Review by Xephyr for Rotting Christ - Thy Mighty Contract (1993)
The Jack Of All Black Metal
Rotting Christ’s debut seems to put them in a strange, in-between spot compared to the rest of the early 1990’s Black Metal landscape. They aren’t as tremolo focused or lo-fi as Darkthrone, nor as riff focused as Samael, nor as chaotic or evil as Mayhem, nor as thematic as Satyricon, so where does that leave them? For me, Thy Mighty Contract tries its best to pull a lot of different Metal influences into a cohesive but varied package, but fails to be very exciting at the end of the day. The album is filled with a smorgasbord of different tones and styles, ranging from classic blast beat tremolo, to mid-tempo Heavy Metal style riffing, to attempts at symphonic elements during tracks like “Dive the Deepest Abyss”, but I can’t say that Rotting Christ mastered any of these yet.
Given that they play so many different kinds of riffs throughout the album, it’s slightly unfortunate that I think Rotting Christ is at their weakest when they’re playing straight up Black Metal. The tremolo sections in “Transform All Suffering into Plagues” and “Coronation of the Serpent” are devoid of any sort of drum fills or flourishes, making them way too repetitive and downright uninteresting for the most part. “Exiled Archangels” does a better job with its more interesting melody and interesting layering of the guitars, but I’m still just waiting for these sections to be over and done with as I make my way through the album. Rotting Christ shines a bit brighter with their mid-tempo Black Metal riffage, with tracks like the aforementioned “Exiled Archangels” and “Dive the Deepest Abyss” becoming much better once they transition out of the tremolo and into the chug portions. While the riffing is good it’s not exactly stellar either, coming up short in comparison to its peers and even some of its contemporaries like Bathory’s mid-tempo tracks. The vocals are also pretty middle-of-the-road for me as well, with vocalist Necromayhem showing he has a decently varied range when it comes to his Black Metal shrieks, but he rarely steals the show.
Thy Mighty Contract lacks some overall aggression and presence and attempts to make up for it with an evil, occult atmosphere with some of the synth work, but ends up sounding fairly half-baked overall. Even though I’ve been pretty harsh on this album, I think it comes down to having the knowledge that other Black Metal albums I really enjoy simply execute all the parts of Rotting Christ’s style in better ways than what they showcase on this album. For someone who is looking to figure out their niche or taste in Black Metal I think Thy Mighty Contract would be a great recommendation, since it does a decent job at covering a lot of the aspects that other Black Metal bands specialize in. While their tremolo riffs drag a bit, their mid-tempo riffs aren’t exactly the hardest hitting ones I’ve ever heard, and their attempts at creating an occult atmosphere are hit or miss, there are still some great moments and transitions hidden in a few tracks like “His Sleeping Majesty”, “Exiled Archangels”, and “The Fourth Knight Of Revelation”. While I don’t think it aged as well or in the same ways as some of the other heavy hitting classics, it’s still a varied and inoffensive debut from yet another well known mid-1990’s Black Metal band.