Album Review: Chthonic Cult – Become Seekers for Death

Album Review: Chthonic Cult – Become Seekers for Death
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Chthonic Cult is a name that I’ve been hearing from time to time lately, and perhaps it comes as no surprise why that is. Blackened death metal is a subgenre that’s rather exploded within the last decade and Chthonic Cult, born in Poland and a two-man piece, are one such name that now return after a considerable gap between studio releases. Formed in 2014 around Warsaw and Berlin, Chthonic Cult actually got their first work out of the woodwork early on in 2015 with their debut album release titled I Am The Scourge Of Eternity. Since then, the band had been radio-silent with absolutely nothing being released; no EPs or Splits or Demos. Then, at last, the band announced they would bring out a new album titled Become Seekers For Death prepped for a late March release. So, it was time for me to see just what Chthonic Cult were all about. It’s been a while since I checked out a work of blackened death metal and I couldn’t conceive of a better candidate than this record to check out.

For a work of blackened death metal, I was taken aback as to how polished and serene the production was. Usually for a work of more extreme metal you’d expect there to be a muddier or more visceral form of production applied to the record’s sound; you’d go in anticipating a scathing production that establishes the vaster evil the band may want to instil. However that isn’t the case as while the band evidently do bring in some considerable evil to their performance, it’s not like it’s the sole aspect they want your attention to hone in on. The polished production enables the band to give their full spectrum of vocals and instrumentation the ability to project themselves, without fearing that they’ll be lost within the mix or the band’s desires to get as much as evil as they can out of their performance, at the cost of a lesser instrumental performance.

With that said though, the decent production has really allowed the band to amplify the dreaded soundscape the riffs appear to hold for us. When you’re listening to this record the band aren’t throwing great swathes or slabs of tone and guitar work your way; instead the guitar riffs are erratic, rapid-fire paced and are performed with finesse that’s borderline schizophrenic. This, sonically speaking, isn’t going to be the biggest sounding album you’ll have listened to this year but it could be one of the more jarring works for sure. Riffs feel like they are jettisoned off the fretboard in this maniacal fashion whereby the band are looking for riff segments to be played as fast as possible all the while maintaining a generally steady tempo within the overarching songwriting. It’s this contrasting yet eviscerating style of riff performance that really gives Chthonic Cult the nihilistic edge required to overcome many of their contemporaries.

Album Review: Chthonic Cult – Become Seekers for Death

It may sound odd but I enjoyed how the blast beats, the drumming in general at that as well, doesn’t go too crazy on our senses. This album features some stellar drumming for a certainty and you can hear it, in how it commands your attention through bass drumming, blast beats and an overall utilisation of the full drum kit so that we don’t become accustomed to the drumming as something predictable or the like. It can also be easy for a band, in the mixing stages, to just crank their drums to the max and really let their blast beats dominate the stage upon which you’re listening to. This has resulted in exemplary extreme metal soundscapes in the last but can also terribly misbalance an album’s mix, by keeping the drums to a relatively acceptable range whereby we can still thoroughly appreciate the power and strength the drums are putting into the record yet never so forthright that they smack us in the face every time, the band have ensured the drums won’t be hogging the spotlight from the rest of the band as well as giving the riffs and vocals and corrupting atmosphere their due as well for overall enjoyment.

However, aside from all these elements that are brazenly evident from the band’s personality, it’s worth mentioning how they utilise pacing to great effect. For their longer pieces they could have just gone the route of ploughing their audience with rapid fire songwriting for full 7 minute durations; but Chthonic Cult are smarter than this and thereby have shaken things up by giving their songwriting room to breathe if you will. Riffs can ruthlessly efficient when paired alongside blast beats, but you’ll also have riffs that are far blockier and broken up not only to instil a more methodical sensibility of the band’s persona but also give you the notion that they aren’t just going to hurl one breakneck onslaught after another. For a subgenre not necessarily noted for its restraints, Chthonic Cult might just be changing that with songwriting that’s aggressive as anything you’d expect from them yet with flourishes from time to time demonstrating what else they can bring to the table.

In conclusion, Chthonic Cult have crafted an album that demonstrates the real prowess of Blackened Death Metal. This subgenre can be notable for being utterly ruthless and destitute in its portrayal of songwriting, but Chthonic Cult have showcased how this subgenre can be brought to the forefront of our attention through clever application of their mixing and songwriting. We don’t often get blackened death metal that actually tries to be the professional and mature force like Become Seekers For Death advocates for, but it legitimately works in this instance. The band propagate this dark and ritualistic atmosphere but it’s never so crushingly heavy it feels a burden to carry; they unleash this violent and miasmic assault on your senses yet the instrumental and vocal elements are produced and mixed in such a way you can sit back pretty comfortably and take in the full picture of what the band’s sound has in store for you. If you want a blackened death metal record that is going to deliver on all you’d want from such a band yet isn’t so annihilating or brutal, then Chthonic Cult might be worth your attention.

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