Every Friday I turn the blog over to Dan Marsicano for his Retro Recommendation, giving you a chance to learn about underrated and overlooked gems from metal's past. This week, Rotting Christ is in the spotlight.
In its heyday, black metal found its footing in Norway and Sweden. Rotting Christ was an exception, emerging from Athens, Greece. Starting out as a grindcore act, the band moved to a melodic black metal sound by the time their debut Thy Mighty Contract was released in 1993. This was a big year for the genre, with albums from Darkthrone, Burzum, and Immortal making waves. Thy Mighty Contract was not as well-publicized, but it wasn't for lack of compelling material on the band's part.
While Mayhem were being raw and evil, and Emperor were leading the symphonic charge, Rotting Christ took on a melodic, slightly heavy metal-ish format. The band faced an uphill climb on the production side, as did a lot of music coming from this period. The drums are too loud, and given the repetitive beats played, it becomes distracting at times. However, the bass is audible, which automatically makes the record something to cherish.
Production quibbles aside, the album has a limited supply of rhythm blasting and lifeless tremolo riffing. Rotting Christ is not about getting from one point to another in record time or paving a noisy sonic trail. There are moments where the music breaks down into a wave of static destruction, though it's not as commonplace as a black metal fan may hope. There are enough lead guitar breaks, shifts in tempo, and a clean vocal section or two to make somebody stand up and take notice.
"The Sign Of Evil Existence" has the shortness to be a standard intro, yet is a full-fledged tune loaded with bile and venom. These traits are a common feature on Thy Mighty Contract. "The Coronation Of The Serpent" and "His Sleeping Majesty" have fuel to keep the dark fires ablaze. More traditional in structure, these tracks above will find favor with most black metal fans.
The band really makes their mark on songs like "Transform All Sufferings Into Plagues," where synth lines mesh with the black metal riffage. While not as integral to the music as a band like Emperor had them, the keyboards do have their role in an atmospheric sense on "The Fourth Knight Of Revelation (Part 1 & 2)" and "His Sleeping Majesty." The former makes excellent use of its seven minutes, switching from an unholy sonic burial to a moody instrumental piece.
Unlike a lot of black metal bands, Rotting Christ has had a long shelf life. The band is still going strong almost 20 years after the release of Thy Mighty Contract. They have come a long way from this record, though hints of that progression can be heard on "The Fourth Knight Of Revelation (Part 1 & 2)." For being more melodic than most black metal of its time, Thy Mighty Contract gets the nod for this week's Retro Recommendation.