Review Summary: Rituals 2.0
You don’t need to hire Columbo to discover The Heretics
is a deafening echo of Rituals
. It’s not a galloping stride into the unknown, nor is it an album that looks into their illustrious past. No, The Heretics
, for all intents and purposes, is still very content with exploring the same sounds forged back in 2016 – largely procuring the album’s bombastic crescendos and weighty atmospherics – and it isn’t ashamed to admit as much. The purpose this time around is to manhandle Rituals
’s ceremonial hymn style and make a more palatable album out of it. Just as concept-heavy as its predecessor, The Heretics
’s central focus is set around various heretics from across history. Still keeping to the same simplistic and repetitive writing style; still employing ritualistic chants; and still
delivering the album’s themes with exaggerated absurdity. If these qualities failed to brush you the right way last time, I can’t say there’s much hope for you here, either. This album is the sonic doppelganger of its former; from note sequences and stomping drum work, to compositional transitions being mirrored to eerie extents. Its cannibalization of previous works comes as a large distraction at times, but it should also be understood that this record intentionally grabs Rituals
’s structure and works at it from a different angle. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it does leave a lot of room for valid criticisms.
The record has a frustrating infatuation with taking two steps forward and then one step back. Cathartic, energized guitar solos are in abundance here, saving the day more often than not: the commanding fret shredder on “Heaven and Hell and Fire” pulls the roof off the entire song, and makes the simmering verses feel like warranted and justified building blocks; the delivery and passion felt on “Fire God and Fear”’s solo; and “The Sons of Hell”’s melodically sound lead makes the track a far more memorable one. The crux is that, unfortunately, these guitar parts play into a distracting deja vu that deflates some of the punch they could have had. Further problems surface on repeated listens, revealing a dreaded homogenization the more you go back to it. It’s no secret that it’s down to the way Sakis has intentionally written the album, continuing to put his attention on narrative and concept than intricate or colourful riffs. The marching, rhythmic guitar chugs pad out most of the runtime here the same way Rituals
did, the difference is they become a detriment to the record’s replayability. The payoff just isn’t as frequent. Luckily the songs don’t suffer too badly from this preference of writing. There’s only one serious misfire here: the prosaic black metal tune “I Believe”, which is an absolute chore to get through after half a dozen listens, not only restraining the band’s creativity, but crushing some of the momentum the album is trying to build upon.
That said, even with the flaws plaguing The Heretics
, it’s still a very fun album to listen to. The atmosphere is as oppressive as ever, the sprawling and epic build-ups are still something few bands can craft as well, and the overall theme – though superficially touched on in my opinion – serves as a worthy linchpin to the album’s aesthetic. Stellar highlights prop up in the form of “Fire God and Fear”, which explores groove in a way that is effective and beneficial to the song but adds a new facet to the band’s standard practices. However, these moments are few and far between. You can’t really argue with anyone who wants to call The Heretics
out for sounding recycled and derivative, but equally, credit should be given for the way they’ve made these elements enjoyable – in spite of its autopilot approach.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: DIGITAL/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶/̶/̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶S̶
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://www.heavymetalonline.co.uk/rotting-christ/