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Theogonia catch is this: modern (loud and booming) production, epic-slanted, and more along the lines of folk (from an ancient Greek / middle eastern standpoint). This sound is fresh and a welcome change when done right, and Rotting Christ, knowing how to incorporate other genres, are more than capable of handling this transition. Yet this isn't a transition album at all. The energy, the passion, the aggression - it all makes for another fresh, sophisticated full-length.
I'll have you know that middle eastern / eastern / ancient Greek / epic themes are cool. You get some bands that go overboard with it (which Rotting Christ move toward with Aealo), but Theogonia keeps it clean, short, and straightforward while sounding profound. This means credence to the riffs, leads, and the warlike rhythms. No sappy acoustic interludes or female vocals trying to reign in a politically correct, culturally sensitive horseshit. "Enuma Elish" does have this annoying guy in the back going "eueuaahahyeeeaaahah" as if he's doing the Islamic call to prayer. Not just once, but throughout most of the song this guy is doing that! The song brings intense atmosphere and ferocity to the ears and the keys do a fine job of maintaining some grand scope, but this fucker in the back kills the seriousness. I get what they were trying to go for, but damn does it get annoying.
Many thanks to Themis on this album for fascinating, non-technical drum patterns. His rolling, double bass battering style is awesome and completely fitting for this contextually-themed music. His kit is absolutely thunderous, and while the blast beats are fine, I prefer to hear the tense moments with an atmosphere of a coming battle and the consistent pounding of thick drum bass and robust snares. A fine mixing job for these drums without making them sound overpowered. The bass is the same way - well-defined and packed with fiery fatness. It backs up burly riffs with glossed heat and warmth. It's inviting, but not brutal, and the production isn't insanely polished despite being very well-produced.
Sakis' Sanctus Diavolos vocals remain here. Maybe with a little less viciousness, but still with the same concise execution. He's always sounds pumped and his rasping screams and growls absolutely dominate and are even catchy with particular songs. More use of his cleans show up, and not the whiny kind that one might think. With black metal of this caliber, that means a haunted chanting style and singing akin to that. Very creepy, but a welcome return with more appropriate, sparing use.
There are certainly more than a couple of great tracks on the album. The album as a whole has a level of gratification that's thoughtful and reinvigorating. Its heaviness, balance, well-written compositions, and matchless dignity make it one of Rotting Christ's best works. The level of quality doesn't diminish as one listens from start to finish, as the songs all hold well either from start to finish or from one to the next. Theogonia's flow is impeccable and calculated well for an exquisite, comprehensive listening experience. The gothic atmosphere has been dropped considerably, but the level of charm that made Rotting Christ's gothic-leaning albums as imposing as they were hasn't been lost.
Special attention and praise needs to be given to certain tracks. "Phobos' Synagogue"'s crushing riffs and steady, mid-paced rhythm is mammoth. It's the change from all the faster tracks that open the album. A great example of a song with less lead prowess but the same level of epic scope and nature. "He, The Aethyr" is the complete opposite, and one of my favorite Rotting Christ songs. The guitars at the beginning create a frenzy of harmonies and riffs, yet it keeps building up as the song progresses until it creates an absolutely beguiling solo section. The whole song is catchy, an a prime example showing the kind of leads that Rotting Christ have never failed to deliver. "Threnody" is the ominous closer, and that's ominous immediately when it starts. The chanting, pounding drums, odd-yet-melodic lead, and the continuous build-up. It's creepy yet heavy and compelling, and it ends in the same numinous way it started.
For Rotting Christ fans, Theogonia must not be passed up. Those that enjoy black metal anyway would be in their right minds checking this out. Newer fans wouldn't be in an awkward position starting with this, as it is indeed melodic without being poppy and heavy without committing too much brutality. That's the Rotting Christ way, and it's a fresh take on their winning formula.