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Review: Chabtan – Nine Levels

by Miloš Šebalj

Chabtan – Nine Levels

1. The Last Maya King
2. Escaping Seven-Death
3. Among the Demons
4. Jaguars Hunger
5. Never Ending Pain
6. Maya Messiahs
7. Xibalba
8. The Fall of Nojpetén
9. Nourished by Four Gods
10. Facing One-Death
11. The Last Maya God

Label: DarkTunes Music Group
Date: April 20, 2018 

Nothing came my way on this release! From the first look upon the magnificent cover artwork I knew the album was dealing with some ancient South American legacy. Logically, I expected a band from South America. Guess again… Maybe Spanish? Close, but not close enough. Who would’ve guessed France? Next, I expected some atmospheric music, to bring those civilizations closer to the listener. Wrong again! At that point I decided to stop guessing and investigate the matter at hand.

Chabtan comes from Paris, and executes a modern version of Melodic Death Metal. Yet, I still think of Nile while playing this album. “Nine Levels” is the second full album by this five piece, coming 3 years after the debut.

The above Nile reference has nothing to do with musical output by the French. It is merely to show that Chabtan has managed to involve the traditional tunes to the background (or up front at times) of their music. Their version of Death Metal is the one patented by bands like In Flames or Dark Tranquility at the turn of the century. Resemblance is absolutely clear. Rock solid rhythm section brings the necessary groove to the melodies created by the guitars, vocals switch from growling to clean, and so on… Nothing out of the ordinary. Still, when Chabtan includes the passages played (or programmed, doesn’t really matter) on the native Mayan instruments it creates a special atmosphere I have rarely heard, if ever. One could argue if those really fit to the modern, “mechanized” sounds bearing the majority of the album. I didn’t think they would either but these guys made it happen. Good job on that.

Technically speaking, this album is played to perfection. That is, of course, necessary when it comes to this particular genre. At the same time, this whole mixture of relatively unmixable tunes is perfectly produced so that one doesn’t outshine the other. Except when intended, of course. And that cover artwork! Brilliant! One of those pictures that catches your eye in the record store and makes you crave for the release.

For the end I have to say once again that ancient Gaul has a rich history as well. So maybe the French bands could give them some recognition. Though I have heard a few examples. It doesn’t always have to be some foreign mythology.

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