Rotting Christ: Discussing 20 Years Of Cult

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By Metal George Pacheco

For over twenty years, Greece’s Rotting Christ has represented the other side of black metal: the humid, Mediterranean side, where the riffs are thick and the melodies aged with the wizened tones of the ageless. In other words…it’s cult.

Bandleader Sakis Tolis (a.k.a. Necromayhem) and The Boys have never plagiarized from the book of Norse-core, but rather carved their own crimson career via an unstoppable atmospheric sense, and a watchful eye for unique, inventive guitar work. Indeed, “the Greek black metal sound” is something which is synonymous with Rotting Christ, and nowhere is this more evident than on the band’s tenth LP proper–and best since 1996’s Triarchy of the Lost Lovers–the practically flawless Aealo.

“I’m always looking forward and not stuck to my old ideas,” proclaims Sakis. “Ok, it would be a shame to say that I’m not influenced by my past or that I’m not stuck [somewhat] writing the ‘established’ Rotting Christ melodies. However, I AM the person who is always seeking the untrodden paths of the soul in order to find new directions, and this is what I did with my new creation. If I ever wake up and realize that I have nothing new to say, I will quit with the band.”

Such a sad turn of events would most certainly devastate the band’s ardent fanbase; those who have stuck with the troupe from the very early–and very humble–underground beginnings. The vocalist and guitarist realizes this dedication, yet remains determined to stay focused on the future, defending that, “Rotting Christ’s musical odyssey is a complex and weird history which reflects–at the time–artistic anxieties of my inner self. So many people are stuck on what we were doing back in early 90’s, and some with what we were doing with the albums A Dead Poem and Sleep of the Angels. [I feel that] our previous album Theogonia united them all, however, and hope that Aealo will unite them even more!”

Sakis continues, commenting on how soon after Theogonia the ideas for Aealo sprung from the band’s collective consciousness, similar to tale of the goddess Athena’s birth from the forehead of mighty Zeus from Mount Olympus, taken from classic Greek mythology. “It’s common knowledge that a very good album is difficult to surpass, so that filled me with stress, and–to be quite honest with you–a little touch of insecurity! As an artist, I had to surpass my abilities, so I took the composing process very seriously, and I isolated myself for more than a year in order to find out a way to seek out the unexplored paths of my soul. I worked differently this time, basing things more on the thoughts, and less on playing guitar. I philosophized a lot. I slept a little and I finally came up with Aealo: an album that I want to believe will bring the band a step up. Concerning the first feedback we’ve had, I think that we did manage to create a worthy and maybe better follow-up to Theogonia.”

He adds, “Also, I wanted to not be based in the digital procedures of atmosphere which are created from keyboards this time. I wanted to work on a real thing, so I created the atmosphere utilizing real choirs and instruments. I [used] a traditional Greek choir which specialized in lamentation songs, and I created some really occult melodies. I am a merciless hunter of the word ‘unique’, and I seek for my creations to sound this way; something that I want to believe that I achieved. I really feel this album sounds occult, and faithful to our roots.”

While most bands are hesitant to revisit those roots and past glories, Sakis seems proud to do so when questioned, remaining gracious while taking a trip down Rotting Christ’s memory lane. “The Passage to Arcturo EP was the primitive beginning of a dark career. This album sounds really primitive, almost from another era. Thy Mighty Contract has been spoken of as one of the best, better or more influential Black Metal albums of the second generation scene, and why should I disagree? Although I feel that Non Serivam features the best Rotting Christ riffing ever, with Triarchy of the Lost Lovers being simultaneously the most melodic and dark record we’ve done. By comparison, A Dead Poem has more of a ‘heavy metal’ sound, yet remains our best selling album, while Sleep of the Angels was a lot calmer and catchier. You either love that one, or you hate it.”

He finishes up, “Khronos possessed an industrial touch to Rotting Christ’s music, while still remaining melodic and experiment, whereas Genesis showcased us returning to our roots a little bit. ‘In Domine Sathana’ became a classic on that album. Finally, I feel that Sanctus Diavolos might be our darkest album ever, while Theogonia represented a new direction for Rotting Christ. Apart from our well-established style, we added the ethnic element to our music, and–maybe as a result–this one received the best reviews from the press.”

Whenever “the press” and Rotting Christ gets together, the inevitable question is never too far behind: has the band’s name has ever impeded a greater success, given the small minds of the general populous? At this point, the name must be perceived as a certain badge of honor, something worn with pride to defy those who never believed in the band.

“Our band’s name has closed many doors for bigger success,” admit Sakis. “Some of our shows have been canceled, some of the distributors didn’t accept our albums due to our name, we’ve even received death threats…but we keep on rocking with this song. We keep on punching conservative ideas and opening new paths in the name of freedom. And do you know something? I think that it’s better that we didn’t get more success and become commercial! That would mean that we would have betrayed our roots and betrayed ourselves…and this is a vanity.”

Aealo was released earlier this week in Canada on Season Of Mist.


Story courtesy of the Cape Cod Rock Music Examiner

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.