Review Summary: ChthoniC's new sound dominates this record and only leaves a shadow of what they used to be
Being a modern metal band these days isn’t so easy. Metal fans are some of the hardest listeners to please, due to how polarized their goals are. For a band like CthoniC that is being pulled into a recent trend in metal, what this means is they are going through a big change in fan reception. With the new wake of fans that were gathered with their previous release, this album has shown that they are not eager to let them crawl away so easily. It seems like the band’s primary goal was to mix the old and new sound in such a way that would still keep the older listeners captivated, and still have the love from Mirror of Retribution’s fans. The time has come to see how much chemistry these two ideas actually have, but considering their new sound had a much bigger impact, it practically dominates the final product. If the formula is successful, then not only would they have incremented their fans, but also potentially attract even more in subsequent years. On the other hand, the sound could be disliked by both recent and older followers and end up being liked by a minority.
Takasago Army is very similar to the band’s previous work, Mirror of Retribution. ChthoniC have opted for a modern metal sound, much more guitar driven and heavy. This style seems to be somewhat influenced by death metal, which is a trend not too rare in black metal these days. The guitars are definitely the dominating force, only slightly overshadowed by the vocals. The guitars generally play in the same tone, mostly dealing with fast pounding chords and are played in tremolo style. The effect of this is generally a heavy yet groovy sound, but it would be lacklustre without the other instruments. The vocals have both death metal growls mixed with black metal shrieks, although the shrieks have lots of layering effects that make them at least different from other black metal vocalists. Female vocals are still present but in much lesser quantities (only in a few songs), unlike Bloody Gaya Fulfilled from Seediq Bale.
Takasago Army shares several factors in common with their two previous works, Seediq Bale and Mirror of Retribution, but anything older than that is basically moot. From Seediq Bale it brings back some sense of epicness, most noticeable in the song Takao, but it doesn’t really achieve it in the same way. It comes off as a pretentious way to get a crowd of fans to chant together in concerts (like how Dimmu Borgir did with their title track). Something else that is gladly welcome are the keyboard’s prominence and er-hu. The keyboards have almost equal presence as in Seediq Bale, however they are missing an important piece that prevents them from shining as well as they did before. First of all, they are a bit lower volume in the mix (always), and second, their melodies are much more focused on being a secondary instrument rather than the leader. In Seediq Bale, the keyboards had many chances to guide certain songs, and give them that extra touch of Taiwanese atmosphere and melancholy, but their diminished role really hurts Takasago Army. The Er-hu still plays minimally, but still achieves the same result. From Mirror of Retribution, this album brings back the guitar presence and heaviness, shortened song length, and repetitiveness. Song lengths have gone significantly lower after Seediq Bale, where now average songs are about four minutes each, leading to more repetitive and predictable structures. Finally, it is important to say that due to lack of variety in guitars and keyboards, it is hard for individual songs to stand out.
As bad as the influences from the previous albums may be, there are still many good moments in Takasago Army to enjoy. The guitar solos in Southern Cross and Quell The Souls In Sing Ling Temple are still fun to listen to. The Legacy of Seediq also has a very nice keyboard tone throughout, but sadly gets recycled too much later on. Oceanquake is also enjoyable due to showing the elements of album in positive ways, and giving a true feeling of sadness mixed with heaviness. The rest of the tracks really don’t add much, they just present the same ideas again. It seems like ChthoniC have failed to give equal importance to both of their sounds in this record. The band’s importance on their new face has shadowed them from what really made them shine in the first place. The Taiwanese melodies and melancholic feeling that is alive in their older albums barely makes an appearance, and is completely overshadowed by heavy and generic metal sound. It is quite clear that those people who loved Mirror of Retribution will still devour this, as well as many other modern extreme metal fans that may come across it. But to the older fans of their slower, more sorrowful sound there is only a reminder of what ChthoniC used to be here.