Review Summary: the only ritual the band successfully committed here was suicide
I'll have to give credit where it's due; Rotting Christ's longevity is impressive. Formed in 1987, they are one of the longest running extreme metal bands, and the most noteworthy to come out of Greece. Starting out as a grindcore project, the band has successfully shifted its sound throughout the years, producing an expansive discography that traverses throughout the many forms of black metal. Their constant evolution has undoubtedly been the key to their longevity thus far; however this seems like the end of the road for these Greek blasphemers. Despite continuing their trend of experimenting on the extreme metal formula, their latest album Rituals is still a frustratingly tawdry and monotonous affair.
Rituals may not sound like any Rotting Christ release before it, but the material strewn about this album feels all too similar to each other. Styled after its namesake, almost every track is based around creating "ceremonial" black/gothic hymns. In a way they succeed -heavy tribal-esque percussion and raucous Satanic chants make appearances throughout the entirety of the album - but this ultimately proves to be one of the album's fatal flaws. If too much of a good thing can make you sick, too much of something mediocre is deadly; Rotting Christ's attempts in creating ritualistic metal are pedestrian at best. As a whole, their performance lacks conviction. Flaccid power-chords ring out ad-nauseam while the drums plod away without any impact, stifled by the pristine production. There's nothing wrong with well produced black metal, but when it causes the punch to lose its power, it becomes counterproductive. Keyboards are used in abundance, yet their atmospheric potential is rendered useless in their sterile simplicity, and though grandiosity is (presumably) the goal, it fails to ever reach those Olympian heights.
Perhaps the worst issue to plague Rituals is how unintentionally hilarious the whole thing is. Black metal is inherently cheesy; the corspepaint, the posturing, etc…, but Rituals is offensively so. It tries so desperately to be serious, but when listening to the rapid-fire incantations of "Apage Satana" it feels poorly-executed, overdone, and worse, contrived. Black metal is capable of taking you many places, but a tiki bar on karaoke night shouldn't be one of them. Rotting Christ have had a long career, with many albums to be proud of - every prior incarnation of their sound has proven worthwhile - however, Rituals is not one of them. With this release, the only ritual Rotting Christ successfully committed, was suicide.