The conventions of goth or death rock can sometimes be a little repetitive. The available tool kit is well developed though, sinister goth rock is hard to make. These are time-honoured approaches, not ‘safe-bets’. But with a challenging tool kit, what new grizzled ideas can a band, even as innovative and fabled as Christian Death, hope to pull from the charnel house? Especially when brutal popular opinion seems to prefer your first three albums from the early 80s, although I would also make a case for 2007’s American Inquisition.
Christian Death have never been a stadium anthem band, they are a forceful but highly artistic group that are constantly trying different ideas. Some will land, but not all of them.
Evil Becomes Rule is a dreary but passionate record. If you haven’t heard the band before, its most minimal moments are reminiscent of Swans more accessible (ha) moments and Susie and The Banshees letting rip. You have the poetic southern gothic feel of grotesque decay meeting the occasional chill of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. If you want to understand the latter comparison, check out the sixth track The Warning which references the Jimmy Savile scandal in the UK and British Royal Family.
If you know Christian Death already, then you are no stranger to the tribal, experimental drumming style, fuzzed-out guitars, pained vocals, and sinister atmospheres. Maitri’s vocals have always been one of the band’s biggest assets and this is still true on Evil Becomes Rule where they elevate songs from decent dark rock songs to identifiably Christian Death songs. Rise And Shine is when you really get to hear this in action.
The song structure twists masterfully and shifts energy incredibly well from dirge to pulsing rock…
It would be fair to say that ideas are dropped on you with precision on Evil Becomes Rule. Christian Death do know what they are doing(!). A standout track is Elegant Sleeping, which feels like the first proper song on the album. The song structure twists masterfully and shifts energy incredibly well from dirge to pulsing rock. It is the first time we get some forceful cymbal hits from drummer Ryan Paolili underneath the dissonant and deranged guitar leads. The trademark Christian Death keyboards finally appear as well, which stay for the remainder of the record. This feels like a much more natural and confident groove for this iteration of the band.
However, this did feel like an uneven record. Mainly because of the first two tracks, The Alpha And The Omega and New Messiah, are too ponderous for openers. There are some impressive instrumental ideas that are executed nicely – a special shout out for the mandolin that makes an appearance, but they are virtually forgotten after the album really kicks off.
Most of the remaining tracks are much bolder and better for that. The best moments are arguably the more conventionally structured ‘rock’ tracks, with some substantial Christian Death moments: Valor Kand’s vocals on Evil Becomes Rule are brilliant, generating a claustrophobic, chilly atmosphere. Matri again steals the show on Rise And Shine, albeit with some troubling lyrics about inoculation.
If you are a fan of the band, then doubtless you will enjoy this – it’s Christian Death! But there is a case to be made that this record is not the starting place for someone wanting to get to grips with this artist.
Scribed by: James Bullock