Review: Rotting Christ Pay Tribute to the Pagan Kings of Old on Pro Xristou

Metal

Few things will give you a more bleak outlook on humanity than its own sordid, blood-soaked history. Mankind is a savage entity with the capacity to be as great as it is terrible; how appropriate, then, that one of the most effective ways to commemorate and immortalize some of our lowest moments, defining though they may be, is through art.

One of those defining moments, one of the most profound, even, is the rise of Christianity, which saw entire civilizations rise and fall around it, often directly because of it. Railing against the followers of Christ is something that has been baked into the fibers of metal for as long as metal has been a thing, but there is, of course, a reason for this. The corpses left in the wake of countless holy wars throughout the millennia, both before and after the Crusades, laid the foundations for the world we live in today, and although it might feel like a cliche now, it is still important to remember our history, no matter how violent it may be.

How very poetic, then, that a group of Athenians have taken it upon themselves to craft an homage to the last of the great pagan kings across the world who stood tall in the face of their own annihilation and dared to say “no”. I don’t care who you are, that’s metal as fuck.

Pro Xristou, the newest album from Greek gothic black metal veterans Rotting Christ, feels less like a compilation of songs and more like a soundtrack to some badass, high-budget historical drama depicting some of ancient history’s most brutal and pivotal moments. It’s not just an album, it’s a presentation. My last review was a fairly comprehensive track-by-track breakdown, but I can’t in good faith do that with this one, because the vibes are completely different this time around. This album is still very fun to listen to, but for a completely different reason. It’s not about technicality or speed, but instead the focus is on creating a sense of atmosphere which provides the backdrop for their romanticized renditions of historical events and figures.

That’s not to say there aren’t beefy, well-written riffs that make you want to bang your head, though. The opening title track has a very bluesy Southern vibe that sounds like something Down would have written, except that instead of talking about heroin and their interpretation of the meaning of life, they’re chanting about ancient mythological deities. Can’t complain about that. It’s a very short song, only about 90 seconds in total, but it gets the message across and starts things off on a strong note. The follow-up track “The Apostate” is almost entirely based around one simple chugging power chord riff while the narrator waxes poetic in a deep sonorous voice about Flavius Claudius Julianus, the last pagan emperor of Rome. A history lesson that you can mosh to? Can’t complain about that, either.

For the most part the music on this album is very straightforward, with little to no frills, bells, or whistles, but that doesn’t make it boring by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the opposite, in fact; if anything it feels triumphant, like it embodies the fighting spirit of those brave, stubborn heathens who so boldly defied their ultimate fate. There are plenty of tasteful transitions between riffs to keep things from getting too monotonous, and there is a lot of additional flair thrown in to elevate that all-important sense of spectacle. For example, “The Farewell” uses Gregorian chanting to great effect, and the choir in the beginning of “Pix Lax Dax” evokes images of a Greek trireme cresting the waves against the sunset as it makes its way to unknown distant shores.

There is, however, one song which stands head and shoulders above the rest, and that is the penultimate track “Yggdrasil”. The opening riff of that song makes me want to grab the nearest set of dumbbells I can find and start doing bicep curls like a maniac; something about those galloping chugs taps into the primal corner of your brain and shouts “Go! Go! Go!” It’s practically compulsory. Plus, as an added bonus, the Gregorian chants make a comeback, and that’s never a bad thing. When the final song “Saoirse” concludes with its massive chorus of “Hail freedom, hail freedom, our freedom, our wisdom”, it’ll make you want to stand on top of a cliff overlooking the sea with a clenched fist held aloft. It makes you feel patriotic for a land you’ve never known and never will.

In case you haven’t gotten the picture by now, Pro Xristou is all about atmosphere, and it is wielded expertly. It might not blow you away with virtuosic performances or time signatures that require a chalkboard to calculate them, but damn if it doesn’t get you fired up all the same. I happened to be listening to this album while a thunderstorm was brewing outside by pure coincidence, and I gotta tell ya, the vibes were absolutely immaculate. The distant rumble and smell of petrichor lent themselves perfectly to the aesthetic of this album, and I can only wonder if Julian the Apostate ever shared that experience while he and his men were facing down the Persian hordes. Seriously, if nothing else, this album will make you want to become a history buff, which is something this world desperately needs more of. How delightfully ironic that we have a band called Rotting Christ to thank for that.

Pro Xristou is available now via Season of Mist Records, order your copy here

Originally Posted Here

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