Rotting Christ – AEALO
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For over 20 years, Rotting Christ has been a means in search of an end. The search has gone from black metal to gothic metal and back, and has been frustratingly inconsistent. At its best, the band's melodicism is regal; at its worst, it's saccharine.
Unlike the end, the means has not wavered. Singer/guitarist Sakis Tolis favors definite, rhythmic vocals and precise, staccato picking. Even the band's most gothic excesses feature these constants. But a band whose strengths are power and singularity is better off avoiding mushiness. Black and gothic metal are both prone to obfuscation. The former often gets lost in buzzy tones and blastbeats, while the latter drowns in female singing and keyboards.
AEALO (Season of Mist, 2010) plays only to the band's strengths. It is neither black metal nor gothic metal; it is metal. The band firms up its attack and leaves no ends hanging. Every note has a purpose: to go to war. Almost every song is about being a warrior. But the record is neither jingoistic nor political. Rather, it appropriates military ideals — strength, honor, discipline — for civilian ends. All those 300, Spartacus, and boot camp workouts finally have a soundtrack.
Most "war metal" does not live up to its name. Bands either can't carry a tune — armies march to war on melodies — or don't have the chops for martial impact. Rotting Christ has no such weaknesses. Its melodies are like arrows and spears; its precision is military-grade. The result is war metal of the highest rank.