There are few albums that have ever come out that can be described as monumental. These albums are few and far between; often carving with the terrible swift sword of innovation, or trudging through with the tried and true tactics of perfecting an old formula – keeping sacred the secrets of the music itself. There are significantly less bands who can claim to have produced monumental albums that fall into each crevasse of the example. ROTTING CHRIST is one of those bands.
Maybe it was their lineage? One linked to the Ancients, the torchbearers to the rest of the world, the heart of the Western idea of Truth, and the forefathers of blazing new, frightening trails upon which the rest of man will wander? Maybe the pagan moon was just in the right place upon their conception? That ROTTING CHRIST was somehow blessed from their genesis, to be the bearers of genres and sounds unbeknownst to the rest of Europe? No matter the cause of their primitive genius, ROTTING CHRIST stood tall as an incredible musical force, and the titan that would single-handedly drag the rest of their country along with them in their sonic pursuits; and as it stands, they are one of the few bands to walk the Earth who possess such a riveting and coveted title as monumental.
After a stint as an excellently crafted black metal band, ROTTING CHRIST began to craft a new kind of Metal, one that took the melodies and romanticism of Black Metal to a level that was unheard of, save a few bands. Perhaps this era can best be described using the antiquated term of ‘Dark Metal’; an ambiguous term used to detail the combination of Black and Gothic Metal. Normally, I would refrain from using such restrictive terms when describing music, but in this particular moment, no other word seems quite as appropriate. “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers” is the quintessential sound of Dark Metal: a seamless blend of the grim and heavy aspects of Black Metal with the unbridled mysticism and (dare I say) religious/romantic/spiritual nature of Gothic Metal.
As you, my dear reader, may have guessed from the score, this album is a masterpiece. “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers” perfectly encapsulates the emotional aspects of heavy music. It is simple, almost bafflingly so. The lyrics are spoken in short bursts of couplets, in Sakis’ standard shrill growls, but they detail incredibly profound moments in these simple stanzas. Just one example from “Snowing Still”:
“All my dreams/take me backwards”
Has a profound Yeats-ean effect on the listener. There’s an underlying sense of sadness ever-present throughout the duration of the album; a sadness that has yet to be remotely matched by any other metal album that this listener has encountered. Gone are the blasphemies and anger of the previous albums, instead replaced by a solemn, almost reverent, sense of self-examination. The melodies accent this dreary lyricism to a tee; possessing the perfect blend of power chords and metallic influence with bombastic melodies and sweeping soundscapes. No other album captures the harrowing and persistent sadness of loss quite the same way that ROTTING CHRIST manages to do on this album. In a way, this album’s funereal environment becomes the catalyst for a joyful celebration of loss and death of a loved one. In a way, ROTTING CHRIST has created a profoundly
“A body becomes a prison.
An eternal soul
Come to me
You will be able
To go to everywhere
To see everything”
This is the essential line of the album. One that doesn’t force the listener into anything. There is no bludgeoning, no blasting, no militaristic ideal or imperial attitude that normally drapes over the genre. Instead all of these aspects are replaced by the simple philosophy of “letting go” and letting Sakis and crew create the beautiful, weaving, textually rich melodies and intricate and intimate lyricism which will carry the listener away.
Each song on this album is perfectly and artfully crafted to bring the listener new pleasures on a variation on a theme. The whole album, as it stands, is rather monochromatic. It reeks of grey and black, of the hollow and cold production, and the echoed and distant layering. But, with each listen, the listener is granted a new subtle aspect to appreciate. It is monochromatic, but with the blanketed color palette, ROTTING CHRIST manages to make each song entirely memorable. The riffing is truly excellent, providing a complex and layered background for the breathtaking melodic leads.
I would dare say that this is ROTTING CHRIST’s finest moment in harmonizing and layering in their entire career. Sakis lays down the most hooks in his career and none come off as cheesy, overly dramatic or unnecessary. Each song is an excellent example of Melodic Metal, but without the frills and theatrics that many bands seem to pile on to make up for lack of songwriting skills. ROTTING CHRIST allows each riff to breath, to dance around and to identify itself. This is a feat that few bands manage to accomplish over the span of their careers, and ROTTING CHRIST perfected it on one album.
To detail each song seems to be trivial at this point; each one is memorable, yes, but to try to break it down track by track seems almost unfair. This is not album to be listened to in piece-meal. “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers” is meant to be listened to as a whole, at it is the perfect length to do so. To give an anecdote about the nature of listening to this album, I will use a story about the first time I had ever heard it.
It was a cold northeastern Ohio winter, and I was a lowly sophomore in high school. I just moved out to my new house in the country, complete with twenty-three acres of deep forested land. I put on my thickest wool sweater and pea-coat and decided to explore the newly acquire property. I could only bring one CD with me in my Walkman, and I had just received “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers” so I decided on that.
I explored the forest, colored entirely white by the morning’s snow, for the entire length of the album. I broke open the ice covering the rivers, revealing the immensity of life beneath the deadened snowfall, the small minnows swimming against the current, the invincible plants that thrived on the banks. I looked to the aging oak trees and saw that they were very much alive, in spite of their slackened appearance; there were animals creating their dens within them, feeding off of the plants buried deep within the earth. It was then, among what seemed to be a frigid and still wilderness, that I understood the nature of this album.
It is a definitively cold album. The production is hollow and tinny, the guitars razor-sharp and glacial, appearing to be dying amid the unbearable grey taciturnity. But, underneath its unforgivable textures, therein lies a living, breathing, organic structure; almost offensive in its sensitive and intricate nature, revealing a romantic and sweeping grandiose stage. To say that this album is emotional is a gross understatement. To say it is deep and touching is to do it an injustice. Simply put, “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers” is the sound of a band maturing beyond their years, understanding that the most heart wrenching and beautiful moments do not come from dramatic displays of emotion, but from subtle plays on the beautiful itself.
Maybe this review reads like a gushing love letter, rambling and scattered. I think that’s appropriate, actually, and I don’t think there’s any other way to describe it. I do truly love this album. It represents the shift from where I stopped viewing Metal as an amateurish and childish genre to a genre filled with incredible musicians and thinkers. It is a profoundly important album, one marking the shift of a band from a good band, to a collection of artists, bristling with talent and humanity.
I could not recommend this album highly enough. If the listener gives enough time to it, it will reward him or her with untold rewards, far beyond what most albums can do. “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers” is a triumph of the genre, and one of the most brilliant and perfectly crafted albums of all time. One would be remised if one passed it up based on the band name, or simply the fact that one thinks they may not be “into it”. I truly believe there is something here for every type of listener; “Triarchy” is too powerful not to believe such a thing.
(Online August 22, 2013)