Rotting Christ: Rituals (Seasons Of Mist Records)
Few bands in the metal world have been plying their trade with such consistency as Greek extremists Rotting Christ. Having formed in 1987 and released their first album in 1991, the band have demonstrated impressive staying power and total commitment to their craft. Last year’s excellent Lucifer Over Athens double live release (which is probably the definitive compilation of Rotting Christ) followed 2013’s Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού.
Rituals focuses very much on creating black metal atmospherics with almost mind numbing repetition. The frantic drumming of Themis Tolis doesn’t let up on any of the tracks, whilst brother Sakis’ vocals continue in the vein that one has come to expect, growling and gruesome. The inclusion of a number of vocalists helps with the impact; for example, the female cries on Elthe Kyrie enhance the demonic subject matter. Huge swathes of keyboards add to the mood. The more polished production is a double edged sword though, dampening the darkness of previous releases. Subject matter is pretty straightforward with occult and satanic themes. Les Litanies De Satan sits in the traditional Rotting Christ camp whilst Apage Satana attempts to build a much more atmospheric and broody track but just fails in its ambitions. Tou Thanatou has more of the Rotting Christ assault with chanting and keyboards adding the layers, some excellent guitar work from George Emmanuel in the middle section but it’s all a bit black mass all over again.
The inclusion of Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes on the voice-over adds interest on For A Voice Like Thunder and the track is one of the best on the album, driving visceral riffs, roaring vocals and a slower but heavier pace. Konx Om Pax contains Candlemass style power chords, more chanting vocals and powerful build up, tolling bells and malevolence, before descending into a crushing six-minute beast with Themis’ drumming most impressive. My only complaint about this release is that it is very repetitive. Every song appears to be designed to be a huge atmospheric piece, with similar construction and composition. How many tracks need a tolling bell for example? The keyboards add to the layered sound but little return to the raw death of their earlier releases would satisfy those who don’t want every track to be a brooding monster. Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent release but a little more variation would have improved things massively. 7/10
Prong: X - (No Absolutes) (Nuclear Blast)
For a band now moving into the veteran status, Prong’s recent output is impressive. Their 11th studio album X (No Absolutes) comes hard on the heels of last year’s covers album, Songs From The Black Hole, X (No Absolutes) continues where 2014’s Ruining Lives finished. Prong keep things straightforward. Over 40 minutes of aural assault; aggressive thrash and punk infused metal, heavy as hell and the majority of it played at break neck speed. Songs such as Ultimate Authority and Sense Of Ease stomp all over the place, screaming guitars and battering drumming leaving the listener in no doubt. Victor unleashes his trademark snarling yet melodic vocal combined with some vicious cutting riffs, supported by Jason Christopher’s thunderous bass lines and backing vocals and the powerful drumming assault of Art Cruz which provide a rock solid foundation.
It’s pretty simple but effective stuff and although it’s unsophisticated if you need something to drive to at high speed (but obviously within all recognised limits kids) or some pumping work out music, you would struggle to find something better to do the job. It’s not all out thrashers and there are a couple of tracks on this release which could attract more mainstream interest; Soul Sickness with its almost nu-metal feel and Do Nothing is drenched in melody. Ice Runs Through My Veins has an industrial tinge and Christopher taking centre stage. The slower pace of With Dignity, the album closer, which at times moves to almost ballad country, provides a glimpse of the calmer side of a band who really don’t give a fuck what the mainstream thinks. 7/10
Drowning Pool: Hellelujah (eOne Music)
20 years since they first formed, and 15 since the anthem Bodies first hit our ears, Drowning Pool blast back into your consciousness with their sixth release, Hellelujah. With the core of the group constant over the years, it’s the revolving door of vocalists that has slowed their potential march to the upper echelons of the metal movement. I say potential because as we all know; the nu-metal sound doesn’t always appeal these days. I have to admit that Drowning Pool are not part of my regular listening rotation and Hellelujah is highly unlikely to change that. The aggressive drive, crashing riffs and thumping bass lines of Stevie Benton remain firmly in place, with CJ Pierce’s guitar work as solid as it has ever been. The first three tracks are real tub thumpers, Push, By The Blood and Drop all power along with Jasen Moreno’s vocals raw and angry. Hell To Pay changes the pace of the release, with a slower, grittier approach, Moreno’s vocals fitting in perfectly whilst the gutsy attack of We Are The Devil contains a couple of really decent riffs.
My only problem with all the bands that deliver this type of music is that it becomes just a little too generic. Angry but clean vocals, chunky riffs and choruses that you can join in with. So to Drowning Pool, add similar releases from Soil, FFDP, Saliva, Sevendust etc. You get the picture. At 48 minutes long, Hellelujah is a value for money release and if you like this type of stomping, aggressive yet melodic and harmony soaked metal then you are going to be stoked. Unfortunately, as the album progresses attention starts to wander and half way in, the likes of Snake Charmer begin to become less interesting to the listener. Moreno can hit a note and scream like a madman; My Own Way allows him to really explode with the combined bass and guitar work giving the track a real groove. By the time you get to Meet The Bullet a little fatigue has set in and despite the solidity of the tunes you will be pleased to have got through this. A solid but unspectacular release which won’t shake the metal world one bit. 6/10