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Awkward transition - 60%

flightoficarus86, January 14th, 2015

I’ll admit to being a latecomer to Rotting Christ. I am a bit more familiar with their death metal countrymen, Septicflesh. However, this review is not in isolation. I have heard all of their albums from the early days up to now, just not with as much vigor. I chose to review this album in particular because I was surprised to see how it ranked amongst the others. While many both here and elsewhere seem to think this album is one of their best, I have to disagree.

I’ll begin with the overall sound. I really loved the previous release, Sanctus Diavolos. From the gothic atmosphere to the memorable-yet-simple riffs, it was a well-crafted album. Obviously, my aforementioned appreciation of SF likely has something to do with this opinion given their contributions to the choir arrangements and artwork. Theogonia is a major leap away from this style. The more classical approach has been replaced with traditional rock structures and production. Volume levels sound greatly boosted, akin to what I would expect from bands like Nickelback rather than Rotting Christ. To clarify, I am not at all saying the music is comparable to those Canadian turds. I am simply saying that they could have been made in the same studio.

Moving to the instrumentation, it’s a mixed bag. There are moments that I really love, particularly in the last few tracks where we get some up-tempo melodic death riffs and totally ripping rock solos. I was almost ready to write this album off as a complete failure until I stuck around for these moments. On the other hand, there are a lot of riffs that I absolutely hate. I mentioned loving a lot of the simple riffs on the previous album, but that is because the melodies were pleasant, fitting, and memorable. Here the more basic riffs can be outright grating. The worst offender is on track four where these oscillating power chords made me want to tear my ears from my skull. Neither the drums nor bass stood out much for me to provide comment.

However, there was another saving grace for this album, which was the inclusion of various folk and eastern-sounding instruments and ideas. Whereas the atmosphere of previous albums has been more akin to groups like Septicflesh, Dimmu Borgir, and Behemoth; Theogonia starts to reach closer to Ensiferum, Heidevolk, and Amon Amarth. Everything is much more warlike and a sense of immediacy permeates.

On a final note, the vocals on this album are quite strong. While some of the early tracks make this less identifiable due to the instrumentation problems I mentioned before, the performances on the last few tracks are some of the darkest, fiercest vocals I have heard from RC to date.

In sum, this comes out as a fairly average album. I find the first half or more to be inconsistent, dull, and even annoying, while the final third or so is excellent. For those looking for a more gothic feel, I would recommend Sanctus Diavolus or Dead Poem. For others who liked the sounds at play here, I feel Aealo takes them a step further and improves the overall song construction.