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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.