Review Summary: Symphonic Black Metal heavily influenced by asian culture at its best.
The Band ChthoniC is from Taiwan, one of the few asian extreme metal bands to have been in Ozzfest. This is their second release, which has much more asian influences into it as opposed to their newest album "Mirror of retribution". This record has much more originality as there are virtually no albums that sound like this, apart from the ones by this band.
The band as a whole evolved their sound from the first album "Where the Ancestors Souls Gathered". The sound is much less Norweigan-influenced and became a sound which the band can call its own. Overall, the songs became much more epic and aggressive, from the first album. The sound is also much more complex and the musicianship has also increased, particularly in guitars in keyboards. Nonetheless this album still has a bit of filler content, it has a total of 4 tracks that could be considered acoustic or atmospheric out of 8 tracks. But the other tracks greatly make up for this by being about 7 minutes in average length.
The first song, Breath of Ocean, begins with clean singing in the background. It is a very soft and calm and short song. It gives the mood of a sad asian setting and is a great introduction to the album. The next song, Mother Isle Disintegrated, Aboriginal Gods Enthroned (Chapter 2) begins with a fast part that gives a small, 20 second much heavier and faster symphonic black metal. It previews the upcoming parts of the album. The next part of the song is similar to the previous song, it has a relaxing piano symphony, very contrasting to what was just heard. This song is a mere 1:40 seconds long but it seems like a shortened version of what the album is about to offer.
Floated unconsciously in the Archeon begins with a medium-paced drumming, coupled with a keyboard symphony and guitars. When the vocals begin they sound somewhat high-pitched and somewhat raspy, but they sound different from most vocalists in the genre. The vocals also have some range, between a much lower pitch to a medium-high pitch. The vocals however fit the mood of the song perfectly without becoming irritating or repetitive, they even sound operatic at times throughout the song.
Summon of China is one the highlights of the album. It begins quite softly, with an asian atmosphere and quickly turns into a much more symphonic black metal song. The vocal style continues to be similar to the previous song, but sounds louder in this song. Apart from this the instrumentation continues to be excellent, it has a short guitar solo. The instrumentation is actually quite technical when compared with other songs in the genre.
However, the main highlight of the song is the transition between calmer passages into heavier ones, while still keeping the asian atmosphere thanks to the er-hu, an asian traditional instrument similar to the violin. The keyboards are also very loud in the song and contribute to the atmosphere just as much as the er-hu. The female vocals towards the end of the song are beautiful, and they are quite different from the vocal styles used in symphonic metal. They add a very sad atmosphere to the song.
The next track is a very short piano instrumental, it is similar to the songs in the beginning. Invasion, the next track, begins heavy but has female vocals and several melodic parts. At about three minutes, a church-like somber melody starts, which seems almost like a completely different song. The next half of the song is much more melodic and has more keyboards and female chants then the first half. The atmosphere that is given is a mixture of sorrow with an oriental aura, which is quite beautiful thanks to the melody. The guitar work in the song is also very technical, there are a couple of guitar solos towards the end.
Upon the Empyrean is another piano instrumental, which is nothing new. It serves more as a break from the rest of the songs but it could have been made different from the others as to give the listener a bit of variety. Guard the Isle eternally is the last track and also the longest. It starts with the er-hu to give it an asian feeling, but then ends at about a minute and a half into a melodic black metal assault. The whole song has incredibly melodic keyboards that beautifully contrast the vocals, which do not sound raspy or high pitched but may be too much for some. The rest of the instruments seem to follow the keyboards except the guitars, which have their own tempo. This song has some progressive elements to it as well as a contrast between melody and heaviness. The most important thing that the song accomplishes is giving an asian atmosphere, which is distinct from the European or Western symphonic black metal bands.
This album is one of the most original ones in the band's discography, it does an excellent job at creating an asian atmosphere and mixing it with the brutality of symphonic black metal. The band's vision with this album was much more focused on writing material that avoids pretentiousness and focuses on cultural aspects to make it interesting. Such aspects are present in the rest of the discography, but I feel that this displays that work in its optimal state. It is recommended for any extreme symphonic metal band, as well as anyone who can stand extreme metal and is interested in asian culture. It is also one of the less heavy albums the band has and one of the most accessible ones.