posted on 2/2007 By:
Though I’ve never really considered them at the ‘forefront’ of the black metal scene (if such a thing even exists), Rotting Christ has certainly been one of the genre’s most stalwart practitioners over the years. With eighteen years of experience and nine full lengths under their belts, these Greek lifers have maintained a constant degree of quality throughout their careers that’s above average but never quite spectacular. Theogonia is no exception; this album’s competent foray into melodic black metal is a slight improvement on Sanctus Diavolos but falls short of excellence.
If you’re already familiar with Rotting Christ’s brand of mystical, keyboard-enhanced black metal then you’re not in for many surprises here. The band get right down to business with opener “The Sign of Prime Creation” and follow-up “Keravnos Kivernitos;” both songs race by in a torrent of half-thrash-half-blast speed drumming and rending tremolo melodies, and Sakis Tolis’s vocal attack hearkens back to the band’s early days. The punchy aggression of the openers is revisited on “Rege Diabolics,” which if anything is too short at a scant 2:52. The band has also maintained the slight experimental edge they began to develop on Sanctus Diavolos quite nicely; “Enuma Elish” features some eerily dissonant keyboard flourishes, while war chants and some very ethnic Greek melodies dominate “Nemecic.” The dramatic, choir-dominated choruses still put in plenty of appearances, particularly amidst the choppy semi-melodeath of “Gala Tellus.” The death metal influence shows up again on “Phobo’s Synagogue,” whose weighty chorus, understated keys and emotive solo make it one of Theogonia’s strongest tracks. Sakis Tolis produced this one entirely on his own; the slightly polished guitar tone and even mix brings out the epic scope of songs like closer “Threnody.”
So this is probably Rotting Christ’s best release since Triarchy of Lost Lovers…and yet I’m still not that excited about it. This is why I’ve never really considered this band to be a genre leader; despite their time-tested ability to do pretty well for themselves, they never achieve the jaw-dropping degree of viciousness or the over-the-top questing epicness that I associate with the best black metal. Theogonia will go over damn well with those who are into slightly symphonic, slightly off-the-beaten-path black metal, but I’m convinced that a band who’ve held together for this long have at least one great album in them. Sadly, this ain’t it.
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