No, I'd never heard the word "chthonick" either; in fact I thought it was a foreign word. In a sense it is a foreign word, being very close to the Greek "kthonios" from which it derives and, on second thoughts, you may well have heard of the word itself if you're a fan of things mythological or of the psyche: in which case you'll know that "chthonic(k)" means "of, or relating to, the underworld". Alitheia's definition goes beyond that, however, adding a meaning that is: "Psychol, the primitive, instinctual, unconscious aspect of self that is both examined in pursuit of, as well as houses, a personal evolution".
Why is this relevant? It is relevant because Alitheia's progressive metal first release Chthonick is a concept album exploring "Man's excavation of the deep interior of Himself that is uncharted, and therefore dark and frightening since to His knowledge is where death lies". One of the successes of Chthonick is Alitheia's ability to complement the concept with music that is both evocative of the theme and coherent across the album's six tracks, giving it a strong "album feel". It's a fine debut and a good progressive metal album.
Miami's Alitheia may be a new band to you: formed in 2001 by Alfredo Vicente (vocals), Raul Valentine (guitars) and Ricardo Diaz-Albertini (bass), this trio were joined by Xavier Vanegas (drums & percussion) in 2006. (What the three guys did in the years in-between I'm not quite sure!) Raul and Ricardo were previously involved in Savannah Fuma and Below 7.
Now then, metal is not the genre that most often finds its way onto my CD or mp3 players and I must admit that it wasn't until ½ to ¾ of the way through the first hearing that I attuned myself to the band's sound and began to enjoy it. To their credit though, once I'd made the connection and felt the groove, I really did enjoy it and subsequent plays have been consistently so. I particularly like Raul's guitar playing: it's not flashy but very effective within the context of this music, using short oft-repeated phrasing to create a trance-like mesmeric effect. There's occasionally a bit of echo treatment which adds to the mantra.
This style works well in tandem with the more traditional riffing approach and a couple of tracks mix it up to good effect: for instance, the opener "Sanctum of the Symbol", which is "a pursuit of the deeper significance that symbol and metaphor contain", works through a number of phases, starting with the mantric phrasing, then some conventional pounding rhythm riffing, going into some growling from Alfredo in the third phase before returning home. Similarly, during "Potamos"'s "inquiry into death's meaning", we get a strong heavy metal opening with some wonderful vocalizing giving a synthesizer effect as a light background, more growling before the mantric phrasing returns, another phase of insistent beat and some gorgeous guitar playing towards the end where Raul makes his instrument sound like a synthesizer. Both tracks, the only ones on which growling makes a sporadic appearance, work well in their shifting phases and moods.
"Root of Infinity" and "Penumbra" are probably the simplest compositions structurally but both work well within the album's structure, the mix of instrumentational playing and vocal styles being knitted together seamlessly to make for a very enjoyable listening experience.
So, good debut, roll on the next album!
1) Sanctum of the Symbol (7:03)
2) Solid of Revolution (7:39)
3) Root of Infinity (6:08)
4) Penumbra (5:48)
5) The Empty Set (9:41)
6) Potamos (9:22)