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!