When I reviewed Megadeth's "Super Collider" two days ago, I said that one of the downsides of review writing was that every so often bad albums would come along that I would have to force myself to be subjected to. Today I can say that there is a definite upshot of this hobby; every so often I will come across good albums by bands that I would otherwise never have listened to. It just so happened that I had 2 of these albums at once, Chthonic's "Bu-Tik" and Autopsy's "The Headless Ritual". Although neither of these are the best album you will hear in 2013 they are definitely both worth checking out. I hope that at least one person reading these reviews gives the albums a listen and is maybe, like me, exposed to some new and enjoyable music; naturally if you are already aware of either, or both, of these bands then this will provide an insight into their latest efforts.
"Bu-Tik" is the 7th effort from Taiwanese metal band, Chthonic (I think it's pronounced "Thonic", I may be mistaken) and I think the best way to describe this album is a mix between Children of Bodom and Arch Enemy with traditional instruments thrown in for good measure. With "Bu-Tik", Chthonic provide the listener with 10 tracks of fast, aggressive metal goodness and, for a first-time listener, I was really taken into the band.
There are many things about "Bu-Tik" that really stand out. Firstly, Dani Wang's drumming is phenomenal, providing a really strong platform for the rest of the band. Wang blast beats and double kicks relentlessly through all 40 minutes of the album and it was the feature that really got my attention. Additionally, the guitar work from Jesse Liu is also notable, moving from aggressive circle pit riffs to more groovy, metalcore-like riffs seemingly at the flick of a switch whilst also throwing in some solid lead work for good measure.
Production on the record was handled by Rickard Bengtsson and, although the production style of "Bu-Tik" is not something I would usually enjoy (I'm not huge on overly clean production with drums that feel triggered, I prefer a bit more dirt and more of a natural sound) I find in this case the "cleanliness" of the mix works really well for bringing out all the keyboards, synths, traditional instruments and choirs that feature abundantly on this record. Extras like that can really clog the mix up if handled badly and I think that Bengtsson has done a really great job with giving everything its own space.
Despite "Bu-Tik" being a solid effort from Chthonic, I feel it suffers from being just too damn repetitive. Album opener "Supreme Pain For The Tyrant" is great and really grabs the listener's attention but when faced with the rest of the album effectively sounding the same, and without any great changes in song length or tempo, I find that the album can go stale faster than I would have liked. There is an effort with "Sail Into The Sunset's Fire" to change the tone slightly, experimenting with an almost pirate-esque sound, but it is an early track on the album and I think that after the third of fourth track there isn't much else to offer.
With "Bu-Tik" I think that Chthonic have released a decent album and the songs taken as individuals are really good. However because of its repetitive nature I find it hard to keep my full attention on it and after 4 full listens still can't differentiate a lot of the songs. Yes, the songs on the album are good but listening to it as a full album is often difficult and tedious and so I leave "Bu-Tik" wanting a little more than I got. I rate this album 6.5/10 and if you are looking for tracks to listen to check out "Supreme Pain For The Tyrant" and "Sail Into The Sunset's Fire".
Autopsy: The Headless Ritual
"The Headless Ritual" is the 6th album from veteran Death Metal band, Autopsy and is only their 2nd since their hiatus. The best way to describe this band is a fusion of Cannibal Corpse, Mayhem, Slayer, Death and Sleep with a hint of Black Sabbath to boot; if you are unsure what I mean by that then what I am saying is that Autopsy are awesome. "The Headless Ritual" combines all the best bits of extreme metal to make one truly unique album that is at once surprising, crushing and heavy.
When I first put this album on and listened to opener "Slaughter At Beast House" I had a huge grin on my face. The song opens up with some immensely fast riffing and threatens to be a very good Death Metal song before the pace drops and shifts straight into more of a Doom Metal feel. This shift completely took me by surprise and before I had chance to register what was going on the pace changed again. Without a doubt this is one of the best Death Metal tracks I have heard, it sounded fresh and exciting and kept me on my toes which, in the often predictable world of Death Metal, felt very welcome.
The first 3 tracks of this record are arguably 3 of the best songs you will hear all year. I particularly liked 3rd track "She Is A Funeral" which, just as I was thinking I was listening to a Death Metal band with Doom Metal influences, took me completely off guard as it sounded more like something Mayhem would release. Here is a band that isn't afraid to move out of the constraints of Death Metal and they do it extremely well. In fact I would go so far as to say that if this was a 3 track EP then I would give it a 10, they are that good.
Before I talk about the rest of the album I wanted to briefly mention the production (as I always do). Duties were handled by Adam Munoz and he has worked really well to give the feel of an old-school Death Metal album and it does take me back to early Death and Cannibal Corpse. I guess in a lot of ways this sort of feel is to be expected as Autopsy were one of the pioneers of Death Metal, having started out in the late 80s, and I think the production style does the band's sound justice.
In a way "The Headless Ritual" is a little bit frustrating. Autopsy set the bar very high from the get go but I feel like after the first 3 tracks the album isn't quite as strong. Although the stylistic shifts in "Slaughter..." felt really fresh and exciting they are used in a very similar way in both "Coffin Crawlers" and "When Hammer Meets Bone" and so it goes from exciting to somewhat predictable. The latter particularly I feel would benefit from being a straight-up Death Metal track with nothing fancy added to it. Sometimes these changes work well and sound fresh and other times it feels overdone and it does take the edge off the album.
Album closer, the instrumental "The Headless Ritual" is also a bit of a let down. From a band that throughout the album shows off so many great riffs and awesome solos akin to Slayer I think that the closing track just falls a little flat and would benefit from being a little longer instead of feeling a more like an afterthought. It is a bit of a shame because I wanted this album to end as brutally as it started and it just seems to fizzle out a little.
Overall "The Headless Ritual" is well worth a listen and contains some of the best tracks you will hear in 2013. Yes there are some issues with song structure and arguably there are some things being done that don't need to be and vice versa but ultimately the album is very much enjoyable. I would rate it an 8/10 and recommend listening to "Slaughter At Beast House", "She Is A Funeral" and "Mangled Far Below".
So there you have it, two new releases that are both worth checking out. Just a quick note in that I now have a Facebook page for this blog so please check it out for news of upcoming reviews and stories. You can also recommend me an album if you want me to review it. Thanks to everyone that has read my stuff so far, I have amassed over 100 views on my posts in the week and a half that I have been doing this so thanks a lot.