Seemingly inspired by the blockbuster special effects film 300, which chronicled their ancient countrymen's heroic efforts to repel the much larger invading armies of Persia, Greek's greatest heavy metal band, Rotting Christ, delivered an evocative concept piece about a soldier's experience in battle for their tenth album Aealo. In fact, this title is an archaic Greek word meaning catastrophe or destruction, and along with the frequent warrior chants and fighting sound effects riddling these ten tracks, it serves as a perfect representation of the lyrical content herein. Musically, Aealo peels away the orchestral backdrops and gothic shrouds so prevalent on recent Rotting Christ albums to reveal the group's fundamental, melodic black metal essentials shorn to their core -- to the point that some fans may find the overall mix rather ascetic and thin by extreme metal standards. Meanwhile, novel sounds include the throatier growling style often employed by frontman Sakis (although his trademark rasp lives on as well) and a cornucopia of folk elements ranging from the snaking melodies gracing tracks like "Dub-Sa_-Ta-Ke" and "...Pir Threontai," to the uncanny chants contributed by the traditional choir group Pliades to the title track, "Demonon Vrosis," and comprising the entirety of "Nekron Lahes..." Even with all of these innovations, though, Rotting Christ's identity is never in doubt, thanks to their trademark blend of tight riffing (almost industrial in nature), fluid soloing (brilliantly showcased on "Fire, Death and Fear"), and punctuating harmonics that somehow manage to come off as both incredibly violent and improbably infectious, as epitomized by climaxing highlights "Noctis Era," "Thou Art Lord," and "Santa Muerte." Finally, closing the album and somewhat apart from it, too, is a cover of Diamanda Gal s' "Orders from the Dead," featuring the fearsome harpy herself, which, if nothing else, sheds light on Rotting Christ's intrepid will to experiment and evolve, even whilst digging into history's murky depths for inspiration. Indeed, who knows where that progressive attitude will take them next, but with a track record such as theirs, whatever it is can't come soon enough. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia
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