Sound: I've never listened to Rotting Christ before this album. I mostly assumed they were geared towards original but mostly very basic Black Metal judging by their history. But yet again, I find myself taken aback by the evolution bands like this take, like Darkthrone going from black metal to crossover thrash/speed metal. Aealo is another good example, it shows how a bands origin can have a distinct impact on sound. Instead of being just black metal, they've added a very large dose of folk music to their sound. Its also influenced somewhat by melodic death metal which can heard through the heavy palm muting, melodic riffing and also a more normal song structure.
Eluveitie, Chthonic and Ensiferum all bring different styles of folk music to their sound, so what do Rotting Christ do? They bring traditional folk melodies and, wierd as it sounds, traditional greek singers (the bands greek, obviously) and instruments (some sort of flute/pipe instrument). Its an odd combination, that works pretty well after listening to the album for a few times if you appriciate folk metal.
Production wise, its a bit hit and miss. While most black metal acts don't tend to use a top quality production, Rotting Christ attempt a good effort, and for the most part its pretty good. The few issues are that the guitars have very weak distortion and sound incredibly thin. The bass is audible and the drum tone is clear, but the guitar sound just makes it a little underwhelming.
While the idea of folk metal isnt a new idea in any way, their is certainly less than a handfull of bands that can incorporate such a style as greek folk music. Its a very interesting purchase and something to look into. // 8
Lyrics: Sakis Tolis (vocals, guitar) has a very, uh, unique vocal style. Its not really a black metal scream/shriek or growl, nor is it particularly deep, its more of a basic bark. He does show a deep clean vocal range though, much like Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquility): An example would be on the song 'Thou Art Lord'.
The lyrics on 'Aealo' aren't particularly complex, mostly to do with fighting and battles (like a lot of black/folk metal). They do hold a certain characteristic about them that is uplifting though, mostly in what I would call the 'spirit of folk'. You just get a rustic sense from listening to it.
Taken from the track 'Eon Aeanaos' just to relate to what I've said:
Won by our fathers soldiers
Won with offerings and blood
Blaze in each countenance
Spring thresh and fire the battle
But theres more: The use of female singers using a traditional style. This is particularly prevelant on the title track/first song. While the style is a little.. hard to get used to, it keeps the melody flowing and the music sounding fresh. // 7
Overall Impression: Most of the time, when comparing folk metal bands, you can only do it to bands with other folk styles, like Eluveitie's celtic/gaul influence. Most of the time, it will be comparing how well the band incorporate the styles of metal and folk together. Rotting Christ have had a very good crack at it, and the results are good. While not really anything at all like their previous releases. The production is clearer, the melody has been fully incorporated and the black metal template has been fused with a big chunk of folk.
The only real problem is the guitar recording. Its just so thin that the palm muting sounds like one guy playing from 20 metres away. This can best be heard in the track '...Pir Threonti'. I'd say it sort of has a razor-y qualitity to it much like the Gothenburg 'buzz saw' tone but its just not as good.
Overall though, I'm really taken by this album. I've never known such a prominent band to have such a diverse sound change, save Amorphis. I'd buy it again in a heartbeat, but of course modern technology gives us the MP3. And I suggest this album to anyone who is a fan of folk/melodic death/melodic black metal. // 8