30 years into their career the leaders of the Hellenic black metal are enjoying another purple patch with more recent albums Aealo (2010), Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού (2013), and Rituals (2016) and their incendiary live show cementing their appeal outside of Greece. Personally I did think Rituals was a little bit of a misstep however we are firmly back on form with lucky number 13 as The Heretics ramps up everything you want from a band at this point in their career, death, black, heavy, goth metal all creep in but it's still the extreme metal ferocity and head banging riffage that Rotting Christ have always been so bloody good at. The Heretics is an album about religion like nearly all of the bands albums are, the themes here are of religious wars, Zoroastrianism and the eternal war between good and evil. In The Name Of God is blasted along by drummer Themis whose drumming is blistering.
As the track is fleshed out by bassist Vangelis and Themis' brother and co-founding member Sakis who plays the riffs, adds the Gothic keys and samples as well as barks down the mic conjuring the dark spirits as he does, while the lead breaks and solos (which were missing from Rituals) return courtesy of George's lead guitar. Next Vetry Zlye (ВЕТРЫ ЗЛЫЕ) is some old school black metal as Grai's Irina Zybina bewitches with chants and she's not the only featured artist on the record as the crunching Fear God And Fire features some intoning from revered black metal author/historian Dayal Patterson for that truly religious feel before a brilliant guitar solo takes you too the death metal final part.
After only three songs you can hear that revisiting their past for the double compilation last year has done them a lot of good as every song does something a little different, Hallowed Be Thy Name is not a Maiden cover but rather a doom-laden march that is in opposition to the faster tracks that proceed it, it builds an atmosphere for Dies Irae which again is some ritualistic Hellenic extremity all crunching riffs and chanting while I Believe (ΠΙΣΤΕΥΩ) again brings the black metal blastbeats, the album is rounded out by the excellent The Raven featuring more intoning by Stratis Steele. A mesmerizing effort from Rotting Christ truly a band who encompass their Non Serviam motto, I can't wait for Lords Of The Land and Bloodstock now! 9/10
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard: Yn Ol I Annwn (New Heavy Sounds) [Matt]
Have the best named band in the world mellowed on their third album? That was a question I found myself asking while listening to it and if you look at any interviews the band has done surrounding the release you'll find your answer. There has been a deliberate move away from the skull crushing heaviness of their previous two albums; Yn Ol I Annwn (return to the underworld/hell) the final part of this conceptual journey sees the band exploring themes that mean the music has much more of an electronic, space rock edge to it, though there is riff mastery the band are known for.
Opening Tralfamadore is a sequence of pulses like it's trying to connect with aliens Close Encounters style. It leads ironically into The Spaceships Of Ezekiel which brings the crushing grooves of Paul Michael Davies, Wes Leon, James Carrington and Stuart Sinclair hit you straight in your ears as Jessica's haunting vocals soar above the distorted discord and electronic buzz. The sound of a Moog permeates this album adding a 60's psychedelic to the modern heaviness, though Fata Morgana just layers some clean guitar lines with the vocals before it builds into thundering sludge riffs.
The sense of melody that this album carries speaks to the bands desire for progression, Du Bist Jetzt Nicht In Der Zukunft is another song that sends defies the bands previous doom metal tag putting Vangelis synths with some sombre cello for a Floydian shimmer as the title track sits as the most accessible number on the record with heavy riffs that serves as the ideal beginning for the twisting Katyusha a 13 minute instrumental that does everything MWWB needs to musically while setting out the what is to come on the remaining two songs on the album, the titanic The Majestic Clockwork full of Moog and cello and the the final crunch of the epic Five Days In The Abyss. Guitarist Paul Michael Davies puts it like this "There's what I would call 'avant-garde' bits to it, and I wanted more of a sci-fi/soundtrack element to it as well as the usual heavy riffs" it's a cinematic album for sure the climax to a two album (and one EP) cycle, with a third eye looking to the future of the band. 9/10
King Kraken: S/T (Self Released) [Paul H]
This is meaty in every way. The debut EP from the South West Wales based metallers, it’s loud, saturated with more riffs than anyone needs and absolutely in your face. Opener Freak sets the bar high, the Southern style reminiscent of bands such as Hogjaw, Texas Hippie Coalition and the like. The intensity continues on The Grey, slightly slower paced but just as solid, a thumping back line ensuring that the hooks are memorable long after the music finishes. The Grey smoulders, brooding and malevolent before exploding massively into a riff fest which is guaranteed to get the head moving. I can’t wait to see these guys tear Fuel up at the M2TM heat. No let up for track three, the epic Under The Sun, a track that bears more than a passing resemblance to the mighty Clutch, and we all know that is no bad thing whatsoever.
Then we arrive at Heatwave, another massive chunky track, full of power and soaring guitar and the pounding drums of Richard Lee Mears anchoring the whole damn thing ably supported by Pete Rose’s rhythm guitar and the thick bass lines from Karl Meyers. Malk Donoghue’s vocals are majestic, whilst the lead work of Adam Healey is sublime. I’ve rarely been so excited by such an EP, but King Kraken has a bit of everything. It’s heavy, by god is it heavy, musically tight and with a sound you cannot help but move to. Another demonstration of the quality in the South Wales metal scene at present, get yourself a bit of King Kraken as soon as you can. This is one hell of an EP. Massive respect. 9/10
Razzmattazz: Hallelujah (One Hallelujah Records) [Paul H]
Back in 2017 I reviewed the German outfit’s album Digging For Gold. It was a very routine release. So here we go again. Nothing subtle about this latest album whatsoever. The album cover features the band’s logo stamped on the arse of a female in tight shorts which just about cover her breakfast. That should give you a clear indication that this is balls out bar room boogie. Opening track A Gun For Hire is no nonsense rock n roll with absolutely nothing to either recommend or detract; it’s routine AC/DC style meat and two veg hard rock. Unsurprisingly it remains this simple for the ten tracks, tracks such as Crazy For Rock And Roll, the Accept stomp of Going Down (proving that the 1970s are. Still alive and kicking) and the finale of rifftastic As Loud As You Can. Loud and proud in a filthy rock bar after a few beers, I think Razzmattazz would be perfectly enjoyable. Would I listen to this otherwise? Probably not. However, it’s well played, well produced and bombastic in every way. Try it if you want to break speed limits. And the band still have the dog bandana for sale on their merchandise page. 5/10