Chthonic - Mirror Of Retribution
Spinefarm Records
Melodic Black Metal
11 songs (44:13)
Release year: 2009
Chthonic , Spinefarm Records
Reviewed by Goat

Album number five from Taiwanese Black Metallers Chthonic is a head-scratching experience. The balance of influences on the rather good Seediq Bale was nearly perfect, yet here the band have upset it dramatically by ramping the Cradle Of Filthiness up so far that at times they seem almost like a tribute act, riffs replacing keyboards at the front of this modernised sound. In recent interviews I’ve read Chthonic have stated Mirror Of Retribution to be their chance to establish a fixed place for themselves in the Metal world, something that’s understandably needed as their sudden ascent to fame in the scene does seem slightly odd and prone to accusations of gimmickry – I have no idea whether this sudden similarity to Monsieur Filth and his merry men is deliberate or not, but if it is then becoming a Cradle clone is hardly the best way to gain respect from the fickle Metal hordes. Vocalist Freddie’s high shrieks and gasps are very Dani-like, and the catchy riffing owes a debt to the English band too, although there’s a noticeable influence from the Swedish Melodeath world. The band are very well-known in their homeland; frontman Freddie being involved with various human rights issues including the Free Tibet movement. Heck, female bassist Doris ‘Thunder Tears’ Yeh was on the front cover of the November ’08 issue of FHM!

What makes this difficult is that Mirror Of Retribution is basically a good album. Sharp-edged riffs, catchy melodies, great instrumental skills and the unearthly wail of the erhu (a type of oriental violin) all combine to form a Metal attack that’s hard to resist, especially the ripping likes of Venom In My Veins. It’s a fast-paced album; songs come and go before you know it, and it’ll take a few listens to really understand. Unfortunately the songs can seem slightly repetitive at first, especially in the wailing female vocals and erhu usage, which seem to do the same trick over and over again most of the time. It’s a pleasant, effectively atmospheric trick, but it would be interesting to try and take the concept a little further. The journey is an interesting one, however, the slower-paced The Aroused touching upon gnarly Black Metal before heading for pleasantly catchy-land, Sing-Ling Temple opening with especially moshable riffs, and epic instrumental 1947 is, well, epic and instrumental, with probably the best usage of the er-hu on the album. Mirror Of Retribution as an album has a particularly fascinating theme, mixing the legend of Taoist hell with the atrocities committed upon Taiwanese nationals over the years, especially the 228 Uprising and the resulting crackdown by the Chinese authorities.

Whatever Chthonic were before, they seem to have become something else now, a Taiwanese Cradle joining with Galder’s catchy take on Black Metal with his Old Man’s Child project. The transcendental has been replaced by the earthbound, the spiritual by the physical, and as good and professional an album as Mirror Of Retribution ultimately is, it’s hard to forget what an amazing one it could have been, Chthonic becoming the Negură Bunget of the far east. I was, however, recently accused on the forum of letting my anticipations for album take precedence over the correct open-mindedness, so let me reiterate; Mirror Of Retribution is a very good album. The riffs and melodies are excellent and well-written, the songs increasingly catchy and effective – if you do enjoy the more melodic forms of Black Metal, then you should love Chthonic. The band is certainly worth celebrating; Metal from the far east is still an interesting proposition for its origins alone, and a band so reverential towards its own culture should find legions of fans in the west.

Video for Forty Nine Theurgy Chains (YouTube)
Killing Songs :
Blooming Blades, Venom In My Veins, The Aroused, Forty-Nine Theurgy Chains
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 - Seediq Bale reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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