I just checked the YouTube echo chamber. It had to do with The Heretics of Rotting Christ, their latest 2019 full-length epic.
In the midst of the fawning by the usual fanboys and girls at work, I found one guy. And he or she depicted a small file tree, where all of them tracks on this new record got classified as ‘bad songs’.
Woe, someone had the courage to enter a negative remark into the usual virulent strings of YouTube commenting prowess. Something that we do not see too often, but smartly done with a picture.
Yet still, that did not bode well.
And it gave me pause. Big time. Because critical remarks do not age well in there, same as everywhere, where a fan community dwells. You’ll find that exact same behavior in music, politics or elsewhere, where tunnel vision reigns supreme. People only want to hear, what they want to hear. And truth is usually nowhere in it, nor is it particularly important. But that would be fodder for another post on yet another blog.
So, with some trepidation, the RMR deck crew fired up our mighty disk machine and let The Heretics roll. And right off the bat this déjà-vu installs itself.
Rituals all over again?
For sure In The Name of God really takes off, where Rotting Christ left us last time. Complete with a Carach Angren-esque monologue, straight from this particular band’s 2012 epic. Only, here I find a weaker copy of Rotting Christ‘s former record.
And that is pretty bad in itself.
Because Rituals did not really convince us neither. Even if it boasts an undeniable crunch and unholy power, and some sort of dark purpose attached to it. And it indeed does have that stump and crash quality that wants to take you to arcane ritualistic beginnings.
Yet, here in the year of the Dark Lord 2019, it is as if Rotting Christ rehearsed their old record and somehow – in the process – spawned The Heretics.
For a band that delighted us with staples like Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, Non Serviam, Aealo or Khronos, expectations ran high. Our crew was all tuned out for some new, snazzy, yet pitch black surprise from these Greek masters of Extreme Metal. Not some copy/paste type of revelations that – sadly – never leave their very own comfort zone. In other words, moving from a gazillion of rituals to a heretic world, but still sticking to the same menu, will just not cut it.
True, the rhythmic stomping and drumming on this new record surely will put shaman-crazed Heilung to shame. If Rotting Christ would be going down the pagan route, that is. But now thinking about it: They actually practice some sort of a Pagan Black Metal thing on The Heretics. Or Atheist Black Metal, well whatever.
To add insult to injury, you’ll find some pretty direct copies in song structure. Like between Hallowed be Thy Name and the relatively corny Devadevam of the aforementioned record Rituals. Or the bizarre similarity of the riffs in Demonon Vrosis (Aealo) and Sons from Hell.
Or should we just forget about the past until Valhalla happens?
Some fans and critics suggest that we should. Just enjoy the new Rotting Christ and never look back, because all’s good.
No, so wrong. We can of course always celebrate a regurgitation of the past. And that’s cool. Also, going for the same strategy of a previous album works fine for a sophomore offering. But try that with seasoned folks and things won’t sound all that great. Even if I reckon that Rotting Christ did not really want to change a winning horse.
So, all bad then?
Same as Rituals, The Heretics boasts a certain allure. A pull based on ever-repeating rhythms that will lull you into some sort of comfortable trance state. And that is a pretty sturdy base for any live show that these guys surely will play ad nauseam once they leave on tour.
You’ll find little gems in there, though. Like Dies Irae (days of wrath), named after the famous catholic poem. Or again Fire God and Fear with its hypnotic qualities.
And most of the tracks we get on this record are smartly produced. Which – again – would be the expectation from a band of this standing. So no, not all is bad on The Heretics, far from it.
Never mind that all of them tracks seem somehow cut from the same cloth, just with different embroidery. Like a cook without fantasy, using the same base for all his dishes.
So, in this light, are you aware of cookie cutter homes?
Promoters in the US do that a lot. They buy cheap land in a desert terrain – for instance – and then urbanize all that with a bunch of homes of exactly the same make and size. Mass production, not made for artistry, but to maximize profits.
Now, The Heretics exudes exactly that very same scent.
Rotting Christ‘s template driven approach to new music has not really impressed me. True, they put a lot of work into their theme. It is full of dark monologues, poetry of the pit, and a powerful, rough, down-and-dirty sound. But the underlying riffing, chugging and bellowing has got that smell of Rituals all over it. On top of that, The Heretics somehow lost the mighty crunch its predecessor had in spades.
The RMR deck crew looked for a dark spring surprise from Rotting Christ. Yet instead, they got something stale that somehow already lived in the past. And I am not convinced that this really holds its water for a band of that quality.