Rotting Christ
Pro Xristou


2.7
average

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
May 23rd, 2024 | 78 replies


Release Date: 05/24/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

From a thematic and aesthetical point of view, Rotting Christ’s fourteenth studio album represents the band’s most exciting chapter to date. So, with that in mind it’s all the more disheartening to report that, in spite of the record being front-loaded with unspoiled potential, the band’s aspirations are marred with sloppy execution and a reluctance to move forward creatively. Indeed, Pro Xristou’s themes on the ancient world and more specifically, the last defiant Pagan kings who resisted the proliferation of Christianity across Europe presents a banquet of intrigue. While Roman emperors Constantine I and Flavius Theodosius sought to overthrow the Roman tradition with a new Christian one (the former being responsible for the “Edict of Milan” which granted religious tolerance to the Christians, as well as, if Edward Gibbon is to be believed, being involved with compiling the New Testament; and the latter emperor making Christianity the official state religion), there were key figures throughout history like Galerius Valerius Maximianus and Flavius Claudius Julianus who abhorred and rejected its teachings. In the last half-decade, I have spent a lot of time falling into the ancient history rabbit hole – albeit mainly focusing on Ancient Rome, The Republic, and its inevitable demise giving rise to the Roman Empire in 27 BC – so when Rotting Christ unveiled Pro Xristou with Thomas Cole’s “Destruction” (one of a five-part series of paintings called “The Course of Empire”), you could say I was pretty stoked for its release. However, when “Like Father, Like Son” dropped, it became clear the elephant in the room needed addressing, one I’m sure veterans of the band are more than aware of at this point.

To be clear; I’m not a long-time fan. I actually got into Rotting Christ through Rituals, which saw the band in the throes of a liminal shift creatively. Nevertheless, despite having less skin in the game, I can see their priorities shifting with every release, and to their detriment it seems. In particular, what makes Pro Xristou so frustrating is how it takes these superlative concepts and offers them in the most soporific and superficial way imaginable. It’s undeniable at this point Rotting Christ have their blinders on – a staunch obsession with putting concepts and user-friendly structures ahead of writing music with any tangible substance. One could argue Kata Ton Demona Eaftou was the genesis for Rotting Christ’s new songwriting template, and I’m inclined to agree, but the problems stem from every release after Kata Ton Demona Eaftou where the band dilutes their sound in the service of the concepts. When The Heretics released in 2019, while good, it essentially utilised this tried framework, adding just enough distinctive flourishes to get it over the finish line. However, in doing so, it also visibly exhausted the formula and wrapped the sound up to its logical conclusion. Of course, this assessment is evidently a grave miscalculation on my part, as Pro Xristou feels it’s necessary to beat the weary horse into submission so it can produce even more music in this vein. Indeed, unlike The Heretics, the distinctions here are few, and what’s worse is the main objective feels centred entirely around accessibility – using ostentatious methods to make tracks feel more grand, melodious and inspired. Which is fine in theory (and I will admit, there is a rousing power and sadness behind a track like “Pretty World, Pretty Dies”), but the dry execution is what ultimately causes its undoing and thus, lets its attractive concepts down in the process.

It is this lust for broader appeal that has hollowed out Rotting Christ’s sound – watching as they eviscerate their identity so they can supersede it with this anodyne template of repetitive chugging guitars, double bass led drum work and elemental earworm guitar leads. Add some choir, a few harmonies and a skeletal string of words and you have the same recipe they’ve been using for over a decade now. It’s alarming how similar some of these tracks sound when compared to the material on Rituals and The Heretics. The title track opens up the album and wastes no time in fortifying the notion, sounding eerily echoic of “Ze Nigmar” from Rituals, while “Dies Irae” from their last album and “The Apostate” sound so alike, there’s this weirdly uncomfortable deja vu that washes over you the more it plays out; a sensation you’ll become accustomed to feeling as you progress through Pro Xristou. Couple that with lyrics that feel vague and superfluous and it only exacerbates the other issues and makes the record’s sacrifice for austerity all the more futile. “Saoirse” tells of Diarmait mac Cerbaill, the High King of Ireland in the sixth century AD, and the last king to resist Christianity’s expansion. Of course, the only time you hear of this is in the spoken-word section near the end, while the rest of the track talks in abstract terms. Here are some excerpts that carry the majority of the song’s runtime:

“Hail freedom
Our freedom
Brave, like a hero
Humble, like a dove
Live with your demon”


It’s quite cool that “Saoirse” is placed last on the tracklisting, as it coincides with the theme of Diarmait being the last dissident of Christianity’s expansion, but outside of that and the acknowledgement he was “the last king to resist the expansion of Christianism”, there’s very little else to tie the song together thematically. It might sound like I’m being pedantic, but you have to remember the band watered their instrumentals down so the concepts could take centre stage, yet when it comes down to it, there’s very little to take away from what is being told narratively speaking, other than “[insert name], he fought bravely”.

I’ve gone in pretty hard on Pro Xristou – largely because of the band’s obstinate habits – but objectively speaking, the record is at least competent at what it does. After all, despite their reluctance to relinquish this worn-out formula, it is (as it should be at this point) undeniably well-refined. If you can overlook the creative bankruptcy at play and you liked their last couple of albums, you should be able to take some enjoyment from this. Nevertheless, I can’t emphasise enough the sore lack of surprises on Pro Xristou, with every song playing out exactly as you imagined it would. I’m not saying I want the band to bust out some rockabilly riffs midway through a deathcore breakdown that segues into a pop-punk ballad, but surely Rotting Christ are capable of more than this? Pro Xristou has a serviceable selection of tracks that offer some nice (albeit predictable) solos, infectious choruses, and a cool theme/aesthetic. Conversely, the very same concept is egregiously half-baked, their signature sound is watered down to pernicious degrees, and given the fact the majority of the album sits in a mid-tempo slump, the tracks have a tendency to bleed into one another, offering very few standout moments. It’s ironic seeing a band with so many ambitious ideas, only to translate those ideas into the most recycled album of their career. It’s not a disastrously bad record – for all of its sins, I’d go as far to say it’s still reasonably enjoyable. No, as I’ve said numerous times in this review; the issue is with the band’s parochial mindset, and their inability to catch up to their conceptual aspirations, musically speaking. At this point it goes without saying, the band needs to look at fresh avenues to develop and build upon these great concepts, because while Pro Xristou has some ambitious ideas, the end result is a bit like an Easter egg: it has a rich, sugary outer shell, but ultimately there’s nothing inside.




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user ratings (53)
3
good


Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2024


10818 Comments


Based on the first paragraph alone,

Simon and everyone, if you want to listen to critical empire-themed black metal, Mystras is the way to go.

Reading the rest of the text.



-- that has hallowed out Rotting Christ’s sound

I think "hollowed" is the word you were looking for

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2024


6030 Comments


Oh hey, I'm reading Lord of the Rings right now

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2024


18363 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

Thanks for point out voivod. Corrected.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2024


18363 Comments

Album Rating: 2.7

And I’ll check out Mystras mate

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2024


10818 Comments


It's interesting that the album's release date is two days past the death of Constantine I, who has been anointed a saint in Orthodox Christianity, and called Great Constantine.

starboystargirl
May 23rd 2024


700 Comments


wow, argholsent sounds different

DungeonBoy
May 23rd 2024


9834 Comments


Questionable cover choice lol

Pikazilla
May 23rd 2024


30446 Comments


band has been fucking dogshit in the last two decades

sanctus diavolos was their last respectable release

Hawks
May 23rd 2024


90598 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Shut the hell up Pika lmao.

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2024


1624 Comments


Aw wit, been looking forward to this, hope it’s not as lame as it sounds. Awesome review still

Pika are you off your meds again?

heck
May 23rd 2024


7169 Comments


really hoped this would be an improvement after the last two but sadly it looks like I'll be disappointed yet again

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2024


10818 Comments


-- sanctus diavolos

Imho, Kata To Daimona Eautoy is the last, truly excellent Rotting Christ album.

Their weakest by far, is Sleep of the Angels

frozencarl
May 23rd 2024


1691 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

not surprised at the low rating given how weak the singles were, but still excited to listen. I kinda dig their new sound but in the humble words of DungeonBoy, its definitely missing some sauce

Hawks
May 23rd 2024


90598 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I dig their previous 2 albums ahrd so I imagine I will like this. Gonna jam tonight.

DungeonBoy
May 23rd 2024


9834 Comments


lol it's gotta have the sauce, brother

CthulhuFhtagn
May 23rd 2024


1 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

This is the 3-est of the 3s. At least I like it more than the previous two, which is something. Pix Lax Dax, 6th Day, LFLS and PWPD are sort of the highlights. The bonus All for One is sweet too.

AlexanderScotch
May 23rd 2024


27 Comments


Apprehensive on giving this a listen. Reviews on Sputnik are average to negative and Metal Hammer called it a masterpiece with a 4 5 rating

Pikazilla
May 23rd 2024


30446 Comments


metal hammer lmfao

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
May 23rd 2024


18258 Comments


The only trve publication for sure

Muzz79
May 24th 2024


3094 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Album is exactly what I want RC to be. Melodic hypnotic gothic blasphemy



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