I have a unique history with Greek black metal institution Rotting Christ. As a youngin’, I was first introduced to them via (what else?) Metal Maniacs Magazine. They were hyped up as a great second-wave black metal band with interesting melodies and a unique cultural viewpoint. So on a whim, I went out and purchased 1997’s A Dead Poem… and was subsequently bored to tears, swearing to never listen to them again. A full decade later, I happened upon a video for “Enuma Elish,” and by the time the chorus hit, I became a full-fledged convert to their army. That year, Theogonia rarely left the CD player in my car, and it’s follow-up, 2010’s Aealo, was equally potent and rage-inducing. However, 2013’s Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy, while not bad, was a bit worrying in terms of fluctuating quality. And so, we now have Rituals. Have the Gods and Goddesses smiled upon us once more?

Well, in many ways, Rituals is the sound of a band coming full-circle with their blend of Hellenic black metal and rich, native instrumentation. Sadly, they’ve come full-circle in other ways too because, with the exception of a few songs, Rituals ended up boring me to tears again. Grunts, chanting, and marching opens up “In Nomine Dei Nostri” before launching into Sakis Tolis’s trademark riffs and screams, his brother Themis’s blasts and military-esque cadences, and some rather well-placed usages of ambient marching noises. However, it’s former keyboardist Magus (Necromantia) handling the majority of the verses. The song, while not mindblowing, does a good job setting up the album.

So what seems to be the hold-up? When I first heard Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy three years ago, I was at first incredibly happy with how the album was written. Looking back, it felt more like Sakis was trying to create a soundtrack to the long-lost sequel to 300 than crafting a great, epic black metal album. Once again, Rituals continues disturbingly on this path, and the results range from good (moody closer “The Four Horsemen”) to okay (“Konx Om Pax,” the Nick Holmes -narrated “For A Voice Like Thunder,”) to completely unnecessary and completely out-of-place (“देवदेवं (Devadevam)).” In fact, “Apage Satana,” with its looping chant of “Apage! (APAGE!) Satana! (SATANA!)” drove me to fits of annoyance and rage after just a couple of minutes.

Rotting Christ 2016

But the most annoying thing happens to be just how gloriously freaking EPIC “Elthe Kyrie” is. Yes, you may have heard this song already (or conveniently scrolled down to check it out), but in case you haven’t, please do so. I’ll wait. May we continue? Blasts, well-constructed riffs, a great solo by George Emmanuel, guest vocalist Danai Katsameni of the National Hellenic Theater providing very passionate spoken-word verses, and a nice, brief breather so when the chorus hits at roughly :59, this here reviewer became Kratos of the God of War games, feeling like I could rip wings off of harpies, and cleave through gods with no effort.1 Folks, that is the Rotting Christ we know and love. When they’re hitting on all cylinders, their ability to make anyone feel like a warrior who can take on the world is without peer, and that’s sadly lacking on Rituals. The loud, brickwalled production by Jens Bogren (AmorphisMoonspell) doesn’t help matters any. While Themis’ drums are heavy, powerful, and driving, the guitars take a major backseat to all the sound effects, samples, and cultural instruments, and the bass is practically non-existent.

I was chomping at the bit to review this album, because I love me some glorious battle metal of epic proportions. Instead, Rituals left me sad and heartbroken, as only the first three songs get any play after listening to the album for weeks. As someone who has enjoyed their recent output and seen them live (and even scored a guitar pick from Sakis himself at their Bedford, New Hampshire show during their Theogonia tour!), I sincerely hope this isn’t a sign of things to come, because Rotting Christ are more than capable of inciting ungodly passion within all who listen to their battle hymns. I’m going to go cry now, and pray that this is just a misstep [There’s no crying in…SPARTA!Steel Druhm].

 


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: rotting-christ.com | facebook.com/rottingchrist
Releases Worldwide: February 12th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. It must also be noted that “Elthe Kyrie” is almost a carbon copy of the title track to Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy, but with different, albeit better, window dressing. That’s also a huge mark against Rituals.
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  • Atli Jarl Martin

    2 out of 5?! Did we listen to the same album?!

    • Pedro Fontan

      You did. And you formulated different opinions! Crazy uh?

      I should add to that I did really enjoy this album. While I agree in parts it feels clunky and even unnecessary there’s more than enough to have made me a happy bunny!! It’s great in places, phenomenal in others and sort of meh in others, but never reaches bad for me and that’s enough for me!! I’d give it a 3 flirting with a 3.5 personally!

    • Grymm

      We did. You loved it. I found it to be very self-plagiarizing and going on a path that doesn’t quite suit the band at all. It happens.

      • Atli Jarl Martin

        I found Sakis delving a bit deeper into the ritualistic, kind of chant-kind of songs this time around, And their rhythm-based song compositions, started on Sanctus Diavolos, hit the home-run for me.

        • Grymm

          But he also did that on the last album. In fact, if you listen closely, some of those melodies, hymns, and to a lesser extent even songs, are repeats from Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy, right down to exact tempos.

          My point is that Sakis needs to vary it up a bit, and soon. As a fan of Rotting Christ, I will say that this album is troubling in terms of their direction and repetition.

  • JJnetZach

    I would rate the album a bit higher, up to a 3.0 maybe, but there is no shaking the feeling that we have heard this all before. The phrase from the AMG review of the previous album, WWRCD “what would Rotting Christ do?” fits like a glove here as well.

    • Grymm

      Truth be told, it started as a 3.0, but I was liking it less with each progressive listen. Now I only enjoy the first three songs and “The Four Horsemen”. That’s not a good thing.

      • JJnetZach

        Could very well be that further listenings will detract from my score. There are sadly too many fillers on this album. To name one, “Devadevam” is practically a remix of “Xibalba”, just to name one issue. Same riff and even the same kind of whispers.

        Agreed about Elthe Kyrie though, definitely a great track.

        • Grymm

          Bingo. It’s just too familiar-sounding, and Sakis is starting to rely more on sound effects and samples to carry the music, and that’s worrying. Even moreso when you consider that everyone in RC can more than carry their weight.

  • Scourge

    Well, I’ve never gotten on board with Rotting Christ but being a fan of Hellenic black metal, this will be my first Rotting Christ album. What you describe sounds similar to Acherontas’ last album so I’m hopeful since I loved Ma Ion. The previews I’ve heard click with me despite having avoided this band until now. We’ll see. If nothing else maybe it will turn me on to some of their previous works.

    • Grymm

      Go get Theogonia and Aealo post-haste!

      • Scourge

        Will do. I just think when bands do the more ambient or ritualistic stuff, you have to be in the right headspace. And fortunately for me I seem to be in that headspace a lot.

        • chitownproud85

          Seriously. Go get Theogonia and Aealo as soon as possible. The first time I heard Theogonia, it was one of those “my metal fandom will never be the same again” records and that has held true. Its incredible. Aealo is awesome as well, but Theogonia might change the way you hear your music. Best of luck brother

          • Grymm

            “Enuma Elish” and “Santa Muerte” especially!

    • basenjibrian

      Acherontas is amazing. Can’t really see the comparison.

  • Soze

    Have to agree after a couple of listens. It’s just washed over me without making any sort of impression at all.

  • george

    Elthe Kyrie is as epic as a drunk bacchae during Dionysus worship

  • Paul Marshall

    When you listed Aeleo as one of you favourite rotting Christ Albums I knew our tastes were miles apart. For me it was always going to be hard to follow Kata Ton Diamona Eatoy but this album comes close. I’d give it 4/5.

    • chitownproud85

      This gives me hope.

    • Atli Jarl Martin

      I give it a 5/5, there’s nothing on the album that detracts from the final score. Yes I’m biased, it’s my favorite band, and they still deliver, in spades.

    • Grymm

      Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy didn’t click well with me half the time, and this one clicked less, even after almost a month with it.

      And believe me, this was a painful review to write, as both Theogonia and Aealo hold a special place in my heart, but I gotta call it as I hear it.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Never really been a fan of this band (I do love Non Serviam though), but what I’ve heard from this album isn’t swaying me towards full appreciation.

    Funny thing though, there is a batshit crazy Christian dude in South Africa who’s trying to boycott and cancel their tour here. I didn’t know these people still existed.

    • Grymm

      There are batshit-crazy Christians here in America who would just love to have that happen as well, if given their way.

  • Well..this album is a little strange..It has 2 good covers ( Tou Thanatou and The 4 Horsemen), 2-3 very good songs and the remaining songs range from okay to mediocre..Sakis wanted to close the epic hellenic black/greek folk/Monotheist black metal (yes that’s how i call their black elements nowadays) that started with Theogonia..The transition to a somewhat new direction is making me feel it is forced way too much…To conclude i think it is a 2.5/5 but it is an unbalanced record.The good songs are great the mediocre sound bad in comparison.

    P.S.I think Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy is way better than Aealo which by the way i think it is a watered down Theogonia version(still a good record though).

    • Atli Jarl Martin

      I always considered Aealo a perfect Greek approach to their songwriting. Culminating with the out-of-this-world Diamanda Galás homage.

      • Better than Theogonia?

        • vlzvl

          Theogonia was a blast from the past album.
          The only recent album that i could isolate some hits and really reminded me of their early work. It smashes all their recent work in bits. Theogonia and beyond is epic failure, suited for new fans who think RC sounded always like that.

    • thiR

      Totally agree. Aealo was ok, but suffer the same issues as Rituals: samey songs across the album and a very good first half while the last couple of tracks are a bit boring.
      Theogonia will remain the best RC album for a while it seems.

  • I was just listening to non serviam today and have no idea what any of you are talking about.

  • Fuinha

    Jens Bogren has way too much power in his hands

  • chitownproud85

    After the 3-4 songs theyve released so far to the public, I had it in my mind that that this was a 4, 4.5 in waiting. 2? Brutal. It makes me terrified to hear the rest of the album. Grymm points out that around 4 tracks stick…which is what Ive heard. Say it isnt so. SAY IT

    • Grymm

      Those first three songs released to the public are the best three songs on the entire album.

      There, had to say it.

      • Pimpolho

        But i disliked them. D:
        Where’s my beloved RC?

        • basenjibrian

          Maybe so rotted that they are now some form of sentient goo?

          • IBlackened

            Decomposed Christ.

      • chitownproud85

        So now that the album is released in the states and Ive had my chance to purchase and play through the original material therein, I felt compelled to come back and pointlessly share what Ive found with you, Sir Grymm. The result: Disappointment. Has a band ever so blatantly ripped THEMSELVES off? I know plenty of people have pointed out “its like we’ve heard this before” when describing this album, but I never realized how literal they were being. Its what I picture a Rotting Christ parody band made up of 17 year old kids that picked up their instruments 3 months ago would make. Its clear they love the source material, but they just arent good enough at their instruments to make more impressive music yet. With ALL THAT being said, I really like the album. I almost feel ashamed to say that, but I do. As derivative and carbon copy as it largely is, its Rotting Christ, and goddamn it they make an effective slaughter soundtrack, dont they? “Apage Satana” needs to be cut IMMEDIATELY(where was the voice of reason when this thing went to editing? how did this make it?), but other than that, this Rotting Christ ripoff is enjoyable and I’ll be blasting this rubber stamp of an album. I wonder how long that will last?

        • thiR

          Apage Satana is pretty cool. For me they definitely pushed the concept of ritual quite far on this one and that’s quite nice. The drumming is intense, the voices and chants are all over the place and the guitars… well… they kinda suck on this album anyway so they got rid of them on this track. You need balls to put such a track without guitars on an extreme metal album and I think they managed to make it sound pretty interesting (probably thanks to the impressive production), kudos to them.

          I can totally understand people fiding it a bit goofy though… Although I wonder how they don’t find the whole album itself goofy then.

  • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

    I don’t mind samples, choruses, cultural instruments in Rotting Christ’s music as long as the guitar work is good. Sadly, it seems they’ve reverted to generic noodling and chugging. I miss so much the driving, slithering guitar riff of a song like Nemecic…

    • Grymm

      Theogonia was a beast of an album.

  • Ziwzih OO-O

    You’ve been very generous. I think I’m not going to like this album – I didn’t even have the patience to listen to entire single tracks put on the web prior to release of this record – I found them boring and too much of a copy of their previous efforts, they sounded just too samey, a KTDF’s sibling slightly arrested in development (seems like Sakis & co. either have started to run out of creative ideas or decided to milk the AEALO cow as much as possible && squeeze still more ca$h out of its potential && influence, which basically boils down to entering the photocopier phase in their career, where they take a once-winning formula and decide to re-use it ad infinitum with only minor changes, if any) , even George Emmanuel (aka Trey Azagthoth) or Nikki Holmz, who suddenly remembered his deathy roots elsewhere, will not convince me.

  • Matt Risnes

    I’ve listened to the stream of this album once and really enjoyed it, but I suppose I could see this being a law of diminishing returns sort of thing. I had a similar reaction to KATA BLAH BLAH BLAH. I was all about it for a week, then it was like the MIB mind wiped it. I’ll wait until Friday to get it and see if I continue enjoying it.

    This is a great review by the way. I found this site recently searching for new places to read about metal after watching the Anselmo debacle turn most metal pages to pontificating SJW garbage. This site is excellent however with top notch writing, even handed and well thought out opinions, a great layout and a unique sensibility to it. Cheers.

  • basenjibrian

    I just can’t experience the Love of Christ. (hur hur. hur de hur). I’ve tried. but all of their albums I have heard bore me.
    Even Septicflesh get more play from me.
    Yet, I really like the so called third tier (or second tier) music of Varathron. Varathron just sounds less “rocky” than RC

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      I’m in the same boat. And i’m not even a big fan of Septicflesh; the only album from them I really enjoy is Communion. The embedded track is quite frustrating with the crazy lady going nuts.

  • kaeru92

    The embedded song reminds me of Chthonic’s latest album (a Taiwanese epic black metal with folk influences, if I’m not mistaken).

    • Grymm

      Chthonic is another band that, to me, has relied a bit too much on simplicity and repetition lately. And I say that as someone who flat-out LOVES Seediq Bale and Mirror of Retribution.

      • AndySynn

        The thing with Chthonic… and I’ve thought long and hard on this one… is that as their fame grew, they also came into direct contact with a lot more bands and a lot more music. Now I’m not pretending that Taiwan is some sort of complete Metal backwater by any means, but you can see the band’s shift towards a more melodeathy, less black metal, sound as a direct consequence of this direct exposure. There we go, pontificating complete.

        Anyway, I like this album a lot more than you do, though it’s not a world-beater by any means. I guess I just enjoy Rotting Christ’s brand of hellenic-soundtrack-metal a lot (and much more than the stylish but substanceless pap put out by Septic Flesh these days).

  • Noobhammer

    Rotting Christ has always had special place for me in my heart. I remember going to Hot Topic as a teen to pick up their “Metal Compliation Album Thingy” (not sure if name is correct) and the year I got had a mp3 disc with A LOT of band on it, one was RC whose songs were ‘Exiled Archangels’ and ‘Lex Talons’. From that moment, I was hooked. I immediately went to my local record store to special order “Thy Mighty Contract”, and never looked back. It instantly made it’s way into my favorite albums of all time. I even count the late 90s era of RC as some of their best work with albums like ‘Triarchy of the Lost Lovers’, ‘A Dead Poem’ (I’m sorry this bored you Grymm, but I love the atmostsphere and mood in the album), and ‘Sleep of the Angels’. That being said, nothing prepared me for the onslaught that was perfection incarnate as ‘Theogonia’.

    Since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them 3 times, and interviewing Sakis twice. I love this band so much, because they have been thought provoking, and simply moving at times. Which is why I’m sad to see a score for this, not because I think you’re wrong and I’m letting my adoration cloud my judgement, but rather because I fear that a band I love is finally starting to get into a rut.

    Thanks for a great review Grymm.

    • Grymm

      Sakis is an awesome dude! Very humble, appreciative, and a super chill man. It hurt to give this score, because I *wanted* to love this, but I couldn’t.

      • Noobhammer

        He is, right? I feel like he truly appreciates all the fans and the shows they do are some of the best I have ever seen.

  • Elton Chagas

    Didn’t understand the score. The tracks I’ve listened from Rituals are fucking amazing! I actually liked Konx Om Pax a lot… and you just said it’s an “ok” track. But everyone has a different taste for music, what you think it’s boring to me is brilliant.

    • thiR

      The problem is not individual tracks. It’s rather going through the entire thing that is tedious.

  • Wilhelm

    I heard a couple tracks from this album and it sounds bad. I want the raw primal, eerie melodies and the mid tempo anthems of the early part of the band, not the brickwalled fucking cheeseball chant-metal they’re trying to pass of as some unique entity; it’s boring and it sucks. Yep, I said it, play black metal again, not this polished crap.

  • Great review. I share similar thoughts. I loved Theogonia and Aealo. My buddy asked me what I thought of the album after hearing the stream and all I could muster was “CHANTING.” There are a few epic glimpses into what they’re capable of, but man it was tough to get through the whole thing…

  • HMG

    Great mixed album!

  • Sharp-Blunt Boy

    The Four Horsemen is possibly my favourite track, in the world, ever. I grew up thinking I was the love child of Demis Roussos and Vangelis, till adulthood denied me a feisty sable beard and a penchant for ouzo. I just checked the RC cover and they have systematically stripped the soul and mysticism from this euphoric rock classic.

    The embedded track got my interest but the review, coupled with the mauling mentioned above, sounds like these guys have lost their way.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Since when has Rotting Christ ever been Battle Metal though, not first band I’d think of if you like that style. For the most part it has always been Dark Gothic Black Metal. It is more ritualistic than Battle Metal, i’d say.

    I actually thought ‘Kata Ton..’ was one of their best albums after the disappointing ‘Aealo'(still good though). Looking forward to hearing this album. To me this sounds like a band not afraid to experiment(as per usual), which is why i’ve always liked them. Elthe Kyrie is worth the admission price alone, for sure.

    RC are very underrated, everyone should listen to their whole discography, highlights:

    Theogonia,
    Sanctus Diavolos,
    Thy Mighty Contract,
    Kata Ton,
    Genesis,

  • Alex Benedict

    I feel like Xerath just does this band way better

  • groverXIII

    Sadly, I find myself agreeing more than not with this review. I had pretty high hopes for Rituals, but it’s definitely not up the the quality of the last couple of Rotting Christ albums.

  • thiR

    A bit on the younger side of the fandom, but fan nonetheless. I’ve discovered Rotting Christ with “Enuma Elish” in a sampler of French metal magazine a couple of months before the release of Theogonia and got completely hyped… Rightfully so, as it’s one of my favorite metal album of all time and pushed me to dive into the back catalogue of the band (I’m now collecting their records in various format… it’s the only band for which I owe a copy a each record both in vinyl and CD… for each.and.every.record ).

    So yeah, Theogonia is by far my favorite RC album and right behind must be (in no particular order) Non Serviam, Triarchy, Genesis (really overlooked by most) and Thy Mighty Contract. I really liked Aealo at first but now I think I actually prefer “Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy” which is less of a one trick poney, more diverse and doesn’t suffer the “great first half, boring ending” syndrome, even though some songs are lack luster.

    But this… Rituals right there? It’s bullshit. I think Apage Satana is awesome. I can understand why one would find it annoying but I really love the vibe of this track. Same goes for “Ze Nigmar”, “In Nomine Dei Nostri” (great opener!) and ““Elthe Kyrie”. The rest is either boring and uninspired (“Konx Om Pax” and “For A Voice Like Thunder” for example) or straight up bullshit like “Devadevam”. Maaaan! I’m so furious about this track! It’s basically a very poor copy/pasting of the intro of “In Yumen/Xibalba”… but just extend the intro on and on and on to make it a track!

    This record could have been a great EP if you just take the first five, maybe six, tracks. The rest is just RC rehashing the same shit ad nauseam.

    • Here’s Johnny

      I wouldn’t call this a fail, it is disappointing but still a quality release. There are many great songs on it, even the ones i dont like are just a bit boring(nothing new) but not awful or anything. it is a 2.5 for me but might grow to a 3 in time.

      I do agree that it could have made for a great EP.

  • chitownproud85

    Final grade and say – for my part, it was not worth the purchase. The samey-ness with both itself and with the past few albums sends me to boredom – there just isnt enough here for an ALBUM. An EP of the best ideas? Boo. At least next week I have no “sure” buys and can loop back and see what I skipped over for Rituals.

  • Gustavo Tenorio

    I feel just the same as the reviewer. After listening to Elthe Kyrie I had high expectations for this album. I just got it today and was seriously expecting to spin it a few times today but after the first listen it’s back in its jacket. The first 3 songs are the only good thing on it. Dissapointing is a perfect score for this album…. hopefully next one is better.

  • krisdaschwab912

    Their previous album was my favorite album of theirs, and I’m in a similar mindset as the reviewer regarding this particular album. And Elthe Kyrie is goddamn awesome.

    • Grymm

      I still can’t stop listening to “Elthe Kyrie” months after hearing it for the first time.

  • Eric Freely

    After dozens of listens, in which the first few had me towards a 4/5, I’ve settled with a 2.5/5 if going by ratings from AMG. Tracks 1 though 4 are great, and I cannot get enough of them. I always skip Apage Satana. The first two listens sat well with me, but now I just skip it entirely. It’s far too repetitive.

    Tou Thanatou has grown on me tremendously, however. For A Voice Like Thunder is the borderline track for me. I enjoy it when I’m in the mood for it. After that I just skip right to the last track. To me this record is a 7-track affair.

    Rituals ends up being a near 32 minute EP rather then a full-length release. With just those 7 songs this has be at a 3.5/5, but as an entire album? 2.5/5.

    Hopefully the next release has the ferocity of those first four tracks, and the Epic closer, while going back to Theogonia, or just further experiment. The biggest issue I have is that the songs share too many similarities with the previous release.

    RC are an incredible band when they don’t let anything limit their creativity. It’s not like they don’t have the talent to release a full epic record from start to finish :/