The Rotting Christ ideas factory has been somewhat low on stock in recent years, at least insofar as musical expression is concerned. Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού [very roughly translated at “Do What Thou Wilt”] is the latest effort from the Greek ambassadors of black and Gothic grit and though it does little musically but recycle ideas from the band’s last few releases, at least it has a Thelemic theme to it, something that metal could do well to explore further. When I say they’ve translated the title “very roughly” I’m not exaggerating, sparse research into the phrase will tell you that a more accurate translation is “according to one’s daemon” or “true to one’s spirit”, the line even appearing on Jim Morrison’s grave decades ago. It seems that Rotting Christ have taken the epithet and just churned it into something that fits the idea of the album without being entirely linguistically accurate. I’m sure their rate-per-minute would be lowered if they were freelancing in Greek-English translation for it.
This slightly confusing trend doesn’t stop there though. In spite of the fact that the album bears a Thelemic name, it doesn’t seem to have much to say about Thelema or Crowley in detail. More than anything it’s a patchwork quilt of many different ideas from ancient civilisations and traditions stuck onto one disc, be that via Thelema, Peru or Sumer. I can’t help feeling that Sakis, rather than spending his evenings poring over tomes of Sumerian cuneiform and the involved history of the Incas, just ends up flicking through a few copies of National Geographic for inspiration. I was rather thrilled at the concept of an album that boasted an interest in Thelema, firing off excited messages to the Sorors and Fraters at Astrum Argentum for research assistance, only to find that the end product has about as much spiritual belief in itself as a Muslim on the sausage packing line at Walls.
Musically things have changed a lot since the early days of Non Serviam and Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. It’s no secret that RC have asserted themselves to move on from the courser days of their early releases and have fallen into a territory of producing thick, generic melodic black metal where the order the day is some comfortable, cushioned power chords and the odd riff to make things extra digestible. Of course it’s a method that has worked time and time again for many artists, as long as it’s done well, but things do tend to get very formulaic in Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού. Most of the numbers are bloated to saturation with this same unadventurous formulae, which seems particularly shameful when RC were pioneers of the scene back in the 90s. Black metal these days demands so much from its listeners that albums like these are merely stretching at the bar as a result.
That’s not to say that Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού isn’t able to please the less particular fan, and if we close our eyes – and expectations – songs such as “Gilgamesh” and “In Yumen – Xibalba” with their tight riffs and enjoyable guitar hooks are certainly fun to listen to, but they’re hardly the kind of numbers that are going to enamour many black metal fans over and over again. Female vocals are further employed to soak up some of the pitch darkness that oozes out of the album but they do feel a little bit gesture, being shoved in to deliver what’s expected from the band at this high end of the scene rather than because they genuinely fit the songs. It seems that all the higher-end black metal bands insert female vocals into their music these days in order to give their sound an essence of class and ritualistic worth while at the same time doing little else than painting black metal by numbers. The track that they’re most prominent in is the promising “Cine iubeste si lasa” which begins with the soft sparking of piano keys and chilled female operatic wails, only to crescendo into something more bombastic, and even jolly, such that by the end of it all the sultry mystique that originally proved so tantalising has been fully eradicated.
Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού probably has more to offer to the long-term, unflinching and undiscerning fans of RC rather than those of us who started to lose interest in the mid 2000s. There’s no doubt that this band can put out excellent releases, but Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού seems to be inspired more conceptually than musically, and even in that regard it doesn’t really deliver, nor does the promise of ancient mystery of which RC are so apparently fond seep from the album as I would have expected, or as it would have done if the fascination for these areas of world history came from the very core of their marrow. Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού can serve those of us well who are looking for a generally unchallenging and meaty work of melodic black metal, but with the genre producing some high quality, experimental, inventive – and clever – music these days, albums such as these don’t stand up to their contemporaries.
01. In Yumen-Xibalba
02. P’Unchaw Kachun – Tuta Kachun
03. Grandis Spiritus Diavolos
04. Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Ἐαυτοὗ
05. Cine Iubeşte Şi Lasă
06. Iwa Voodoo
09. Ahura Mazdā-Aŋra Mainiuu
10. Χ ξ ς’
11.Welcome To Hell (Bonus Track)