REVIEW: ROTTING CHRIST – “Rituals”
Twenty-eight years is not a short span of time to survive in any industry, let alone in one of the hardest in the world; the Music industry. However, Rotting Christ have not only survived, but thrived in it. Formed way back in 1987 and being the flag bearers of the Greek Black Metal sound, Rotting Christ undoubtedly are the veterans of the scene. From their roots in Grindcore, Rotting Christ have wandered fearlessly through several sub-genres from Black Metal to Gothic Metal to create a fusion that is fresh and unique.
“Relentless” is the first word that comes to my mind to describe the band’s sound, and relentless indeed is how I would describe their 13th full-length album ‘Rituals’, out on 12th February via Season Of Mist records. Continuing from the direction the band took in ‘Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού’, Rotting Christ unleash an epic and atmospheric ambience right from the first note of “In Nomine Dei Nostri” till the last riff of “The Four Horsemen”. True to its name, ‘Rituals’ starts off with sinister chants amidst trademark heavy riffage, transporting the listener bang in the middle of an occult ritual in the album opener “In Nomine Dei Nostri”. The anthem-like chorus will make you pump your fists as you wear a grimace on your face, and don’t be surprised if you start chanting “In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas” along with the band.
The thick wall of distortion ensures that the heaviness and epic feel remains intact throughout the length of the album. Sakis Tolis sounds massive as usual, bellowing and chanting away in the vocals while Themis Tolis’ booming drums hit through your inner ear drums with ferocity. Especially on “Elthe Kyrie”, you will not be able to stop yourself from pumping your fists along with the catchy anthem-like riffage, or be unsettled with a chill down your spine by the vocal talents of Danai Kastameni, an actress in the National Hellenic Theater. She takes the song to a different level of evil with her eerie screams and angry vocal delivery.
Rotting Christ is known to blend folk instruments in their compositions, and in this album too, you will find these elements strewn across the compositions. However,one track in particular called “Devadevam” really caught me off guard. Combining Sanskrit Hymns and Indian Classical melodies in the middle of Black Metal aggression, “Devadevam” is a curve ball that I would love to see how people react to, especially Indian audiences. It will most likely polarize fans, who will either love it or hate it, but it is definitely one of the tracks that will surprise you. Another folksy track in the mix is “Tou Thanatos” that blends in catchy folk riffs in the chorus that will permanently reside in your brain. The slightly faster tempo of this track makes it one of my favourites off the album.
Rotting Christ are masters when it comes to building intensity and teasing the listener before exploding into a fireball of heavy riffage, and tracks like “Komx Om Pax” and “For A Voice Like Thunder” are perfect examples of it. On the flip side, “Apage Satana” falls short as it relies too much on atmospherics and an eerie ambience, rather than heavy Black Metal goodness. Although towards the end of the track, it does make the hair stand up at the back of your neck, but it is too little too late, and I found myself skipping this track altogether during multiple spins.
‘Rituals’ stands at a crisp 49 minutes with no filler, and 10 songs in total. I did feel that it was a tad bit slower in pace than their previous albums, but in terms of intensity, the album is right up there with the band’s most intense releases.
Bottom line: although cynics would have predicted Rotting Christ to be at the cusp of a decline, the band shows no signs of ageing in their 13th full-length album. They deliver a sound that is full of occult Black Metal goodness, and conjure up a satanic atmosphere in ‘Rituals’ that will possess you.