In 2007, the great journalist and essayist Christopher Hitchens released his book The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer, an anthology of philosophical thoughts and quotes by history’s great ‘heretics’, full of reasons for you to disassociate religion and spirituality, if you haven’t done so already.
‘The Heretics’ is Rotting Christ’s ‘Portable Atheist’, a record with spoken word passages, either before or during a song, with music written to support and highlight this content. It’s fairly close to 2016’s ‘Rituals’, dark and intimidating, but with guitars taking a step forward, with a touch of late 90s melody to them. This last part is a big plus in my opinion, as I would root for less rhythmic parts that sound alike other recent, ‘post-Theogonia’ songs, and more riffs like the ones in ‘New Messiah’ or ‘The Raven’; the latter would have been perfect with slightly better narration. ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ is a great example of ecclesiastic, choral melody, while the first two singles, ‘Fire, God and Fear’ and ‘Heaven and Hell and Fire’, will become future staples in Rotting Christ’s blistering live shows.
32 years of history. 13 studio albums. Numerous other releases, including EPs, demos, splits, live albums, DVDs, compilations. Thousands of gigs all over the world. Rotting Christ have worked hard to get to this point and they don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
From the very beginning, they follow their own path. Through experimentation and evolution, they don’t want to play the same thing in every release. Of course, no one would blame them if they did otherwise like many other bands. But that’s not the point. As a big fan of them, I have to say that “The Heretics” is the album that I enjoyed most since “Theogonia”. And this is because it has excellent songs.
“In The Name Of God” seems like something that their mastermind Sakis Tolis can write in his sleep, but it’s a killer opening. The amazing “Vetry Zlye” has an awesome melody and the beautiful vocals of Irina Zybina (Grai). “Heaven And Hell And Fire” has also a catchy melody, a Rotting trademark, and a great solo.
“Hallowed Be Thy Name” (not by Maiden) and “Dies Irae” may seem simple in structure, but the choir vocals and the atmosphere in them make them distinguish. Not an easy task to achieve. There is also a weak moment in my opinion and this is “I Believe”. It is the fastest song here and the black metal riffing reminds of older times, but it sounds monotonous. In this, Sakis intones an extract of “Salvatores Dei”, a book by the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis.
Great moments are also “Fire God And Fear” with the amazing solo, “The Voice Of The Universe” (with Ashmedi of Melechesh as a guest) and “The New Messiah”. For the final blow, the epic “The Raven” has the voice of Stratis Steele (Endomain) leaving his mark over an excellent riff that is one of the best they have written lately. A work that has been composed with passion, mostly mid-tempo, where the atmosphere is the key element for one more time.
Lyrically, it has to do with heretics, as the title declares. This is why there are many quotes from poets and writers who were considered heretical for their works (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Voltaire, John Milton, Edgar Allan Poe and others). The sound is impeccable and the cover artwork by Maximos Manolis is the best they ever had. Rotting Christ keep doing what they want, despite the hateful comments of those who want them to play like they did until the mid-90s. Well, I’m on the side of the artists on this one. NON SERVIAM!