Christian Death – Evil Becomes Rule

Posted: 9 May 2022 in Albums
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Season Of Mist – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, in this line of work, an album will land – or however else you prefer to phrase it – and you know it will likely mean almost infinitely more to you than pretty much anyone you’ll see or speak to or who’s likely to read the review. As a reviewer, you pretty much live for opportunities like this, to cover bands you’re not only a huge fan of, but have been since you properly started discovering music, and also reading the music press (something that sadly no longer exists, at least here in the UK, which once had a rich range of reportage and critique, thanks to Melody Maker, Sounds, and last one standing, NME. Sure, they had their failings, but like The Word, Snub TV, and The White Room on TV, and John Peel, Janice Long, and even Zane Lowe on Radio 1, they were key for providing exposure to ‘alternative’ music and breaking new acts.

It was via Melody Maker and Mick Mercer’s Gothic Rock Black Book that I first encountered Christian Death, and purchased Sex and Drugs and Jesus Christ on its release in 1988. This in turn not only led me to excavate their back catalogue and purchase each new release, but to catch them live a couple of times. They’re a band I’ve not so much returned to, but never really left, despite not always keeping up to date with new releases.

But here we are: it’s the spring of 2022 and after a significant gap since The Root Of All Evilution, Christian Death return with Evil Becomes Rule, which Valor says is, essentially, a sequel, explaining, “Both Evil Becomes Rule and The Root Of All Evilution are pretty much the story of evil. These songs are generally about “The Evil Within Society,” not necessarily stemming from a demon, or a devil, or a God. Instead, it’s about something concerning the evil within mankind… Evil Becomes Rule is a continuation of this theme. We’re going from the present time into the future. When we started writing this album, we anticipated an event like the pandemic; a disastrous event occurring on the earth. So now we’re asking the question, “maybe this is just the beginning of it?”

Evil – and its opposite – is a familiar theme for Christian Death: The simultaneously released All The Love / All the Hate albums explored these diametric standpoints, and essentially aligned hate with evil, taking this idea of the evil within man to its logical end with songs like ‘Nazi Killer’ and ‘The Final Solution’. As such, perhaps the lineage of exploration can be traced a fair bit further back in the band’s career than the last album.

Evil Becomes Rule is quintessential Christian Death, but as is always the case, it’s different from anything before. It’s heavy in places, a shade less metal than things were around the turn of the millennium (Sexy Death God, for example, felt a bit too metal and a shade underproduced), and they seem to have hit something of a sweet spot in terms of balance this time around.

Opening the album, ‘The Alpha and the Omega’ is sparse, but tense, claustrophobic, and initially finds Valor in his best Bowie mode – crooning, stealthy – and this, is the shape of the verses – which contrast with the explosive choruses, there things get dark and, I have to say it, high gothic. ‘New Messiah’ has a quite different vibe, and is almost swingy, smoochy, but does again exploit the quiet verse and big chorus dynamic, and faintly echoing in the dark recesses, there’s the ‘I feel like my heart is being touched by Christ’ sample from Altered States that also appeared on ‘Mors Voluntaria’ from Insanus, Ultio, Prodito, Misericordiaque. It’s still fucking eerie.

Maitri takes the lead vocal on the urgent thrashabout of ‘Elegant Sleeping’, which harks back to their earlier works more than any other on the album, before ‘Blood Moon’ crashes in and already feels like a familiar friend. It’s as strong as any of the singles they put out during their late 80s commercial peak, as represented by ‘Church of No Return’, ‘Zero Sex’ and ‘What’s the Verdict’, and the production is smoother, too, and it very much works in its favour. ‘Abraxas We Are’ is a heavy rock epic which is equally single-worthy, and features some blistering lead guitar work, and they find their rock stride even more solidly with ‘The Warning’ – bursting into a rabid, ragged, industrial stomp about killing sprees in the chorus, and it kicks arse abundantly.

The songwriting – and attention to dynamics – are very much to the fore on Evil Becomes Rule, and the switch to pastoral chamber music in the intro to ‘Beautiful’ brings a nice contrast – the song effortlessly swings into stonking post-punk and is quite uplifting. The album concludes with the suitably dramatic two-part ‘Who Am I’, that combines Spanish guitar and a surging crescendo.

Evil Becomes Rule is by no means their most biting or intense work, and it doesn’t have the raw impact of Sex and Drugs, but instead harks back to the dramatic style of Atrocities, and it works well. It is, perhaps, their most rounded and well-realised release yet, as well as their most consistent. Oh, and yes – we are indeed ruled by evil. These are dark times, where we really need Christian Death and voices of dissent.

AA

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