Asia is certainly not the hotbed of rock bands, let alone extreme metal bands, but CHTHONIC has branched out and made some noise in the underground circuit thanks to their well received last album, Seediq Bale, and a successful stint with Ozzfest in 2007. This Taiwanese band has gained new ground and respect upon releasing their new opus, Mirror of Retribution. The album focuses on the event of what is known as the “228 Massacre,” and tells about the oppressive tyranny the people of Taiwan had to undergo, as well as the hell that was presented to them after death. CHTHONIC borrows quite a bit of ideas from CRADLE OF FILTH, but by incorporating Taiwanese historical events and legends, and using the “oriental violin” (er-hu) in the music, the band differentiates themselves with their own brand of extreme metal.
After the predictable intro, the album springs to life immediately with “Blooming Blades” – at first glance, the music can be found as an obvious nod to CRADLE OF FILTH, until the er-hu serenades the listener and a dark passage opens up where the vocals, guitars, and er-hu come together as one. While vocalist Freddy does not go ridiculously as high as Dani Filth, he does incorporate the same low growl that Filth produces. Throughout the album, guitarist Jesse plays IRON MAIDEN-inspired CRADLE OF FILTH riffs and enjoys using the wah pedal to try and achieve a Kirk Hammett wah/solo effect for his solos. CHTHONIC finally distinguishes themselves with “Venom in My Veins” by adding a little death metal flare, as drummer Dani Wang finally attacks the kit with more aggression. “The Aroused” reverts back to the CRADLE sound, but Mirror of Retribution really starts to peak with “Sing-Ling Temple,” as a nice distinct death metal riff blares, and the ferocity of the Taiwanese typhoon is unleashed.
To separate the album, CHTHONIC brilliantly inserts “1947” – a serene, beautiful, instrumental track, which would fit nicely for an epic battle scene in a movie, and lays down the foundation perfectly to segue into the next track, “Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains.” A vicious riff engulfs the listener as Freddy sings of despair and suffering the Taiwanese people endured in the “228 massacre.” The er-hu is used perfectly in a break, leading into a crescendo of the catchy lyric of “The tyrants’ genocide drives me to suicide!”
“Bloody Waves of Sorrow” produces a very CRADLE-ish moment with operatic female vocals, but CHTHONIC allows the vocals to fit with the music in a much more coherent way, and inserting the er-hu at the end of the song allows the music to breathe. Rounding out the album, “Unlimited Taiwan” is probably their strongest and most epic track that CHTHONIC have written to date – an immediate impact is felt as the layered keyboards and drums come into play.
CHTHONIC has a lot of potential in being a powerhouse – unfortunately, there are too many similarities found with CRADLE OF FILTH. It’s no coincidence that Rob Caggiano has produced Mirror of Retribution, as well as a few CRADLE albums. The similarities between Freddy and Dani Filth are quite clear, as is guitarist Jesse‘s songwriting and guitar playing compared to any of the axemen that the CRADLE entity has employed. This is still a glorious feat for a band hailing from Asia, and only good things are to come for CHTHONIC. While CRADLE OF FILTH fans will obviously be attracted to Mirror of Retribution, open minded extreme metal enthusiasts may be surprised and also enjoy this album as well. (Fontana Universal)