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Dark and deep, but lacks energy - 67%

Aurora Rider, February 25th, 2019

There were two elements which made up ''Kατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού''. The first one was the unparalleled power which was the outcome of aggressive vocals and drums, the classic Rotting Christ rifts and some incredible solos. The second one was the haunting dark atmosphere. With ''Rituals'', instead of evolving in both ways, the band decided to use the second element only and create a record that sounds deep and sinister but lacks energy.

It is true, there are no more fast rifts, not many solos and no aggressive warsongs. There is a kind of concept here which has to do with... well rituals. From all over the world once again, but unforrtunately the bestiality and power are gone. Everything sounds repetitive and conventional, although there are some clever ideas here and there, like the use of Sanskrit for ''Devadevam'' and an interesting cover of ''The Four Horsemen'' by Aphrodite's Child. Despite these ideas, however, and the incredible atmosphere some songs create, there is little to admire in the rest of the music. The old good Rotting Christ guitar lines have been replaced by recycled patterns that make the tracks sound boring and similar to each other. Moreover, drumming lacks intelligence and innovation and there are only a few bass lines that seem to be enjoyable and catchy.

Sakis' vocals are the good part. Alongside chants, whispers, and multiple singing styles, they help the album gain variety and the listener travel to different cultures through the music. This lean towards the folk and the occult themes is something that the Tolis brothers have shown interest in from as early as ''Theogonia''. It has for sure been enjoyable in the past, but this time I just think they exaggerated with all these experimentations. It is sad, but in the end they lead to nothing at all. The most typical example is ''Άπαγε Σατανά''. Τhis song sounds like an endless introduction to something that eventually never came up. Maybe a good idea but definitely a bad outcome. I was actually wondering what some songs would sound like, if the band had worked more cautiously with some of these aforementioned ideas.

There are exceptions, of course, and songs that stand out as gems (Ἐλθὲ kύριε). All in all, the band's experience and musical identity kind of save ''Rituals'' from being mediocre and make the album good. But that's all, just good. We are talking about no masterpiece nor trash. I'm pretty sure there are people out there who will lobe it, but musically talking, this is no big deal considering the abilities and past releases of the mighty Rotting Christ.

Thunderous Metal - 100%

Gespenster, July 3rd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist

Greek metal giants Rotting Christ formed in Athens back in 1987. Over the decades, they have gained a massive following, with records such as “Theogonia” in 2007 and “Aealo” in 2010 being hits among audiences. Later on, 2016 would witness the release of their twelfth full-length album called “Rituals.”

Rotting Christ is a band unlike any other I’ve heard before. A few years back, my older brother showed me two of their songs, “Aealo” and “Enuma Elish.” At first, I didn’t think much of them, since they were a bit too unpolished and somewhat unorthodox for my taste. Over time, however, aforementioned songs began to grow on me, and I became very interested in what they had to offer. I would eventually write a review for their previous full-length “Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy” back in 2013, praising it for its uniquely raw and theatrical sound. So naturally, when I found out the band was releasing a new album early this year, I was very interested in hearing what they were putting out next. What I found is that “Rituals” not only surpasses any of the band’s previous efforts, but it also may be the best record to grace this year.

Upon my first listen, what immediately struck me about it was just how enormous it sounds. This is thanks to both the musicianship and the sound production. For the former, elements such as the warrior-like incantations and vocals in “In Nomini Dei Nostri” and “Apage Satana,” the marching drums and percussion (Especially in songs such as “Ze Nigmar” and “Kom Om Pax”), the soaring guitar riffs, and so on, make for this grandiose aura that few bands I’ve ever listened to could achieve. Other bits, including the haunting bagpipe melodies in “Tou Thanatou” and the intense shouted chants in “Elthe Kyrie” by theater actress Danai Katsameni, push things even further, adding more to the album’s highly epic atmosphere.

As for the sound production, "Rituals" also stands tall and heavy in how it’s mixed. Courtesy of frontman Sakis Tolis and producer Jens Bogren (Katatonia, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Draconian), both the vocals and instruments sound incredibly meaty and resonant. To elaborate, they’re very tight, solid, and have an incredible amount of punch to them. At the same time, however, they also have an incredible amount of ambiance to them as well; as previously stated, everything in the record sounds huge, and because of that, it’s easy to become wrapped up in the music's environment in just the first few seconds of listening (Which is pretty much what happened to me). Both the instrumentation and sound mixing work together perfectly to make for a formidable powerhouse of atmosphere and brutality.

On top of all that, "Rituals" also proves to be not only cinematic, but quite blood-pumping as well. For instance, it opens with "In Nomini Dei Nostri" making its entrance through an intense vocal chant ("Hail Pan, Hail Lilith, Hail Na'ma...) before exploding into a maelstrom of blistering guitar riffs and blast beats. It grips the audience instantaneously and gives off a perfect first impression for what they're in for. The steam doesn't stop there, however; tracks such as "Kom Om Pax" and "Elthe Kyrie" are especially exhilarating with rapid-fire pacing and ferocious musicianship. Songs like these would be great to play during some huge, medieval battle due to how large-in-scale and darkly invigorating they are.

This isn’t to say that the more slower-paced tracks aren’t just as empowering. Songs such as "Ze Nigmar" and “Apage Satana" are the forerunners of this point. Both songs, though clearly distinct from one another, do follow a similar speed and structure; they have a steady, march-like rhythm that comes off as very ominous and no-less explosive. For the former track, the bending guitar notes help give the song this rather sludgy vibe to it that lays the atmosphere thick on the audience. As for the latter, the ritualistic chants and percussion definitely give it this tribal-like environment, coming off as both intimidating and compelling. This proves the album's great sense of dynamic and power, which is a key aspect of what makes it such an impressive effort.

Another important characteristic of “Rituals” is its impressive sense of simplicity. In an interview with Outburn Magazine (Issue #83, to be specific), Sakis Tolis said that “[he] tried to express [his] feelings with fewer riffs and paid special attention to atmosphere.” The songs aren’t overwhelmingly technical in how they are written, but they are no less deep and effective. Each song has few riffs and a rather steady but progressive structure, but are still very dynamic and exciting both as individual tracks and as a whole collection of tracks. The music’s power lies in its ambiance and instrumental prowess and layering, and that’s all the record needs to deliver its effect.

For an example, “Kom Om Pax,” as stated earlier, begins as a rather slow march composed of steadily-paced drums, vocal choirs, and almost doom-like guitar riffs. The chaos, however, really hits over a minute into the song, with the remaining time occupied by a whirlwind of chanting vocals, blast beats and chugging guitars. That’s really the song’s structure in a nutshell: It starts off slow, but soon shifts into a much faster velocity. There’s no sort of overly complicated writing to the track, but here’s the thing: It doesn’t need it, just like all the other songs here; its incredible detail and ambiance are more than enough to carry its weight. I always admire it when an artist, band/musician, etc. can achieve an emotional effect using little, and Rotting Christ is a shining example of that.

“Rituals” is a phenomenal album in pretty much every facet. It utterly dominates in terms of both vigor and atmosphere, and the musicianship, production, and writing all pass with flying colors. Each song has something different and stimulating to offer, but as a singular piece, they work off of one another greatly, making for a very dynamic and impressive release. It's definitely an easy contender for album of 2016, and anyone looking for something raw, epic, haunting, and all-around empowering will no doubt get their fix here. “Rituals” is a musical triumph.

Barks a lot, bites a little - 68%

PETERG, March 23rd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist

Every time I listen to the news of an upcoming album from my homeland and especially from the genre of black metal, in which Greece has high standards, (ex.Rotting Christ, Agatus, Zemial, Naer Mataron etc.) I get really excited. And of course, when I heard that they were releasing a new record, I was celebrating... but only for a little. So I pretty much went on my own through the struggle of judging Rotting Christ for the first time not as a fan, not as a person who has seen them live 12 times, but as a normal metal head. Let me make myself clear: the only thing I wondered when I listened to "ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ" was how they were going to make something better than this. And to my sole experience with this new album they did not.

For starters the direction that the band has taken after "AEALO" gives the first impression of a less folk-oriented and more flat and straight sound, with the addition, however of some traditional vocals and the clear, emphasizing on the classic Rotting Christ riffs and song structure. This gave them the opportunity to relax and make their songs more focused on the plain side of black metal. And this is what this album is: plain minimal straight into your face -and sometimes flat black metal. Whether it will be the demolishing 3 minutes of blast beats on "Έλθε κύριε", the simple but outstanding "In Nomine De Nostri" or the mid tempo melodic songs like "Ze Nigmar" the result is outstanding; combine it with the enormous voice of Sakis who does what he knows better which is butchering every language his mouth touches-trademark of their sound- while at the same moment he embraces a more Maniac-style of voice. Last, but not least, what really surprised me is the ability of those guys to write guitar solos for another album in a row and when I say solos I do not mean the classic black metal solos, which pretty much sound as a badly tuned guitar, I am talking about solos with tapping and arpeggios. Bringing technicality to a naturally minimal genre is of course innovative and gives the listener not only a time to relax and appreciate the great musicianship that it's put here but also to make the songs both minimal and catchy at the same time.

Now you will say "what is wrong then with this album?". Time to answer, then: Nothing is wrong as a whole idea or musical composition. The only thing that really annoyed me when I heard the record was that at some point I felt the songs were somehow using the same formula. And this is the problem. I listened to the whole album and then I listened through the day all of the songs separated and I didn't get the same great feeling that I got in the first case. This surprisingly is not due to the concept of the album, but in the fact that some songs just cannot stand on their own like "For a Voice Like Thunder" or "Korn Om Pax". Thus making some songs really flat and sometimes even boring. There seems to be a development of their sound which on the first part simplifies things in a good way, but makes the songs repetitive after a while. On the other hand, I just cannot hold the candle to the whole lyrical theme of the album. Not only that the lyrics seem dull and convenient, but the idea of summoning Satan with 9 songs seems pretty unoriginal and gave me the impression that they didn't think to give this, already obsolete and old fashioned theme, a more philosophical or sophisticated approach. Moreover, this made even more prejudiced to the cover art. Where are the covers of demons and post-apocalyptic landscapes that we all love in RT albums? Why do I have to look for a black and white face along with the very generic Gothic letter pattern every time I pick this CD?

Overall, I think it is a good record and a nice expansion to the Rotting Christ discography. Don't get too excited though, it gets less and less interesting after a while.

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.”

For a Voice like Thunder... - 80%

Rosner, March 4th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist

Rotting Christ is a very consistent and respected band in the metal community. With an almost 30 year career, they've experimented successfully with different styles of metal and have prolifically released twelve studio albums. This new album, Rituals, seems to take the band's music to a new level, but it makes one wonder: are they really reinventing themselves or are they just watering down their most recent formula?

There's one pattern that I can perceive when I listen to the band's catalogue: through the years, they have experimented with different ways of making their music, not only by changing their style, but also by trying different types of production. Whenever they find a sound that suits them, they keep attached to it until it wears down and it's finally time to move on to a new sound. It happened in their early black metal days, in their gothic era, in their mid-career melodic albeit weird albums and more recently, in their 'folk' and occult sound. Don't get me wrong: I love bands that constantly change their sound, and I love all of the Rotting Christ's musical eras, but this time, the folk sound that they've been playing since 2007's Theogonia is starting to get really weary. And while in Rituals the band manages to try a new approach, one can sometimes get the impression that the album is just a watered down version of 2013's Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού.

The folk and 'world' elements of Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού are still present in Rituals: the songs cover different aspects of ancient religions, rituals and even literature of all the world, and some of them are even sung in various languages (for example, זה נגמר in Aramaic or Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal in French). The production is quite similar to their 2013 album too, which is something good in terms of quality but some kind of deception in terms of innovation. Also, the songs are very repetitive, based around just a couple of riffs: this seems to be the biggest and most common complain reported by various listeners.

With everything I've just said, it may seem that I find this album a total disappointment, but yet I am giving it an 80%, a considerably high score. So, what's so good about this album then? Truthfully, I think the atmosphere it creates is very unique for the band and thanks to it, this may be their darkest and most occult record yet. They really managed to create beautiful soundscapes that transport the listener to the past, like a soundtrack to the rituals on which the album's concept is based around. This is all thanks to the hypnotic performance of the band, the exquisite sampling and orchestration and finally, thanks to the guest musicians, who add a new dimension to the songs.

Take for example Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal), with guest vocals by Samael's Vorph, who recites lyrics that quote Charles Baudelaire's works in French. Or For a Voice like Thunder (the best song on the album by the way), an epic song in which Paradise Lost's Nick Holmes recites the prologue to Blake's King Edward the Fourth. The delivery of the lyrics, alongside the sample of a medieval battlefield, the hypnotic and epic riffing and the eerie keys truly manage to evoke the feeling of being in the aftermath of a brutal battle. Ἄπαγε Σατανά is another example of the band successfully crafting a soundtrack for the occult, being it a tribal song that would perfectly fit in an angry and dark Dead Can Dance album.

With Rituals, Rotting Christ creates a beautiful and hypnotic album that generates a very particular and unique atmosphere, taking the band to a new level of experimentation. But on the other hand, Rituals feels like an album made of B-sides from Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού, even including a cover of Aphrodite's Child just like their 2013's album had a cover of Cine iubeşte şi lasă and just like 2010's Aealo had a Diamanda Galás cover. Sometimes I wonder if they were lazy and played it safe by making a repetitive and watered down version of their 2013's work or if they really aimed for a more atmospheric and hypnotic sound. The truth is that, either by laziness and accident or either by sincere experimentation, Rotting Christ managed to forge their darkest and most cinematic album to date. It's not perfect for sure, but it is a worthy addition to they impressive catalogue.

Kata Ton Daimona Part II - 78%

OvSane, March 3rd, 2016

Despite my affinity with black metal, I got really late into Rotting Christ. Upon listening to their 2013 release, Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy, I was immediately pulled into a dark world with an unsettling atmosphere that urged me to realize the genius of this band. Eventually this discovery led to me listening to hymns such as "Sanctus Diavolos" and "He, the Aethyr" that astounded me with a ritualistic air despite its simplicity. I was pumped up for Rituals in particular, when "Elthe Kyrie" was first streamed. When Season of Mist released the entire album on YouTube, however, let's just say the ritual felt short of a chanted verse or a thirteenth cloak.

From what I understand, Rituals is supposed to be a compilation of poems, litanies, biblical phrases, and greek hymns, all with that dark atmosphere and the Rotting Christ overdrive, so the alleged shortcomings of the songs in terms of composition should be understandable. The band starts the album right, however, with a statement that they are indeed Rotting Christ and their lyrics pay homage to Satan in most songs. The album starts out with Sakis and other "cult members" aggressively chanting praises to various antithetic deities. Immediately, you will be pulled into a ritualistic atmosphere.

From here, the flow is sort of strange to say the most, but unrelenting in its primordial, culturally influenced feel. There are real, primal emotions put into the songs, and the guests vocalists do a great job making their respective tracks frightening and eerie. The way songs such as "Tou Thanatou" and "Les Litanies de Satan" are composed makes me think that they are sequels of some of the previous tracks, which might make people think RC are running out of ideas. The album ends in a high note, however, as they cover a song from an older Greek band that tells of the coming of the Four Horsemen. Despite the simplicity in the riff work and composition for most of the songs, the album does what it is supposed to do in Rotting Christ fashion. Rotting Christ have delivered another solid, albeit less powerful piece of art.

To sum the album up, it could be considered a B-Side or disc two of their previous album, Kata Ton Daimona. There is no visible improvement nor deviation from then, but it remains enjoyable to an extent. The tracks that really stand out however would be "Elthe Kyrie", "Ze Nigmar", their cover of Aphrodite's Child's "The Four Horsemen" and my least liked song "Apage Satana". Rotting Christ fans may be disappointed, but the album could work as a gateway to the true masters of dark metal. Rotting Christ has yet to lose their touch with despite this album's shortcomings.

Ritualistic...Surprisingly - 62%

Larry6990, February 29th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist

Rotting Christ are a band with a broad, varied history. From the grinding blasts of their mid-90s material, through their 'gothic' phase, right up to 2016 - it cannot be argued that the Greeks have always been unique. Although, for some reason I always remember them as the band who were kicked off a tour by Dave Mustaine because of their moniker. With this year's "Rituals" rearing its ugly head, RC have opted for another change of approach. This is notable even from how the album presents itself; beside the striking cover image, the title is formatted as "Rituals, by Rotting Christ". An interesting choice for sure, as it implies not a collection of songs, but one whole shared experience.

"Rituals" is indeed an album to be experienced whole. One simply cannot pick out an individual 'ritual' - they must all run together as a lot of dread-like hymns. Nothing here is catchy, memorable or even remotely conventional. The whole affair is tribal and almost hypnotizing in its ugliness. The rhythms can be numbingly simplistic, with melodies very rarely using more than one or two notes. Yet, "Rituals" manages to vary itself through its differing paces, textures and - most notably - voices.

I'm sure this will be something on a lot of critics' minds. The use of sampled voices on this album can be off-putting to many sceptics. However, the use of voices unfamiliar to the listener only enhances the sense of unease this album emanates. The panic-stricken woman in "Elthe Kyrie" is especially frightening. Other than the samples, there are whispers, grunts, shouts, and occasionally a deep male choir which are incredibly disquieting - most notably their chorus in "Tou Thanatou" (complete with added bagpipes!!). The savage, satanic chanting in the opening track and "Apage Satana" won't fail to reach down and unleash something unnaturally primal inside you.

I have praised the 'ritualistic' nature of this album insofar as it being fresh and different. After a while, the simplified rhythms will become stale, and you will yearn for some dynamics. Thankfully, an occasional guitar solo will jut out and soar among the clouds for a short burst of relief - before diving back into the palm-muted pit again. At least the final trails of "The Four Horsemen" are suitably melodic, bookending the album on a high. The quiet narrations are also a welcome breath of fresh air between the knuckle-dragging guitar scrapes that surround them.

The production quality here is pretty superb. The rhythm guitars, bass and drums create a meaty, impenetrable wall. Just have a listen to the on-beat pummelling of "Konx Om Pax" - that's a beefy tone if I ever heard one! All the ambient sound effects are beautifully distant - yet omnipresent - adding to that sense of dread which prevails so. Sakis's vocals, when allowed to shine through, are the only disappointment. Despite my earlier praise of the sampled vocal styles, they tend to eclipse the best moments of who is a very talented growler.

Overall, "Rituals" deserves acclaim for challenging what we consider the concept of an 'album' to be. And, in many ways, it's very enjoyable - in an ugly, barbaric way. However, the pounding rhythms will become tiresome over its 50-minute duration. Perhaps these satanic hymns will come alive when played in a concert setting, but I can't help feeling this premise would have worked better as an EP.

Charioteers bearing mullets - 65%

autothrall, February 20th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist

Rituals is on one hand a monument of Rotting Christ's trajectory towards a near-complete saturation of the mythic and mystical in their compositions. It might feel uncanny to label this as 'folk', but a lot of the charging, galloping charioteer rhythms so pervasive in their last 10-15 years of work are out in full force, to the extent that they, along with the multiple layers of chorus vocals shouted with maximum amplitude and testosterone, have become the primary component in the Greeks' music. It's not out of the question to consider what the band has become the aural, metallic equivalent to the Trojan War, only somewhat less long-winded and intricate in its details and designs. Lyrically, this is an album dealing with the dark occult, and that has little to no bearing on the particular imagery it conjured in my skull, but about 50% of the percussive, blitzing, tribal music here feels fit for a duel between Ajax, Paris, Achilles, and Hector in any combination you can dream up. 'Come, friend, you too must die. Why moan about it so?'

On the other hand, it's just another slight case of returns diminishing, a half or full rung down the ladder of quality which its Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού began to descend. Glorious, but empty. If I can say one thing that is truly in Rituals' favor, it is the production level. Massive, polished, precise, the low degree of intricacy and complexity here translates into a good fit for the bombastic volume of the somber and rasped vocals, the snares, kicks, overall momentum. Rituals 'sounds' so good that I am almost driven to grant clemency to the fact that there's just not that much here by way of those infectious, 'classic' Rotting Christ guitars that I've been smitten with for over 20 years. When and where they do appear, they instantly shine, like the gleam of a Hoplite's sword after a morning of carnage in the sun. But too much of the writing here focuses on a predictable slog of chords and syncopated rhythms that are meant more as an added layer of percussion than having any melodic capacity. It's as if the band is using two or three drummers, only they had one kit so made the others bang on other instruments, and everything serves as a vehicle for the vocal arrangements; which are acceptable, and bridge the band's obsession between extremity and antiquity, but not enough to inter this album deep within the memory fields.

It wouldn't be a stretch to compare Rituals to a record like Chaos A.D., another example in which a band simplified its approach in lieu of adopting native cultural aesthetics to some of its metal core, only that one really stuck with me (and I know it did not for a great many listeners). Rituals is instead about as exciting as its cover art, another example of the band shunning its great logo for something plain and uninspired, much like its predecessor. I understand this is all to 'let the music speak for itself', but apart from the cultural feel and immersive mix of this album, it didn't end up resonating with me or making much of any statement. A few good licks exist here or there, and in truth a lot of the tunes are well enough structured, but would have been better served with a few extra riffs that deviated into more memorable and unexpected patterns alongside the warlike veneer of the drums and vocals. Like the figure on the cover, it feels like there was initially some life or inspiration here which succumbed to the petrifying gaze of a gorgon. There's a surface pulse, but it could have gone so much further if it had felt fully alive, capable of bleeding. Not an awful effort at all, especially if you're in the business of sacking cities for a member of the fairer sex, but once again I found myself pining away for the elegance of A Dead Poem, Triarchy, or at least some of their more eager experimentation in the earlier 00s.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Empowering, Tribal... But Repetitive - 72%

PassiveMetalhead, February 13th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist

Greece is vastly known for its mythology and epic legends. One such tale is that of Rotting Christ, an Emissary of the Underground Territories. With the limbs of man and the lungs of a lion, its chief weapon was the grandiose anthems that echoed around the lands, these hymns had infectious grooves and enrapturing choruses that sent even the strongest mortals insane. The tale of Rotting Christ spans across nearly 30 years- constantly in pursuit of newer genre boundaries yet ever preserving a back metal heritage within their epic sirens. The latest tale of Rotting Christ is “Rituals”: the dark journey of our hero’s ascendancy to mainstream acclaim.

As per the title, Rotting Christ’s 12th album heavily relies on a ritualistic tone that eclipses every song on the album. However rituals and hymns are a repetitive process; and this album matches that statement. It’s true that each song on “Rituals” formulates around a grandiose and adventurous experience though every song is the same journey which ultimately lessens the overall quality of this ceremonious sound- similar to the feeling of seeing the same painting or sculpture over and over. Luckily, any lack of musical majesty in this album is supported by strong lyrical influence. ‘Tou Thanatou’ features passages from Greek composer N. Xylouris, ‘For A Voice Like Thunder’ includes a William Blake prologue from “King Edward IV” and ‘Ze Nigmar’ is composed in Aramaic-the language of Jesus Christ. If there is one thing “Rituals” particularly excels in, it’s establishing a historical and ancestral value to Rotting Christ’s music.

In some cases the fervour of this elating atmosphere does reach emotionally climaxing levels like on ‘Tou Thanatou’, which sounds like a darker and speedier Wardruna song from start to finish. Sakis Tolis exposes himself as a gargantuan presence towards the end of ‘Apage Satana’ however due to his repetitive lyrics and rhythms of the song his greatness never touches the heavens that were oh so prominent on previous albums like “Theogonia” and “Kata Ton Daimona Eautou”.

The talent of the Tolis brothers, Sakis and Themis, in Rotting Christ remains as masterful as ever. The chimerical ‘Elthe Kyrie’ fires along at a furious pace as tirades of whirling solos and exasperating female vocals scream out to proclaim “the coming of a new God”. ‘Konx Om Pax’ is a darker track that hearkens back to the band’s gothic charisma where drums smash like spears on shields before battle but the slower pace only increases the daemonic sense that is evoked. Another head to the hydra is spawned as Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) brings forth his commanding voice on ‘For A Voice Like Thunder’ where his and Sakis’ menacing psalms give way to some fantastic guitar leads.

Perhaps it’s because Rotting Christ have had such a renowned likelihood of continuously delivering stellar albums that people might feel more disappointed than they actually should with the direction “Rituals” treads. Though not wholly enrapturing, this album is still a strong addition to Rotting Christ’s career; certainly the most tribal sounding.