Hello friends, the listening booth is open as we settle solidly into 2019 with a trio of new releases. We’ve got Greek metal, Norwegian punk and something extraordinary from Holy Roar. If that doesn’t excite you, what will?
Is there a more stereotypically metal name than Rotting Christ? You’ve obviously got your Slayers and so on, but few band names cut to the core the way Rotting Christ does. You hear that, and you expect them to flay the skin from your face the second you hit play.
Which is why is almost always catches me off-guard when I put on a Rotting Christ album. While they are undeniably heavy metal, they’re never quite as ferocious as I expect them to be. These Greek lads were born in the fires of that classic European sound, and while there is a lot of black metal mixed in on tracks like ‘I Believe’, it’s backed up by an epic grandiosity. If you were in the mood to set up a sacrifice and wanted something to play in the background, you could do a lot worse than turn to Rotting Christ. The ritualistic stomping of tracks like ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ would be perfect for it.
And I’m sure you’ll all agree that such a thing makes them rad as hell. A fact that’s backed up by this album being delightfully blasphemous. Even if you’re new to Rotting Christ, you’re probably not going to be shocked to learn that they’re not a band who get along with old JC and his papa. The Heretics lives up to that billing, as it lambasts religion while drawing on famous atheists. If you’re of a literary persuasion sit down and try to spot them all, although there aren’t any marks for getting Poe, that one’s obvious.
An observation that nicely brings me to the one downside. At times, it is a bit cheesy. Our European brethren have always loved their metal big and brash, and truthfully I usually can’t stomach it. (Do people actually like Manowar? That can’t be a thing, can it?) Closer ‘The Raven’ is so frightfully on the nose that it made me want to turn the album off before it finished. Surely, post-Simpsons, we’re at a stage where anyone diving into Poe should be staying far away from pronouncing ‘Nevermore’? We can do better than that, people.
That aside, Rotting Christ do what you want them to. This is satanic metal that has you thrust your arms in the air, horns held aloft as you hail Satan and tell the bugger hiding behind his pearly gates to fuck off. If you can’t get on board with that, then you’re probably the problem.
Shout out to Riot Act for bringing these scamps to my attention. In fact, shout out to Riot Act in general, they’re a music podcast that pushes all sorts of lovely treats. It’s a not at all known fact that I’ve been listening to Stephen Hill since the old Metal Hammer Podcast and he’s shaped my music taste to the extent that it’s basically his music taste.
And Dangerface are good! (Got back to them eventually). They’re brilliant in fact, and also Norwegian which despite have roots there myself, I would never have guessed on first listen. This is the kind of rock and roll inspired hardcore that sounds like it came straight out of the good old US of A. The Bronx, in particular, are all over this, and if you need to read anymore before you hit play then we can’t be friends.
However, after a listen or two more, the Norwegian thing starts to make sense. Because then you remember that Kvelertak are also Norwegian and that they have a decent history in bringing out the rock in other genres. Anyway, enough about the fucking countries, onto the music.
Because this is a party album. I listened to it over the weekend while wandering around Edinburgh and by the end, I was craving the summer. I wanted to be drunk, in the warm with a beer in my hand while I banged my head and screamed along with ‘Burn It Down’. If someone could see to getting them over for festival season, I would be eternally grateful because I want to headbutt a motherfucker to ‘Wolves’. In a nice, friendly way of course. Mutual loving headbutting. That’s what we stand for here.
Look, I don’t know how else to sell this album to you. I’ve compared them to The Bronx, I’ve said I want to headbutt someone and really, beyond that, what do you need? Dangerface are exciting, and at this point, no fucker seems to know who they are (apart from everyone else that listens to Riot Act of course). Get in at the ground floor and then be smug when we are all smashing our heads together in a field one day.
Those geniuses down at Holy Roar only went and did it again. It’s almost becoming boring to point out what an incredible job Holy Roar is doing, but I am going to say it once more. They’re awesome, and A.A. Williams might well be their masterpiece. Well, I mean, she’s obviously her own masterpiece, they’re more like the wall that the masterpiece is hanging on. The Louvre to her Mona Lisa. Christ, shut up, Stuart.
This debut EP is a genuinely stunning piece of work. Four tracks coming in at just under twenty minutes that you will want to listen to again and again and again. It’s music that is dark and brooding yet overflows with beauty. Somehow it is both cold and claustrophobic and yet also uplifting in the magic of her voice. Its restraint is incredible as it finds something coming mighty close to perfection by never getting away from itself, but instead by teetering on that line between grandiosity and music that is still real and oh so alive. Fuck, I love it.
And that ramble of different words kind of sums up why I love it so because I’m still not entirely sure I know what it is. The obvious comparisons are your Emma Ruth Rundles and Sylvaines of the world, but (in what is a recurring theme for those artists) A.A. Williams both fits in with them and doesn’t. There is a fragility to this music, that you could easily see coming to the fore and becoming the focus. However, there’s also a darkness that means you could equally see her going down the Chelsea Wolfe route into the unsettling.
It all adds up to why I’ve almost put off writing about this for a few weeks and let all the more qualified people have their say before I’ve piped up. I can’t find the words to describe this music, I just know that it’s incredible and want to tell people that’s the case. That’s my job done, now go listen.