Rotting Christ — The Heretics
Aside from the fact they are a tenured act, originally formed in 1987 as Greece's first black metal band, Rotting Christ have been one of those bands whose name has always been bandied about but I've never given their them due. Always a band I was aware of, but never one I listened to — and nor were they ever mentioned by anyone I discussed music with. The release of their 13th album, The Heretics, is where I decided to change all of that, albeit with some prodding from the YouTube recommendation algorithm in one of its brief outbursts of utility. I may have half-assedly listened to a promo copy of Khronos or Genesis when they were new, but I don't think I ever gave them much thought and I definitely never wrote about them.
Immediately, The Heretics makes it clear that, while the band may have formed as a black metal project, they have long-since expanded the number of genres they draw inspiration from. The record's opening song, "In The Name Of God" gets right to the point with its crunchy, chugging riffs and measured drumming. The material that follows features a lot of guest performances — from spoken word poems to more general narration and even a choir — and is nicely varied while still sounding like a coherent, collection of related songs. For the most part, the vocals are somewhere between a black metal wretch and a death metal growl, but there are also some gruff, semi-clean shouts and track 2 features some beautiful clean singing from Irina Zybina that nicely accentuates the song.
The Heretics is a moderately paced record, never veering into high BPM territory, opting instead for a solid foundation of groove. Each track takes a bit of time to build and put down additional layers of instrumentation once the guitars and drums assert themselves. This is done in a very efficient way, avoiding an excessive number of long builds; the album is musically dense and concise at its 45-minute running time. The songwriting is excellent, with a lot of memorable, melodic leads and a phenomenal solo near the end of "Fire, God And Fear." The Heretics isn't overtly showy or technical, rather a very well produced set of tracks that demonstrates the maturity of a project that has been active for over 3 decades.
Like many of their old school peers who are still churning out albums, Rotting Christ sound really good on record while still retaining a good amount of the humanity that precision editing often strips out of modern metal. The audio quality on The Heretics is excellent, combining the primary instrumentation — the guitars and rhythm section — with its accompanying mix of choirs, synths, and spoken word passages without muddying the mix. The song arrangements are very good, and there aren't any moments on the record where a section overstays its welcome. This mixture of classic heavy metal and melodic black / death doesn't break any new ground but that's not a requirement to be a good album. From the opening track, to "The Raven" — which includes narration from Edgar Allen Poe's poem of the same name — The Heretics is heavy and engaging.
An impressive collection of melodic black / death metal, The Heretics is the 13th full-length album from Greece's Rotting Christ. Excellent production and song writing combine in the group's latest offering, another strong addition to a veteran band's discography. Melodic metal fans should find a lot to enjoy here, Rotting Christ may be over 30 years old as a band but they're still serving up fresh material worth the listener's time.
Release date: February 15th, 2019
Record label: Season Of Mist
Sakis Tolis — vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, production
Themis Tolis — drums
Stelios Steele — poem narration (tracks 1, 4, 10)
Alexis Karametis — back vocals (track 6)
Stratis Steele — choir vocals
Alexandros Louziotis — choir vocals
Giannis Stamatakis — choir vocals
Theodoros Aivaliotis — choir vocals
Nikos Velentzas — percussion
Stamatis Ampatalis — percission
Vasilis Koutsoyflakis — percission
Manos Six — percussion
Irina Zybina — additional vocals (track 2)
Dayal Patterson — narration (tracks 3, 7)
Melechesh Ashmedi — vocals (track 8)
- In The Name Of God
- Beтры Злыe
- Heaven And Hell And Fire
- Hallowed By Thy Name
- Dies Irae
- Fire, God And Fear
- The Voice Of The Universe
- The New Messiah
- The Raven
Published: June 19th, 2019.