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Review: Bal-Sagoth - The Chthonic Chronicles
The Chthonic Chronicles

Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2006
Duration: 60:39
Tracks: 12
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: January 2, 2009
Reviewed by: Jason Cominetto
Readers Rating
The Chthonic Chronicles

Rated 4.44/5 (88.73%) (55 Votes)

After five years of waiting, fans of Bal-Sagoth were able to get their hands on the band's latest album in 2006: The Chthonic Chronicles. The one thing that people who are not fans of this band should expect is that they will become fans after listening to this masterpiece.

If there is one thing Bal-Sagoth is known for, it is sticking to their guns and cranking out albums of epic proportions that should satisfy any metal fan's lust for fantasy and lore. Needless to say, The Chthonic Chronicles is just as, if not much more epic than any of their previous releases. There is a bit of warning though; if you listen to this album you must be prepared for it to own you, as Bal-Sagoth create a universe that is so rich and enthralling it is almost impossible to not get wrapped up in it.

The songs on this album continue some of the stories from Bal-Sagoth's previous releases and introduce some new ones as well. All of these stories take place in the Multiverse, an alternate universe in which vocalist Byron Roberts' lyrics take place. The Multiverse is one of the most intricate and complex alternate realities found in any entertainment medium (almost on par with Middle Earth) and takes heavy influence from ancient myths and legends.

Some of the plot lines found from older Bal-Sagoth albums that are continued in The Chthonic Chronicles include The Obsidian Crown Saga, The Guardians of the Astral Gate, and The Adventures of Professor Caleb Blackthorne III. Suffice it to say, if anyone is looking for a new universe to get involved in if Lord of the Rings or Star Wars has become a little stale, picking up some of Bal-Sagoth's albums should not hurt. Every song has a meaning that makes the band's already complicated universe even more intricate. The packet that accompanies this album provides much more than lyrics for the songs it contains, with excerpts from ancient archaeological journals, fully written chapters that continue some of the bands ongoing storylines and even a full two-page map of the Multiverse. Instrumental songs even contain a plethora of information, showing that that the band has put a lot of thought in creating an album that must feel like it belongs in that certain reality, even when there are no words present.

With all of this information, it is evident that Bal-Sagoth has put a lot of time and effort into the lyrics for this release. But with this vast universe there has to be good musicians who bring it all to life, and Bal-Sagoth are just that. The vocals for the album perfectly accompany the strange, yet enchanting lyrics. Roberts knows how to make his songs sound as epic as possible, using an extremely low and surreal voice for the spoken word/storytelling segments (this is used as an opening for most of the album's tracks) and sharp, attacking, harsher vocals for when the music picks up. The guitar work is masterful, never taking a backseat to the other instruments and never going into an unnecessary solo; only showing off when the time is right and helping keep the music sounding thick and metal. The drums are fast and unrelenting, really making the music heavy and giving it that brutal tone. On the other hand, the bass can sometimes get lost amongst the other instruments, but still plays its role of keeping the tempo and setting the atmosphere with the evil and otherworldly riffs it churns out.

However, the real jewel in this crown is the keyboard. This instrument is essential to making the music have that fantastic fantasy sound that Bal-Sagoth fans know and love. Using all sorts of effects and tones, the keyboard stands out as the album's most prominent and enchanting instrument. But really, as a whole, all the instruments work together like a well-oiled machine, hell-bent on making the most epic and ridiculously over-the-top album imaginable. If that was not enough, there are plenty of horns, strings, chants and other instruments and sounds that add to the depth of the album.

The songs as a whole are fantastic, and there are no tracks that bring down the album in any sort of way. From the otherworldly intro of "Six Score and Ten Oblations to a Malefic Avatar", to the catchy music and great storytelling elements on "Unfettering the Hoary Sentinels of Karnak," to the Pirates of the Caribbean-esque instrumental track ("To Storm the Cyclopean Gates of Byzantium"); every song on this album is an absolute masterpiece.

The Chthonic Chronicles is by far Bal-Sagoth's best work and one of the best pieces of metal music ever to be conceived. Each song has an enchanting story that delves even deeper into the Multiverse, providing more depth than ever thought possible. Fans of the band will love this album, as will all fans of metal, folklore and anything else nerdy. If you have never heard of Bal-Sagoth or never even heard music before, then this is a great album to start off with. If you are fans of the band and do not own this masterpiece already then this should definitely be the next album you purchase.

Either way, The Chthonic Chronicles will blow your mind.

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