Satanas Tedeum(demo - 1989, Unisound - 1994)
Evading pigeonhole afficionados, this raw demo-quality release straddles the border between doom, death and black metal. It clocks at only 17 minutes yet manages to explore the regions of My Dying Bride doomdeath, pounding Bathory-esque black metal, Black Sabbath heavy riffing, and even some dark keyboard passages. The majority of the sound however is doomdeath, and the vocals are standard, deep death growls. The production and composition are raw and simplistic, and although dark strength and potential are lurking behind the music, it lacks hooks and they fail to convey any grip or power with such a simple, moody approach.
Passage to Arcturo EP(Decapitated - 1991)
Glimpses of interesting creativity, slightly more gripping riffs and good moody keyboard or ritualistic passages, but still not there I'm afraid. The composition is weak at times, but more importantly, the delivery is sloppy and lacking zeal and conviction. This is actually a step down for these Greek pioneers and the muddy production doesn't help the songs either. Otherwise, the music is the same doomdeath with Bathory and Black Sabbath elements - some interesting arrangements and riffs but overall a dull and one-dimensional sound. It's time to stop rehearsing and give us the real stuff, oh Greeks. Standouts: The Forest of N'Gai - good dark keyboards and Bathory style battle-march drumming, and the two live tracks included in the re-issue that have slightly more passion.
Thy Mighty Contract(Osmose - 1993)
..and the wakening bell has been struck. This time around they sound like they're paying attention to what they're playing and they give us something we can sink our teeth into. The first track rips surprisingly into dark blasting black metal with higher pitched black vocals, but the forthcoming tracks prove this to be a rarity rather than the new RC sound. Variety is the key again with increased melody and black metal this time, together with doom, heavy metal, and death all playing a part. The rhythm guitars are quite clean compared to other bands in the genre and the production has improved. Unfortunately, although they seem to have a talent for great riffs, they don't seem to know what to do with them a lot of the time and the music desperately needs more lively dynamics and tonal color. Repetition and weak composition rear their ugly heads and ruin any good things going for the music. Halfway through the album it starts to drone and repeat itself in a really bad way and I just wait for it to be over. Good keyboards augment the guitars when appropriate and there are about 3 good songs at the beginning of the album, but overall, I would stay away from this one.
Non Serviam(Unisound - 1994)
It may have something to do with the re-issues but the sound quality definitely took a step down here back to a somewhat muddier sound. As for the music however, nothing much has changed or improved and it even seems to have gone downhill again. As an example, the first three tracks step through black metal with rabid, higher pitched vocals, to a long and very dull doom track and then to slow or mid-paced death metal. The vocals are mostly a charging death growl but with a weaker timbre than usual and atmospheric keyboards are used quite often. Aware of the good reviews this album got, I listened to it quite a few times and tried to put my finger on what is missing. There is a serious lack of development in the song structure and the songs either repeat themselves too much, or shift about aimlessly from one arrangement to another without building up to anything at all. The more black metal sounding songs at least have some dramatic content and there are good riffs scattered throughout the album, but the weak composition plods along and kills the album even more than on the previous one. Thy Mighty Contract had some good songs at least, this one is all dead. I'm surprised so many people like it.
Triarchy of the Lost Lovers(Century Media - 1996)
With a final change of label came a vast improvement in the composition and a bigger selection of catchy riffs and choruses. This may have marked them as commercial exploiters for some, but the fact is that this is where their talent lies and their strength is in melody. That said, I classify this release as a blend of heavy metal and doomdeath with heavy riffing, slow epic melody and slight traces of black metal. The death growls lean slightly to black shrieks and sometimes even get in the way of the more elegant, melodic music. Only a hint of keyboards is used and there is a wide variety of different tempos. A warm production, tight composition and lots of catchy riffs make this one a winner, although there are a couple of weak tracks. What makes this album less enjoyable though is the feel of too much slowness that permeates the album as a whole, as if the guitar players had heavy fingers. Personally, I found it annoying that it wasn't slow and dark enough to be proper doom metal, and that it wasn't fast and energetic enough to be anything else either. In summary, there is nothing here to sweep you off your feet or to brutalize your senses, but it's a melodic, heavy and solid work definitely worth checking out if you like your metal slow.
A Dead Poem(Century Media - 1997)
Predictably, Rotting Christ work on the successful sound from Triarchy and try to improve and expand on it. New elements appear such as Xy (Samael) lending a hand at the keyboards (now more prevalent, removing the edges off the riffing and adding syrup), a new gothic, warm and increasingly commercial sound, and a roaring production. Old elements such as the black metal influence and most of the faster death metal seem to have disappeared. I sometimes wonder whether Century Media gives seminars to the bands in their roster on 'How to sound like a Century Media band', or perhaps they get all the bands together to share ideas and fiddle which each others compositions. The vocalist sounds like he's trying to emulate Samael's vocals often, and many songs sound like Samael and Moonspell had their fingers in the pie. But yes, this is an improved Triarchy album with a very full and epic sound, catchy melodies and careful composition. It's a unique, heavy but soft form of metal with a strong doom and gothic element, or, you can insist on calling it 'soothing doomdeath' as well. Again, this isn't my favorite style and there are a couple of overly slow-moving tracks, but I find myself enjoying many of the epic and melodic songs a lot. Recommended for those mellower moods.
Sleep of the Angels(Century Media - 1999)
Recent releases roamed dangerously close to the cliffs of commercial platitude, but kept a safe distance thanks to the heavy riffing, epic melodies and harsh vocals. This album seems to be dangling its feet over the edge of that cliff with its overuse of keyboards and electronic effects, gothic vocals and pop-catchy guitars. That's not to say this is a banal piece of commercial excrement though: it's still chock full of heavy guitars, great melodies and growling vocals, but the bad aspects of this album ruin it for me. The vocalist makes the same mistake Moonspell did by forcing his clean vocals down too low to a bass range when he's a baritone at best. The result is a silly sounding, weak and dull vocal that works for some gothic rock acts, but not here. They do experiment further with the music however, and some of the results are quite interesting and progressive, while most others fail miserably. So overall I'd say there are a few things going for and against this album, and while I didn't find it charismatic enough to overcome the disadvantages personally, it may appeal to you. Taken as a whole, I found the album quite dull, so listen to it first if you plan to buy it.