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After a couple transitional albums - the last of which already hit what Rotting Christ was trying to accomplish - the band takes a step back into the realm of black metal so they could absolutely kill. The precise instrumentation, a dustier production, and some of the best songs in Rotting Christ's career linger within this gloomy album. Sleep Of The Angels is the band's attempt to further mold their definition of black and gothic metal - and damn is it successful. Sakis in particular isn't distant anymore, and he's got more vocal styles to go for with rough growls, spiteful screams, and gothic singing (low and clean) / speaking /whispering that is more fitting and brilliant than I might make them out to be.
From the start, the band kicks off with keys (more abundance this time, but strictly in the synth style - not sappy at all) and riffs with surging power once more. There's an optimistic feeling to some of these songs, but the one opening this whole album, "Cold Colours", certainly has that vibe as its definition. It meets the listener with catchy, jagged riffs and crashing drums, as well as thick, fat bass lines and stylish, harmonic leads. It's a swirl of simply executed magnificence with forlorn atmosphere, yet a buoyant sensation is what it evokes. At the same time, the song leaves you feeling alone, but not powerless. It's a dose of different effects on the listener, none of which are really conflicting or confusing, though. What's more is how inviting it all sounds, but not even in a way that's poppy or instantly digestible.
Take one of my favorite Rotting Christ songs, "After Dark I Feel", as another song with bustling emotions oozing from the captivating leads, synth-draped backdrop, wavy riffs, balmy bass, and crashing consistency of Themis' rolling drumming. It all makes for a tender movement of gothic sensibilities all the way through the song's cryptic shift into the exultant "Victoriatus" - a faster track with equal harmonic intensity and catchiness.
Overall, Rotting Christ hit big with this album in terms of melody, elegance, and harshness. At the core, it's truly a murky offering with mixed emotions emulating that of each human's darkest passions. Supporting these is a cleansed production job that shows the best balance of instruments and vocals thus far. Whether individual songs or the sum of all of them, Sleep Of The Angels is definitely one of the better Rotting Christ experiences listeners cannot forgo.
While Sleep of the Angels does take its queues from both Triarchy of the Lost Lovers and A Dead Poem, it's also the most accessible work in all this beloved band's history, if not all of Greek black metal. In fact, I have a hard time even defining this as 'black metal' with a straight face, because it's essentially atmospheric, melodic metal with the added furor of Sakis Tolis's rasp, which he fuses here with more whispers and cleans than any of their prior full-lengths. Clearly they were leading up to this point through all prior evolutions, but the soul train has arrived at last. That's not to say that I don't enjoy Sleep of the Angels, because for at least most of its duration, it's downright brilliant and memorable, but those who have characterized this as Rotting Christ 'lite' are certainly entitled to that opinion. The thing is, I'll take Rotting Christ 'lite' or even Rotting Christ 'disco' or 'calypso' over most music, because this is a band which rarely disappoints.
Never has their moniker been more of an aesthetic contrast to their songwriting than on this work, but in the end it's the songs that count, and Sleep of the Angels is not short on them. A glorious, repetitive sweeping keyboard line inaugurates the thundering, melodic mutes of "Cold Colours" while tinges of ambiance rise and fall in the landscape, and you'll note that the focus here is immediately placed on a fantastic guitar line that snares the listener while providing a fluid counterpoint to the thicker chords. There's almost a glorious, martial groove here enforced by the synthesizers leading up to the bridge, and it flows perfectly into the even more 'pretty' riffing of "After Dark I Feel", which might qualify as one of the gentlest songs in this band's discography...but phenomenal regardless. Like "Cold Colours", it uses dour, clean, whispered vocals to offset Sakis' snarling in the verse, playful and seductive with a malevolent reminder riding undercurrent, and the understated keyboards throughout this are placed perfectly.
And then comes "Victoriatus", my personal favorite on the album, with an unforgettable guitar melody and groove which burns itself into the mind just as quickly as anything off the preceding pair of albums, a solid rock chorus with whispered vocals that remind me of what Samael were writing at this time (Eternal). It should come as no surprise, since master orchestrator Xytras was the producer for this album (and its predecessor, A Dead Poem). After this, the album does take a slight dip in quality, with songs like the single "Der Perfekte Traum" and "The World Made End" following a similar ethos, just not as ear catching. "You My Flesh" is interesting, but some of the chords used in the bridge are essentially a refrain to "Victoriatus". "Delusions" has more of a swagger about it, while "Imaginary Zone" and the title track veer briefly back into the band's charging black metal roots, only glazed in the same synthesizer atmosphere as the slower pieces. Perhaps the best of the album's remainder are "Thine is the Kingdom" and the bonus "Moonlight", both epic and immersive with heavily resonant bridges and inherent Gothic groove.
Not just another nail in the crucifix, Sleep of the Angels once more reminds us of how Rotting Christ are in a class of their own, constantly mutating and exploring the parameters of their genre and even defying it, without actively insulting their audience or forgetting where they came from. The minimal, effective imagery of the lyrics conjures an emotional relationship with the listener, without abandoning the band's lust for magic, myth and the natural world. Xytras does an amazing job of drawing out power from the guitars, vocals and synthesizers while he maintains a rather natural vibe, without needless excess distortion or processing. It's not really a black metal album, sure, and as it was the first time I got to see the band on tour here in the States, it was interesting to see the crowd reaction (not that most of them had half a clue who these Greeks were) to this material when they sharing the bill with more aggressive bands like Shadows Fall and Sinister. Coincidentally, this is a great 'gateway' album to mold your girl or boyfriend, grandmother or any other 'square' into the darker climes of music. A baby step to oblivion. But it's also pretty grand for the rest of us.
Fifth full length by the Greeks and published by Century Media. Sleep of the Angels saw Rotting Christ display a sophisticated proposal, miles away from their harsh black metal roots. The album was produced by Samael’s Xy, and this factor took its toll; the distortion in the guitars gives a sound really heavy yet very clear, reminding immediately the sound in the latest Therion albums. The genius of George (Georgios Tolias) behind the keyboards is undeniable, and confirms Rotting Christ like one of the sublime masters of the atmosphere, simply one of the best bands worldwide in this aspect.
Since the initial Cold Colours, you can perceive a touch of delicacy surrounding this opus, a great incursion in the realm of gothic metal, however lacking the penetrating darkness of other bands; Sleep of the Angels has in this regard, a lot in common with Moonspell, especially with the absolutely grandiose and fine SIN/Pecado.
Waldemar Sorychta contributes with some tremendous guitar solos on Victoriatus and You my Flesh, a sign of the direction taken by the album throughout its 41 minutes. The tempo changes in the aforementioned You My Flesh are extraordinary, not due to their technical quality, but because they give an ostentatious structure to it, and in addition with lyrics of great quality: could we expect less from Greek authors?
The World Made End is the most aggressive point in the album, with fast drumming yet without a single blast beat, and with fast rhythmic riffs which won’t stop during its 2:59 minutes.
The anthem which gives its name to the album is a hidden treasure, one of the best creations in the whole Rotting Christ discography, bearing lyrics that once again stand out on their own: “Fear can take my soul, just like the odor of death, changes me as a whole, makes me hold my breath...”
Sleep of the Angels is one hell o an album that takes a look into a direction developed further in their next work Khronos. You could say that this sound is in general more accessible due to its cleanliness and clarity, but not because of the compositions, which are deeply complex, proof of the maturity and great creative moment of the band. It’s no secret that Rotting Christ is to a certain degree a really under estimated act though, but that’s no reason to deny their worth. Simply one of the best black/gothic bands in the world.
Whoever wants to know how the sleep of the angels sound, just need to close their eyes and let Rotting Christ show it.
Originally submitted to (http://www.metalicos.com) on July 21st, 2008.
Some things aren't easy to describe. It's not easy for me to describe all of the reasons why this happens to be my favorite Rotting Christ album compared to all of their other wonderful releases, it's hard for me to describe in words, so I'll take the challenge.
I remember when this album came out back in 1999. I was already a huge Rotting Christ fan, and when I first heard this album I was immediately connected to the atmosphere of this recording. It was exactly what I was in the "mood" for those 9 years ago. Today, I'm still in that mood.
Sleep Of The Angels is obviously a different character than previous albums of theirs, and ones to follow. It has a very melancholy feel about it, that creates an atmosphere of its own. Every song on here is a classic. There isn't one aspect of this album I can fault. I would list any problems I had right here and now if I could, but I've listened to this album so many times, you can trust me when I say there isn't anything wrong with the songs on this album, that is if you appreciate the mid to late 90's Century Media "dark metal" sound.
I see a lot of similar terms people have used over the years describing the sounds of Rotting Christ. "black metal", "dark metal", "gothic metal", etc. For the sake of giving curious listeners a better chance of understanding this album, I would say that this could be viewed as a "dark metal" album. Not unlike how Tiamat and Samael released dark metal albums. Rotting Christ were on Century Media records those days as were the two previously mentioned bands, and I was really into the "Century Media" sound of those days. It's too bad CM no longer has the quality that it had a decade ago.
I don't see any point for me to describe all of the songs individually. Chances are, if you've taken the time to read my review this far, you might be interested in checked out this great chapter in Rotting Christ's discography. I love all of their albums, but this one has a personal/emotional connection that their other albums don't quite have to me. It could have been some personal stuff I was going through back then. This album sure does strike up a lot of nostalgia in me, especially in the Fall.
This album came with a compilation cd called "Darkness We Feel". Basically, it was a compilation of similar "dark metal" bands. I mention this cd for the fact that a little known Rotting Christ song appears on it called "Moonlight". This sounds like it could be a b-side to Sleep Of The Angels, but I'm not 100% sure. All I know is that it sounds like it could have ended up on the album. It's one of my favorite Rotting Christ songs though, that is for sure.
I'll end this review by saying that this is my first review on this website. Sleep Of The Angels is my favorite album by one of my favorite metal bands. Out of the respect for this album and this band, I give it my highest mark in hope others may discover it's brilliance.
Listen and enjoy.
Rotting Christ have always been leaning towards melodic black metal since their first full length album Thy Mighty Contract, but this is probably where their style really went down that path . . . and for the better.
It's hard to describe Rotting Christ to someone that hasn't heard them before, but apart from Septic Flesh there's not many other bands out there like them. All I will say is that they are probably one of the most defining figures in black metal outside of Scandinavia as unlike their counterparts, Rotting Christ focuses on harmonies rather than discordance.
All throughout this album, from the keyboard intro of Cold Colours to the fading melody to Thine Is The Kingdom on which it ends, this album is filled to the brim with simple, memorizing melodies, powerful rhythms, soothing/harsh deep vocals and drumming that can only be described as epic behind them. There is not a single 'bad' aspect of this album I can think of. It's got enough variety to keep you from getting bored and an overwhelming amount of feeling to it that practically speaks to you.
If you are wanting to check out Rotting Christ I very heavily recommend this album alongside Khronos and Theogonia to any melodic black/death fan.
While "A Dead Poem" was quite a "light" release, being more of a harsh Gothic Metal album than anything else(I still enjoyed it) this is something...quite different.
"Sleep of the Angels" incorporates more well-used keyboard parts into the Rotting Christ sound and also adds some more clean vocals, while being significantly more Black Metal than it's predecessor. Sakis vocal performance is very good, here we find out that his clean voice is actually very pleasing to the ears.
"Cold Colours" is a quite strong opener, even though it's more of a mellow track, featuring more clean vocals and slow, melody-driven guitar passages than anything else. This time they knew how to make "softer" songs REALLY strong.
"After Dark I Feel" follows and this is definitely one of my alltime favourite Rotting Christ tracks, as well as the strongest track on this album. The intro melody is absolutely fantastic, I wish it would last a little longer, but it gets replaced by another awesome melodic guitar line which accompanies the main riff. Sakis clean vocals hit a new high mark here, sounding depressed and haunted at the same time.
The album stays on this level, rather slow, yet quite heavy and aggressive until "The World Made End" which is the most Black Metal sounding track on this album. Just listen to the main riff. Awesome BM, reminding of oldschool Rotting Christ. Some blast beats and lots of doublebass can be found here as well. Again, very fitting clean vocal parts in the second part of the verses.
That's what this album is about: diversity. Quite a few slow tracks (Cold Colours, After Dark I feel, Sleep the Sleep of Angels), some midpaced ones(Imaginery Zone) and a faster, more BM sounding song(The World Made End);
Things I could live without:
The electronic effects used on Sakis' vocals in "Sleep the Sleep of Angels" are totally unnecessary, they are just distracting.
Sometimes the slowness of the album can be a little bit too much. The album is varied in speed, but most of the tracks don't exceed midtempo, except the aforementioned "The World Made End".
Overall, this is a very good effort by my favourite Greek band.
After Dark I Feel, The World Made End, Imaginary Zone, Thine is the Kindom