It's nearly Easter so what better time to check out the latest slab of mythical metal from the band least likely to bag themselves a residency on 'Songs of Praise'? Greek occult metallers Rotting Christ have been banging them out for twenty years now, having initially built themselves up as their country's contribution to the international Black Metal movement before branching out into the broader spectrum of extreme metal over more recent years - their trajectory is roughly similar to that of Poland's Behemoth whose post millennial output has seen them conquer the planet and singe the hair off Satan's nutsack with their punishing cocktail of all the best bits of Death and Black Metal overlaid with grandstanding occult mysticism and muscular showmanship. The Christ's latest release doesn't quite pack the scorched earth savagery of prime era Behemoth but it's no less satisfying as a consequence, staggering its assault over ten distinctive slabs of gargantuan riffs and dark atmospherics in the vein of late period Celtic Frost (go check out their back from the dead record 'Monotheist' right now and come back here when you've finished). Mainman Sakis has constructed this LP as somewhat of a labour of love, researching international folklore and legend to come up with ten tracks in ten different languages tackling religious mantras, demonic incantations and labyrinthine conjurings of ancient spirits to forge a record that transcends tokenism and instead sounds like an archeology PhD set to music (in this case some righteous planet-shifting extreme metal). A fairly ambitious project you have to admit but one that he's succeeded it bringing to fruition with some stunning results and the album's whistle stop tour through ancient civilisations is soundtracked by a diverse arsenal of metal delights taking in monastic chanting, Middle Eastern wailing and a string of atmospheric special effects - bells toll, clay pipes wail and drum rolls and guitar riffs reverberate like the infernal shockwaves of a ritualistic ceremony deep within the bowels of some cavernous temple. If you can imagine Indiana Jones stumbling across an impromptu celebration of the Fire God with a metal band providing the music then this is what it would probably sound like.
Atmospherics are what maketh metal these days and the Christ know when to turn up the cinema dial on their material, ushering in several morcels with sinister ululations and deep, vibrant intonations before layering on their intricate riffs and rhythms to build some headbanging magic upon their dusty foundations like priests constructing a shrine - opener 'In Yumen/Xibalba' lets the door creak open to invite the timid listener in over ominous bursts of raging bombast and yarbled speaking in tongues and its only once we've followed the corridor into the heart of the entity that they pick out a riff and spiral the track around it like a staircase into the void. Things remain spooky as the suite continues although they're not afraid to throw in a bit of melody, the serpentine riffs of 'P'unchaw Kachun' uncoiling like smoke rising from candles in the vein of Watain whilst the nimble-fingered chug of 'Rusalka' channels classic Gothenberg Death Metal as guttural growls and whispered taunts jostle for centre stage. The title track lets their guitarists noodle away into the cosmos whilst remaining locked into a punishing rhythmic orbit and sounds like the sort of thing Morbid Angel should be putting out right now if they'd only quit playing video games long enough to write a proper song, matching freeform mysticism with enough forward momentum to keep you hooked right through to the eery climax. The band throw their weight behind a female-fronted take on Romanian folk tune 'Cine iubeste si lasa' tastefully enough to stay just the right side of self parody and the staggering riff driven one two of 'Iwa Voodoo' and 'Gilgames' plough the slow and menacing furrow to thunderous effect instead of caving in to blastbeat temptation and turning everything up to 100 just for the sake of it. Best of all is late gem 'Ahura Mazda' which announces itself like a biblical plague looming on the horizon before blasting open like the Ark of the Covenant for a tremulous barrage of ritualistic pounding and rapacious guitar riffs, gradually ebbing towards its climax like a hurricane gathering pace before slurping up an entire city. It's difficult to describe this shit without sounding like I'm trying to write my own adventure movie but that should act as fairly compelling evidence that Rotting Christ have conjured up something pretty epic with this album - their band name might by synonymous with quick fix shock tactics but these dudes have spent enough time in the library and the rehearsal room lately to merit a revisit by anyone even mildly interested in the complex and intriguing world of modern extreme metal. 'Kata....' is testament to the band's desire to achieve something monumentous and even those alienated by metal's harsher elements shouldn't see that as an obstacle to enjoying this veritable thesis of extreme metal glory.
Check out : 'Ahura Mazda - Anra Mainiuu', complete with the lyrics in case you're interested.