19th February 2016 – Season of Mist
01. In Nomine Dei Nostri
02. Ze Nigmar
03. Elthe Kyrie
04. Apage Satana
05. Les Litanies De Satan (Fleurs de mal)
06. For A Voice Like Thunder
07. Komx Om Pax
09. Tou Thanatou
10. The Four Horsemen
Greece’s own Rotting Christ have been on the scene for almost thirty years now and their back catalogue is the envy of every extreme metal act to come out of the region. Their thirteenth release Rituals showcases why they have remained so influential as they draw on their past body of work. Still present are the Benedictine chanting, the Latin scripture-style invocation that is one of their trademarks, the precise tremolo picked guitar attacks and the synchronised drum blasts, but adjoined to them is a real sense of patience and discipline. This is no doubt aided by being the second album in succession with the current lineup; at the helm are founding members and brothers Sakis Tolis (rhythm guitar, vocals and keyboard) and Themis Tolis (drums) along with newer members George Emmanuel (lead guitar) and Vagelis Karzis (bass).
The Athens-based group have come a long way since their early days where they were primarily a grindcore and black metal-influenced band; a time where they carved out a name for themselves supporting Immortal on the now infamous “Fuck Christ Tour”, noted for fans’ carving their arms and being carted to hospital. That period even saw them nearly signed by Mayhem’s own Euronymous before his untimely death put an end to that idea. Early controversy aside, what has made them such an important influence in their own respect over the decades has been their comfortable transition through such diverse genres such as black metal and symphonic and gothic metal.
Themis and Karzis provide a perfectly matched rhythm section. Combining thunderous rumbling bass with restrained accurate drumming they provide an undertone of brooding melancholy for the album. On certain tracks such as “Apage Satana” their overall contribution is minimal which only serves to enhance the impact when they kick back into action, as displayed to stunning effect on “Tou Thanatou”. The combination of huge menacing drums with the trademark chanting is used throughout the album; on opener “In Nomine Dei Nostri” it provides space and variation as well as a breather from some of the more intense black metal segments.
Sakis has the greatest amount of influence on the album; his is the deep brooding voice that leads us through the funeral procession of Rituals. His distinctive baritone reverb during the chants wouldn’t feel out of place on Songs of Praise and the authenticity with which he delivers his lines in multiple languages (Latin included) is a fantastic attribute to possess. He also combines superbly with Emmanuel on lead guitar; on standout track “Tou Thanatou” we are treated to the pinnacle of the band’s song writing prowess. The track contains underlying traditional Greek instruments, ominous yet groovy riifs and Emmanuel showing exactly how guitar solos should be done, saving himself for the penultimate album track to unleash the full force of his virtuoso playing. Typical of the album, it shows the strength of everything in moderation.
The power of Rituals, even compared with some of the band’s existing influential records – in particular Khronos – is an achievement in itself, but to still be able to adapt and evolve like this after nearly thirty years shows exactly why Rotting Christ have survived so long. Rotting Christ have mastered their own sound and by this point of their careers know exactly how to deliver an enduring album that teases the listener, draws them in and eventually delivers a winding story in multiple languages punctuated by intense aural blasts. Rituals could be Rotting Christ’s lucky number thirteen.