Theogonia, by Rotting Christ
Suggested by Owen Pauling
Offence in music is a nebulous thing.
Sometimes it’s overt, such as the band name here. You can’t deny that Rotting Christ is shocking at the very least, and downright offensive at most. There are worse offenders; Google brings some stellar examples. With apologies to my sensitive readers, my favourites include Wank For Peace, Midget Handjob, Diarrhea Planet, and the fabulous Bathtub Sh*tter.
As a Metaller, my teens offered opportunities for music-based offending, via band t-shirt rebellion. I was quite low key; my weapon of choice was Metallica’s Metal Up Your Ass, a gauntleted hand wielding a dagger emerging from a toilet. An acquaintance went full tilt boogie with the infamous Cradle of Filth shirt that proclaimed Jesus Is A C**t. Once, when staggering home from a party, he was ordered by the police to remove it. Sheepishly, he revealed his Body Count “I’m A Mother-F**king Cop Killer” shirt underneath.
This nonsense is more comedic than offensive, and massively tongue-in-cheek. Offense is in the eye of the beholder, a hollow complaint based on opinion, a luxury only afforded to those with a surfeit of time and a twitchy trigger figure. Sure, you’re offended, but that doesn’t make you correct. To paraphrase Steven Fry, who the hell cares?
Nevertheless, calling your band Rotting Christ is a statement of intent. It implies the music and lyrics within will have a certain level of religious irreverence, alongside being a clear indicator of the style of music you should come to expect. It’s Album 222, one-third of the Beast, and the evil is out in force.
Immediately, immediately, Theogonia ticks its promised boxes in blood. The black metal speed drumming on the opening track The Sign of Prime Creation is a masonry drill to the skull, and the admittedly emotive and textured Growl emanating from the singer are both far more offensive to my ears than any juvenile band name. This frenetic pace and throaty roar continues through the second song, Keravnos Kivernitos, and I’m almost at breaking point.
The next track, Nemecic, is likely my standout. For a start, the blistering drum pace slackens somewhat, but more importantly, more astoundingly, I begin warming to the Growl. The song has an Exorcist feel to it, as if we’re in a black mass to rid a vessel of ungodly possession. There’s a religious pomp to the keyboards and chanted refrains, and the singer’s growl is more a snuffling, barking release of a tortured soul or despoiled priest in the throes of demonic influence. It’s intimate, and disturbing, and for once it’s the perfect tool for the specific job it is doing. It’s helped, I think, by the language, which may be Latin or possibly Greek (the band themselves hailing from Athens). Either way, it heightens the ceremonial feel and is, well, pretty damn good.
Rotting Christ vacillate between uber-fast black metal barrages and pendulous demonic dirges, the latter of which are infinitely more exciting that the former. Songs like Nemecic and the final track Threnody were genuinely great, but they felt like lilies in a garden of thorns. Theogonia gets 6/10, and a appreciative nod for utilizing the growl in an intelligent and interesting way.