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Obviously, Rotting Christ (band of teh brothers Tolis) is one band that a young man living in the ol’ Bible Belt of the ‘Merican South can’t publicly proclaim he enjoys. However, these Greek black metal granddaddies simply have an innate ability to deliver some catchy tunes with every album. While not as infamous or widely known as their Scandinavian counterparts, this is one quality fucken band that has been around for a long while.
The most noticeable aspect of Rotting Christ’s unique sound is what I have heard been described as a “pulse” which is a trademark of many Greek black metal bands. It’s formulated by the union of the bass and the drumming in such a way that the traditional blackened blastbeat is slowed just ever so slightly to allow the bass to mimic every kick. The result is just that—a pulse. Nothing they do can be described as truly fast or insanely heavy. It’s just Rotting Christ. And it’s catchy as hell.
On “Genesis”, the pulse is in high gear, and while the band has clearly integrated elements of gothic metal and some other shit into their sound, they sound quite dark and evil as a whole. The riffing of frontman Sakis Tolis and Costas Vassilakopoulos is an interesting concoction made up of simple palm-muted chunks occasionally mixed with weird squeals and whiny melodic parts. No riff from this album could ever be called brutal or even groovy, but for some reason, it all works so beautifully in conjunction with the pulse from the rhythm section. Vocally, Tolis offers up a variety of sounds, generating a standard raspy black metal growl that’s very clear and concise as well as occasional operatic clear vocal lines that sound similar to what you may hear from Samael during their “Eternal” and “Passage” era.
What makes this album really shine is the use of programming and keyboards. Whether the atmosphere calls for a background choir or a string orchestra or just an obscure synthetic sound to make you feel uneasy, the band finds a way to make it work within the music. Yes, I would say that the music is quite heavily orchestrated and laden with layers upon layers of keyboards, but it does nothing but improve the total package of what’s going on here.
This isn’t a band that everyone will like. They’re a little bit of an acquired taste. Sure, it’s black metal in a very loose sense, but they really are a very unique sounding band. If you’ve never heard Rotting Christ before, I would suggest “Genesis” as an excellent place to begin (pun intended).
Written for globaldomination.se
Something about this album always seemed iffy to me. Maybe it was the bright cover art, or how most of the songs weren't instantly recognizable, or how it seemed like it molded between Khronos' blaring mysticism and Sanctus Diavolos' crushing grandiloquence. Something felt wrong when it shouldn't have, as Genesis is merely Rotting Christ's way of staying in one spot. Take the blissful harmonies, elated gothic atmosphere, some of the industrial influences, and don't have it recorded in Abyss Studios - you now have the substance of this album. That's the gist of it, really, and with Rotting Christ's straightforward classiness, that should mean another good album.
For much of Genesis, being good is very true. However, it also runs together as the band begins to feel too comfortable with using their formula of a catchy-yet-harsh rhythm, elegant harmonies, and a gothic polish to captivate the listener. This means the compositions themselves feel padded, like "Nightmare", despite it being ripe with functional structures, decent flow, powerful riffs, and a strong melodic backbone to carrier itself. The production isn't even at fault: booming bass, unbiased mixing, non-tocky drums, and a ragingly controlled guitar distortion come together to make a ferocious sound. It's tight, it's concise, and it's to the point. The ideas themselves (again, I mean the compositions) feel like they've been done too many times on the album. When hearing it enough times, it makes for a tiring experience, and one that leaves me preferring the tracks that are both fresh each time and catchier than the rest of their peers.
For example, the intro of "Ad Noctis" creates an atmosphere of dread and leaves me with anticipation. It then blasts immediately after the intro in typical black metal flavor (which this entire album attempts). Sakis' throaty screams / growls are all right, but a little uninspired (think Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved). Not to say that this represents his performance on the entire album, but it's an ingredient to any song's downfall, and it certainly represents more than this one song on the album. The black metal assault, for the sake of vigor, goes on but seems to wind down (you can even hear it in the riffs) and lose steam quickly. The song then does something Rotting Christ never actually experimented with on a full-length - tribal rhythms. As brief as they are, with the right structuring and flow, it could have created a very diverse and fascinating experience. However, in this particular song, it gets lost in the bluntness of depleted ideas.
For a Rotting Christ album, this is a pretty weak offering, but on a level of black / gothic metal it manages to keep itself together. Could this album have been trimmed down? Very much so, particularly the symphonic moments that Rotting Christ felt they needed to tack on. This problem is much more prevalent on the next album, Sanctus Diavolos, but here is where it begins to surface. Much like Greek cousins Septicflesh, Rotting Christ's go in the direction of more gloomy clean vocals ("Lex Talionis", "Quintessence", and "Nightmare" are the main ones) and symphonic influences ("Under The Name Of Legion" is the biggest offender).
On the plus side, Genesis does have its fair share of quality. "Quintessence", "Release Me", and "Dying" are all enjoyable with their pounding riffs, wavy harmonies, and general rhythm. They have a strong base to work with, and the band keeps them all short enough to maintain a piece of the melancholic passion during their late '90s era. For those three alone I'd recommend to check this album out, and for the sake of satisfaction this one definitely doesn't suck. It's just that Rotting Christ could do better - and they would.
Not a band to take the international momentum they spawned in the 90s lightly, Rotting Christ have kept themselves busy with album after album throughout the first decade of the 21st century. With an almost remarkable solidarity, none of them have suffered in quality, so if Genesis is found lacking anything, it would simply be that the band are so damn consistent that some might consider it a turnoff. Merging elements of the past three albums (A Dead Poem, Sleep of the Angels and Khronos) into a fusion of Gothic, ritualistic world music and black metal, I'm not sure if the Greeks had ever sounded so immediate and accessible as on this record. Even if it's not one of their best, and a number of tracks stand a full head taller than others, I find it every shred as enjoyable as Khronos, if not marginally better...
They come out firing with a number of curious, faster paced pieces in which slight evolutions on old formulas are exacted, such as the rhythmic start/stop sequence that inaugurates "Daemons" with its tense tapping and shrill, operatic background; or "Lex Talionis" and its use of Gregorian chants beneath the bloodied, rasping surge of the battering guitars and vocals...with yet another of those tapping riffs rippling off below the percussive bridge passage. The chanting is used to an even greater effect on "Ad Noctis", one of the most emotionally stirring tracks on the album, with escalating charge rhythms tweaked on symphonic swells and a Gothic sprawl to its bridge. Of the slower pieces, the winding melodies and whispered poesy of "Dying" affixes itself directly to the memory, while the strange and almost 'lounge-like' Samael atmospherics opening "Release Me" erupt into one of the more glorious, melodic sequences this side of Triarchy of the Lost Lovers.
A couple of the numbers might not be quite so distinct as those I've mentioned ("Quintessence", "Under the Name of Legion" for example), but they all have at least something to offer. As a whole, Genesis is more forceful and brightly produced than Khronos, with the ambient choir and synthesizer aesthetics sitting well upon the edifice of the strong riffing foundation. The drums and vocals likewise sound brazen, modern and polished without ever feeling overproduced, and despite the glint of futurism in the engineering, Rotting Christ retain all the striking, unique characteristics that they had mustered even as early as Thy Might Contract or Non Serviam. 15 year and seven albums into their career, there's no sign of weakness worth exploiting, and while the title of Genesis might imply a greater sense of rebirth or innovation than transpires here, the album is another suitably haunting and blissful reminder of who your festering but formidable savior is.