Rotting Christ - _Sanctus Diavolos_
(Century Media, 2004)
by: Jackie Smit (9.5 out of 10)
As much as I've consistently admired their recorded output, Rotting Christ has always been, in my humble opinion, the perennial runners-up in extreme music -- a band whose albums, while generally of a very high quality, always tend to fall just one notch shy of being truly quintessential. 2002's _Genesis_ came close; more so than the mildly underwhelming _Khronos_, but again, even then the Greek outfit were a smidgen short of delivering their masterpiece. Well, folks -- this time round Rotting Christ have upped the ante; not only for their own music, but for a fair amount of what's still to be released this year. Because, with the exception of the slightly average opening number, "Visions of a Blind Order", _Sanctus Diavolos_ is the sound of a band distilling everything that's ever made them worth listening to, adding several more elements to broaden the depth of their sound, and taking it all up a gear or two.

Curiously given the departure of their keyboardist last year (reputedly due to the band's return to a more stripped-down old school approach), _Sanctus Diavolos_ is actually slightly heavier on the synths than either of its two predecessors. In addition, the majority of the record is accompanied by a full-size female choir, which lends the album a truly haunting and organic atmosphere. But before you start thinking "Dimmu Borgir bombast" however, you can rest assured that Rotting Christ are using these elements in ways that you've never heard before. From the bleak portent of "Tyrannical" to the tranquil beauty of "Sanctimonious", the record is a clear testament to the fruits of the year-long gestation reportedly undertaken by band leader Sakis in the run-up to its final sprucing at Fredman Studios. Likewise, raw aggression is available in ample doses, with "You My Cross" being easily the most upfront and abrasive work the band have recorded for ages. But while the record may be deeply rooted in black metal, calling it a return to the primitive darkness of _Thy Mighty Contract_ would be doing it a severe disservice. Instead, _Sanctus Diavolos_ is the product of a band at their most confident and evolved. And perhaps most importantly it is the sound of a band finally breaking into the upper echelons of their chosen genre in a most convincing manner.


(article published 23/9/2004)

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