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I think it's fairly safe to say that Sanctus Diavolos is the culmination of Rotting Christ's sound. The modern generic "extreme metal" tag that Century Media threw around fits the album very well - mainly because I think one would be hard pressed to really place a genre on Rotting Christ's later years. Sure, it's black metal, but in the same way Behemoth's mid-era stuff was "blackened", i.e by proxy of past releases. There's shrieking vocals instead of growled, and tremolo riffs instead of thrash or death metal riffs, and melody and bombast instead of brutality and heaviness. But, in addition to the blackened qualities, Rotting Christ have perfectly augmented their gothic roots - the leads, while heavy, have a certain airiness and composition resembling Paradise Lost, Tiamat and of course Rotting Christ's earlier works.
To aurally summarize this dichotomy, one only needs to look at the second and third tracks; "Thy Wings, Thy Horns, Thy Sin" and "Athanati Este". The former is definitely the modern Rotting Christ's take on black metal, choirs meet blasting and an incredibly catchy but menacing lead with Sakis' barked vocals as the driving force. It's a very powerful song, perfectly paced, sounding like a more exotic Dimmu Borgir and a leaner Septic Flesh. The mood is apocalyptic and frenzied, but retaining a sort of beautiful atmosphere to it. The latter, however, is much more restrained and bombastic - which would be the mid-era Rotting Christ's take on black metal. The riffs themselves are largely forgettable, but there's a beautiful lead that just begs to be expound upon, and is arguably one of the most memorable leads I've heard in years. The harmonies and leads just keep piling on until it reaches a triumphant climax where Sakis clearly states the mission of the album:
"And when the bells of fate sound
Then you immortals stand up and shout
Then you blessed martyrs doubt
Here comes a new age's blow"
This is purposely structured, methinks. The first three songs serve as a sort of deconstruction of religion, with "Visions of a Blind Order" serving to show the mistrust of institutions on the part of man, "Thy Wings, Thy Horns, Thy Sins", serving to introduce the strange supernatural elements into the mix, with it's talk of demons and angels flying ferociously in the minds of men, and finally "Athanati Este" is where this intellectual war meets the fantasy and divine.
The following three songs, "Tyrannical", "You My Cross" and "Sanctimonious" are Rotting Christ at their most industrial in awhile. You can see the Current 93 influence as well as their own ideas from Genesis melding together seemlessly, and while some of the riffs are lacking (particularly "You My Cross" with its stop-start riffs and blasting - gross), the atmosphere is still strong enough to carry the dead weight. "tyrannical" features Silent Hill-esque tinges of noise and pulses layered over deep rumbling synths and percussive elements, "You My Cross" has an incredibly effective, if cheesy, repetition of lyrics where Sakis keeps repeating "Heaven oh Heaven / Way to mayhem
Sins number seven / Welcome to Heaven" with this nauseating and a-tonal riff swirling in murk beneath it. It works well in the context of the album, and adds some organic flair to an otherwise stale song. "Sanctimonious" is actually just a beautiful song - a male chorus perfectly accents weeping strings, and modulated and reversed vocals with simplistic and primitive percussion. It's a wonderful break from the first half of the album and well-welcomed.
Of course, fitting with the rule of threes I've decided to establish, these songs are the turning point for the album - where the convictions of Sakis' narrator are clearly aligned with the demonic end - with the "evil" serving now as the guide. The perversion of a benediction hymn in "Sanctimonious" only bolsters this, because, for those of you not familiar, a benediction is when the priests tells his flock that they may "go forth in peace, and love the Lord" - so in this case, we now have our narrator fully committed to the idea of the enlightening age of Lucifer.
"Serve in Heaven" begins strong, with a riff sounding straight off of Non Servium, with escalating speed and really nice accent leads, the listener is immediate met with a memorable song. When the "breakdown" comes, there are two really excellent leads, with just enough melody to remind the listener that Rotting Christ haven't forgotten their roots all the while perfecting this modern sound. "shades of Evil" might be the only "boring" song on the album. It's just annoying breakdowns, some random industrial sounds thrown in underneath, and a really annoying stop-start riff. If it didn't turn into a more melodic piece about halfway through, it would be a song to skip entirely - but there's a moment where these deep horns come in that actually make that incredibly annoying stop-start riff sound badass, and the choral elements give an apocalyptic feel like no other. "Doctrine" is another example of Rotting Christ's blending of the old and new sounds, there are the standard minor chords, chugging, and melodic leads, but the layers in this song are actually really impressive. I originally hated this song, but it's probably one of the few "growers" on the album - incredibly well placed samples and vocal pieces make this a fantastic capstone for our narrator's traverse to the Luciferian light.
Here's our narrator, now fully committed to ending the reign of God, and overthrowing the established traces of religion in favor of the warm glow of the "Lower God" - the Lucifer promised to us in the beginning of the album. It's only fitting that the song before the finale would finish on reversed guitars, a-tonal riffing, strange tribal noises and the words:
"Lawless wings of doctrine
I produce and I create".
So, now the album comes to a close on what might be the best song that Rotting Christ have made in their "2000 and beyond" career: the title track, "Sanctus Diavolos". Reflecting Blake's "Holy Thursday", the lyrics are a strange perversion of older established orders, the truths of religion, and the reign of God. Beginning with low choral hums, tribal drumming, exotic melodies and distorted vocals - the song is a slow burner. The climax teased about half-way through only to slide effortlessly back into the serpentine melodies. Slight strings, industrial noises and synths creep autonomously over drumming, kicking into wonderfully warm and melodic leads. It's triumphant, really, the song is filled with major chords, choral harmonies and layers. It's spiritual art, really, and is a complete vision in and of itself - even without the excellent context the album provides. By the time the Pink Floyd-esque solo comes in at the end of the song, the listener is, much like the subjects of the song, tranquilized. It's hypnotic, beautiful, evil, sinister, charming, wonderful all at the same time. It's what Rotting Christ does best, and probably one of the best musical representations of Lucifer the genre has.
The album ends with Sakis saying of this new ruler of men, "will reign, will prevail and, tranquilize the human race" in an almost nonchalant and distant manner while an angelic (or demonic?) chorus passionately sings "Grantis spiritus - Sanctus Diavolos" over pounding double bass and muted guitars. It's an ending fitting for the story, a new awakening rather than a closer, a song to excite the masses rather than leave them feeling spent and tired. Really, it's a perfect album ending, and one of the few to fit the description "grand finale".
So, I really didn't mean to do a track-by-track, but it wasn't until I listened to this album ten years later (can you believe that? ten years!) and as a fully formed adult, that I realized the lyrics actually meant something, that there was order and structure to the album. This is an album to argue against those who say lyrics don't mater in metal, because while the songs themselves are composed excellently, the subtle story-telling of the lyrics bumps up the score. It presents a beautiful aesthetic and a wonderfully enjoyable album.
There are fewer bands out there that hold as much nostalgia for me than Rotting Christ. I think my Triarchy of the Lost Lovers shows that. But, unlike that album, associated with deep moments of self-reflection and meditation, this album is almost entirely associated with positivity and joy and youthful adventure. I think, as strange as it seems for a black metal album, that such a reaction is appropriate. Rotting Christ's peculiar brand of modern black metal isn't anything like the Norwegian wave that inspired it, even nothing like some of the earlier work Rotting Christ themselves have made. It's warm, there's a perpetual orange and red sun in the middle of the sky on this album - the colors are red and yellow and orange - not black and blue. This is not Satan "the enemy", it's Lucifer "the bearer of light". Our narrator is welcoming and embraces this new god to come show humanity the way, not fearful or subservient. So, I think it's only appropriate that I associate a lot of summer days and great memories with this album. It fits its strange message of joyful occultism in a way only Rotting Christ can do.
It's an excellent album, ten years later it still sounds like nothing else. Every band that has tried to copy Rotting Christ sounds empty, and while Sakis and company's more recent works have been a little lacking, Sanctus Diavolos represented a band that for one brief moment, bridged the past and future in a truly unique and celebratory way.
Let me preface this review by saying that I (more than not) can't stand symphonic music. Be it opera, overused synths, bombastic orchestras, grand choirs, and all of that stuff in metal music. By itself doing its own thing, it's fine, but when it gets imbedded into metal it typically gets hackneyed and ends up sounding pompous as all hell. Power metal bands I can stand when done right, but most of the time it only kills what could already be done with the keyboard (at most). Sanctus Diavolos has more of these with these moments than before, and that's thanks to partnering up with Septicflesh pseudo-symphonic guru Christos Antoniou. No mistaking that the man pads his own band with this shit, but with Rotting Christ it has almost no place at all. That, to me, is what brings this album down from being a top contender for Rotting Christ's best album.
With that out of the way, it should be noted that this is probably Rotting Christ's heaviest album. Their most lethal, too? Probably not, but at the same time maybe so. Fredrik Nordström's production job makes a tight, punchy, fat sound that works well for melodic death bands. Rotting Christ don't sound like melodic death, and despite all the symphonic moments, they keep the riffs impenetrable, blistering, and at the forefront of the album. Along with the guitars is a fat bass that booms with a mammoth sound that'll give your ears more chunky pressure than your pillow. Take "Doctrine"'s colossal riff beatings as not only a sign of heaviness, but also a career revival that you can actually hear. But of course it gets fucked up by that corny ending with clownly keys (like a creepy jukebox).
On the subject of the guitars and bass, turn your attention toward "Tyrannical". Rotting Christ still hasn't abandoned the sprinkle of industrial influences. Sanctus Diavolos is the transition into modern metal, certainly, and that means shying away from the gothic glory days of the late '90s and moving even more into Khronos and Genesis territories in terms of contemporary, loud, and digital substances. "Tyrannical" is the epitome of this new progression - a chuggernaut that's fucking deafening and atmospherically evocative. Holy shit, it chugs immensely even by death metal standards. Simplistic, but still highly catchy and terrifying in its own right.
Sakis himself took notice of Genesis flying under the radar and upped his own performance. His screams are now boiled and ghoulish like they were on Khronos. Very spiteful and spitting with viciousness. The growls have a nastier bite than before, as well, but the screams are more prevalent. Low cleans are used, too, but not as much anymore considering that this album increases the black metal sound. Cutting riffs, blast beats, acidic vocals, and speeds reflecting such enmity characterize Sanctus Diavolos for sure. On the flipside, there are also patterns in the drumming and riff / vocal styles akin to the tribal / epic-themed albums that follow ("Athanati Este" is a superb example).
The symphonic influences attempted to bring a grandiose feeling, but to me it doesn't work as strongly as Khronos did with just the synths and guitars. The larger than life feeling on that album made it dark and devastating, but here it feels invasive when it isn't Rotting Christ working their magic. The keys do their jobs superbly on their own, and even on the heavily symphonic songs - like "Sanctimonius" and "Sanctus Diavolos" - the guitars motherfucking ooze the emotion out while most of symphonic stuff sounds tacky and over-the-top. Sakis is also more than capable of handling chant-styled singing on his own ("Visions Of A Blind Order" and the title track are proof) without persistent symphonic hammering.
Anyway, you can definitely hear Theogonia and Aealo pick up after this album in terms of aggression and principle. Take away the symphonic bullshit and add warlike rhythms and that at least creates a bridge from this album to the next two effortlessly. The modern production job and symphonic additions make it sound like a Septicflesh album (post-reformation), but there's enough here to enjoy on its own.
The mighty Rotting Christ are as formidable as their aptly fitting moniker infers. Sanctus Diavolos is a work of beauty, triumph, and truly evil ambiance. Though some call this a black metal album I feel that, while it certainly has some very black moments, it is quite capable of being genre-transcendent.
Opening piece “Visions of a Blind Order” rips straight into a Burzum-esque blast beat with some very second wave BM riffing. There is a melodic and shredding guitar solo towards the end of the song that sets up a climactic end. The album is tastefully adorned throughout with male and female choral accompaniment, as well as some symphonic elements, as demonstrated on the ominous “Thy Wings Thy Horns Thy Sin.”
“Tyrannical” treats us to a thrashy opening lick of synched-up guitars and double kicks that is almost reminiscent of Obsolete-era Fear Factory, only far more sinister. This is song has a very dark and foreboding vibe with some excellent morbid synth work, lending to it a quite macabre feel. The synths are perfectly mixed in and never overbearing. The overall production of this album is well done and the performance of each instrument is represented clearly, except for a slight lack of bass presence.
The somber string arrangement of “Sanctimonious,” with its hellish chants and pretty female vocals over the top make this one of the most ambient portions of Sanctus Diavolos. This album truly demonstrates a vast emotional spectrum, from vitriol to depressive ponderings, to feelings of liberation and conquest. There is a plethora of riffage from the melodic to the percussive and no shortage of haulin double bass drums, and as always the demoniacal vocal delivery of Sakis Tolis is in fine form here. Sanctus Diavolos captures a mature and confident Rotting Christ composing metal for the thinking man.
The end of the quite crushing “Doctrine” takes us into a dream-like soundscape that leads nicely into the monstrous title track. “Sanctus Diavolos” begins with an evily tribal drum riff with some rather menacing chanting rendered by Tolis. This piece also features some lovely lead guitar work, which is complimentary to the blackened vocal rasping. The BM-ish voice of Sakis Tolis is very distinctive and quite different from that of the Scandinavians. The Latin choral refrain I found to be particularly chilling upon first listen, while at the same time uplifting and triumphant:
“Grandis Spiritus Sanctus Diavolos!”
This is by no means a casual listen. Of course, nothing about the name Rotting Christ would imply casual now would it? I recommend listening to this alone and without distraction. The esoteric nature of these Greeks veils them in their native mythos and mists of a warrior-like and ancient culture. This eighth offering from Rotting Christ is a dark sacrament intended for those who take their metal very seriously.
Sanctus Diavolos, the 8th Rotting Christ full-length, follows fairly close in the footsteps of its predecessors Sleep of the Angels and Khronos as far as incorporating diverse, worldly influences into a work of strong atmospherics. Curiously, though, the album doesn't seem to be one of their stronger works. Where the instrument was key for Genesis or Sleep of the Angels, the very core experience, it seems to have been reduced here to a series of rather unmemorable, chugging sequences which serve only as anchors to the use of the synthesizers, backing choirs, and other ambient aesthetics that the Greeks provide for the catchier bits of composition. For a decade or more, the band was always known for their majestic riffs, but here they seem reduced to a mere footnote.
As such, the album turned out to be my least favorite since Non Serviam. That isn't to say it's bad, because the band steps up a number of ingredients to compensate for the lack of strong guitars, but had they decided to balance the two better, I can't help but feel that this could have exceeded the two records directly before it. Where Sanctus Diavolos is at its most indomitable is in its somber Gothic-inflected tracks, like "Sanctimonius" which feels like an uncanny marriage of Gregorian chanting and Tiamat's Pink Floyd era, driven by the bass. Or the title track itself, which has small spikes of gleaming guitars that along the escalating, operatic vocals and tribal undercurrent of percussion. There are tracks upon which the guitar is more prevalent, like the punchy and familiar surge of "Thy Wings Thy Horn Thy Sin" or "Visions of a Blind Order", but these are more about percussive force infused with Gothic eccentricity than evoking the majestic power of yesteryear's riffing. There are also some tracks that feel derivative of prior writing, like "Doctrine" which has a chord sequence nearly replicated from The Sleep of Angels.
All in all, there is still a current of subtlety and grace here which creates that ever distinctive Rotting Christ individuality, and I enjoyed how the metallic ingredients characteristics with the classically endowed influences. But it's one of the few efforts in their career where I feel that relatively substantial swaths of material could have been clipped or better written to provide a more fascinating and immersive work more consistent with its siblings. The lyrics remain interesting if not complex, the production here is about as processed sounding as the album before it, and the band's sense for exploration not impacted in the slightest, but I'm just too hard pressed to recount almost a single guitar riff throughout the entire 48+ minutes. And when you're a metal band, especially one as good as this, those are rather implied and important. A decent listen for its overall, darkly ascendant appeal, but not even remotely a highlight of their career.
Few bands in the Mediterranean area have achieved the legendary status that Rotting Christ has. A controversial band, due to its name, having sparked comments from the likes of Dave Mustaine. Rotting Christ have undergone a series of changes from their inception back in 1987, and are still one of the longest running bands in the extreme metal genre. Their evolution reaches a peak on their 2004 masterpiece 'Sanctus Diavolos'.
From the very beginning of the album, 'Visions of a Blind Order' pummels you with it's brutal drumming and abstract melody. The vocals are what Sakis has gotten us used to in the past years, and the solo is incredibly reminiscent of 80's heavy metal with tappings and all.
The benedictine chants become more and more commonplace in Rotting Christ's music with this album, having taken over most if not all of the chorus of the second track, along with a wonderfully typical black metal tremolo riff.
Then there comes my personal overall favorite song from the band, an absolute jewel of melody that gives me goosebumps every time i give it a listen: 'Athanati Este'. The guitar is just right in your face from the very beginning and continues to be, while Sakis' chants haunt through the whole song coupled with eerie traditional Greek rhythms. Definitely not a typical black metal song which makes it stand the test of time so thoroughly.
The band also seems to have not lost all of its once prominent industrial overtone, however only in rhythm and not in instrumentation, something very obvious on 'Tyrannical' with very intense drumming.
Perhaps the best ending track in black metal history is the title track itself, 'Sanctus Diavolos' where the chants in the chorus finally seem to reach fruition. The solo comes at just the right point, a fact we've gotten used to from Rotting Christ. The mystical feel this song gives off is unlike anything i have ever experienced.
An album that surpasses all of its predecessors by a far, 'Sanctus Diavolos' is just a grand example of determination that has driven and continues to drive the Greek juggernaut, Rotting Christ. My reason for awarding a perfect 100 is the mix of melody and brutality that spawned this record, together with great lyricism and excellent vocal performance from a band that has always been ahead of its time.
Now, modern Rotting Christ are quite the anomaly aren't they? I first got into Rotting Christ with Triarchy of the Lost Lovers and quickly harboured a love of that highly melodic and unhurried expression of music which was tamed and tamed further on subsequent releases. It was with shock and disappointment that I one day purchased Genesis and found something so bizarrely constructed and delivered that it went right over me, sounding cheesy and unpolished to boot.
With Sanctus Diavolos, the Christ have continued down this road, and such is the quality of this album, that it has enabled me to go back to Genesis and really appreciate that odd offering as well. Sanctus Diavolos seems to be the perfected mix of the dark, mournful soundscapes of their Dead Poem era, the occasional harsh abrasiveness of their first albums, and the eclectic sound experimentation that so unsettlingly distinguished Genesis; it is all here. Across the entire album, Rotting Christ have composed streamlined metal songs that are bursting to the brim with highly unnerving and atmospheric keys and electronics as well as soaring, melodic leads, to the extent that it becomes a bold and perhaps arrogant act to pigeonhole this music into black, gothic or industrial metal. Or indeed, simply metal. It is a seamless integration of all, and manages to come-off with the best qualities those genres can offer in a sound that is, prima facie, quite avante-garde.
None of that is to say that Rotting Christ aren't still black; Sanctus Diavolos has a palpably malevolent atmosphere, and despite English not being Sakis' first language, he has crafted some stunning lyrics that really catapult these songs into deserving a much more thorough inspection. The ideas perfectly trade-off between corporeal suffering and divine (or to be exact, infernal) imagery, utilising all kinds of double-meaning and purely symbolic allegory that is remarkable... considering that Rotting Christ's lyrics have never before been anything other than average. My favourite has to be;
And what if there are no roots on Earth
and what if the stoned residence
is a ruined hovel
where the flame of God cannot burn
and what if human sense
appears as a son without birth
on an unequal battle
where the stoned walls are made of human flesh.
The chorus to Shades of Evil is such a multidimensional beast, that despite it being one of the poorer tracks musically, I can't help but admire it anyway. If Sanctus Diavolos has a fault it is that; there are noticeable drops in the music quality towards the end of the album. Serve in Heaven and Shades of Evil come across as too hurried and brash compared to the sprawling, eerie experimenting of the tracks before, and the staccatto, rhythmic riffage that constructs the metallic backbone of most of the songs could well come across as uninspired or repetitive to many listeners. There are so many layers of sound though that I think they get away with it; there is always something interesting going on, whether it be the jaw-dropping leads a la Thy Wings Thy Horns Thy Sin and Athanati Este or trippy, twisted electric audio voyages through the suitably explorative and lyrically inspired Doctrine and Tyrannical.
What really strikes the killer blow for me on this release though is the breathtakingly eloquent Sanctimonious. It is the only short, interlude-like song dividing the album in two, and part of the reason that the second half feels a little poorer than the first is because nothing else on the album can compete with the pithy Sanctimonious. It is very moving; sorrowfully romantic in its slow, melodic explorations with violin, sparse lead guitar and multilayered background choir vocals, and is the emotional and atmospheric center of the album. It is almost as if the essence was strained from all the other songs on Sanctus Diavolos and concentrated into Sanctimonious. A truly extraordinary track to flagship an extraordinary (but not perfect) work of sound craftsmanship.
I'd have to say, Rotting Christ have amazed me throught the years, and this simply is no let down either. Although, after Tirarchy of the Lost Lover, I thought they steadly went down hill, but with the realease of Sanctus Diavolos, they're clearing making it towards the top once again.
Most of the song structures are fairly the same however, yet the riffs are still what you'd expect from Rotting Christ, dark, atmosphereic, still driven by keyboard for some songs, but even those riffs are good. All of the songs on Sanctus Diavolus are exteremly well composed and as always, the insturments play exceptionaly well. The key song on this album would have to be Athanati Este. Very nice leads and main riff. Infact, the first 4 tracks are good, but in between Visions Of A Blind Order and Thy Wings, Thy Horns, Thy Sin, its almost difficult to tell where one track ends and the next begins, still very nice structures.
As Rotting Chirst has progressed though the years, they have proven to be one of the best at what they do. This album was certainly no let down, as were any of their other albums.
Not many bands can reach "god" status with such a controversial name. However, Greece's Rotting Christ have quickly moved up the ranks and have become the mighty force that we know today.
Sanctus Diavolos is not at all like the band's more mellower albums nor their raw unpolished past works. Instead, Sanctus brings fourth a new style to the Rotting Christ table. The band manages to incorporate operatic vocal tones and thundering guitar/drum work effortlessly. Even more outstanding, is how Sakis Tolis (Guitars/Vocals) can maintain the same vocal style he uses in this album that he has been using in countless albums past. Even more outstanding is his flawless soloing in "Visions Of a Blind Order". That short solo alone is worth a listen. The album's music is a little sloppier than usual, but the rich operatic backing vocals easily make up for this. The most noteable track on this album is "Athanati Este" which showcases Dissection-esque guitaring and a thundering rythm section. For fans of melodic death metal, this album is worth a listen!
This album is fuckin awesome.
That's really all that needs to be said. Very evil, heavy, and great production. The bass is so clear, you can hear every note. The vocals are a little too low in the mix, which is really my only complaint. Sakis has an awesome evil voice though, and shrieks, spits, and growls out the lyrics with anger. The lyrics are your standard satanic, evil Rotting Christ lyrics, very well thought out, and I might even say philosophical. There are even some Latin parts (or I think they are latin). Sakis is definitely a great songwriter, and plays the keys on the album as well.
Sanctus Diavolous also features a choir, which adds tons to the music. The great thing about this album is that the keys and the choir aren't overused. They add just the right amount of atmosphere that's needed. Although every song is awesome, I definitely think "Athanati Este" is a standout track. Some great guitar work and melody on this track. Very heavy and rocking, not quite as fast as the others, but it is one kick-ass song.
The dark artwork also reflects the dark atmosphere of the music as well.
Very well done. I own all of Rotting Christ's albums, and this is my favorite.