originally written by Erik Thomas
First off, I need to apologize. My first and last experience with Greece’s long-running Rotting Christ was 1996’s Triarchy of Lost Lovers. I had their logo emblazoned on my denim jacket in High School and college, so I thought I should at least check out one of their albums, and I chose the album where they apparently shifted into a more gothic metal mid-paced approach, as opposed to the black metal I had heard so much about. I wasn’t impressed and left them alone for the next decade.
So here I am thirteen years and six albums later, reviewing Aealo, the band’s 10th album, and from what I gather from my modest research, the album continues the band delving back into their black/death metal past, if on a more epic and ethnic scale. What immediately grabbed my attention was the continuing use of a traditional Greek choir (apparently in use for the last couple of albums), which adds an aura of Hellenic grandiosity to the proceedings, much in the same way that Viking/Pagan metal bands create their own Norse atmospheres and in which Orphaned Land has an Arabic mystique. And in the same way that Ex Deo failed. With the band actually being from Greece, you can sense their inherent geography and mythical/historical seeds in every song. The choirs and synths are superbly utilized and develop the music’s balance between Greek pomp and stern metal.
Right off the get-go, with some grandiose female chanting over a vicious blast beat, the title track draws you into a world of bronze-clad battling hoplites, haughty politicians, gorgeous toga-clad maidens and petty gods. The track bleeds seamlessly into the energetic “Eon Aenaos” which focuses more on Sakis’ gruff throaty vocals, but still has slivers of solemn regality amid its chunky pace. The third track, “Demonon Vrosis” actually settles things down a bit and reminded me of the band Triarchy of Lost Lover / A Dead Poem era, but glossed with all the Hellenic majesty of the previous two tracks.
I could go on about each track, like the workmanlike, catchy march of “Noctis Era” or the high-octane instrumental “Dub-Sag-Ta-Ke” which should have been the song playing during the scene in Xerxes’ tent in the movie300, or the killer closing couple of minutes of “Fire Death and Fear” or Nemtheamga’s (Primordial) guest vocal appearance on the “Thou Art Lord” and blistering penultimate track “Santa Muerte”. However, I probably would not mention the cover of Diamanda Galas’ “Order of the Dead,” featuring Ms Galas herself.
Much like the recently discovered (for me) Septic Flesh, Rotting Christ are an influential and evolving Greek metal act I missed and need to further investigate. If Aealo is any indication, I’m missing out on 4 or 5 mighty fine albums from the last decade.