Monday, August 24, 2009

Rotting Christ - Non Serviam (1994)

Released in October 1994, Non Serviam is the second full-length album from the Greek Black Metal band, Rotting Christ. It was released by Unisound Records and, apparently, they did little to promote this great record. I've read that the album was somewhat rushed, not getting the proper time for mastering. Maybe that accounts for the low sound on my CD. At any rate, it matters little as this is an incredible release.

My first exposure to Rotting Christ came from hearing the song "Ice Shaped God", on 'The Haunted Mansion'. Idiotically, I recall thinking the guy said it was "I Shape God" at first, so it took a little while before I was even aware of the correct title. Over time, I'd go on to record a couple more songs from the radio, that came off of this album. I was instantly hooked and began searching for the CD. I spent several years, keeping an eye out for this thing, without luck. It wasn't until a few years ago that someone gave it to me, as a gift, thus ending my quest. Prior to this, I'd nearly worn out the tape that had those few songs from Non Serviam, so I was quite eager to hear more. One winter night, with the open window allowing cold air to flow through the room and only a few candles to illuminate the proceedings, I experienced it as a whole. I wasn't disappointed.

Throughout the album, you will find a variety of tempos, ranging from mid-paced and majestic to much faster sections that are filled with intensity. The drums blast away as the staccato riffing sends you into a trance. This is accompanied by utilization of keyboards, which is more than on Thy Mighty Contract but still not too much, by any means. The production seems kind of soft, lacking an edge, being somewhat reminiscent of Tales From the Thousand Lakes, by Amorphis. The heavier doom riffs are a good contrast to the faster ones, giving off an epic feeling that was present in earlier songs, such as "The Fourth Knight of Revelation". The melodies are quite memorable and introspective, at the same time, though not in a depressive way. As well, the vocals are still quite unrestrained and feral. Magus Wampyr Daolith (of Necromantia) adds some back-up to Necromayhem's vocals, in some places. His style is more high-pitched and raspy, giving a nice effect.

Overall, the record has a more melodic sound, being much slower and taking its time to build up, with some assistance from the keyboards as well. The sound is a little thicker and more bottom-heavy than one would expect, though the muddy guitar sound is likely a result of the limited time they had as opposed to any direct desire. The riffs are absolutely haunting, being very memorable and easy to follow, even during the faster parts. The lead solos do well to add depth to the songs, also. The sound is powerful and crushing, yet epic and flowing. There is an intensity and passion that borders on pure madness, found here.

It's nearly impossible to select any particular song as a stand-out track, as there is an incredible cohesiveness throughout. It's not a matter of one or two songs standing above the rest. The whole album is very consistent in its delivery, as there is not one bit of filler. From the vicious speed riffing of "The Fifth Illusion" and "Where Mortals Have No Pride" to the more overtly melodic riffs of "Non Serviam" and "Mephesis of Black Crystal", this L.P. filters a lot of traditional Heavy Metal structures through the Hellenic Black Metal style. Every song is like a mini-epic, containing various shifts in pace and feeling, each melody building upon the previous one. Also worth noting is that, on this release, Rotting Christ doesn't sound nearly as similar to Varathron as on the previous outing. It is also interesting that, excluding "Fethroesforia", this album seems to follow the same pattern set by Thy Mighty Contract. Just compare the two, track by track, to see what I mean.

In the end, despite whatever shortcomings the band were dissatisfied with, Non Serviam is an excellent record that deserves to be explored by anyone interested in the Greek Black Metal scene. For those that think Black Metal was something limited to Scandinavia, around the early-to-mid 90s, seek out the earliest works of Samael, Master's Hammer and, of course, Rotting Christ.