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Rotting Christ from here on turn into a force of black metal swirling with creative juices. Much like the gothic ventures of the English band Paradise Lost going from death / doom to gothic, Rotting Christ underwent a transition from black metal to a black metal backbone with gothic and classical touch-ups all over the place. Production is clear, loud, and more polished than before (by the standards of the '90s), but not cold and overly lucid like Triarchy Of The Lost Lovers. To compliment this production boost is Rotting Christ's best compositions up to this point. The shift is apparent, and it's a shift without an identity crisis.
Somber harmonies, mid-paced rhythms, Iron Maiden-like approach to the guitars, less harshness all around, and gothic atmosphere thrives on A Dead Poem. It's a beautiful album that is the band's least ruthless full-length at the time. Each song sucks you in through gripping melodies and catchy riffs, but once more none of these are poppy or simplistic. The guitar tone definitely is weaker in terms of punch, but Rotting Christ has only lost a little bit of their crunch.
Sakis' vocals are becoming more like his vocals today: growl-speaking, rough screams, some talking, and whatever fits in between all that. It's certainly not the best aspect of Rotting Christ's music, but even among these exquisite songs the vocals have their place as they spice up the feeling of melancholy. As secondary as these vocals may seem, the keys have been background since the first album. This same synth support has never detracted from Rotting Christ's ability to manage their atmosphere with more use in their riffs and leads than with the keys. A smart move considering how keys can backfire when overused. The one song where the keys play a bigger role is the instrumental "Ten Miles High". Crappy song title aside (I get what they were trying to do), it's probably the best song on the album. This instrumental shows a supreme existence between the solemn sentiment that the keys conjure up, the elegant melodies of the lead, and the intense pressure churning from the guitars.
Bassist Andreas Lagios makes his Rotting Christ debut here, and it shows with credence given to his booming style. The guitars take up the majority of the album's spotlight, but the riffs (with the rockier guitar tone) wouldn't have the same richness and fulfillment if it wasn't for the thick boom and blurbs of the bass to keep it afloat. The other counterpart to the rhythm, Themis, knocks on a thicker kit this time. This certainly gives the album more of a weighty feel, too, with a rolling style over blast beats (which are basically gone on this album). The snare still sounds cold and tocky, but it's drowned in a way where it's heard, but hardly a glaring issue.
Thus began my favorite era of Rotting Christ. The band found a sound and they perfected the hell out of it. Those looking for blackened version of what Paradise Lost was doing around the Icon / Draconian Times era without the Hetfield vocals aren't too far off with enjoying A Dead Poem.
As is often the case, I find myself at odds with the majority when it comes to rating Rotting Christ's discography. While many seem to favor the raw, old school sounds of Thy Mighty Contract and the overrated bowel movement Non Serviam, I tend towards the middle of their career, in particular Triarchy of the Lost Lovers and this 1997 gem, A Dead Poem.
Rotting Christ were trying something new here (starting on Triarchy): take the very essence of black metal, slow it all down, steep it in the mystical lyrics of your culture, acquire a taste for classic metal riffing, and dowse the entire affair in glinting, mesmerizing melodies. It's no surprise these two albums were the point at which most people started to take notice of the band, and the point at which the Basement Legions decided the band was a sellout, and thus crept back into their cavernous dwellings to complain about something else.
Though it has never met with 100% of my satisfaction, A Dead Poem is quite the effort. It opens with the beautiful anthem "A Sorrowful Farewell", and how could one forget those amazing guitar melodies? If you could bottle glory, this would be at least 50 proof and worth every swaggering step of drunkenness. The vocals of Sakis Tolis are at their most emotional on this album, but emotional as in painful, tortured and spewing melancholy as if it were germs that could infect the listener. "Among Two Storms" begins with a playful, unique rhythm while deeper guitars wah off against the backdrop and the harsh vocals. "A Dead Poem" loses its watery tranquillity for some more bludgeoning glory, and "Out of Spirit" captivates through its winding scales and chugging menace.
And it's the grief that accompanies you'
Half-way through, and no signs of letting up. "As If By Magic" is turbulent and atmospheric, echoing at you from the sides of Mount Olympus. Next time you play God of War, turn down the volume on the game and listen to this instead. "Full Colour is the Night" rocks a lot like the stuff countrymen Nightfall were doing at this time, and "Semigod" transforms from grim tribal wanderings to spectral gothic miasma. And you've yet to strike the memorable "Ten Miles High", the haunting "Between Times" or the sunsetting skies of "Ira Incensus".
A Dead Poem is truly colossal, like the works of myth it embodies, but it is not a perfect record. There are a few brief moments in which you can fall out of its absorbant qualities and hover over a chasm of ennui, but these are greatly outnumbered by the rest of the material, which clutches at your heart like a choir of angels preparing to tear you into the afterlife.
Highlights: A Sorrowful Farewell, As If By Magic, Ten Miles High, Ira Incensus
Greece is a small country and doesn’t have many well known metal bands. Still, we the Greeks are known for our love over metal music. A band that made a good name in the name scene is Rotting Christ. Although they were labeled under the tag of black metal, with their fourth album called A Dead Poem they made a small turn. This release is miles ahead than anything other bands from Greece have to show. It has nothing to do with the Greek sound, production or local metal compositions. A Dead Poem is an incredible album that sounds so interesting, dynamic and exciting from the first moment to the last. All the songs have something different to offer and are equally worthy. Guitarist Sakis delivers some great riffs and gets most of the credits since most of the work has been done by him. But no smaller is the contribution and help of Xy(from Samael) who has done an amazing job in the crystal production and the divine keyboards playing that not only fills the blanks in the sound but give the proper attention to the atmosphere.
To be more specific, A Dead Poem has ten great songs with beautiful riffs that cause addiction to the listener, a powerful rhythm section and vocals that make you get into the song to the core. The tracks move in mid-tempo paces, featuring fast parts and even fewer breaks. But they all are heavy, strong, passionate and angry. They sound like a mixture of early Rotting Christ and Sentenced as they sounded in Amok album. The difference is that A Dead Poem is fuller and better. Rotting Christ break the narrow limits of black metal by experimenting with the structure of the songs.
My personal favorites are many. The opener Sorrowfull Farewell makes an explosive beginning with sharp steady guitars and harsh vocals; it is the perfect intro to the atmosphere you experience throughout the whole album. The self-titled has a calm beginning that slowly mutates into a metal thunder not fast but extremely heavy. Semigod is a very dark song with an imposing black metal attitude. It is really superb. The vocals are obviously well improved and clearer to understand.
I would also like to stand for a while on the last song by the title of Ira Incensus. It creates a unique, mystifying atmosphere revealing an experimental masterpiece and an example of how black metal bands need to work in order to improve and not stick to the monotonous black stuff we hear most of the time. The rest of the songs are of great quality and inspiration and do not fall behind from the hymns foretold. Each one is small hidden treasure.
Really extreme, dark and wildly beautiful, A Dark Poem enslaves you with its compositions and feeling. Now I can only ask myself, is the word “dead” suitable for an album like this? HELL NO!!
2007’s “Theogonia” is the monolithic album that really brought Rotting Christ to the ears of many. They were finally acknowledged as an important band in metal, having had a musical career of 20+ years and evolving into a wondrous testament to how black metal can be more than just the stereotypical corpse paint wearing, satan hailing, goat loving, nihilistic black metal. Classics like “Passage to Arcturo” and “Triarchy of Lost Lovers” are also fantastic monuments to the immense amount of passion that this Greek black metal band puts into their music, though the term black metal is a severely limiting term to use for such a band.
1997's “A Dead Poem” is another unforgettable, highly atmospheric album with melodious and lilting passages cascading throughout its duration. The first two tracks "Sorrowful Farewell” and “Among Two Storms” are amongst the best Rotting Christ songs ever written. They both have beautiful, flying riffs full of enchantment that captivates you, never getting old. Featuring support vocals from Moonspell’s crooner Fernando and Samael’s Xy on keyboards, “Among Two Storms” with that guitar in the beginning, is a song that brings a smile to every true fan of Rotting Christ. Sakis’ amazing vocals are both harsh and euphonious, with the memorable guitars ingraining this song into your memory forever. Majestic whispers line the beginning of title track, “A Dead Poem.” It contains a soft interlude of the whispers again mid-song that sound great against the pained vocals, bringing up the subject of the lyrics. The lyrics hold much emotion and are definitely something to pay attention to.
Another stand out track is “As If by Magic,” which is glorious guitar-centered masterpiece that has Sakis exploring a sort of loud-speaker type vocal for a short while. “Ten Miles High” brings a truly lovely, slow-paced instrumental break. The last song “Ira Incensus” ends with a powerful beat accompanied by a mystical acoustic guitar. “A Dead Poem” is without a doubt the most beautiful Rotting Christ album and a must have for fans of these Greek masters or anyone who enjoys a gothic-styled metal album without a joint female vocalist, over dramatics, or with too much reliance on keyboards for atmosphere.