Home > Music > ChthoniC – Seediq Bale (2006)

ChthoniC – Seediq Bale (2006)

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The Japanese occupation of Taiwan as filtered through the darkest occult. Nowadays, discussion of ChthoniC is probably inseparable from the political goals of its frontman Freddy Lim, but that’s something we can overcome, isn’t it? I think Seediq Bale was the first of ChthoniC’s recordings to get any significant attention in the USA; they did go to the trouble of recording and remastering it for English speaking audiences. For the sake of this review, I’ll be discussing that version. What I’ve heard of the original isn’t immensely different, although I do remember it having a thinner production.

ChthoniC plays a sort of symphonic black metal that at at least superficially resembles the first big names in the genre (Emperor, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir… none of whom are all that similar beyond instrumentation). The production is serviceable – loud and intense enough, but with cheap synths and what, as far as I can tell, is a completely brickwalled mix. I’ve heard much worse compression, but this is still not a great sign. Listeners should keep an ear out for the erhu lines; they’re an obvious novelty, but the songs are written with them in mind; the lines its performer plays fit along the rest of the songs’ content, and for all the production flaws, the mix contains space for them.

The best analogy I can draw from my listening experience, surprisingly, is to Anorexia Nervosa’s second (and band-defining) album Drudenhaus. Both Seediq Bale and that album are loud poorly produced but musically intricate works of symphonic black metal. The similarities go beyond mere sound, though. One thing I’ve noticed is that both of these bands share an otherwise rare style of riffcraft and song structure. In short – they modulate their key signatures in a way that’s vaguely reminiscent of classical music, but they also trouble resolving chord progressions, making for an oddly tense and dissonant effect in what is otherwise a very consonant style. ChthoniC does break from this model by using a bouncier and more syncopated rhythm section, more reminiscent of older styles of black metal when it’s not blatantly blasting away. ChthoniC’s eccentricities could very well be a result of their geographical isolation – while Taiwan is a well developed country (oh shit, there goes my funding from the PRC, all $0.00 of it) with its share of high tech internet access, the language barriers and other variants in cultural contact definitely would make it harder to ape the most famous geographical variants of black metal; to say more would be difficult without all-out armchair historian stereotypes.

While the chunky production limits the band’s range and theoretically my listening time, ChthoniC does make up for it with strong songwriting and their aesthetic gimmicks. It’s enough to make me wonder if they followed up on this album’s promise on their later work, but I also have a lot of other metal albums on my metaphorical plate… so maybe you’ll hear about these someday? You never know.

Highlights: “Indigenous Laceration”, “Bloody Gaya Fulfilled”, “Where The Utux Ancestors Wait”

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