There aren’t many bands that can claim something that Rotting Christ can claim: they have more buzz around the band now than they have ever had, and this is their 10th album. Now the hardcore, or the old school fans, will claim that they’re not nearly as good as they were “back in the day,” but I think the band has done a lot of development since the “old days” and really planted themselves firmly on the border of modern, mainstream metal. I mean, even their label is calling them just “dark metal” now, though I think there are some things that still hold them in the black metal category. Aealo is the follow up to the band’s 2007 masterpiece Theogonia, a record which lit their fanbase aflame and which saw the band broadening their appeal to new fans all over the world. It is fair to say that Rotting Christ has continued on the heels of Theogonia with Aealo, because the majority of the stylistic themes which ran through the previous album and made it great remain.
To start with, however, Aealo differs itself from Theogonia in several ways: firstly, these holdover elements are ever-present now, showing up in almost every track. The feeling that the band is trying to coin a “signature sound” based on the success of Theogonia wouldn’t be an unfair criticism from my listening to it. However, the hypnotic groove and style that these guys put forward, never technically showy, but always groovy and heavy (and it is probably scorching live), work to hook the listener in and keep them listening. I found myself continually raising the volume, too, because the louder it got the better it got. Aealo is a record that is meant to be experienced and listened to in a sort of submersive kind of listening experience, I think. Heavy, simple and something that you feel through your body and not think too hard about. In that sense, it is a strong success.
The tracks, despite being groovy and hypnotic are not boring, just think of it as atmosphere in a very epic sense. The whole album is littered with solid tracks, “Demonen Vrosis” is a fantastic song with some of the creepiest vocals I’ve ever heard on a metal record, for example. The track “Dub-sag-ka-te”, probably the fastest song on the record, has a solid rhythm that hooks you into it and brings you back to it again and again. This contrast of the oddly creepy sounding “ethnic” vocals and the hypnotic metal definitely gives this album a different atmosphere than previous albums. Aealo also contained a cool surprise for me (I probably should’ve read the bio first), which was that the vocalist from Primordial does a guest appearance on the track “Thou Art Lord”. This was a definite win for the band and for fans of Primordial and while not the strongest track on the album, it definitely created a peak.
I think what’s going to end up being the focus of a lot of dissent is the female vocals and the final track “Orders from the Dead”. Both of these things can be hard to take at times, they don’t have the same kind of inherent beauty that existed on Theogonia. Instead, they don’t offset the feel of the metal with beauty, but enhance it with disharmony and contrast. I think this works perfectly and I think the poetry of “Orders from the Dead” is amazing and I am glad that the band used that track as the final piece on the album. It makes a pretty impressive statement and shows that Rotting Christ are thinking outside the boxâ€”something that speaks well to the future of a band on their 10th full length album.
This record is solid, definitely. While I don’t think it can compete with the genius of Theogonia or the more dynamic nature of Sanctos Diavolos, Aealo still differentiates itself from the pack. The only major complaint that I have is that I think the record is able to get a little stale towards the end because of the stylistic approach. While the band uses dynamics well, the songs are a bit interchangeable, but at the same time the record is a smart 50 minutes long, including the extended poem at the end, which is the perfect ending for the album and which also means that it’s about perfect length and I never managed to really get bored with it. How this album will play in the long run is definitely up in the air, but for fans of atmospheric black metal, darker metal bands like Moonspell and older Rotting Christ, this record is definitely worth a listen at least.