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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.