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There are few albums that have ever come out that can be described as monumental. These albums are few and far between; often carving with the terrible swift sword of innovation, or trudging through with the tried and true tactics of perfecting an old formula – keeping sacred the secrets of the music itself. There are significantly less bands who can claim to have produced monumental albums that fall into each crevasse of the example. Rotting Christ is one of those bands.
Maybe it was their lineage? One linked to the Ancients, the torchbearers to the rest of the world, the heart of the Western idea of Truth, and the forefathers of blazing new, frightening trails upon which the rest of man will wander? Maybe the pagan moon was just in the right place upon their conception? That Rotting Christ was somehow blessed from their genesis, to be the bearers of genres and sounds unbeknownst to the rest of Europe? No matter the cause of their primitive genius, Rotting Christ stood tall as an incredible musical force, and the titan that would single-handedly drag the rest of their country along with them in their sonic pursuits; and as it stands, they are one of the few bands to walk the Earth who possess such a riveting and coveted title as monumental.
After a stint as an excellently crafted black metal band, Rotting Christ began to craft a new kind of metal, one that took the melodies and romanticism of black metal to a level that was unheard of, save a few bands. Perhaps this era can best be described using the antiquated term of “dark metal”; an ambiguous term used to detail the combination of black and gothic metal. Normally, I would refrain from using such restrictive terms when describing music, but in this particular moment, no other word seems quite as appropriate. Triarchy of the Lost Lovers is the quintessential sound of dark metal: a seemless blend of the grim and heavy aspects of black metal with the unbridled mysticism and (dare I say) religious/romantic/spiritual nature of gothic metal.
As you, my dear reader, may have guessed from the score, this album is a masterpiece. Triarchy of the Lost Lovers perfectly encapsulates the emotional aspects of heavy music. It is simple, almost bafflingly so. The lyrics are spoken in short bursts of couplets, in Sakis’ standard shrill growls, but they detail incredibly profound moments in these simple stanzas. Just one example from “Snowing Still”:
“All my dreams/take me backwards”
Has a profound Yeats-ean effect on the listener. There’s an underlying sense of sadness ever-present throughout the duration of the album; a sadness that has yet to be remotely matched by any other metal album that this listener has encountered. Gone are the blasphemies and anger of the previous albums, instead replaced by a solemn, almost reverent, sense of self-examination. The melodies accent this dreary lyricism to a tee; possessing the perfect blend of power chords and metallic influence with bombastic melodies and sweeping soundscapes. No other album captures the harrowing and persistent sadness of loss quite the same way that Rotting Christ manages to do on this album. In a way, this album’s funereal environment becomes the catalyst for a joyful celebration of loss and death of a loved one. In a way, Rotting Christ has created a profoundly personal, internal, and almost, religious album.
“A body becomes a prison.
An eternal soul
Come to me
You will be able
To go to everywhere
To see everything”
This is the essential line of the album. One that doesn’t force the listener into anything. There is no bludgeoning, no blasting, no militaristic ideal or imperial attitude that normally drapes over the genre. Instead all of these aspects are replaced by the simple philosophy of “letting go” and letting Sakis and crew create the beautiful, weaving, textually rich melodies and intricate and intimate lyricism which will carry the listener away.
Each song on this album is perfectly and artisanly crafted to bring the listener new pleasures on a variation on a theme. The whole album, as it stands, is rather monochromatic. It reeks of grey and black, of the hollow and cold production, and the echoed and distant layering. But, with each listen, the listener is granted a new subtle aspect to appreciate. It is monochromatic, but with the blanketed color palette, Rotting Christ manages to make each song entirely memorable. The riffing is truly excellent, providing a complex and layered background for the breathtaking melodic leads.
I would dare say that this is Rotting Christ’s finest moment in harmonizing and layering in their entire career. Sakis lays down the most hooks in his career and none come off as cheesy, overly dramatic or unnecessary. Each song is an excellent example of melodic metal, but without the frills and theatrics that many bands seem to pile on to make up for lack of songwriting skills. Rotting Christ allows each riff to breath, to dance around and to identify itself. This is a feat that few bands manage to accomplish over the span of their careers, and Rotting Christ perfected it on one album.
To detail each song seems to be trivial at this point; each one is memorable, yes, but to try to break it down track by track seems almost unfair. This is not album to be listened to in piece-meal. Triarchy of the Lost Lover is meant to be listened to as a whole, at it is the perfect length to do so. To give an anecdote about the nature of listening to this album, I will use a story about the first time I had ever heard it.
It was a cold northeastern Ohio winter, and I was a lowly sophomore in high school. I just moved out to my new house in the country, complete with twenty-three acres of deep forested land. I put on my thickest wool sweater and pea-coat and decided to explore the newly acquire property. I could only bring one CD with me in my Walkman, and I had just received Triarchy of the Lost Lovers so I decided on that.
I explored the forest, colored entirely white by the morning’s snow, for the entire length of the album. I broke open the ice covering the rivers, revealing the immensity of life beneath the deadened snowfall, the small minnows swimming against the current, the invincible plants that thrived on the banks. I looked to the aging oak trees and saw that they were very much alive, in spite of their slackened appearance; there were animals creating their dens within them, feeding off of the plants buried deep within the earth. It was then, among what seemed to be a frigid and still wilderness, that I understood the nature of this album.
It is a definitively cold album. The production is hollow and tinny, the guitars razor-sharp and glacial, appearing to be dying amid the unbearable grey taciturnity. But, underneath its unforgivable textures, therein lies a living, breathing, organic structure; almost offensive in its sensitive and intricate nature, revealing a romantic and sweeping grandiose stage. To say that this album is emotional is a gross understatement. To say it is deep and touching is to do it an injustice. Simply put, Triarchy of the Lost Lovers is the sound of a band maturing beyond their years, understanding that the most heart wrenching and beautiful moments do not come from dramatic displays of emotion, but from subtle plays on the beautiful itself.
Maybe this review reads like a gushing love letter, rambling and scattered. I think that’s appropriate, actually, and I don’t think there’s any other way to describe it. I do truly love this album. It represents the shift from where I stopped viewing metal as an amateurish and childish genre to a genre filled with incredible musicians and thinkers. It is a profoundly important album, one marking the shift of a band from a good band, to a collection of artists, bristling with talent and humanity.
I could not recommend this album highly enough. If the listener gives enough time to it, it will reward him or her with untold rewards, far beyond what most albums can do. Triarchy of the Lost Lovers is a triumph of the genre, and one of the most brilliant and perfectly crafted albums of all time. One would be remised if one passed it up based on the band name, or simply the fact that one thinks they may not be “into it”. I truly believe there is something here for every type of listener; Triarchy is too powerful not to believe such a thing.
Continuing from Non Serviam's excellence, Triarchy Of The Lost Lovers is the start of an era where I personally get a kick out of Rotting Christ. While they wouldn't fully abandon their malevolent sensibilities, the band began pouring their efforts into creating more intricate, mournful songs that no doubt began to cement itself with this release. It's a blend of black metal with leads and atmosphere taking influences from primarily the gothic realm. There are bands that would take this route and trip over themselves trying to be something they aren't, but Rotting Christ took this route and created something that define who they were.
First off, this album marks a third run of dumb snare sounds. Granted, the first two were programmed drums, but there are ways to make it bearable. Triarchy Of The Lost Lovers is Themis' debut behind the kit, but the snare sound on here is probably the worst. It's the "tock" sound in full swing, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise since Non Serviam was much of the same. Snare sound aside, Themis' pounding style is at home with the mid-paced rhythms that make up the backbone of Rotting Christ's sound.
Second off, the production is louder and clearer than even Non Serviam's enhanced clarity compared to the Thy Mighty Contract. It certainly isn't polished, but there's a melodic death metal quality to it when bringing the riffs into the equation. Not in a sappy way, but certainly with an edge for melody over harshness. The dual attack of harsh riffs and harmonic leads is ripe with this album, and it's a style that'll continue for the remainder of the band's career. The woeful leads sweep up influences from gothic and doom metal realms, draping melancholic atmosphere over each song. The keys aren't to be forgotten, as they've been the synth-spice that's sprinkled over everything to augment the ghostly mood.
Sakis once more takes his vocals away from the center of the album. This isn't a problem with mixing, as the album's very balanced. It's just that his vocals have a bit of air between them that make them sound a tad farther than the instruments. I wouldn't consider it a problem, because nothing's holding him back from giving his tormented growls and jagged screams. Behind him is the bass support, which is starting to show itself more as a dual role toward blurbs and booming backdrops instead of just one or the other. This is another step in the right direction, although the clarity of this album restricts the capacity for first-rate bass.
Triarchy Of The Lost Lovers is certainly a transition album, much like Non Serviam before it. It shows a clearer, melodic sound while still retaining a black metal base, but not one that perfects what they accomplished with Non Serviam. Is it a better overall sound than Non Serviam? Maybe, but not by much because it is an attempt to transition from harsher black metal to a blend of ideas. Once that's perfected, it'll be the winning formula of winning formulas.
Rotting Christ are the heroes in their homeland, and no wonder why. The band took black metal, moulded it to sound their own and never showed any uncertainty.
Rotting Christ have matured a lot during the years. The band found mystical melodies already on their first works (not including those death/grind ones), which drift over rather simplistic song structures. By 1996, the band had abandoned those typical thrash/black metal riffs and found their unique style. Here epical, mystical, sombre and fiery atmospheres mingle into arcane Hellenic sounds. While it's melodic, it's also chunky. Rotting Christ's style is black metal, but so very different it is to the "typical" black metal sound. I'd call them a dark metal band perhaps. There are only a few keyboard lines, but no more are needed, as the band can easily build atmospheres with guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Pace of the music fluctuates between slow and mid-paced, 'Archon' being the fastest song with its blast beats (and probably my favourite of all Rotting Christ songs, simply perfect!). By the way, the digipak version includes three Kreator cover songs.
Sakis "Necromayhem" Tolis' growled throat vocals are easy to recognise. His bad English pronunciation doesn't matter to me, it simply gives him more character, and as you know that's what matters. He doesn't possess the ugliest, strongest voice ever, but he sounds like he's been possessed. The lyrics are inspired by nature, universe, inner self and mythology. The graphics get thumbs up, but vary on jewelcase and digipak editions.
The sound is organic, quite a lot cleaner than on the previous recordings. This isn't very heavy, but the bass and the kick drums give enough punch to balance the melodic guitar playing. When thinking of the band's past releases, they've never been "heavy", but in atmospheric way. Actually, I have not a single complaint about how this sounds. I love it how those drums sound. Magnificent. The album was recorded by Andy Classen of Holy Moses fame.
Ten years down the road, this album is still as spellbinding as it was in 1996. While the band has lost some of their edge on the newer albums, thanks to modern production values, just put 'Triarchy...' on and travel through the universe with Rotting Christ's magical music. This is the first professionally produced album from the band, but still totally soulful and true. Natural continuation from magickal 'Non Serviam' (1994). Not for "only hissing black metal for me" fanatics, but if you are looking for something with dark and mystical atmosphere and unique style, then give this a try ASAP!!!
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2006)
Though I've often juggled it between my admiration for the debut Thy Mighty Contract, or its direct successor A Dead Poem, it is the Triarchy of the Lost Lovers which ultimately stands as my favorite Rotting Christ record. One of those mid-90s efforts (alongside Samael's Passage and Amorphis' Elegy) that helped restore my faith that creativity and composition were not dead propositions in the metal realm, it forged all of the qualities of the Greek band's debut into a refined, epic songwriting sensibility that to do this never ceases to impress upon me when I'm in the mood, and it's a credit to the scene that spawned it, not to mention a refreshing and unique milestone in all of European black metal...
Well, except for the fact that it's more or less a more polished re-enactment of the qualities that exemplified the band's 1993 debut, Thy Mighty Contract. Slow to mid-paced material which is nothing if not a tribute to that ever elusive hallmark of metal masterworks, 'the riff'. Each of the nine tracks is glazed in simplistic, sweeping bombast as steady as the march of a well armed and trained phalanx of antiquity, to the point that it carries this militaristic grace. The keyboards that fleshed out the band's earlier work return here, but they're relegated even more into the backdrop, serving only to support the strength of the guitars rather than compete with them. And what fucking guitars there are...written in surefire, memorable patterns of glistening mutes and cement rhythms, more of an uplifting nature than the negativity and dissonance so often courted by the genre.
Don't get me wrong, Rotting Christ still indulge in the darkness of their mythic and historical lyrical matter, but there's an unusual, upbraided elegance to how these riffs storm beneath the bloodcurdling bark of Sakis Tolis. Among the most 'dignified' of the tracks are "The First Field of the Battle", its Metallica-basted melodies soaring over its placid if thunderous thoroughfare; "King of a Stellar War" with an admixture of ascending chords and angelic backing synths; and "Snowing Still", for its swaying, unforgettable verse hooks spliced with somber melodies. But choosing such as favorites would neglect the tremulous rush of "Archon", with its amazing muted bridge sequence, or "Diastric Alchemy" and its magnificent, soaring eloquence. "One With the Forest" is one of my favorite tracks in the band's entire catalog, a swaggering dynamic of dour and tormented Tolis throat-work, squealing delights and brilliant if subdued melodies playing counter to the primary rhythms.
It says a lot that even the worst song of the lot, "The Opposite Bank" carries much of the boons of its neighbors, it's simply a fraction less unforgettable than the rest. Triarchy of the Lost Lovers sees the band at a new plateau of production values that the band would never retire from in the rest of their history (thus far), with brazen and clean guitar tones set at just the right amount of spring, step and overdrive. Solid, rock-based drumming with a modicum of double bass work added to the substrate. Perfect bass levels, never too and never obscured by the front and center guitars. Light keyboards for an airy atmosphere, and most importantly, one of Sakis' best performances on any album.
The lyrics are simple, but strung out in the poetic splendor of 'relightened stars', 'unwrought stones/amphoras and bones', 'freezing myths' and 'sallow mass', images of sadness and shelter in an enchanting universe that can consume the canny observer well beyond the confines of a single lifetime. The perfect companion to such bright and engrossing musical fare. Triarchy of the Lost Lovers might seem too 'clean' for some, who might prefer the dank drear of the earlier albums' and demos' productions and the slightly more malicious vibe therein, but it's a monument to individuality, somewhere shy of perfection, but the closest this long struggling entity has ever come to such an achievement. Abstain from its stately spires at your own loss.
When your formatives years in black metal where filled with the early works of bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone, Immortal, Gorgoroth etc, you`re pretty much led into believing that black metal is a fast paced, tremolo driven and grim music that offers little space for aestheticizing mellow melodies or exploration of less aggressive approaches to satanic music. We must stress that the aforementioned bands are not to be blamed for this misconception, but the self righteous way in which many black metal followers have created some sort of cult upon them, labeling them as the only "true" and legitimate black metal music you can listen to is. Some kind of Scandinavian worshipping going on, right? Hence, the innumerable amount of worthless and derivative darktrone-burzum clones springing up everywhere. (See Nargaroth)
When such a blatant name such as Rotting Christ is heard for the first time, ultra evil, devil worshipping fast paced music is expected. Then, how come a band with such a horrendous name could create such an enticing record where no references to Satanism or more evil than thou crap are to be found? Although the concept in treatment here is quite abstract and elusive, it deals mostly with Gnosticism and esotericism (As far as I am able to see). So if you`re looking for the clichéd “Satan rules the universe and Jesus Christ is his bitch” drivel, look elsewhere-
With an album like "The Triarchy of the Lost Lovers", Rotting Christ proved us that you can put non angering, beautiful and haunting melodies into an album and being black metal till your last bone!
When listening to Rotting Christ`s previous efforts and perhaps Varathrum, you realized that there was a solid school of black metal being developed in Greece with their own trademark melodic mid paced sound by the late 80`s and early 90`s. Somehow it seems to me that this 1996`s release was the culmination of this type of sound, as both bands started playing different variants of Greek black metal after that.
There is indeed, not a single second to be wasted on this glorious album, no fillers or absurd wankery going on in here, every single note is essential for the overall completion of the concept that`s being developed here both musically and ideologically. Rotting Christ endeavored with an honest (almost simplistic) production to accomplish something that overproduced crap like Behemoth would not do in a million years. There is no need for a thousand violins and cellos to over decorate music or hide deficiencies, just melodic layers of guitars intertwined with solid bass lines, effective drumming and atmospheric (almost marginal) keyboards put in to add atmosphere to the record instead of disguising the inability to compose convincing metal without garments. Solos are an important trait too, these are intelligently blended with the melodic riffing to be found throughout the album, and there is also a sense of consistency and unity to them. This is not soloing just for the sake of it; every single solo is justified if seen within the context of each song.
Not Many times, you are granted with the opportunity to see how all elements merge to create a completely successfully album, a piece of work unbiased by trends and with such artistic integrity.
Recommended for everyone!
I heard a lot of Rotting Christ and first i was sceptic because of the music style and at that time I wasn´t very into black metal. Greek black metal was always too little structured and way too aggressive for me. I tried a lot of different band with diverse black metal styles but I just wasn´t feeling it at all.
THIS ALBUM MADE ME CHANGE MY MIND! “Triarchy of the lost lovers” proves that you don´t have to put complicated guitar stunts into a song to sound professional and good.
I have noticed that Rotting Christ attaches importance to simplicity. A lot of bands in this genre of melodic black think it is necessary to always show what skills they have and what they can effect just using one instrument. That kind of song seems overdone because there are so many sounds you can hear out of something that should be one item. Mostly that doesn´t sound like a complementary package and more like different instruments, which try to drown out the other combatants.
Rotting Christ doesn´t have to “show off” because we already know that they make high quality tracks we can only dream of.
Especially “A Dynasty from the Ice” is a very calm almost cosy song, which also has an atmospheric note to it.
A lot of bands make the mistake to put the best songs at the beginning of the album and so while hearing it through it might lose power. When I started listening to the first song, I thought that I had nothing more to expect. But I was wrong! Especially “Archon” makes you almost taste the power which had been put into this song.
This album contains a lot of guitar solos and non-vocal pieces. These parts probably convinced me of this album. Another thing is that Rotting Christ seemed to emphasize the structure, so the songs don´t seem too cluttered.
The only negative little tiny point I have to mention, is that some riffs are being repeated again and again. I have nothing against simple guitar riffs as long as they aren´t playing twenty times consecutively.
I also have no complaint when it comes to the vocal performance. Newer Rotting Christ albums have the negative effect that the vocals mostly are very aggressive and loud, so you have no chance to listen to it while trying to do something relaxing or even to fall asleep, because everytime the singer starts his almost screaming growl, you can forget your sleep for the next 2 hours.
But in “Triarchy of the lost lovers” they found the perfect mean. The album is worth listening to and I guarantee a wonderful time while enjoying it.
Highlights: A Dynasty from the Ice, Archon, Shadows Follow, One with the Forest
Another great release from our Greek Black Metal masters. "Thy Mighty Contract" and "Non Serviam" were both pretty melodic, but quite raw in nature(I actually think that Non Serviam was quite a bit "rawer" than TMC). This time, though, they add something different to the mix. This album probably marks the turning point in Rotting Christ's career: More melody, cleaner production.
The gothic touches they'd stumble upon on "A Dead Poem" are not yet apparent, but the aforementioned melody-level has increased by quite a margin and the production is about perfect. Some black metal elitists might be turned off by it, but for my ears, it's the best they could do. Don't worry, it's not overproduced crap (see Trivium, etc.). Everything can be heard well and the main focus lies on the guitars.
Sakis vocals are a bit different, the high-pitched shrieks, which were very prevalent on Non Serviam are not very prominent anymore, some cleaner(not real singing, though) vocals appears from time to time. The trademark Rotting Christ guitar riffs are of course still there, but more leads are used than ever before, which add a lot to the melody. The drums have improved significantly compared to their prior releases(I'm not completely sure if they used a drum-machine on Non Serviam or not, though).
The song themselves are varied but all of them share the same great and unique songwriting of Rotting Christ. This album is one of the most consistent ones I've ever heard, every song displays great effort. I love them all, but my favourites are the slower, captivating "King of a Stellar War", the amazing, solo-driven "Shadows Follow" and the most atmospheric and beautiful "One With the Forest".
Triarchy of the Lost Lovers shows us a more melodic and better produced side of Rotting Christ, without losing it's aggressive edge and grand atmosphere.
I recommend this to all fans of Black Metal, even to fans of Heavy Metal in general.
This album is an essential listen and an all-time favourite of mine.