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Just about perfect - 95%

MikeyC, March 11th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist

Hard to believe this band is still going! Starting since before I was even born, and I’m almost 30 now, Rotting Christ have gone through different stages of their career. Anyone into metal would probably know the evolution of the band, so it’s not worth repeating, but what is worth mentioning is the strength of the band even this far into their illustrious career. Rituals, their 59th full-length (whoops, jumping ahead here…12th release!) continues the path carved out by Κατά τον δαίμονα του εαυτού, however this one is so much more consistent that I find it hard to fault this very much.

If you have heard their previous release, you basically know what to expect here: simplistic riff patterns with loads of melody thrown in, and more simplistic drumming with lots of off-beat blasts in the faster sections. Yeah, you’ve heard it all before, so why listen to another one that is essentially part two? Well, because I said so, but also because this one feels a little more complete. The songs are a little more interesting and the album doesn’t dip. I actually really like Κατά τον δαίμονα του εαυτού, but found that the second half of the album didn’t quite match up to the first half until the awesome final track. On Rituals, this doesn’t happen, as all songs from both halves keep the album very much afloat. For such simple compositions, this is not easy to achieve, but Rotting Christ got their formula down and have created one of their best albums in the process.

The riffs may not be technically parading, but they do their job effectively. Whether it’s simple chugging power chords, or melody-driven tremolo riffs, or the fantastic solos scattered around the place, the guitars rarely move into places where they’re difficult to understand. Some may see this as a problem of the album, but I see this as using a simple formula and making it work perfectly. Similarly, the drums are simple beats that may use double kick and off-beat blasting, but otherwise they maintain their beat without really straying into technically flashy patterns anywhere on the album. Again, I stress that this is a strength rather than a weakness of Rituals - keeping the formula straightforward but making the songs interesting in their own right.

The songs themselves are incredible, and each song is distinguishable from the rest – a feat difficult to muster. “Elthe Kyrie” might be the most known, not just because it’s one of the singles, but because of the babbling throughout the verses that will make it instantly recognisable. It took a couple of listens to warm up to it, but now I really like it. The solo in this song is unreal, too, full of melody. “Ze Nigmar” is a slower, plodding song that is perfectly placed after the fantastic opener. “Apage Satana” acts like a filler song but it also doesn’t – more like a big build-up to the next one, in a sense. Or take a song like “Konx Om Pax” where it starts out like a regular song, only to come out with a simple triplet power chord riff part-way into it that is heavy, powerful, inspired, and enthusiastic. This captures the real strength of the album and why it’s just so addictive. It’s easy to grasp, and catchy as all hell that repeated listens are basically mandatory.

One thing that separates this album from the previous is the use of guest vocals. There are too many to really point out, but throughout Rituals you are bombarded with vocals and chants from lots of guests. To me, this is a massive strength, considering all the guests perform their duties with aplomb where it’s needed, but it also gives the album title more meaning – a sense of ritualism in the way the vocals are delivered. Which leads me to the way the album is presented on the front cover: Rituals by Rotting Christ. Not Rotting Christ’s Rituals - essentially other rituals that just happen to be put together by Rotting Christ. It’s a minor aesthetic, sure, but to me this shows that Rotting Christ have shown that they may have the music behind the rituals, but the rituals themselves that they’re portraying are not their own creation. And that’s the feeling I get listening to the album, which is by no means a deterrent for the enjoyment; if anything it makes me like it even more.

I mentioned earlier that this album is more consistent and doesn’t dip. That was a half-truth. In actual fact, the final two songs here, “Devadevam” and “The Four Horsemen,” are some of the strongest songs Rotting Christ have put together. Before I say why, some may decry “The Four Horsemen” as a cover track, and they’re right, but I implore you to listen to Aphrodite’s Child’s cover, and then listen to this version. It’s a cover song in lyrical content only, as the song itself couldn’t be any different. Needless to say that this version is superior in absolutely every way. Anyway, to get to why these two songs are so good, it’s their almost doom/gothic metal approach. The album ends with over ten minutes of a slow, brooding, atmosphere-rich dirge that I can’t get enough of. “Devadevam” is quite chant-driven that begins the album completion, but in particular the “whisper-growls” in “The Four Horsemen” are incredible, and the whole song completes the album perfectly. This one-two punch was a fantastic choice for the band to end the album on.

I can understand the mixed opinion on this album, which seems to be the case, but for me this is stellar. Rituals may not be original in the sense that Rotting Christ have done it before nary one album ago, but the compositions this time around are consistently top-class, and the wealth of guest vocals and interesting yet simple riffs make this album an incredibly journey through the different rituals Rotting Christ convey. The fact that they can continue making excellent albums this far into their career says something about the band in general. I’ll certainly be spinning this one for a long time to come, which will be, I guess, my own “ritual.”