Chthonic - Seediq Bale
Down Port
Symphonic Black Metal
9 songs (43:51)
Release year: 2005
Chthonic , Down Port
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

It’s been hard since the demise of the Emperor to find a Black Metal band capable of similarly glorious darkness. Certainly, there’s the Dimmu Borgirs and Cradles Of Filth to keep that Black Metal craving at bay when you’re not in the mood for something more cerebral, but they’re hardly a replacement… Enter a six-piece from Taiwan that has become more noticed in the Metal world lately with the re-issue of fourth album Seediq Bale, based on a Folk tale banned by the Japanese (as is this album in China, apparently) back in the 19th century. Having been struggling for their art since, incredibly, 1995, the hard work is starting to pay off and the band has developed its own style and identity, with even the members’ corpsepaint (or ghostpaint as they prefer to call it) being based upon the eight generals of hell in Taoist lore.

As far as the band’s music goes, however, there’s still a little work to be done. The influence from Dimmu et al is palpable, despite the frequent and beautiful female vocals and the oriental violins here and there. Unfortunately, the production throws the instruments together rather than assigning each its place, and so you have to listen very hard indeed to make out the violins – even the keyboards and guitars are sometimes fighting to be heard under the vocals and drums, and as good as he is, drummer Dani ‘Azathothian Hands’ isn’t good enough to be worth listening to on his own.

When you’ve given the album your time and patience, however, there’s enough quality in the songs themselves to make the production less of a problem. Skilful riffing from Jesse ‘The Infernal’ on guitars and Doris ‘Thunder Tears’ on bass gives the music quite a kick, with a lot of variety present, even Melodeath and Thrash getting a look in. What will really catch your attention are Freddy ‘Left Face of Maradou’ Kim’s vocals and CJ ‘Dispersed Fingers’ keyboards – the former soon overcoming the Dani Filth similarities to prove he has quite a nefarious snarl, and the latter being simply an excellent keyboardist, carrying the melodies and being the centre point of the storm. Doris’ aforementioned gorgeous vocals (and take it from someone that listens to lots of female-voiced acts, they are impressive) give the music a melancholic grandeur, avoiding operatic clichés and instead utilising wordless sighs and moans to great effect.

Of the songs themselves, opener Progeny Of Rmdaxtasing is more than sufficiently strange to draw you in, Freddy’s vocals especially Ihsahnic and the synths over the chaotic rumble of the music very In The Nightside Eclipsey. The Chinese lyrics add mystery, and the song doesn’t outstay its welcome at just over four and a half minutes long. Following track Indigenous Laceration sounds like early In Flames, whilst later songs such as The Gods Weep marry heaviness and melody with ease and remarkable skill. Enthrone is the shortest track at just over a minute long, yet rather than an interlude the band made it into an especially epic track in its own right, showing a grasp of dynamics that eludes many a better known band.

Although my fingers have been itching to type some scornful remark at the band’s choice of epithets I’ve held back, largely because this band demands respect. It’s all very well being rebellious and Black Metal in the western world, where eccentricity is tolerated as practically a fundamental human right, yet for a band to stand firmly and proudly against the tyrannical Chinese regime in demand of the basic civil liberties that we decadent masses take for granted is something worth admiring. Besides, the likes of ‘Thunder Tears’ doubtlessly sounds much better in the band’s mother tongue… Fortunately, the band’s music transcends mere borders and will delight anyone interested in the epic, orchestral elements of Black Metal, and Seediq Bale is a great place to begin despite its (ultimately minor) faults.

Killing Songs :
Progeny Of Rmdaxtasing, Indigenous Laceration, Enthrone, The Gods Weep, Where The Utux Ancestors Wait, Quasi Putrefaction
Goat quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Chthonic that we have reviewed:
Chthonic - Bú-Tik reviewed by Jared and quoted 78 / 100
Chthonic - Takasago Army reviewed by Jaime and quoted 64 / 100
Chthonic - Mirror Of Retribution reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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