February 27, 2013

Rotting Christ - Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού (2013)

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It's been almost 20 years since Rotting Christ released their first album, Thy Mighty Contract. Obviously it was a pretty damn good one, since they've kept going at it for two decades now, gaining a massive fanbase in the process. Various changes in line-up and sound have moulded the band from a wild grindcore outfit to the black metal legends they are now and 2013 finds Rotting Christ at its most concentrated form, being comprised only of the brothers Sakis (guitars, vocals, keyboards) and Temis (drums) Tolis.

Their last album Aealo was basically unlistenable to me - too many keyboards, bro :( - so I was a little weary of their latest offering, called Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy (Do What Thou Will), being plagued by the same enormous quantity of keyboards. I am happy to report that this is not the case at all.

The black metal component of the band's sound takes a back-seat in favor of a rather grandiose, operatic style of death metal infused with some avantgarde elements. Opening track In Yumen - Xibalba begins with what turns out to be one of the main elements of the album, namely dark, ominous chanting done in some exotic language. The chants slowly build up to a frenzy of melodic guitar lines and rather simplistic blast-beat drumming, over which Sakis Tolis sings his martial lyrics, accompanied by some Tibetan-like war chanting. This basic recipe reappears time and time again throughout the album and, while it may sound boring, the band does a really good job of making every song feel fresh and interesting.

The guitar work on display here is fantastic: basic palm-muted chugs alternate with beautiful melodic passages that lend an air of majestic elegance to the songs. I think Sakis Tolis has really outdone himself and has come up with some impressive guitar lines. The drums, on the other hand, are rather simplistic - Temis Tolis uses classic, tried-and-true heavy metal patterns mixed with some tribal-sounding bashing during intros and bridges, which work really well in counterbalancing the slightly sophisticated guitar melodies with a more primal, wild backdrop. As mentioned, the terrific atmosphere is built upon various chanting and chorus vocals that create a mystical aura around each track.

The lyrical content and themes seem to have various sources of inspiration, mostly from different religious and spiritual cultures and beliefs around the world. A quick Google search for some of the song titles reveals concepts lifted from Zoroastrianism, Mayan mythology, ancient Sumerian history, Russian folklore and even old Romanian folk songs - the band does a brilliant rendition of Cine Iubește și Lasă (Romanian bros, ask your parents about this). It's a huge mess, but this diversity ultimately works in the band's favor.

After listening to this over and over again for the past two days, I feel comfortable saying that this is some of Rotting Christ's best album to date and one of 2013's finest releases. The musicianship is top-notch, the production is clean yet soulful, the atmosphere is great and the entire album feels GRAND. Which is why I will be doing my best to catch Rotting Christ during one of their live gigs in Greek cities I've never heard about. I'm convinced this album sounds amazing live.

In the mean time, have a listen for yourself.

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