Year of the Album — #060
Chthonic – “Takasago Army” (2011, Fontana Intl)
If you want to be on the cutting edge of interesting music, you need yourself some Taiwanese metal, and Chthonic (pronounced: Thonic) is the band to bring it your way. Takasago Army opens with the ethereal “The Island,” which layers haunting flutes and drums to lure you into a false state of potential slumber, only to wake you the fuck up with “Legacy of the Seediq,” which shows the group doing what they do best, slamming listeners with brutal, flame-throwing guitar crunch and deep-throated growls. All of this makes the Asian element that sneak in through the noise a welcome twist. And those of us who enjoy blisteringly fast polyrhythmic percussion can feel free to have our brains perfectly melted by a ridiculous percussive barrage, all of which is par and parcel of truly invigorating modern metal.
More interesting is the fact that the entire album is performed in the Taiwanese language, proving that you can have amazing marketable music without having to genuflect to the so-called keepers of the “English First” movement. (Edit: For clarification, I have heard their music in English and Taiwanese — the American reissue does feature lyrics in English, but many of their YouTube clips do not, so you do get variety.) They dare to incorporate influences from traditional Taiwanese music, including the classical Asian erhu. They’re also activists for Taiwan’s independence, and with their six studio albums backing them up, they’ve become the leaders of a musical revolution. The music itself is the definition of incendiary, melding Taiwanese folklore and mythology with modern touches of melodic metal and mathrock inspired rhythms which are immediately accessable and ridiculously infectious.
Bar none, this is the most interesting music I’ve heard all year, and though it’s not likely to make most end of year lists, that’s merely because most people won’t have ever heard it. But you, my friends, are “Hear! Hear!” readers, and you rejoice at the opportunity to discover new styles of music through which to blow your mind. Trust me, this is the album you’ll be talking about long after Tha Carter IV has wormed its way into and then out of the picture.