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Pagan Greek Metal - 89%

newengland7, January 11th, 2020

It's been a while since I listened to this album as I frankly do not listen to black metal as much as I used to any more. But I sure do have a nostalgia for the riffs on this album that I remember hearing so prevalently and still hear them in my head on many occasions. Sure, the Norwegian black metal scene might sound "trve kvlt" but the melodic black metal style that Rotting Christ (RC) employs on this album is dark, atmospheric, frightening, and has a strong folk influence.

RC does the metal community, and the world, a service by introducing us, via their music, to the world of the Ancient Near East. I have a university backing in Biblical Hebrew and so Ancient Near East culture is something I am rather fond of. The Ancient Near East includes many of the Babylonian and Syrian mythologies such as the Enuma Elish, a prominent creation mythology in the Ancient Near East tradition about how the Babylonian deities created the world from a violent sacrifice. The creepy feminine vocals that occur toward the climax of the song used to freak me out when I woke up having accidentally left this album running on repeat the previous night.

But what really impressed me were the riffs. It was really through this album that I came to love the tremolo picking style in melodic black metal. "Helios Hyperion" and "He, The Aethyr" were two of my favorite examples of this kind of tremolo picking. But RC doesn't just stop at tremolo picking, they show they can power-chord riff as well in songs such as "Nemecic", "Gaia Tellus", and "Phobos' Synagogue". I can still hear their dreary riffs in my head.

And then they add frosting to this musical cake with a strong element of Greek and Middle Eastern folk music. Here, it is specifically Greek folk music that they implement into this. High-pitched distortions of the guitars make it sound as if a lyre is being played at times. Tolis utilizes a chanting style on various occasions to give a more religious, pagan temple feel to the album. Lyrically, the themes are centered around pagan mythology, specifically, for this album, creation myths. It's only fair seeing as the Theogonia was one of the major creation works of the ancient Greek world.

Despite the chanting styles being beastly and devout in their paganism, the rest of the vocals come out a bit dry. Sakis Tolis's harsh, guttural vocals, sound a bit more vomited than demonic as is typically experienced in black metal. Honestly, I have tried to do mock black metal shrieks myself and am aware of how hard they are to accomplish, but Tolis makes it seem like child's play--in a god-awful way. He sounds as if he swallowed a cat whole and the dying cat is hissing its last breaths as it is slowly being digested and then vomited upward through the vocal chords. To say the vocals could be better is an understatement.

The drums tend to vary toward providing a rhythmic supplement such as in "Gaia Tellus", "Helios Hyperion", and "Nemecic", to going full-fledged onward to a pounding blast-beat style in songs such as "The Sign of Prime Creation" and "Kerevnos Kivernitos". In fact, if not for Themis's drumming to drown out his brother's harsh vocals, this album would probably be even worse. I guess Sakis owes one here to Themis.

All in all, RC has produced a rather instrumentally gifted album here that is memorable from my own black metal playlist. The folkish religious chanting elements combined with the tremolo picking and heavy-tempo rhythmic and blast-beat drumming provides an interesting spice to the melodic black scene. It would be good to have more bands following this template but RC seems to have found themselves as a stand-alone in this underground scene.