Review: Rotting Christ – The Heretics
National Music Reviews
Season of Mist
Rotting Christ = Septic Flesh + Varathron + Moonspell
The (arguably) most popular Greek metal band, Rotting Christ, has hammered another rusty nail in the crucifix of Christianity. This time around, on their 13th full-length they are hammering a nail in wood softened by the band’s predecessors. The Heretics is quickly becoming 2016’s release, Rituals “lite” on the scale of its rhythms, riffs, melodies and lyrical works. The artists’ style of these riffs that go in tandem with the drumming dispersed by different melodic works has always, in some way, been a staple for Rotting Christ. Throughout their three albums, they have been perfecting this sound with modern production, making that riff-drum combo sound thick and heavy. The problem is that it can’t always carry an album—it has to be just as strong as everything else that is encompassed on the record, be it melodic structures or straight riffs. It’s essentially the same as a death metal band overusing a drum machine or a black metal band tremolo picking every damn riff. The best thing Rotting Christ have going for them, now, is they are essentially un-definable—a bit gothic, black and death metal. Even then, it still doesn’t sound like any seriously defined genre.
I called The Heretics “Rituals lite” because while they’re still playing that similar riff-drum combo that pounds into your skull, the melodic work the themes are vastly different. While Rituals is like witnessing some dark, mind-altering ritualistic event, The Heretics is like you’re going to church. Rituals had these dense, often times more chanted lyrical passages with multiple sung languages that helped make that riff-drum combo work better for the album. Where The Heretics more or less does the same thing the lyrics are in English, Greek, Latin and What’s most notable is the change in theme, which is far from Rituals‘ dark and chaotic multi-layers. Ultimately, The Heretics‘ literary themes that challenge and attack Christian theology change the overall tone of the album.
The Heretics is chock full of spoken quotes from Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Voltaire, Thomas Paine and John Milton. There is a song based around Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite tracks, mostly because it deviates from the typical formula. The first three tracks are unfortunately similar—while there is an appeal to have heavy metal crushing on with church-monk like singing, “Heaven Hell and Fire” and “In the name of God” are essentially interchangeable songs. While the approach and sound does have a lighter, more melodic feel – that does fit the theme of the album. The lyrics are more “Fire/Death ordered from God,” rather than “Hail Satan!” If you do give this a listen, don’t listen to “I Believe”—it’s just one sustained riff with some sing/talking. It sounds like a CD skipping. “Fire God and Fear” is one of my favorite tracks, and it has a great quote from Voltaire to start and is closer black metal song structure-wise and has a killer guitar solo—something a bit similar to the 2013 album Kata Ton Aaimona Eaytoy. Essentially, it breaks the mold that’s been set, so it’s a song that stands out, at least for me. When all is said and done, I am hesitant to say that The Heretics is a bad album, by any means. It’s one of those different strokes for different folks. Instead of comparing apple to oranges – it’s comparing a severed goat head to a severed pigs head. –Bryer Wharton