Overall Score: 9/10 Production: 9/10 Consistency and Flow: 10/10 Songwriting: 8/10 Pros: Excellent continuation from previous albums Cons: If you didn’t like previous albums, this does nothing to change your mind
Things have been quite busy for the guys in Chthonic. Although there has been no new album since 2013’s immense Bú-Tik, an acoustic album and feature length film have come since, all while frontman Freddy Lim has been working as a politician, having been elected to Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan in 2016. This has given the other members a chance to take a break from the pressures of touring and recording life, and spend time with their families, but Freddy’s work schedule was not going to stop him from releasing more music when he had the chance. Now, after a long 5 year wait, Chthonic are back with their new opus, Battlefields of Asura.
According to bassist Doris Yeh, Battlefields of Asura sits as the prologue to the story they’ve been telling throughout their discography, and you can see influences from their previous works permeating through each track. While the majority of the sound unsurprisingly continues on the sonic path set by Bú-Tik, such as the intro/outro of “Drawing Omnipotence High” and “Autopoiesis” and opening run of “The Silent One’s Torch” through to “A Crimson Sky’s Command”, there are still elements from efforts such as Seediq Bale and Takasago Army present too, while “One Thousand Eyes” feels like a combination of Relentless Recurrence era Chthonic with a modern twist. It’s good that Chthonic have continued on the path they’ve set for themselves, as it shows that they’re comfortable in the unique sound they’ve created and as of yet don’t see any need to make drastic changes, rather, they prefer to carve out a steady process for evolving their sound which is in keeping with the saga they are portraying in their lyrics (which are still as aggressive as ever, in spite of (or maybe thanks to) Freddy’s new job), and will make everything click into place when you listen to it all later down the line.
There are some interesting new influences too, with “Carved in Bloodstone” containing chanted vocals that sound almost akin to Viking metal. It appears guitarist Jesse Liu has adopted more groove metal influence in some tracks too, such as in “Taste the Black Tears” and “Souls of the Revolution”, which happens to feature groove metal kingpin Randy Blythe (of Lamb of God fame), who, as it happens, also featured in the band’s movie of the same name. The final half of the album definitely feels like it has put more focus on melody than the previous tracks, with the instrumental “Masked Faith” leading into the Viking-esque “Carved in Bloodstone” and lead single “Millenia’s Faith Undone”, which features vocals from popular Cantopop singer Denise Ho (aka HOCC) to add an extra layer of melody. It makes sense in the context of the album and its place within the story that they are attempting to tell, that things would start off aggressively before adopting more melody and melancholy to proceedings, and rounds things out well.
I suppose the one drawback of Battlefields of Asura is this: if you weren’t a fan of Chthonic before, this will do nothing to change your mind. This effort follow more or less the same structure as Bú-Tik which may come as a disappointment to some for its lack of major sonic change, but sometimes bands want to continue to push where they can go within a certain area before venturing to the next unexplored territory. We all know Chthonic are capable of making drastic changes to their sound, as the changes between Seediq Bale through to Takasago Army displayed, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they should on every single album. All in all, if you enjoy these guys’ recent albums then you will love this effort, and the new touches they’ve brought in. As something which encompasses the sounds of previous efforts too, it also acts as an excellent entry point for the band if you haven’t listened to them before, which is apt seeing as it is designed to be a prequel. The real disappointment is in the fact that it is highly unlikely that Chthonic will extensively tour in support of Battlefields of Asura, due to each member having new priorities in their lives.
Chthonic’s new album Battlefields of Asura comes out 12 October. Follow the band on Facebook for more information on how to pre-order the album and other bundles.