I had this album some time ago and on very first play my jaw dropped open and thunked on the floor like a lead weight. Sure I have always loved Rotting Christ from their early Mighty Contracts through to the more melodic Dead Poems and their devilish declarations like Genesis. Aealo last album in 2010 saw them rise to their utmost pinnacle and with a host of guests and arrangements it was an album that many thought they would never top. For sure to do so they would have needed to pretty much employ the use of a whole orchestra and that is not what they have done here but have stripped back things a little but upped the feeling of dreadful occultist practices to their music allowing the atmosphere to take over and make up for the fact that the music itself is slightly more (for want of a better word) Spartan. Not that it does not pack a formidable wallop, as it really does and at times it sounds like a whole army is marching out the speakers! Listening to it a couple of months ago I quickly came to the conclusion that the album pretty much encapsulates the very best parts of each and every Rotting Christ album, considering they have been going since 1988 and this is album number eleven, if that has not got you sitting up and taking note nothing will. All I can say writing this at the very end of January the release date of March 1st seems like miles away!
What has gone on exactly in the band ranks over the recording of the album I am not entirely sure but with two new members now recently in the fold and a bassist and guitarist leaving it must have been an interesting session for founding members Themis and Sakis. Whether they laid the law down or not is an interesting question especially as when one translates the album title it illuminates with the meaning which is the very well known “do what thou wilt.”
We are welcomed with a whisper to the dark kingdom with In Yumen – Xibalba. The occult feel is all over this as it builds and when they hit the guitar sound can only belong to one band and is instantly identifiable as they strum madly and unleash the fury of the track. The marching tumult I mentioned is in full swing, the drumming furious and the vocal rasps, angry and indignant. As ever the melody is not compromised but is rich behind the furious delivery. One thing noted as it slows is the sinister chanting vocals, they really remind me of those used in the ritualistic parts of the (underrated) Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut, indeed I think I am going to play this over it visually to see how it all synchs. Thankfully this fantastic opener has plenty of great songs to follow, each with own identity. More chants and a baby crying somewhere in the distance makes this sound very soundtrack orientated, there are lots of things hidden in the musical layers to discover on numbers like P’unchaw kachun – Tuta kachun but the songs are not lost as the grandiose sweeping guitar melody flies in and completely captivates over this devilish mass. Massive backing vocals, huge pounding drum flurries, this is so dynamic it literally takes breath away.
Grandis Spiritus Diavolos is probably one of the most straightforward numbers here as it is by title with a central swaggering thematic and clean croons employed still it goes into demonic mass part before the warbling guitars flow back in and get you banging your head and smiling like a loon. The call of a reed pipe is one of many more traditional and folkloric traits to the album cropping up on Kata Ton Demona Eaftou as for themes well you can use your imagination but digging deeper apparently there are many including apparently one track about a Russian water spirit.
At the midway point ‘Cine iubeşte şi lasă’ is a real head turner (possibly 360 degrees) as it is a piano and female vocal piece. The band may have used Diamanda Galas last time around but whoever they have found here should not be underestimated either. As the track then swings in properly and the singer continues along with Sakis we realise her part is far more than mere interlude. Liar and Fire yep they do rhyme damn well and once heard their cry over Iwa Voodoo is going to be emblazoned on your memory and I bet this one is going to go down a real storm live.
The album really does have it all and I cannot see myself getting bored with this for a very long time. It is too early to start talking about albums of the year and I am having to give myself one hell of a talking to not to give this a full mark for the first time I ever have considered doing so; nothing is perfect but by ye gods of all that is unholy this comes pretty damn close.
Firing from all barrels this rages ever on with more fantastic numbers and some hidden arcane passageways to traverse and lose yourself in along on the way. There are Arabic chants on Ahura Mazda Ana Mainiuu and this takes the soundtrack to a dry arid desert where Pazuzu is about to rise and bring about chaos, maybe even the fall of mankind. This has an ancient feeling about it and the atmosphere again is fantastic. All things lead to an end and not many really are deserving to actually have the brass front to name a song 666. Greek countryman Magus Wampyr Daoloth may have done just that with an album for Diabolos Rising but it takes a very special band to pull it off and an even more devilish one to follow it up with a cover of ‘Welcome To Hell.’ Needless to say it’s a memorable end to an unforgettable album.
What’s left to say? I could mention the various special versions that this is going to be released in, along with medallions and all manner of stuff but then again forget all that, it is the music that counts. This manifestation is at an end!
(9/10 Pete Woods)