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put the metal back in black metal - 95%

Abominatrix, November 2nd, 2003

It's totally unbelievable to me that noone has bothered to review the "good" Rotting Christ albums yet. I haven't heard the last two, but I don't imagine they're really that much of a return to the band's roots as they claim. anyway, this album, from 1993, is the undisputable pinnacle of Rotting Christ's achievments. They took the Greek black metal sound, pioneered by Varathron, and let it grow to its full potential on this one. For those unfamiliar with RC's riffing style, it consists of a lot of staccato rhythmic yet melodic riffing, played by two guitars that often harmonize the riff. The result is something that sounds simultaneously rather heavy metal influenced but completely unique. The band uses keyboards to spice up most of these songs, but they're their strictly for accentuation and atmosphere...used perfectly I might add; sparing and not overbearing in the slightest, for this is a metal album first and foremost.

The first track, "The Sign of Evil Existence", I view more as an intro than anything else. It's really an actual song, but its' very short and doesn't really contain any truly great riffs, although it does introduce the listener to Rotting Christ's unique approach to riffing. "Transform All Suffering into Plagues" is next, and it is mostly a slower track, featuring some superb melodic riffing and a superb faster section near the end. "Pnemth, Thy Gift" might be my favourite song on the album; and if these riffs don't force you into manic headbanging and fist pumping there must be something wrong with you. For some reason I was actually reminded of Metallica's "Kill Em All" when I first heard this song...maybe because the main riff has a vague resemblence to "Seek and Destroy"?

All these songs, in fact, are total juggernauts. Most of the music is midpaced, but a few faster tracks make the whole affair slightly more intense..."Coronation of the Serpent" being a definite highlight. The lyrics are bizarre; strange and I guess metaphorical occult ramblings that I can't make any sort of sense of, but it adds to the mysterious aura of the band. I always thought that Greek black metal had a sort of mystical feeling to it that bands from other locales seem to lack. Vocals are good, deep and throaty, slightly strained sounding as though they're pretty painful on the throat, with the occasional high pitched shriek provided, I would guess, by Magus Wampyr Daoloth of Necromantia fame, who is playing the synth on this album. I have to take a few points off here for the use of a drum machine. I really hate drum machines, and the mechanical nature of the percussion here is pretty obvious during the faster sections. I've heard worse though, and it's not bad enough to detract much from the brilliance of the album; I just think it's unfortunate the band couldn't find a real drummer to record this with, as the thought of this being even more destructive and great than it already is boggles the mind.