Album Review – Chthonic / Battlefields of Asura (2018)

Embark on an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals to the sound of the new opus by the Taiwanese masters of Orient Metal.

It might have taken five years for one-of-a-kind Taiwanese Melodic Black/Death/Folk Metal icons Chthonic to strike again with their high-end fusion of a captivating storytelling and their unique and exotic music that several people like to call “Orient Metal”, but the excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Over those past years, since the release of their 2013 masterpiece Bú-Tik the five members of the band have turned new pages of their lives, with lead vocalist Freddy Lim (林昶佐) having organized a new political party and being successfully elected to a seat in the Taiwanese parliament. Nonetheless, they never forgot their promise to their fans to deliver a new album, culminating with the release of Battlefields of Asura (政治) now in 2018, the prequel of their four albums with related story including Seediq Bale (2005), Mirror of Retribution (2009), Takasago Army (2011) and the already mentioned Bú-Tik, all combined with the acoustic album from another dimension Timeless Sentence (2014), the expanded novel Day 578 After the War (2014), and the movie Tshiong (2017).

And the story told in Battlefields of Asura by Freddy and his bandmates Jesse Liu (劉笙彙) on the guitars, Doris Yeh (葉湘怡) on bass and backing vocals, CJ Kao (高嘉嶸) on keyboards, synths and piano, and Dani Wang (汪子驤) on drums throughout the album’s 11 tracks is an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals, as explained in detail in the band’s “Souls Resposed” series. What lies ahead is full hostility, murderous emotions, walls of iron that are difficult to conquer, and lusts and desires that are not easy to bid farewell to, but there is also courage that inspires infinity. At the end of the adventure, it turns out to be a quest for the perpetual prajna. When you feel tears on your face, that’s when you will finally realize this is where all the stories told in Chthonic’s past albums come from, always embraced by the band’s harmonious, thunderous and unparalleled metal music.

Drawing Omnipotence Nigh, featuring Fang-Yun Chen on dizi (a Chinese transverse flute), is an insurgent battle-like intro only Chthonic can offer us, setting the stage for  the melodic and imposing The Silent One’s Torch, the perfect opening for their upcoming live concerts with Dani dictating the rhythm with his piercing beats while Freddy’s roars grow in intensity and rage as the music progresses, not to mention CJ’s always inspiring keys. Even more harmonious and thrilling, Flames upon the Weeping Winds has all it takes to become a fan favorite, with Doris not only shaking the foundations of earth with her bass punches, but her backing vocals also sound superb; followed by A Crimson Sky’s Command, another inspiring creation by Chthonic where CJ’s keys and synths sound and feel the most “Taiwanese” of the entire album (if we can say so), with highlights to the passionate growls by Freddy and the cutting riffs by Jesse.

Featuring Lamb Of God’s own frontman Randy Blythe on additional vocals, Souls of the Revolution is a flammable and rebellious anthem thoroughly crafted by our beloved Taiwanese horde where Jesse and Dani are on absolute fire and in perfect sync, elevating the song’s impact to a whole new level (not to mention it’s perfect for singing along with the band), whereas Taste the Black Tears carries a beautiful name for a crushing and epic tune, with Doris and Dani spearheading the band into the battlefield. Furthermore, the keyboards and synths by CJ bring an extra dosage of epicness to the overall result, with the music flowing powerfully form start to finish. And in One Thousand Eyes a dense and bold intro evolves into classic Chthonic, with Freddy gnarling like a demonic entity while CJ brings balance to the sonic havoc blasted by the band with his smooth keys, all boosted by the song’s extremely effective and exciting backing vocals and Jesse’s gripping guitar solo.

Chthonic Battlefields of Asura Box Set

Then we have Masked Faith, a whimsical and at the same time fierce bridge to Carved in Bloodstone, bringing elements form Epic Metal to their core Orient Metal. However, what starts in a promising way loses its strength after a while despite its imposing backing vocals and pounding drums, but that doesn’t last long as Chthonic are back on track with the fulminating Millennia’s Faith Undone, featuring Denise Ho (also known as HOCC) on vocals and Su-nung Chao on erhu (or hiân-á violin). This is undoubtedly the closest song to their previous installments Bú-Tik and Takasago Army, sounding epic, dense and electrifying, with highlights to the slashing work done by the band’s stringed duo Jesse and Doris, resulting in a true battle hymn by those unrelenting Taiwanese metallers, flowing into the ominous and stylish outro Autopoiesis. In addition, don’t forget to check the song’s acoustic version called Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version), just as epic as the regular one.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of Chthonic or a newcomer to their sonic realm of rebellion and war, you’ll certainly have a blast listening to the top-of-the-line music found in Battlefields of Asura, proving why they’re perhaps the best metal band the East has ever provided the world. Needless to say, this is a must-have album in your metal collection, available at several locations such as IndieMerch, but if I were you I would go for the Battlefields of Asura Box Set available from the Ciong Zo webstore, including a long-sleeve shirt reflecting the song “Flames upon the Weeping Winds”, a cap reflecting the song “A Crimson Sky’s Command”, prayer beads reflecting the song “One Thousand Eyes”, a badge of honor reflecting the song “Taste the Black Tears”, a candle cup reflecting the song “The Silent One’s Torch”, the Taiwanese version of the album in CD format,  a special “Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version)” 7″ vinyl single, and a treasure box reflecting the song “Carved in Bloodstone”. Then, and only then, you’ll be properly (and fully) armed to join Freddy, Jesse, Doris, CJ and Dani into the Battlefields of Asura.

Best moments of the album: Flames upon the Weeping Winds, Souls of the Revolution, Taste the Black Tears and Millennia’s Faith Undone.

Worst moments of the album: Carved in Bloodstone.

Released in 2018 Ciong Zo

Track listing
1. Drawing Omnipotence Nigh (feat. Fang-Yun Chen) 2:07
2. The Silent One’s Torch 4:02
3. Flames upon the Weeping Winds 3:10
4. A Crimson Sky’s Command 3:31
5. Souls of the Revolution (feat. Randy Blythe) 4:39
6. Taste the Black Tears 4:49
7. One Thousand Eyes 5:15
8. Masked Faith 2:18
9. Carved in Bloodstone 2:57
10. Millennia’s Faith Undone (feat. Denise Ho & Su-nung Chao) 5:05
11. Autopoiesis 2:04

English Version bonus track
12. “Battlefields of Asura” Album Concept Description by Freddy Lim 1:55

Limited Edition Box Set Disc 2 (Vinyl) bonus track
12. Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version) 6:15

Band members
Freddy Lim (林昶佐) – vocals, erhu
Jesse Liu (劉笙彙) – guitars
Doris Yeh (葉湘怡) – bass, backing vocals
CJ Kao (高嘉嶸) – keyboards, synths, piano
Dani Wang (汪子驤) – drums

Guest musicians
Randy Blythe – additional vocals on “Souls of the Revolution”
Denise Ho – female vocals on “Millennia’s Faith Undone”
Fang-Yun Chen – dizi on “Drawing Omnipotence Nigh”
Su-nung Chao – erhu on “Millennia’s Faith Undone”
Chi-Jen Chen, Ching-Lan Hsu, Chun-Yu Yang, Hsiang-yi Wei, Hsuan-Yi Chen, Joey Kuo, Po-Jen Liao & Wei-Shun Liu – backing vocals, choirs

Album Review – Chthonic / Bú-Tik (2013)

Chthonic prove one more time why they are currently the best Heavy Metal band of the East.

Rating3

Chthonic-Bu-TikWhen a band reaches a very high standard like Chthonic with Takasago Army, the expectations for their future albums become so high that even if they launch something really cool, many people will still think they are not a good band anymore. I’m pretty sure lots of fans are complaining everywhere in the world about Bú-Tik because it’s not a “Takasago Army”, but always remember it isn’t supposed to be so.

Bú-Tik is an evolution, it is fresh music for people who love speed, strength and awesome lyrics, without being just a copy of the band’s old material. Of course many elements are still there like the erhu (a Chinese two-stringed violin), which is a crucial part of the band’s soul, and the lyrics focused on all the war and revolution that happened in Taiwan, but each song is different and has its own meaning and intensity.

Regarding the album art, the band tried to represent “the idea of an armed body and mind” in the front cover, which looks a lot sexier and less brutal than what they used to do in the past, but it’s great anyway. About the music itself, Freddy Lim does an amazing job with his screaming, the beautiful Doris Yeh seems to be even more important to the band with her intense bass lines, and the drummer Dani Wang is a beast as usual in all album tracks! I just think there should be more guitar solos in some of the songs, because although I love the sound of the erhu and the keyboards together, a good guitar solo always adds a lot of energy to heavy music. And let’s not forget the Intro and the Outro of the album, which together do a great job getting us pumped for what’s coming next and then showing us that the “war” is over.

Chthonic+BuTik++Album+Promo+2013+PNGThe lyrics are also an essential part of the whole album, either when they’re entirely based on historical facts such as the 228 Massacre in 1947, or with simple but strong lines such as “Let me stand up like a Taiwanese / Only justice will bring you peace”. Chthonic doesn’t usually write generic lyrics, an issue that happens with most of the Metal bands nowadays.

To sum up, a very good album that deserves the attention of all heavy music lovers. Going back to my initial idea, unless the music is a complete piece of junk like Metallica’s St. Anger, I always believe we should embrace the evolution of our favorite bands. And Chthonic is far from producing something so bad as St. Anger.

Best moments of the album: Supreme Pain for the Tyrant and Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace, especially if you watch the superb videos they shot for both songs. Those are two of the most creative music videos I’ve seen in many years.

Worst moments of the album: Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire and Resurrection Pyre just fall flat in my opinion. Maybe it’s the English version of the album that does that to those songs, because I’ve listened to the Taiwanese versions and they sound a lot more powerful.

Released in 2013 Spinefarm Records / Universal Music

Track listing
1. Arising Armament (Intro) 2:27
2. Supreme Pain for the Tyrant 4:45
3. Sail into the Sunset’s Fire 4:00
4. Next Republic 4:12
5. Rage of my Sword 4:37
6. Between Silence and Death 4:38
7. Resurrection Pyre 4:59
8. Set Fire to the Island 3:47
9. Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace 5:22
10. Undying Rearmament (Outro) 1:49

Band members
Freddy Lim, “Left Face of Maradou” – lead vocals, erhu
Doris Yeh, “Thunder Tears” – bass, backing vocals
Jesse Liu, “The Infernal” – guitars, backing vocals
Dani Wang, “Azathothian Hands” – drums
CJ Kao, “Dispersed Fingers” – keyboards, synthesizer