From emo to post-grunge to screamo, introspection has been a prime ingredient of so much of the post-Nevermind alternative rock of the '90s and 2000s. But one area of post-'80s rock where introspection does not prevail is black metal. With their corpse makeup, shock rock theatricality and odes to the Occult or paganism, black metal bands often provide big doses of fantasy and escapism for the folks in the mosh pit, and fantasy-based escapism is exactly what one will find on Bal-Sagoth's The Chthonic Chronicles. This elaborate, highly conceptual effort isn't the least bit introspective; combining black metal with elements of power metal and progressive rock, The Chthonic Chronicles underscores the ambitious nature of the symphonic black metal style. But while other symphonic black metal discs are obsessed with the Occult and satanic themes, The Chthonic Chronicles has more of a sci-fi outlook. If black metal (like death metal) often functions as the metal equivalent of a horror movie, this album has more in common with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century or the Star Wars movies. Some black metal purists have argued that Bal-Sagoth's work is too prog for its own good, but then, an album like The Chthonic Chronicles was not recorded with black metal purists in mind. Forceful yet melodic, complex and intricate, this CD is not for those who believe that only the harshest, most extreme black metal bands have validity. But someone who is broad-minded enough to enjoy Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Rush as much as they enjoy Cradle of Filth and Dark Funeral will find The Chthonic Chronicles to be an excellent addition to Bal-Sagoth's catalog.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson