Review Summary: Rotting Christ make a strong addition to their catalogue, continuing in the same direction as Theogonia but without matching it.
Rotting Christ has been one of those bands that have had a few standout releases amidst a sea of average to good releases throughout their 20 years as a band. Their last album, 2007’s Theogonia saw the band make their biggest standout yet using the band’s melodic black/death roots and experimenting with a variety of influences from traditional Greek music and other genres of metal. This made for a refreshing, varied listen with some true passion and staying power. On Aealo, the band tries to keep this going but only somewhat succeeds.
Upon first listen, Aealo sounds much more straightforward than the last album but upon a few listens one can start to distinguish little hidden pieces of music deeper behind the main instruments. These are often used to either add some atmosphere to the straightforward sounding songs or just as an extra layer to merge with the rest of the music on display. Although not as well put together as Theogonia, the album features some interesting little surprises hidden over its length.
The listener will find many of the high points of Theogonia have been carried on in Aealo. The album is full of varied guitar riffs that seem to take small influences from all over the place. Melodic tremolo picked leads are combined with some slightly “core” influenced chugs or coupled with a foreign sounding guitar line. Once in a while the band will add some traditional Greek instruments, such as the tsabouna in dub-sag-ta-ke, to complement the other instruments but without using it as a crutch like 99% of folk metal bands. It does quite the opposite in fact, and gives some songs a feeling of national pride that is only accentuated by the mainly Greek lyrics.
These lyrics are sung mostly using Sakis’ trademark “black metal growl”. As opposed to the usual black metal shriek, Sakis uses a medium-high pitched scream that has a much more guttural sound than the average black metal scream. He also experiments with a high pitched bark in a few songs and pulls it off pretty nicely. A few female vocals are used here and there and those that are familiar with Rotting Christ will know that they have grown good at incorporating this into their songs at the opportune moment.
Now so far it almost sounds like they might’ve released their second opus right after their first, right" Wrong. Although all the elements to accomplish this seem to be here, something is missing. It is always noticeable but it is not clear at first what it is. The album lacks the passion that was found in Theogonia. Not to say that it is absent, that it definitely is not, but the album does feature a handful of moments that feel tired and uninspired. Some of the chugging riffs in Eon Aenanos sound like they were thrown in there just to connect the better ideas that are featured in it. Also, in a handful of areas, Sakis sounds tired whereas in Theogonia he continually gave off a sense of power and pride with a touch of evil.
So although Aealo does not quite match the band’s last effort, it is a strong album in its own right. It delivers an enjoyable 50 minutes of melodic blackened death metal that keeps its value over repeated listens. Not their best, not their worse, just another enjoyable addition to the catalogue.