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I had stayed away from this band for exact the same reason I happened to avoid the music of Septicflesh for a good few years thinking they had to be a bedroom black metal or porno-grind band, the goddamn name. Yeah I know that sounds lame as fuck, but let’s face it - who the heck knew better back then? It’s only when you mature and realize that it’s all about the music at the end of the day when it hits you like a truck at 100 miles what an anal dipshit you actually were back then. Now both bands have been hailed as the best bands to come out of Greece by most metal critics and magazines and since the aforementioned country is not a predominantly metal country like say Poland or Sweden, I guess I’ll just have to take their word for it for the time being. But for now, this album proves that fact in absolute fucking spades. Unlike their contemporaries, there is clearly a much deeper blackened death metal (though leaning more towards the black metal spectrum) influence at work here merged with a highly catchy melodeath template making for one hell of an addictive listen overall.
Pretty much all the songs are highlights in some way or the other - from the killer intro track "Thou Art Blind", the majestic blackened melodeath nuggets of "Art Of Sin", "Time Stand Still", "If It Ends Tomorrow" and "You Are I" (one heck of an outro) respectively, the epic assualt of "My Sacred Path" the chugging pace of "Fateless" plus the title track and "Lucifer Over London" (with an amazing underlying eye for melody that has to be heard to be believed), to the mystical instrumental "Law Of The Serpent", the whole damn lot! No instrument or band member overshadows the other and each of them play to 110% of their abilities with no exceptions creating a massive booming wall of sound.
And of course Saki’s vocals. Holy mother of god, this dude is just mind-meltingly brilliant with exceptionally amazing vocals (think a more guttural and brutal version of both death and black metal vocals) that can peel the paint off your walls within the first listen itself. Combined with the beautifully melodic yet brutal riffing, the underlying guitar leads and melodies slicing through you like molten lead and the pounding drums, this album simply kills it in every way possible, while incorporating its fair share of diverse elements at the same time. Think a generous helping of gothic and folkish (Greek folk music, to be exact) elements, even incorporating atmospheric parts and haunting synths into their metallic template and you’re not far off the mark. I cannot stress enough how much atmosphere the keys/synths breathe into the music at every turn. Subtle, haunting and stunningly effective.
The rather aptly named closer “Glory Of Sadness” seems to be even more drenched in melancholia that the rest of the album (if that's even possible) with a stunning clean break in the middle, rounding off the entire album in a spectacular fashion with an really eerie ending that has to be heard to be believed. Really hard to describe the proper sound of these guys since it’s truly unlike anything I’ve heard. Mesmerizingly familiar yet strikingly unique at the same time, which is definitely not something I say for a lot of records out there. Listen a little closer and after a few listens, you’ll be amazed to find out how truly epic and atmospheric a lot of the songs are under the surface, and mark my words - soon enough you’ll be fucking hooked. There are a few scattered cleans here and there that do add to the variety, but overall you’ll be too focused on Saki’s frightening growls to care about anything else in the vocal department. Yep I said it.
I'm already kicking myself for my blind-sighted stupidity at not listening to their music earlier itself. In any case now I am officially a convert to the Rotting Christ camp and once you give this underrated gem the patience it deserves, rest assured that you will be too.
Trying to elicit an opinion of this band from most people is likely to result in a number of shrugs, careless asides, unstudied comments, etc. and there is a good reason for this: Rotting Christ have never really made a powerful, idiosyncratic statement of their own and thus they have never given their audience anything to latch onto and claim. And yet at the same time they do have a style of their own, colored as it is by their One Big Riff (see song five on this album, more on that later), even if it can be described often, in the abstract, as the delirious absence of all other band's styles. No, Rotting Christ sticks out like a sore thumb in any scene to me - the kind of obvious presence that only comes to bands that are waiting to release something really special and defining or slip out of the world altogether. In other words, they are surrounded with the phosphorescence that comes to bands that are either dying quickly or are burning to brand their name on the world: the amorphous nature of this attention-bringing glow is what makes it interesting. As I see it, Rotting Christ are not going to ever release anything that is groundbreaking or genre-defining... if they were planning on this, they would have done it by now. It's too late. But having said that, I would also like to casually mention that I consider this to be their second best album ever.
Think about how difficult it must be to get shows around the world with a name like 'Rotting Christ', and then think about how long this band has been burdened with this completely obsolete moniker. Why didn't they change it along the way? Now, having been a disinterested follower of this band's progress through the years (starting at the very beginning, with their split 7'' with Sound Pollution, when they were a grind/noise band - at that time their name actually made sense), and always believing that their demo 'Satanas Tedeum' (later released on CD by somebody, somewhere) and their first two albums 'Passage to Arcturo' and 'Thy Mighty Contract' were their best material (I actually prefer the demo to everything else - it has a great, eerie atmosphere with its infernal choirs), I wasn't ever impressed with their later work (there are two listenable songs on 'Triarchy...' and then there is silence), being convinced that they were in a slow, painful decline into becoming a commercial rock entity, pimped out by the greasy hands of the Evil Empire, Century Media. Think again for a moment how difficult it must be for their record company to sell 'commercial' music from a band called Rotting Christ. The K-Marts and Wal-Marts in this country cry out in horror... I can hear them now. No, a band's name still means so much to some people.
And for the most part, this band didn't prove me wrong. I don't think I can even bear listening to their last two albums - not for a minute, not for a second. Maybe my aversion is unnatural, but I'm convinced I have better things to waste my time on. So this thing, flying in at my door rather unexpectedly was a welcome surprise. Well, the first half was...
You see, I also believe that Rotting Christ is incapable of writing an entire album's worth of good, listenable, moving songs. Sure, you say, lots of bands are like that... but is there any other band out there that is as good as Rotting Christ are at writing two or three really good songs, placing them at the beginning of an album, and then dragging their weary carcasses home to the end through five or so tracks of sterility? Name one of their albums where this is not the case - one of their releases where the ending songs live up to the promise of the beginning tracks. I dare you.
So then, consider the Big Riff of Rotting Christ: it appears here in the fifth song, 'Art of Sin', as I said above. If you are in any way a follower of this band you should know what I mean by this - that same little trill of the fingers that Sakis has been using as a melodic crutch since the first songs (it appears all over Thy Mighty Contract), and which he must be absolutely terrified to leave behind. Melodies come and go, new structures are formed and dissolve, Rotting Christ change their mannerisms, their postures, their style, their scene allegiance, and yet that riff remains.
The only reason I consider this their second best album (I place 'Thy Mighty Contract' before this based purely on nostalgia) is because of the opening song, the second song, and the sixth, 'Lucifer over London' (a perversion of Delacroix?), which are catchy, easy to listen to, and which adequately mix all the elements that they have been propounding through the last five years: the simple drumming, the keyboard/synth washes and layering, sound effects, melodic guitars, gothic posing, and that never-changing voice of Sakis. Supposedly this album was designed to highlight the new, sexy 'pure' Rotting Christ - the band that was almost killed by an earthquake in Mexico, and which fled back to Greece to spit forth some brutal mayhem again. Not so - don't believe the hype. No, this is the same old band, the same tired formula... only they succeed in a few moments where they have failed before... and who really knows why? Perhaps it was just a matter of coincidence.
If you want to get picky, this album can be passed off as a black metal version of a Hypocrisy (Swe) album all thanks to the Abyss Studio production job. However, I feel as though this release finds its own identity once more as the band continues its successful realization of gothic and black metal coexistence. Take the tornado of diverse emotions from Sleep Of The Angels, turn it into a tsunami, and add a razor-sharp, burly guitar tone to give it extra bite (the album in a basic nutshell).
Khronos, I feel, is Rotting Christ's darkest album. Everything from the arcane cover art to the abstruse-yet-sophisticated straightforwardness turns what Sleep Of The Angels did and makes it an ideal. Essentially, it makes the album larger in scope and more impactful. The loud, perfunctory / industrial resonance brought by the Abyss Studio production and the depth of the compositions yields the band's greatest creative gamble. Sometimes I think of that game Killer Instinct like with the beginnings of "Aeternatus" and "Time Stands Still" (practically the same riff). The slight industrial polish on black metal roots and gothic inspiration makes for a pretty unique sound that at the core can't be described as remote experimentation.
The album is still a principally mid-paced riff monster-work with some of Rotting Christ's best songs. The only two albums that I'd put against this front to back are Sleep Of The Angels and Theogonia. The riffing in Khronos culminates into a melancholic chaos with each track (sans the sinisterly eerie, ambient / sound effect instrumental "Law Of The Serpent"). There's enough diversity, flow, and comfort for fast tracks ("Thou Art Blind", "Aeternatus", and "Time Stands Still"), but the more fleshed-out songs are the mid-paced ones that show true power, zeal, atmosphere, and malevolence. The bass is booming and weighty, the drumming reignited with blast beats and rolling like thunder, and the riffs are fiery with tainted villainy. Sakis is also at his most demonic in terms of barbaric growls, wretched screams, and even some low cleans.
The only reason I knock this album down at all is because of the last song, "Glory Of Sadness", and the padding that occurs for half of it. The first half of the song I can sum up with the word "brilliance": majestic harmonies, downhearted atmosphere, and ripping riffs like the rest of the album and packaged into a thrilling conclusion. However, the song then ends and goes into a few minutes of silence - already a smack in the face since the song already ended on a rapture-high. All that silence is followed, at long last, by some industrial / sound effect noodling that was supposed to sound ominous (I guess). It adds nothing, and in fact detracts so much from the rest of the album that it's like eating some delicious teriyaki glossed with teriyaki sauce and then shitting it all out a few minutes later for some reason.
Time to depart with one bit of advice. When getting this album, get a good piece of editing software so that you can cut out the second half of "Glory Of Sadness". That's what I did, and it has only helped add to the satisfaction I receive when hearing the song or the entire album. Khronos deserves that much back after all it has given.
After the curiously 'chill' Sleep of the Angels, which wrought its emotional power from simpler, more accessible riffing patterns and the substitution of Gothic metal atmospherics for some of the straight and sad majesties of its predecessors, speculation was high as to whether Rotting Christ would move further into a more congenial, radio friendly space, or regress back into their carnal and defining origins. Well, Khronos does neither. It sort of sidesteps the band into another new terrain. The springy, full-bodied but lightly distorted guitars of Sleep of the Angels have been supplanted with a thinner tone, and where the keyboards there were bright and prominent, here they seem more subdued and breezy, lush and ambient, often mingling with other environmental effects at the very edge of the listener's attention.
The centerpiece of the album, sadly, is not a Rotting Christ original, but a cover of Current 93's "Lucifer Over London", which they've lent a restrained magnificence through the melodic idylls of the guitar, searing background chords and the synthesizer fauna. Sakis Tolis does get a little repetitive with his rasping, a characteristic limited not only to this song, but in total it's one of those covers you'll remember and turn to nearly as much as the original. Otherwise, I favor "Aeternatus", with its sensual, whispering vixen samples and acceleration from muted rock pace to an all out, old school Greek charge through the enemy defenses. "Law of the Serpent" is a poignant, seething instrumental track with more depth than it has any right to, and the chorus melody of "Fateless" is unflinchingly pretty, and the haunting background ambiance is brilliantly handled there. "Time Stands Still" and "If It Ends Tomorrow" are likewise excellent songs which draw a closer comparison to the Triarchy of the Lost Lovers era.
The production is quite rich, especially the synthesizers, but for some reason I felt it to be more processed and less distinct than Sleep of the Angels. The band moved from Xytras (on the past two albums) over to Abyss Studio in Sweden, so that might explain some of the difference, but in particular the guitars here just don't gleam nearly so much as the last album. A minor gripe, surely, and Rotting Christ easily distract away from it with the strength of the music itself, and ultimately Khronos is another jewel in what by this point was already a gem-studded scepter. One of the few bands that ever managed to mix its broader influences (Gothic, industrial, trad metal and classical) into its unique brand of black metal without somehow alienating its fanbase and causing an underground uproar. Granted, the Greeks were never quite at the visibility level of Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth or other raving successes, rather a more soft spoken alternative, and Khronos once again captured this career eloquence with its intelligent, thoughtful lyrics and diverse palette of dark and light sounds.
Rotting Christ is one of the most solid bands in the black metal scene worldwide, and by far, the best in its genre to ever come out of poet Homer’s land. By the year 2000 they delivered their opus entitled Khronos and as usual, it didn’t disappoint.
They surprised everyone with a sound way more melodic than in its predecessor Sleep of the Angels, and they experimented to a certain degree composing symphonic anthems like My Sacred Path, but including that distinctive touch, almost classical, which differentiate them from the rest of black metal acts, the quality of the atmospheres surrounding the guitars in this composition, is of an almost ulverian sentiment.
Potent and technical guitar riffs are seldom found in this album, but anyway your attention will be drawn towards the melodic guitars, which thanks to the thick sound achieved in terms of production, appear to be not so up front, hiding harmonies a little bit, which at first listen seem like nothing special, but they become complex and beautiful when paying closer attention, especially in heavier moments like in the great Aeternatus.
When reaching the point in which Art of Sin and Lucifer Over London enter, is inevitable to realize that this album has a special characteristic: The melodic part unveils itself and shows an opus of an intense dramatic feel, and this makes you think that Rotting Christ really decided to go into the realm of symphonic black metal via drama. You will not find cold and sad tremolo riffs that fade accompanied by a soft atmospheric keyboard here. This opus is more complex than that, and certainly, it’s hard to review in its entire splendor.
A little aggression returns with the short but intense You Are I, led by a couple technical and repetitive riffs which will have you headbanging real quickly. The most violent moment in this album. Fateless retakes the emotive spirit with a great harmonic riff that covers the rhythmic guitar and it just reconfirms Khronos as one of the best albums in Rotting Christ catalog. The album of course pleases not all tastes, because it’s a less straight forward release by the band, and asks for a deeper degree of attention from the listener. It’s the typical album which will not convince at first listen, not even at a second one; but if you give it further chance, it will come out as a real masterpiece.
Rotting Christ has its own and particular way to create black metal and they show it in this opus, maybe the most emotional one in their entire career; the sounds close in around you and they are not easily accessible, but they will pay you back the effort of listening closely.
Great album, great band, completely recommended.
Originally submitted to (http://www.metalicos.com) on July 7th, 2008.
This album is great. There're many ways to explain it, but I'll suffice to say that Rotting Christ, a band known for excellence, peaks here. And here's why:
We have here the convergence of two musical directions for Rotting Christ: the one in the early/mid nineties that produced Triarchy through Sleep of the Angels, and the trend towards doing more black metal stuff, which the last 3 albums demonstrate. Here, we get the best of both worlds; resulting in synergy. True synergy, meaning the best of both worlds with none of the drawbacks, such as the excessive commercialism of Dead Poem to the mundanity of Sanctus Diavolos.
It's melodic, as we know Rotting Christ to be, but the melody is driven by active guitar leads, backed up by the keyboards, which is the RIGHT way to do melodic in the world of melody. It's influenced as much by Iron Maiden as it is Bathory, a great combo that drove bands like Dissection and Dawn towards greatness. Here, it is slower. Much slower. To the point of being much, much, darker and depressing. While it is dark and depressing, it is beautiful. Very beautiful.
So when you examine it, this has everything: good, memorable guitar lines, kickass guitar tone, competent but not wanky drumming, oodles of keyboards, guitar solos, permeating dark atmosphere, and of course, Sakis' famed vocals. My, my, my, are they good. Then again, that has never been an issue for Rotting Christ.
Summary is, get this album, the songs on here are gods among kings, glorious but solemn hymns emerging as the greatest among the great.
Rotting Christ, in my oppinion, came out as one of the most polished black metal bands to this day. Starting off with the oldschool black metal style, to this piece of semi-perfect art. Definitely one of the best albums I own...
The music, as always from Rotting Christ, is very well played on this album. Great guitar work all through the album, especially on "If It Ends Tomorrow" and "The Art of Sin". For all of you up and coming dark metal guitarists, this is a must album.
The things that really got to me were the atmosphere and the lyrics/vocals. The total atmosphere was a very dark and depressive one. I took off 4 points because some of the tracks didn't completely fit into the groove of the rest of the music.
The lyrics are very deep and meaningful. For those of you who can't decipher lyrics well, this is not the album for you to try on. But for you pro lyricists, here's some work. The only problem I've ever had with Rotting Christ lyrics is the fact that Sakis is Greek, so he sometimes has a hard time writing fluently in English, so it makes it hard to follow on occasion.
Finally, the vocals on this album are done with extreme passion and power. With the typical raspy black metal voice, and the perfect amount of talking with the music, Sakis impresses me yet again.
So if you are a big fan of Black/Dark metal, this is perfect!
(P.S. Rotting Christ covered Current 93's "Lucifer Over London" on this album, and they did a damn good job!)