Season Of Mist
15 February 2010
by Tom Dare
Greek titans Rotting Christ – who’s name still remains the envy of every blasphemous band that wishes they’d thought of it first – had something to live up to with this, their tenth album. Their previous outing, Theogonia in 2007, was one of those albums – an astonishing record that is utterly brilliant from start to finish. The expectations were extraordinarily high. Perhaps inevitably, they’ve not quite managed to match them.
Rotting Christ’s early releases were gritty black metal affairs. They have been moving in steadily more melodic directions for over a decade, and Aealo continues this trend. Theogonia still had aspects you could point at and identify as black metal, but this album has even more melody and only a few, brief passages that the Scandinavian pioneers of the Nineties would recognise. The pace is generally slower too, the rapid march tempos mixing with the nature of the music to produce a very different kind of heaviness to what you might expect. The band have all the melodic riffs and hooks of any of the Gothenburg greats, yet have a far more bleak and primal feel that produces a sound that is really all Rotting Christ’s own.
The opening title track begins with an eerie female chorus – one which features on many of Aealo’s songs – before giving in to one of the few identifiable black metal passages on the album. This then resolves into the record’s marching tempo, based around a truly epic-sounding melodic riff that sets the tone for most of the best passages of Aealo. It is at this point that one of this album’s most astonishing features becomes apparent.
In short, the drumming is absolutely thunderous. Drummer Themis Tolis combines the almost tribal brutality of Igor Cavalera on Roots with the precision and technicality of Mario Duplantier of Gojira, adds in Gene Hoglan’s ability to sound like he has seven limbs and does it all with such force that you wonder if he competes in the Olympics as a power lifter. The drumming is phenomenal throughout, and an integral part of the songs – in the same way Raymond Herrera’s drumming was essential to Demanufacture.
Watch a ‘Making-Of’ video from Rotting Christ about Aealo
The title track does, however, highlight why it does not quite live up to Theogonia. Where that record had phenomenal riff after phenomenal riff and had songs that contained multiple ideas, Aealo is far more simplistic. Songs are based around a few guitar ideas and the (genuinely haunting) female chorus’ singing, but there is no real progression of ideas. While the songs are not generally long enough for any of the ideas to become tired, it does somewhat limit the number of listens in a short space of time for which it remains interesting.
What stops this becoming a genuine disappointment is the sheer quality of what ideas are here. Fierily melodies join with the vocal and percussive brutality to conjure up images of hoplites marching off to war in ages past, and of their blood watering the Crocus Field. The riffs are frequently gargantuan and, with the deafening drumming underneath, ensure that “melodic” does not mean the intensity is slackened for so much as a second. The album is consistently strong throughout, and while the individual songs do not have as many ideas as those on the previous record, they have not run out of ideas by the end.
The last song itself is genuinely odd – it’s a cover of a song by American-born Greek avant-garde composer Diamanda Galas, and her voice is the one on this recording. It is this song that reassures you that, for all their stylistic changes, Rotting Christ still know how to be as unsettling and disturbing as their name would suggest.
Watch the second part of Rotting Christ’s “Making Of” video for Aealo
Aealo is a strong album that, were it not released by a band who are capable of and have delivered greatness for nearly two decades solid, would be garnering praise from all corners. Most metal bands would give their larger bollock to deliver an album this good. Because Rotting Christ released such a staggering record last time out, being a touch disappointed is forgivable, but missing out on Aealo would be a mistake.
If you are new to Rotting Christ, start here and work back; you will find the experience well worth it. Oh, and get over the name – this band are too good to miss out on.
Sounds like: Keep Of Kalessin, In Flames, Sepultura
Top tracks: Eon Aenaos, Noctis Era, dub-sag-ta-ke
Rotting Christ- Aealo tracklisting:
Fire, Death and Fear
Thou Art Lord
Orders From The Dead (Diamanda Galas cover)