Rotting Christ – The Heretics Review

The mind is a universe, it can make a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven. Blasphemy refined on Rotting Christ’s latest effort.

It’s been a busy period for Rotting Christ in the last few years what with the band celebrating their 30-year anniversary recently with the release of not only Non-Serviam: The Story of Rotting Christ, but also with compilation album Their Greatest Spells to reinvigorate interest in the band. That said, The Heretics is a strong if safe follow up to Rituals which delivers on their core tenants masterfully whilst not bringing much new to the table.

Right from the off-set Rotting Christ deliver their signature pulse-pounding, primal palm muted chug-a-long riffing style in the same vein as what was found on Theogonia and Aealo, as In The Name of God ushers us in the way it means to continue. The spoken word pieces which open the record and permeate the album overall do an outstanding job of cementing in the band’s firm anti-religious stance, albeit in a very on the nose and non-subtle fashion.

‘Since man cannot live without miracles, he will provide himself with a miracle of his own making’ and ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities’ are among the sharpest lines delivered masterfully in this spoken word style and moments like this I believe are the most unique and striking things about The Heretics to me. The album displays a maturity and developed literary sense which shows off how intelligent and well read Sakis is and these themes are carried well from start to finish.

The album is laden with callbacks to previous efforts from the band all around. ‘Vetry Zlye’ sounds as though it could be right at home on the tracklist of Aealo and is a welcome reminder of the one of their strongest records ever recorded. In the same vein, ‘I Believe’ has flavours reminiscent of their 2002 record Genesis with a track blisteringly aggressive sharing riffs in league with songs such as Demons and Nightmare. I could go on.

The lead playing in the guitar work on offer is among the best that the band has ever offered. The solo on Fire, God and Fear is one of the greatest to ever grace a Rotting Christ album, and the soaring emotion that rides throughout their beautifully told rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is stunning in every sense of the word. What we have here is a masterfully crafted and ambitious thematic release which largely delivers on its lofty promise.

Despite having a strong literary focus and delving deep into the philosophy from the likes of Dostoyevsky, Neitzsche, John Milton and Thomas Paine among others, it’s a shame that the same level of depth could not be applied to the lyrical content of the album. This is where the weakest link of an album of such promise begins to slow. For too much of the release, the same repeated lyrics about fire, death, heaven and hell are present in almost ever track and whilst serviceable and appropriate now and again, I believe their overuse and over reliance boil down complex themes into something too simple for what they are trying to express.

Lyrics aren’t the most important part of a metal album to me so it is not a big problem but it seems like a glaring fault in what would otherwise be a very thought provoking record. It’s intelligent for sure, broadcasting a strong not too subtle message but it could have been elevated further with lyrics that really stuck with you.

Themis behind the kit is masterful as always and his primal no-thrills drumming style is once again embraced with open arms. He isn’t the most technical drummer on the planet but nor does he have to be as the slower double kick beats and marching rhythms that charge along pounding against the guitars does the job beautifully. At the very least you will slowly be headbanging to songs such as Hallowed Be Thy Name as it rolls along at a gentle pace, and at The Heretics most aggressive, giving yourself whiplash with the build-up and chorus to I Believe.

There is not much new on display to report here but it feels like a refinement of everything Rotting Christ has been for the last decade or so. If you are familiar with the band’s work post-2007 with Theogonia onwards, you will be right at home here for better or for worse. Rotting Christ have carved out an entire new sound for themselves and are very happy continuing to refine, iterate and build upon what would come to define them in the modern age. It’s a truly great release which stands among their best of the recent material and well worth your time. It won’t change your world but it offers some great moments which should not be missed under any circumstances. Non-serviam!

Rotting christ

Abandoned By Light – Our Fortress is the Rain – The Angel Experiment Part II Album Review

Conquering the frozen plains of inner turmoil. 

Shortly after completing his conceptional trilogy of albums (Melancholia-And Here I Stand), Karhmul was left in somewhat of an identity crisis with where to go with his project, however this extended time between releases shows an invigorated and rejuvenated approach. As a result, providing us with his next masterwork.

Our Fortress is a direct sequel to the third ABL album The Angel Experiment and lyrically continues the story told in that release, all with the benefit of time and hindsight on Karhmul’s behalf. The playing on this album is the tightest, most melodic and atmospheric that it has ever been. Angel Experiment originally released back in February 2016 and Fortress goes to show the massive jump in not only scope and ambition but also in skill, variety and realisation.

Whilst this album is not as openly ambitious as the previous release, largely lacking the mixture of ambient pieces laden into the mix and choosing more so to focus solely on aggressive riffing, I believe that this change is all for the better. What we get on Fortress as a result are long, moody and darkly melodic tremolo riffs that Karhmul’s vicious voice violently cuts through.

Without a doubt this is not only the best that Karhmul has sounded when performing his recognisable pained shrieks and growls, but also in terms of player confidence when helming his guitar. The riffs are all given freedom to breathe and trance the listener whilst drenching and drowning them in swelling frozen atmosphere and this effect is achieved better here than ever heard before with Abandoned by Light.

The main addition to this album which separates it from the others in the extensive back catalogue would be Karhmul’s implementation of doom metal riffs. This is an album which is not afraid to slow down at times and have moments where the drums slowly but heavily pound away as long, extended chords resonate and creep into dissonance. Karhmul shows off a heavier death growl to match. These moments stand out as some of the most memorable on the release in my opinion and particular highlights demonstrating this heavier approach can be found in songs such as Reborn in Dying Flames, as well as a rendition of the funeral march as heard in the track, He Who Would Swallow God.

In taking time to figure out where to go with the project and employing a streamlined and refined approach, Karhmul has delivered his strongest album to date. The twisted and psychological horror of the story is accurately and expertly equally expressed throughout the phenomenal guitar riffs, haunting vocals and punishing drums which all culminates together to create and deliver perhaps the most vicious ABL experience as heard so far.

With sharp and fierce production, beautifully dark and melodic guitar riffs, an engaging story and a strong conviction, Abandoned by Light proves once again that it can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of Scandinavia’s greats and ultimately shows that even after seven albums, that the project will continue to reach new heights as Karhmul’s potential grows evermore. This is something truly special.

Abandoned by Light – And Here I Stand Betwixt Light and Dark Review

Karhmul of Abandoned by Light concludes his trilogy of albums (starting with the atmosphere dark ambient album As Witness to Passing Aeons, and then followed up with the raw Melancholia).

And Here I Stand Betwixt Light and Dark is the most polished, focused and sinister of the Abandoned by Light catalogue and expertly showcases many of Karhmul’s unique strengths; long songs with ear worm riffs that never outstay their welcome, masterfully accompanied by his piercing, sharp vocal delivery.

The goal of Betwixt was to combine the atmospheric efforts of Aeons with the rawness of Melancholia and this has resulted in an expert blend of the two distinctive sides to his style. It is particularly commendable when focusing on the instrumental opener ‘Caressed by the Dying Embers’ and how it’s beautifully stark and depressing ambience sets up the brutally aggressive Trepidation that immediately follows.

There is a lot more that is concise and focused on this album, it truly appears that Karhmul has really begun to master and craft that ‘Melancholic’ black metal sound that has since become a stronger staple of the project since prior albums from the year prior.

There are many highlights in an album like this that is quite lengthy; the title track itself continues to rage through at a blistering pace one minute with blast beats blaring over screaming guitar riffs, only find its groove at different speeds too. There’s a real sense of progression, weight and atmosphere to all of the songs on the album, and despite their run time, none ever outstay their welcome. Two examples of which include;

The single from the album, Journey Through the Everlasting Kingdom of Bone especially highlights these elements as the song chaotically weaves in and out; flickering between old school black metal brutality, to slower crushing riffs and dancing between long, emotional and atmospheric ambient pieces. Truly is something to marvel at.

Summoning Annihilation from Inferno’s Maw is essentially the opposite; and demonstrates the diversity of tone, stylistic choice and levels of aggression on display. The song revels in atmospheric, drenched in layered tremolo picked riffs; leaning a lot more on the rawness of the prior album and all the better for it in contrast.

The two cover songs I believe will be polarising depending on the kind of black metal people enjoy. Myrkur and Ghost Bath are very controversial figures in the genre at the moment and I commend the guts and bravery of Karhmul for wholeheartedly embracing two songs he loves and crafting his own spin on them. The Golden Number cover was especially moving; with Karhmul’s take on Nameless’ shoe-gaze style wailing being adapted in a powerful and haunting way.

Personally I didn’t really care much for the Myrkur cover as I am not a fan of the source material but I can definitely appreciate the level of depth and care that went into it. I hope that others listening can get a lot more of it than I did.

Production wise; this is Karhmul’s best yet. The drum work throughout is ever present and never drowns out the guitar work on display. The vocal range is impressive in itself, as is the way in which such emotion is bled from the listener on every word. Tonally strong lyrically and instrumentally from the first chord played, to the last that closes out the release.

In summary; Karhmul etches in stone another powerful, haunting and atmospheric release that rounds out a promising trilogy in a way that will leave very few people disappointed. It was a bold move and a hell of a risk and undertaking, but having the proof in front of me like this, there are few words as fitting for this dark, twisted masterpiece of an album.