For fans of melody, nothing is more pleasing than watching the evolution of a once grindcore band into one of the finest symphonic black metal acts in the world. In similar fashion, watching bands like SepticFlesh and Samael break out of their embryonic sacs and youthful devotion to more extreme and less melodic elements has been pure joy. Unlike many of the "no album is better than the first" crowd, your author believes in the power of evolution. In the case of Rotting Christ, the band has never been better than they are with every new release, making "The Heretics" one of the albums to beat in 2019. Judging the album in terms of the band's past and subsequent evolution - it is perfect.
Having a relatively light passing interest in the Greek gods, it wasn't until 2004's "Sanctus Diavolos" that any focus was made on Rotting Christ. I won't lie...the name was always a turn off, but not for "religious reasons" (I can care less) because even overtly Christian band names prove just as silly. Unfortunately, convincing new fans that Rotting Christ is truly one of the most exciting and gifted acts in the world has been challenging given similar hang ups. However, those fans who know the band and what comes with every album will and should expect greatness...and "The Heretics" is just that.
If you have shied away from the band for one reason or another, especially the evolution from "Rituals" to the instant release, imagine if Borknagar, Behemoth and Samael gave birth to a bastard child. With all the atmosphere of modern Borknager, strength and riffs of Behemoth and a tinge of Samael, the epic riffs and sweeping orchestration of Rotting Christ is both haunting and beautiful. On "The Heretics," the orchestration is a bit more airy and less demonstrative and over the top as that of, lets say, SepticFlesh, setting them apart from their countrymates. The material that the Tolis brothers have been producing, especially in the last couple of albums is that of pure genius, with the culmination of that talent is here on "The Heretics."
One of the most striking features of the band, going back even before "Sanctus Diavolos," is the staunch reliance of guitar solos. For black metal acts, the solo is a dying or dead act - a frivolous act reserved for sanctimonious aging guitar heroes who play "Dad metal" (not my term...but stolen from some much younger friends). Rotting Christ not only embraces this art...but at times wraps a huge blanket of solos around the album, which vocalist/guitarist Sakis Tolis wears with immense pride. It makes Rotting Christ much more rock 'n' roll than any of its peers. It is such a distinct feature that the solos alone can harness enough power to lure in even the most avid "cookie monster" hater fans. Just check out the pure beauty of the melody in songs like "Heaven and Hell and Fire" and "The Raven."
For those seeking pure power..."The Heretics" bathes in it - check out the pounding riff in "The Time Has Come" or the blackened pounding haze of "Dies Irae"! Rotting Christ is uncompromising in its ability to lure the listener with melody and powerful choirs before pulverizing and haunting the unsuspected in an almost whispering barrage of riffs (check out "In The Name of God"). "The Heretics" is a breathtaking piece of art not heard since Borknagar's perfect album "Winter Thrice."
Fans of Rotting Christ will find a continuation of the band's modern rise to the top of the symphonic black metal world. "The Heretics" finds the band moving forward in both evolving the sound and gaining an expanding audience, especially those who appreciate more melody, more orchestration and exhilarating guitar work. If you are a fan that has not jumped aboard...there is no better time than now. Rotting Christ is at its peak and "The Heretics" is one of the strongest offerings in 2019.
Label: Season of Mist Records (buy the album here)
1.In the Name of God
2.Vetry zlye (Ветры злые)
3.Heaven and Hell and Fire
4.Hallowed Be Thy Name
6.I Believe (Πιστεύω)
7.Fire, God and Fear
8.The Voice of the Universe
9.The New Messiah