Rainbows in the Dark: Christian Death — “Evil Becomes Rule”

Do I really need to give you a primer on Christian Death at this point?  They’ve been around for over forty years, and while their membership has been a little inconsistent (to put it mildly, but we’ll get there), their overall impact on the musical landscape cannot be understated.  Even if you somehow have never heard of them, they fall into a category of bands that I find the history of unique and captivating.  They are your favorite band’s favorite band, and on their most recent release, Evil Becomes Rule, they double down on just what makes them so appealing across a wide spectrum of artists and fans.

When I say “your favorite band’s favorite band,” I mean it.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what your taste is, everyone from Celtic Frost and Cradle of Filth to Paradise Lost and Type O Negative to Korn and Jane’s Addiction count Christian Death as a huge influence.  There is one thread that connects all these points though, and that is shock.  Christian Death has always been a foremost purveyor of blasphemy, anti-Christian sentiment, and general morbidity in the face of a complacent and pacified musical landscape, and in this respect Evil Becomes Rule doesn’t deviate from the expected norm.  This legacy began with original frontman Rozz Williams, but for the better part of almost thirty years, Christian Death has been fronted and masterminded by multi-instrumentalist and singer Valor Kand.  While the promotion of Kand to frontman upon the departure of Williams (and subsequent lawsuits and dueling lineups of Christian Death, as there usually is when trademarks come under a microscope) left a core group of the band’s early fans alienated, it doesn’t seem to have slowed Williams down at all, as Evil Becomes Rule marks the group’s seventeenth studio album and thirteenth masterminded by Kand.  On this album, Kand is joined by longtime collaborator Maitri (the second longest tenure in Christian Death besides Kand himself) on bass and co-lead vocals and the mononymic Pao on drums.

Christian Death describe Evil Becomes Rule as “[not] merely a musical endeavor, but an artistic expression that blends elements of gothic rock, post-punk, and dark pop, cultivating a poetic aesthetic that is certain to continue to influence the next wave of gothic rock.”  Artistic, it certainly is, as it effortlessly blends that band’s trademark gloomy death rock with scrambled vocal samples, eerie keyboards, off-kilter tone switches mid-song, and Kand’s inventive use of instruments (see him utilizing both the inside and the outside of a piano to great dramatic effect on the title track), all feeding off the avant-garde vibe they’ve been cultivating recently.  On the other hand, though, Evil Becomes Rule is also the most meat-and-potatoes goth rock album they’ve made in some time.  While the keys and the weirdness are touches that spring to the forefront periodically in each song, they are solidly grounded in doomy, riffy and melodic guitar lines, spurred along by Kand and Maitri’s dueling lead vocals (which, in my opinion, is one of the more interesting aspects of their sound).  Tracks like “New Messiah,” “Blood Moon” and “Beautiful” are much more pop-like and hooky than you might expect, and hearken back to the band’s earlier work in a way that feels genuine and inspired as opposed to forcing nostalgia for its own sake.  These are songs that are going to work their way into your nightmares, and you’re going to be thankful for it.

Christian Death are nothing if not consistent, and on Evil Becomes Rule, they condense the best of everything they have learned and experimented with in the many decades they’ve been slinging their perverse brand of morose rock and roll and deliver something that punches with renewed vigor and force.  It seems there is nothing that can slow down their momentum, and at this point there is going to be yet another generation of bands taking their cues from Christian Death.  Good.

– Ian

Evil Becomes Rule is available now on Season of Mist.  For more information on Christian Death, visit their official website.

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