Taiwanese freedom fighters CHTHONIC, long standing as Asia's answer to EMPEROR and SATYRICON, have organically refined their folk-decorated brand of extreme metal over the years. As of their previous album "Takasago Army", CHTHONIC has become a far more theatrical and emotive unit in their mission to cast light upon acts of barbarism committed within their native land. Their customary gusts of weeping ehru, koto and shamisen ground what expectedly unravels into some of the fastest and most articulate metal music on the planet.
"Bú-Tik", the group's seventh album, runs like a berserker on the heels of "Takasago Army" and even its predecessor "Mirror of Retribution"'s melodious aggression. More so, it taps back into the pummeling ferocity of "Seedig Bale" and the nastier cuts of "Relentless Recurrence". This time, however, CHTHONIC's trials between black and power metal modes have been tested and the ghoul paint has been nixed in favor of a more metal militant exterior. Accordingly, "Bú-Tik" is not only battle ready, it's the perfect storm of enmity and majesty.
Recounting the 228 Massacre, a torrential Taiwanese uprising against Chinese aggressors, "Bú-Tik" corrals the event's vengeance with far more conviction than your standard rain of black metal hellfire. "Bú-Tik" whisks its audience not only into the violent maw of the 228 Massacre, but, as the band themselves describe it, back to gory themes from their previous four albums.
Capitalizing upon an efficient forty minutes filled with tireless velocity and spellbinding signature changes, "Bú-Tik" cajoles listeners' sympathies despite the brute ugliness serving as the foundation of the album. Virtuosity rules alongside "Bú-Tik"'s unstoppable harshness and CHTHONIC pushes their global outcry for justice onto a blistering yet extravagant platform. "Bú-Tik" will devastate newcomers and affirm to the band's ever-growing legion that each previous album they've recorded has led to this, a surefire masterpiece.
Opened and closed with a Taiwanese kindred of Japanese taiko, war drums surge along with a cinematic synth score on "Arising Armament" and come to a close applied to a solemn pgaki flute. All moments between are played in the key of chaos. Endless speed careens through "Sail Into the Sunset's Fire", "Next Republic", "Rage of My Sword", "Resurrection Pyre" and so forth. You'll seldom breathe easy on this feverish ride.
While blaring synths largely accented the uncaged fury of CHTHONIC's earlier works, an entire arsenal of traditional and electronic instruments beautify the quick wristed shredding of Jesse Liu, the compact bass lines of Doris Yeh, the curling rips and rolls of Dani Wang and of course, the primal yelps of Freddy Lim. With all of the senses-splicing tempo changes on "Resurrection Pyre", the combination of natural instrumentation plus CJ Kao's keys and samples turns a blazing monster of a track into a mini metal opera. Subsequently, "Set Fire to the Island" grows even more expressive with wallowing ehru lines and ghostly female background vocals augmenting the track's strenuous pace.
As Chair of the Taiwanese branch of Amnesty International, Freddy Lim's rampant and broad-ranged rasps bears the sanguinary history of his country. He never fails to pour every swollen ounce of angst he harbors out of his esophagus, thus "Bú-Tik" is as much his triumph as his cohorts'.
CHTHONIC has proven themselves true to their own cause and should anyone have been worried that that the corroding brutality of "Seedig Bale" has been relegated to the past, then "Bú-Tik" will dissolve those notions. This is a far better album in every dimension. The few moments "Bú-Tik" allows itself to slow down, there is still intensity and stateliness, as "Defenders of Butik Palace" reveals in the powerful final sections that range between mid-tempo stomps and explosive grinds. All heaped with senses-colliding supplementation shoved into every cranny CHTHONIC can dig into. The coda of "Defenders of Butik Palace" is one of the most breathtaking moments you'll hear in metal all year. As if the splendor woven into the midst of "Between Silence and Death"'s broiling triplicates wasn't magnificent enough.
If there's a better metal album yet to come in 2013, bring it on.