Compred to Follow the Black Smoke, Chthonian Virtues stands as a much more vibrant sounding modern affair that still comes off pretty dirty despite the cleaner digital quality. This muddiness is thanks largely to how loud the bass guitar is in the mix, commanding your attention with each near earth shattering rumble of a chord used against the lower tuning of the guitars and rough growling. The drums are loud enough to still be important to the mix overall, of course, but rarely overshadow anything else, especially on the traditional black metal introduction track “Breach Darkness”, in that they don’t appear at all. In fact, this brief forty-nine second instrumental introduces some standard sharpened distortions that do appear throughout the release, and act as a nice contrast to the standard thicker one used on the other four compositions.
“Chthonian Virtues” stands as a far more abrasive assault on the listener, carrying some traditional Entombed values and grooves, which are more prominant towards the last minute, laced with modern black metal blast beats and nightmarish hooks. The grimy material is enough to send a chill down your spine despite getting your blood boiling before “Martyrdom Unsealed” hits with more of a Marduk influence to the gloomy, frostbitten riffs. This is also the most versatile of the four, shifting between a speed not quite as intense as the title track with unnerving slower bouts of intimidation that rely more on the many drum patterns and guitar hooks to paint the dismal landscape.
And then you have “Infernal” and “Slave”, both of which end up two largely different beasts all around. The former is still a cold performance with some sharper distortions found from time to time, the ominous sensation does breathe a presence of Behemoth laced with some deprressing Emperor melodies. It’s one of the most atmospheric cuts of the recording, and one of the biggest let downs considering it’s only two-and-a-half minutes in length, ending far before its potential was fully recognized. The latter, however, has more of a southern groove filled attitude behind it with traces of The Crown for good measure. Again, the deeper tuning gives this one a griminess that plays well with the bass-heavy bridges and sudden explosions of energy that just sceam “The Speed of Darkness”.
So, are the performances themselves good? For the most part yes, they are. Chthonian Virtues shows a decent amount of variety from the group while staying within the black/death metal playground they built for themselves. However, the lack of it being knit tighter does more damage than good, leaving you with what really does sound like a loose collection of songs that could be categorized more as b-sides from their last album, or ones off an impending follow-up. This very issue greatly hurts the flow overall, especially at the price point of 10 AUD ($7.75 USD). While some fans will find enough present to keep coming back and justify the price point, you can’t help but walk away from Chthonian Virtues on the unsatisfied side.