Rotting Christ’s thirteenth album ‘The Heretics’ heralds an epic masterpiece of choirs (voices from the heavens maybe), heavy guitar riffs and dynamic melodies. All weaved amongst many concepts and visions, creating a deep and dark album.
Singer Sakis says the album is influenced by “quotes, sentences and authors during the years in which they were judged by the church as heretics”, this is evidenced throughout the album, from spoken word to chorus chants.
‘In the name of God’ opens with a quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Brother Kararmazov’ (Which was the final novel the Russian wrote). It exams the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality, which set the foundation for a lot of the questions this album unearths.
“Since man cannot live without miracles, he will provide himself with the miracles of his own making. He will believe in any kind of deity even though he may otherwise be a heretic, an atheist, and a rebel”
The signature guitar chugging and thunderous drums immerse us through the song, as the chorus of “In the name of God, in the name of fire…” carries the melody. Sakis preaches to us over the music as if we were at a sermon, teaching us in his house of atmospheric black metal. With an interlude speech from Mark Twain and Friedrich Nietzsche ending the song, I am left thinking of how relevant the song title is. How many atrocities over the ages have been committed ‘In the Name of God’?
Sakis said that ‘Vetry Zlye (ВЕТРЫ ЗЛЫЕ)’ is “A song that was influenced by paganism and specifically from the Slavic pagan religions through the history of time and exalts the power of mother nature”. The power of the guitars are balanced beautifully with the stunning vocals of Irina Zybina (GRAI). Sung in Russian; her voice carries the tenderness of mother nature (earth, air, fire water), with it a pagan/folk style dynamic is brought to the song. Ending with a meaningful quote from John Muir’s;
“In our eternal touch with the nature, We see communions of life and death, We see their joyous inseparable unity, We learn that life is as beautiful as death”
From the beauty of nature we are greeted with the fires of hell, as we enter the mind of John Milton and ‘Paradise Lost’ (The war for Heaven and man’s expulsion from Eden, from the perspectives of the fallen angel Satan and of how man has fallen from grace).
“The mind is universe and can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”
The guitar is more dominant on ‘The Heretics’, compared to the previous ‘Rituals’. They are used to create a flowing melody, adding to the structure of the song. An orchestral guitar solo erupts mid song, that is just amazing! It really showcases how solid and skilled Rotting Christ are as musicians, with all their years of experience.
With a title like ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ you’d be forgive to instantly thinking of Iron Maiden, however this is nothing like that. As it continues with the flames and fires of Hell, the choir of voices makes it incredibly haunting. They really add depth to the already bleak feelings I got from this song. Ending with a quote from ‘The Winter’s Tale’ (the scene is when King Leontes threatens to have Paulina burned for standing up for Queen Hermione who is on trial for adultery and treason) By William Shakespeare.
“I care not. It is an heretic that makes the fire, not she which burns in’t. I’ll not call you tyrant; but this most cruel usage of your queen, not able to produce more accusation than your own weak-hinged fancy, something savors of tyranny, and will ignoble make you, yea, scandalous to the world”
‘Dies Irae’ (or, ‘Day of Wrath’) is a 13th century Latin Catholic hymn, about the Second Coming of Christ and Judgment Day. It is traditionally sung at the mass of the dead, describing the last judgement. The music and use of a choir again adds a spiritual (church like) quality to the song, with the music building a platform for the voices to rise from.
Spoken in their native Greek tongue ‘I Believe’ (ΠΙΣΤΕΥΩ) lyrics are from the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis‘ novel ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’. As the fast riffs and drums pace the song, they become almost background noise. With the layers of vocals dominating, especially the spoken text. It’s an interesting aspect of the album, but is a bit lost on me.
A more traditional heavy metal/rock vibe is present on ‘Fire God and Fear’, as it has a groove that runs throughout. Opening with a quote from French writer Voltaire;
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities”
The lyrical content is simple but effective, with chants of “Gloria-Patri” (Glory Be to the Father), which is a doxology; a short hymn of praise to God in various Christian liturgies. With another guitar solo worthy of the majesty of this album cast forth, I am left only wishing for more.
‘The Voice of the Universe’ is powerful from the onset, with Ashmedi (MELECHESH) singing in Arabic, Sakis in English and the choir in Latin “Ave Gloria” (Hail Glory). The ponding drums give forth to a harmony of voices, that alternate with Ashmedi and Sakis. With a solid structure and rhythm from the guitar and bass, it is a shame that song has no peak/climax at any point.
As we enter the penultimate track of the album, ‘The New Messiah’, we have journeyed through the war of heaven and hell. Only to be troubled by the concept of the same mistakes being repeated, with false messiahs. The song is strong with a solid backbone of percussion and a melody adorned with guitars. Leading to a line from Matthew 24:11
“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”
‘The Raven’ is definitely the most talked about track before the release of the album I found, as it is an Edgar Allan Poe poem. A tale of the death of a beautiful women called Lenore, the narrator has to face the reality that his love will return “nevermore”. A fact that the narrator does not want to acknowledge. At the poem’s conclusion the Raven has the eyes “of a demon’s” and its shadow hangs over the narrator’s soul. For the poem’s speaker, the Raven has moved beyond mournful, never-ending remembrance to an embodiment of evil.
The concept aside the track is atmospheric and almost gothic in nature, with haunting speeches from Stratis Steele of Endomain. It is a fitting end to the album, with a more traditional metal element. It is still very Rotting Christ in nature, but an evolution in sound and dynamics which I think works very well.
After my journey through some of the great minds of the ages, I am left feeling very fulfilled. The concepts of the album are thought provoking and intellectual, something that is sometimes missed on albums. Musically Rotting Christ have organically progressed their sound, but have lost nothing that is unique to them. That familiar guitar chugging and fast drum beat is forever present with Sakis’ growls, it has just been polished a little with some new sounds.