Written by Kirk
AthanaTheos – Cross. Deny. Glorify.
> Death metal
> Releasing April 14
> Lavadome Productions
Do you like riffs? Because I like riffs. Like…a lot. I like fast riffs, slow riffs, riffs that go away and then come back slower, riffs that go away and come back faster, I pretty much like them all. Let’s face it, if the riff makes you squint your eyes, scrunch up your nose, and purse your lips like you just smelled something truly rancid, chances are I love it. And so should you.
The relationship between death metal and Christianity is as old and deep as just about any in recent music history. It was at the heart of the “Satanic panic” of the mid-1980s, a supposed recruitment tool used by Satanists to induct young people into the world of the occult. Of course this all turned out to be utter and complete bullshit, but these ties run deep nonetheless. Even now in 2023, much of the death metal world stands firmly and proudly outside of mainstream society, often using music as a lens through which to view the world. And AthanaTheos are no different, using death metal as a way to view religious history through the eyes of the atheist.
Death metal is also a genre that is very often defined by its riffs. Be they “brutal,” “technical,” “dissonant,” or “melodic” (among others), there are great expectations from fans the world over based on something as simple as riff style. But what about bands that choose to defy expectations and refuse to let their riffs determine their style? That’s where AthanaTheos stands out, thumbing their noses at tradition, convention, and our expectations as they shred their own legacy amidst this newfound resurgence of old school death metal. With two albums and an EP under their belt since forming in the wake of Soul Rejected’s disbandment in 2012, AthanaTheos are ready to take the world by storm with their third album, Cross. Deny. Glorify., a concept album (of sorts) that follows the lives of three generations of Roman men in the wake of Emperor Constantine adopting Christianity as the official religion of Rome the the decay of the empire’s former glory that this ensues.
Kicking things off is “The Cross”, and I don’t use the work “kick” lightly. This song is less of an opening track than it is a mission statement. There are no protracted interludes here, no gentle acoustic guitars, no frills of any kind; there is only DEATH METAL. Samuel Girard’s guitar work is excellent and his vocal style spot-on, and session drummer Antoine Poisson’s percussion work is exquisite. I’m not a big death metal guy, but the OSDM vibes given off here will give your grandma permanent stank face.
The punishment continues as we move on to “You Were Not”, a pure onslaught of guitar riffs brought on by chants of “RAISE THE CROSS!” at the closing of “The Cross”. The pace of this song is insane, the fury of Samuel’s growls and guitar matched perfectly by Antoine’s blast beats. If you aren’t banging your head by now, something is clearly wrong, because mine is killing me. Which is good, because we get a bit of a break in the tempo moving on to “Credo Quia Absurdum”, which is Latin for “I believe because it is absurd.” Samuel’s blazing riffs slow down to a heavy dirge as session guitarist Kiato Luu lends his solos to help bring balance to this song. And Samuel is pulling double vocal duty as well, adding a choir of clean vocals in addition to his guttural growls. While this song is not quite as brutal as the previous two, it’s heavily layered with elements that bring new textures to the album.
The tempo picks back up with “They Are Spreading the Pestilence”, a return to the pacing of opening track “The Cross”. Samuel’s tight riffs and Antoine’s thunderous drumming once again shine, punctuated tastefully once again by Kiato’s solos. But there’s a noticeable shift in the vibe here, an undercurrent of outrage and fury boiling beneath the surface, waiting to erupt. And erupt it does on “To Deny”, as Samuel is joined by session guitarist Marvin Monternault to deliver some dual axe bliss. At a mere 2:44, this song is hot enough to blister your skin and is the shortest track on the record, but not one single second is wasted. Samuel, Antoine, and Marvin poured everything they have into this song, and it shows; this track is BRUTAL.
And now we enter another dirge with “The Silent Oblivion,” an almost death/doom closer to the album’s second act. Samuel’s riffs are no less furious than they have been previously but the tempo has simply shifted once again, slowing things down as Marvin’s solos add texture and balance. And as before on “Credo Quia Absurdum,” Samuel pulls double duty on vocals, giving both death metal growls and clean singing alike. At a staggering 7:16, this is easily the longest song on the album so far, but it is also one of the heaviest. As it slowly fades out, you’re probably asking yourself how AthanaTheos are going to follow it up, but we once more jump into the fray with “Witnesss,” the start of the third and final act. By now, you’ve probably noticed a pattern—assuming, of course, you’ve been paying attention—in the flow of this album. Each act opens with a pounding, brutal assault, a fast-paced riff fest, and then a heavy closer. “Witness” is that pounding, brutal assault, full of crushing guitar riffs, blast beats, and cymbals crashing all around.
“Rise of Terror, Rise of Intolerance” marks the only appearance of guest guitarist Aurélien Guerriau on the album, but he makes his presence known as he and Samuel interweave their riffs to create an exquisitely rich sonic tapestry. The song builds and swells to a fever pitch as we draw nearer to the album’s closing track “To Glorify”. Once again the tempo shifts, and once again we find ourselves in the throes of another heavy dirge, this time clocking in at a crushing 12:52. Kiato makes his third and final appearance, once again adding his solos to Samuel’s fine assortment of riffs, and Samuel once again pulls double vocal duty by adding more clean singing “choir” vocals to help bring the third act to its climax.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Musically speaking, AthanaTheos are old school. But their style isn’t as simplistic as that of OSDM bands like Nile, Immolation, or Morbid Angel. Though not overly technical in execution, AthanaTheosis a celebration of all that is death metal and its rich musical lore. The band does not stick to one particular style, choosing instead to utilize the full breadth of death metal as it sees fit. And even though the recent resurgence of OSDM has brought a great many bands to the attention of fans both old and new, AthanaTheos have gone relatively unnoticed…until now. With Cross. Deny. Glorify., they are ready to carve their initials into the proverbial inverted cross and lay claim to all that is death metal. The only question that remains is this: are you ready?