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Chthonic - "Takasago Army" (CD)

Chthonic - "Takasago Army" CD cover image

"Takasago Army" track listing:

1. The Island (2:15)
2. Legacy Of The Seediq (4:21)
3. Takao (4:19)
4. Oceanquake (3:44)
5. Southern Cross (3:53)
6. KAORU (5:38)
7. Broken Jade (5:43)
8. Root Regeneration (1:24)
9. MAHAKALA (4:02)
10. Quell The Souls In Sing Ling Temple (5:18)

Reviewed by on August 12, 2011

"'Takasago Army' is one of those albums that only comes along once every few years and manages to not only meet, but surpass all expectations."

Due to the sheer amount of new music that I listen to, there are very few albums capable of making a lasting impact on me. I simply move from one upcoming album to the next and as a result, it's difficult for any album to stick with me for a prolonged period of time. That said, there is still the occasional album that's so incredible that I absolutely have to keep listening to it even after I've reviewed it. Chthonic's new World War II concept album “Takasago Army” is one of those.

“Takasago Army” is an amazing piece of black metal, where every track is equally impressive and improves upon “Mirror of Retribution” in every conceivable way. Every single song on here has some sort of hook on it that grabbed my attention. Whether it's a riff, a solo or keyboard ambiance, “Takasago Army” is never dull at any point. Even the two interludes pack enough atmosphere in them to not come across as annoying.

While many bands can write catchy metal songs, Chthonic are incredibly underrated musicians. While Chthonic aren't virtuosos, I'm still surprised that I don’t hear people name drop Jesse Liu more often, since he's way better than most metal guitarists and doesn’t seem to get anywhere near enough respect. The rhythm section isn't half bad either, managing to shift tempos constantly yet smoothly, while keeping the music interesting, instead of plodding along or staying in a 300 BPM whirlwind. Point being, Chthonic has chops and they aren't afraid to show them off.

The fact that the production has also stepped up ensures that this new album sounds damn good. The dry production found on the band's previous album is replaced with something more rich and dynamic. While the production and hooks may make “Takasago Army” much more accessible than the band's back catalog, that's hardly a bad thing, as the band still has its integrity. The erhu, symphonic elements and occasional lyrics in Taiwanese haven’t disappeared, and Chthonic are still black metal to the core. “Takasago Army” may not be kvlt enough for traditionalists, but then again, rehashing “Transylvanian Hunger” for the thousandth time isn't going to move the genre of black metal forward.

“Takasago Army” is one of those albums that only comes along once every few years and manages to not only meet, but surpass all expectations. Chthonic's magnum opus deserves a spot alongside “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk,” The Gallery” and “Symbolic” in the history of extreme metal, having no flaws, aside from not being grim and frostbitten tr00 black metal - which is kind of hard to do when your band comes from a country with a tropical climate.

It's a shame that most metal bands from Asia and Oceania don't even bother with the North American market (although Wormrot and X Japan have recently started having a presence). There are so many good bands from that part of the world that Americans will never get to discover. Chthonic are one of the few who have managed to reach the other side of the Pacific and I'm very thankful that they did. While albums on Spinefarm Records are hard to come across in North America, if you can find or order this album, buy it ASAP.

Highs: Catchy, great production, impressive musicianship, tons of atmosphere, dynamic yet accessable songwriting

Lows: I don't speak Taiwanese, so I can't understand some of the lyrics

Bottom line: Forget best album of the year. It's one of the best black metal albums ever created. Period.

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)