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Chthonic - "Relentless Recurrence (reissue)" (CD)

Chthonic - "Relentless Recurrence (reissue)" CD cover image

"Relentless Recurrence (reissue)" track listing:

1. Nemesis
2. Onset of Tragedy
3. Obituary Tuning
4. Grievance, Acheron Poem
5. Revert To Mortal Territory
6. Funest Demon Born
7. Vengeance Arise
8. Slaughter In Tri-Territory
9. Grab The Soul To Hell
10. Relentless Recurrence

Reviewed by on April 2, 2008

"While there are extreme moments in 'Relentless Recurrence,' the album is quite accessible for those new to black metal due to its atmospheric and symphonic elements."

Upon touring North America for the first time last summer with their Ozzfest 2007 appearance, Taiwanese black-metal band Chthonic reissued their 2002 release, entitled "Relentless Recurrence," in addition to releasing a new album, "Seediq Bale," and a DVD.

"Relentless Recurrence" is as good a place to get acquainted with Chthonic as any other. As can be expected, Chthonic's brand of black metal is not quite what one would call pure black metal, as the band incorporates the erhu (also know as a Chinese two-string fiddle or violin) and pianos throughout. Even discounting those effects, the album overflows with atmosphere. Of the nine tracks on "Relentless Recurrence," three are purely atmospheric.

After an intro track, the second track opens up with a mid-paced song with "Onset of Tragedy." Lasting six-and-a-half minutes, the song has a sort of haunting feel and pace to it. The vocals are delivered as pained wails, while the guitars have a haunting quality that is accented by the synthesizers as well as the use of the erhu. The song escalates to a faster pace, but does not change much in mood throughout.

"Obituary Tuning" follows, in what is nearly four minutes of purely atmospheric song with synthesized effects and a slow, steady guitar slightly reminiscent of Metallica's "Call of Ktulu" in tone, but lighter-sounding. The vocals sound like dead spirits trying to speak to the listener, with both male and female voices present. The song makes you patiently wait for the escalation that never happens until the following track.

When "Grievance, Acheron Poem" finally does kick in, it is very fitting even though the tracks do not actually blend together. The keyboards are in heavy use with a moderately heavy guitar riff that leads more than dominates. The guitars retain a similar quality to the preceding track until almost two minutes into the song, when it erupts into a more typical black-metal sound. While the pace picks up, led by the faster guitars and drums, the symphonic aspect of the music is still present. Vocals alternate from lower pitched to ethereal female vocals to a grating black metal scream, at times layered on top of each other. The song fades back into atmospheric keyboards and softly delivered vocals almost six minutes into it, after which the song escalates back through the cycle again, ending after eight-and-a-half minutes in a fast black metal assault.

"Revert To Mortal Territory" picks up where the previous song left off, with more fast-paced black metal accompanied by caustic vocals. Still, the symphonic effects continue, slightly tempering the extremeness of the band's sound. This short (nearly four minute) song is followed by a dark but beautiful atmospheric track, "Funest Demon Born." The song features pianos and more of the erhu for what seems like an extended intro of over two minutes before synthesizers and the guitars kick in accompanied by a deep extended growl. However, the song then ends and "Vengeance Arise" begins. "Vengeance Arise" sounds much like the other symphonic black metal songs, but also features the erhu toward the end, which makes for a very interesting effect.

"Slaughter In Tri-Territory" is another lengthy symphonic black metal song. Fast guitars and a raspy vocal delivery are present throughout, except for a short symphonic interlude six minutes into the song. "Grab The Soul To Hell" starts out sounding like it might be the softest, most melodic yet, only to explode with a blast-beat driven assault on the senses. The song continues with a cool, yet simple, thrash-style riff above the background synthesizers and steady drums, returning to the blast-beat part again and again like a chorus without words. Then it stops abruptly in an atmospheric moment with both haunting and ethereal vocals, and picks up with a totally different mid-paced riff to end the song.

For no apparent reason, the band decided to hide the final/title track on the end of track nine after several minutes of silence, an effect I personally despise. This song is quite long in its own right and contains some exceptional atmospheric metal, making use of the erhu extensively.

While there are extreme moments, in "Relentless Recurrence," the album is quite accessible for those new to black metal due to its atmospheric and symphonic elements. Some of the guitar parts may feel familiar and they don't often get too insanely fast. The variety of vocals is a huge plus, not relying only on the typical grating vocal style common to some black metal bands. Even when the grating, raspy vocals are used, they are toned down in volume or blended with other haunting vocals or ethereal female vocals so as to not overwhelm the symphonic aspects of the music.

With only seven "actual" songs, the album is still long enough, as the some of the songs extend over eight minutes. The atmospheric tracks that might be considered filler, however, also fit very well and hold the album together when listening to it in its entirety, setting the stage perfectly for the next song and a hauntingly atmospheric/symphonic black metal experience.

Highs: Hauntingly beautiful atmospheric parts as well as quality, fast black metal

Lows: May not be right for pure black metal fans, but no discernable flaws to the open-minded

Bottom line: An excellent introduction to Chthonic and atmospheric black metal in general

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)