Rotting Christ

Theogonia

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For a band whose name alone should have spelled a short and furtive career, Rotting Christ have certainly defied the odds, and their ninth studio album, 2007's Theogonia, actually finds Greece's esteemed metal institution approaching the conclusion of their second full decade of existence. What's more, all around bandleader, vocalist, and guitarist Sakis Tolis has continually uncovered new means to express his ever-evolving creativity over the years, while somehow managing to hang on to Rotting Christ's savage black/death metal roots. Having said that, Theogonia gets underway in much the same fashion as its immediate predecessors: with a pair of explosive, blastbeat-driven black metal assaults called "The Sign of Prime Creation" and "Keravnos Kivernitos"; but except for the equally speedy tandem of "Rege Diabolicus" and "Helios Hyperion," a little later on, such breakneck behavior is neither the band's preference, nor their strongest suit. Rather, Rotting Christ have become the (virtually) undisputed masters of midtempo extreme metal marches, which Sakis effortlessly augments with untold layers of sublime guitar harmonies and atmospheric synthesizers. On Theogonia, this winning template produces some of his finest creations since 1996's watershed Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, including the stunning "Phobos' Synagogue," "Gaia Tella," and "He, the Aethyr." The band is clearly also bent on exploring their Hellenic heritage like never before, with many subjects and lyrics sung in their native tongue, not to mention evident appropriations of Greek folk music scales for the likes of "Nemecic" and stupendous closer "Threnody." Along the way, Rotting Christ also find some time to visit ancient Sumer with "Enuma Elish," which, uniquely for this album, flirts with a rigid, quasi-industrial aesthetic before unleashing one of the album's most musical and emotionally cathartic highlights. In short: Theogonia is pretty much all killer, no filler, and secures its position alongside Rotting Christ's -- and indeed, extreme metal's -- best albums. [Deluxe editions of Theogonia contained a bonus DVD documenting the making of the album, as well as on- and offstage footage of the band's most recent world tour, which visited places as distant as Russia, Italy, Brazil, and of course Greece.]

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