odd but, again, works re ally well.
The pace of the album never really lets up, Next Republic, Rage Of My Sword and Between Silence And Death etc are all fast paced but still have a beguiling melody to them. The songs all remain interesting and don’t just blur into one another. Their Bassist, the gloriously named Doris Yeh, also adds some nice female backing vocals that enhance the atmosphere but never intrude.
Chthonic stand out as unique in a genre well known for its genericness. There’s nobody that sounds like them and certainly nobody that does it this well. On top of their music they also have a strong image, their costumes and outfits are intriguing without being ridiculous. Bù-Tik is an excellent album by an excellent band and well worth checking out f you’re a fan of this sort of stuff.
8 out of 10 - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Listen to Bu-Tik on Spotify HERE
Buy it on Amazon HERE