Album Review – Rotting Christ / The Heretics (2019)

Heretics, atheists and rebels, it’s time to burn in the fires of the dark and occult Black Metal masterfully crafted by the greatest Greek institution in the history of heavy music.

“Since man cannot live without miracles, he will provide himself with the miracles of his own making. He will believe in any kind of deity even though he may otherwise be a heretic, an atheist, and a rebel.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It is not a coincidence that our review number 666 exhales blasphemy, heresy and, above all, first-class occult Black Metal and a lot of fire. Hailing from Athens, the capital of the beautiful Greece and the heart of Ancient Greece, here comes the greatest Greek metal institution of all time, the almighty Rotting Christ, spitting fire upon humanity with their fantastic and very atmospheric new opus, entitled The Heretics, their thirteenth studio album and a beautiful follow-up to their excellent 2016 release Rituals.  Recorded at Pentagram Studios in Athens, mixed and mastered at Fascination Street Studio in Örebro, Sweden, and featuring a stunning artwork by Ukrainian designer Vyacheslav Smeshko and cover art by Greek artist Maximos Manolis, Rotting Christ’s new album is absolutely incendiary, going against all types of religion, church and creed.

And when I say incendiary I’m not exaggerating, as pretty much every single song from The Heretics mentions the world “fire”, proving the band’s mastermind, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sakis Tolis and his brother, drummer Themis Tolis, knew exactly what they were doing when turning what it truly means to be a heretic into their unparalleled Dark Metal. All lyrics are obscure, austere and rebellious, which together with all beautiful intonations by guests Stelios Steele and Dayal Patterson, as well as an array of guest musicians such as Irina Zybina (vocalist for Russian Pagan/Folk Metal bands Alkonost and Грай), Alexis Karamelis and Melechesh Ashmedi, makes the experience of listening to The Heretics truly hypnotizing, enfolding our souls in darkness and fire while the music remains as heavy, intricate and epic as we got used to from the Tolis Brothers. In other words, are you ready to burn in the purifying fires of the Dark Metal blasted by the one and only Rotting Christ?

The imposing In the Name of God brings forward a very atmospheric start, with the words by Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky spoken by guest Stelios Steele setting the stage for the crushing wall of sounds created by the Tolis Brothers, always in the name of fire, not to mention how its headbanging riffs will inspire you to break your neck in half, while Vetry Zlye, also called “Ветры злые” (which translates as “evil winds” from Russian), is another beautiful composition by those Greek metallers with the help of guest vocalist Irina Zybina and her mesmerizing voice, getting closer to what the band did in Rituals and with the drums by Themis sounding as imposing and demolishing as we like it in classic extreme music. “The mind is universe and can make a heaven of hell a hell of heaven”, and it’s with those words by English poet John Milton that Rotting Chirst kick off another thrilling hymn titled Heaven and Hell and Fire, showcasing austere, cryptic lyrics (“Beyond the burning fire, heaven and hell / Today I give you choices: life or death / I offer you desire, I sentence you to death / Today I give you a choice, I give you Hell”) that perfectly match with the song’s flammable, classic and very melodic musicality, with Sakis once again being a beast with his riffs and unmatched roars.

Hallowed Be Thy Name is a mesmerizing and extremely obscure hymn by led by Themis’ pounding beats, with Sakis extracting those low-tuned, Stygian sounds we love so much from his guitar and bass. Put differently, join their mass and burn with them, also savoring the words by William Shakespeare powerfully declaimed by Stelios, putting a majestic end to the song. Following such enfolding tune we have Dies Irae, where Sakis’ work on the guitar is the perfect example of how heavy and harmonious a riff can be at the same time, as well as the song’s background choir bringing even more thunder to this already potent song; whereas in I Believe (or “Πιστεύω”), which is based on a poem by Nikos Kazantzakis, a giant of modern Greek literature, the instrumental pieces are a bit too “polluted”, but nothing that makes the song boring or not enjoyable. Moreover, it should work a lot better live as it has the potential to generate huge circle pits due to its frantic pace. Back to a more visceral mode, we have the fabulous Fire God and Fear, with the words by French philosopher Voltaire (“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”) generating a stunning paradox with the birds gently chirping in the background in the beginning, before the scorching riffs and thunderous drums by the Greek brothers of metal urge us all to bang our heads nonstop. Hence, this is by far one of my favorite songs of the entire album, where we can savor that classic Rotting Christ sonority with a welcome contemporary twist.

Rotting Christ The Heretics Box Collector

The Voice of Universe is another song that will reach deep inside your mind and soul, with Sakis vociferating its insurgent words (“The angel, I won’t serve again / I won’t have a place anymore in heaven / It’s my own soul, it’s my own mind / And can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”) while Themis keeps blasting his trademark tribal beats, and when you think those Greek metallers couldn’t sound more mesmerizing and brutal at the same time they deliver the excellent The New Messiah, featuring an excerpt from Matthew 24:11 (“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”), with the guitars and all background elements and voices filling out all spaces in the air. And lastly, as the icing on the cake we have the magnificent, somber and ferocious The Raven, based on what’s probably the most famous poem by the iconic american writer Edgar Allan Poe, offering our ears over five minutes of cutting riffs, Black and Doom Metal drums, and endless poetry, with highlights to the sensational job done by Stelios Steele, giving life to Poe’s renowned lines. Actually, if you have some spare money to purchase any of the special editions of the album, you’ll also be able to enjoy the bonus tracks The Sons of Hell and Phobos (also called “The Sons of Hell, Pt. 1 & 2” by some people), two dark and demolishing tunes that make it worth the additional investment, or in other words, two excellent samples of modern-day Black Metal infused with epic and atmospheric elements.

In summary, The Heretics, available for a full listen on YouTube and on sale from several locations such as the band’s own BandCamp page and the Season of Mist webstore (and if I were you, I would go for the limited edition deluxe wooden boxset as it comes with several awesome perks), is definitely an album that will touch your heart and soul, taking you on a fascinating musical ride through the woes of religious wars, Zoroastrianism and the eternal war between good and evil. That’s what the unrelenting Rotting Christ offer us in their top-of-the-line new opus, and may Sakis and his horde continue to burn us all heretics, atheists and rebels with their dark and occult Black Metal for many decades to come.

Best moments of the album: Heaven and Hell and Fire, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Fire God and Fear and The Raven.

Worst moments of the album: I Believe.

Released in 2019 Season of Mist

Track listing
1. In the Name of God 4:13
2. Vetry Zlye 3:14
3. Heaven and Hell and Fire 4:52
4. Hallowed Be Thy Name 5:06
5. Dies Irae 3:45
6. I Believe 3:42
7. Fire God and Fear 4:49
8. The Voice of Universe 5:22
9. The New Messiah 3:07
10. The Raven 5:23

Deluxe Edition/ Limited Edition Deluxe Boxset bonus track
11. The Sons of Hell 4:18

Limited Edition Deluxe Boxset bonus track
12. Phobos 4:12

Band members
Sakis Tolis – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion
Themis Tolis – drums

Guest musicians
Giannis Kalamatas – guitars (live)
Van Ace – bass (live)
Stelios Steele – poem intonation on “In the Name of God”, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “The Raven”
Alexis Karamelis – backing vocals on “I Believe”
Stratis Steele, Alexandros Louziotis, Giannis Stamatakis & Theodoros Aivaliotis – vocals (choirs)
Nikos Velentzas, Stamatis Ampatalis, Vasilis Koutsoyflakis & Manos Six – percussion
Irina Zybina – female Vocals on “Vetry Zlye”
Dayal Patterson – intonation on “Heaven and Hell and Fire” and “Fire God and Fear”
Melechesh Ashmedi – vocals on “The Voice of Universe”

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Concert Review – Rotting Christ (L’Astral, Montreal, QC, 09/08/2016)

No Marduk? No problem at all, as Montreal still got an incredible night of extreme music spearheaded by the best Greek band of all time, the one and only Rotting Christ.

OPENING ACTS: Necronomicon and Carach Angren

marduk-tourFinally back from a lengthy trip to Montreal and Quebec City, it’s time to get the ball rolling again at The Headbanging Moose, and let’s begin with an outstanding night of Extreme Metal this Thursday in Montreal. First and foremost, in my opinion it was a huge lack of respect to all fans who had bought their tickets to see Marduk, Rotting Christ, Carach Angren and Necronomicon Thursday night at L’Astral in Montreal (by the way, what an amazing venue) to inform that Marduk had not received their Canadian working visas on time and, therefore, could not perform together with the other three bands of the night, only a couple of hours before the doors actually opened. I don’t believe the organizers were expecting the decision to not provide the visas to Marduk reversed the same day of the show, and I’m pretty sure most of you will agree with me it looks a lot more like an attempt to avoid a significant loss of money due to tickets being returned and refunded.

Anyway, Necronomicon, Carach Angren and Rotting Christ didn’t disappoint at all and put up a sensational show from start to finish, minimizing the pain we all had to endure due to the absence of the main band of the night. The first band to hit the stage was Canadian Symphonic Black/Death Metal horde NECRONOMICON, who after over a month on the road were finally back to their hometown to once again spread darkness over their beloved city at a packed L’Astral. Promoting their latest (and kick-ass) album Advent of The Human God, the band led by the talented (and also really cool guy) Rob “The Witch” Tremblay played a well-balanced mix of old songs with new demolishing tunes such as I (Bringer of Light) and Crown of Thorns, letting every single fan at the venue with a darkened heart and a huge smile on their faces. After their performance, Rob stayed at the band’s merch booth taking pictures with fans and selling high-quality T-shirts (really good stuff for only $25 each) and CD’s, which by the way are being re-printed already due to the high demand by fans worldwide. It’s so good to see bands like Necronomicon succeeding like that in an era where very few people buy physical music, and even better to see that when they play live they can transfer all the obscurity and potency of their music to the stage.

Band members
Rob “The Witch” Tremblay – vocals, guitar
Mars – bass
Rick – drums

img_1735After a short break, it was time for Dutch Horror Metal act CARACH ANGREN to haunt L’Astral with their theatrical and blackened performance. In case you know nothing about this excellent band from the city of Limburg, in the Netherlands, I highly recommend you go after their material because it’s not only very professional, but also unique and exciting. Furthermore, things get even better live, as all band members make sure they offer their fans a true depiction of their diabolical music. While Namtar kept smashing his drums and Ardek built a Mercyful Fate-inspired atmosphere through his keyboard notes, it were frontman Seregor and guest guitarist Jack Owen (let me say the presence of the famous ex-Cannibal Corpse guitarist was a huge and awesome surprise for me) who stole the show with their precise performances. I believe everyone at the venue loved the concert by Carach Angren, with songs such as When Crows Tick on Windows and Killed and Served by the Devil proving once again the fusion of theatre and extreme music, like what Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir do, always has a very positive impact on any live audience. There was even a wall of death close to the end of their show, which always translates into greatness for fans of demolishing music like myself.

Band members
Seregor – vocals
Ardek – keyboards, orchestrations
Namtar – drums 

Guest musician
Jack Owen – guitars 

ROTTING CHRIST

img_1744As aforementioned, we did not get Marduk, but who said the night wasn’t superb even with that unforeseen letdown? Well, that was only possible thanks to the flawless performance by Greek Black/Dark Metal titans ROTTING CHRIST, a concert that I personally recommend to anyone who loves violence and groove blended with history in heavy music. Call it tribal, ritualistic or warlike music, what Mr. Sakis Tolis and his army delivered to the fans in Montreal was beyond magnificent, with Sakis inciting every metalhed at the venue to “fight” in the circle pit. It was a neck-breaking, mind-blowing metal extravaganza that only a distinguished band like Rotting Christ is capable of delivering, leaving every single person in the crowd absolutely thrilled during their entire show.

I simply loved their precise mix of old classics, like the infernal The Sign of Evil Existence and Non Serviam, more contemporary tunes like the bestial 666, and brand new songs from the excellent Rituals, such as the hypnotizing chant Ze Nigmar, the delivish and rhythmic Apage Satana and my favorite song of the new album, the aggressive and energetic Elthe Kyrie (even with the stunning female vocals by Danai Katsameni not being live for obvious reasons). Nobody seemed to care about the fact that very few parts of the songs were sung in English, with most of their setlist being sung in Greek and other languages. The ritualistic and demonic aura of each song, played to perfection by all band members (in special by guitarist George Emmanuel, who was on fire during the whole concert as if he was possessed by an evil entity), was all that Rotting Christ needed to dominate the hearts, minds and souls of every fan at L’Astral.

img_1749I already nurture a lot of respect for Rotting Christ, but after what I saw in Montreal that respect grew even bigger than before. When you see a gorgeous girl that unfortunately has to be on a wheelchair (probably for the rest of her life) due to reasons beyond our control having an absolute blast the entire concert, getting totally mesmerized by the band’s powerful and primeval music, you know the band has something special in them. There are things only heavy music is capable of doing, especially bringing together all types of people it doesn’t matter how the person looks, the gender, religion, race or anything else. Unfortunately as I was still in Montreal until yesterday I couldn’t see them in Toronto Friday night, but I’m sure their Torontonians fans got exactly what they paid for: a stupendous concert of extreme music, perfectly fired by the most important and influential Greek band of all times. Put differently, next time Rotting Christ visit your city, don’t even think about missing the chance of seeing them live. Period.

Setlist
Ze Nigmar
Kata ton Demona Eautou
Athanati Este
Elthe Kyrie
Apage Satana
Grandis Spiritus Diavolos
Konx om Pax
666
The Sign of Evil Existence
Noctis Era

Encore:
Non Serviam

Band members
Sakis Tolis – vocals, guitars
George Emmanuel – guitars
Van Ace – bass
Themis Tolis – drums

Album Review – Rotting Christ / Rituals (2016)

The Greek gods of Black Metal return with a brand new opus that sounds more ritualistic and occult than ever, but as heavy and visceral as usual.

Rating4

rotting christ_ritualsI’m pretty sure most metalheads will agree with me when I say Rituals, the brand new opus by Greek Black/Dark Metal institution Rotting Christ, would be the perfect soundtrack to the most intense and gruesome epic movie of all time, making even classics like Gladiator look like a teen movie. Rituals does not offer just another selection of Extreme Metal songs crafted by this iconic band from Athens, Greece, but instead a sequence of ritualistic battle chants tailored to inspire us to grab our swords, shields and armors and be prepared to fight in this Holy War until our inevitable and sanguinary end comes.

In fact, this blend of Extreme Metal with History, religion and culture offered by Rotting Christ is not news to anyone. This has been a constant in the distinct career of this awesome Greek act since their inception in 1987, and with each and every new record they go deeper and deeper into the selected topics and themes, always improving the more contemporary blackened-Gothic style from their latest albums. Add to that the several guest musicians featured in Rituals and the band’s usual controversy in regards to their lyrics, and there you have another excellent album that will surely keep Rotting Christ more than relevant in the world of extreme music.

We already face a religious call to arms in the opening track, entitled In Nomine Dei Nostri (“In the Name of Our God”, from Latin), featuring guest vocalist George Zacharopoulos, who helps Rotting Christ in providing the album a solid start. Musically speaking, this tune is remarkably potent and imposing, a sonic battle that gradually grows within time and that gets even more impactful due to its demonic chorus. זה נגמר (Ze Nigmar), or “It’s Over”, is a dark and mysterious song about death and failure written in the official language of Jesus Christ (Aramaic) and is referred on his last 7 sentences on the cross, displaying the band’s trademark sonority with the guitar riffs by the band’s mastermind Sakis Tolis and the talented George Emmanuel creating a mesmerizing aura; while the high-octane tune Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie), or “Come Lord” from Greek, features Danai Katsameni (an actress of the National Hellenic Theater) vociferating some disturbing and desperate vocals which end up bringing a fantastic vibe to the music, not to mention those screams match flawlessly with the deeper growling by Sakis.

I simply love how many different languages and dialects are used by the band, always providing a fresh touch to their music, and in Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal), or “The Litanies of Satan (The Flowers of Evil)” from French, that couldn’t be different, with the music generating a belligerent ambience that provides guest vocalist Vorph (Samael) all he needs to darkly declaim the song’s French lyrics (“Toi dont l’oeil clair connaît les profonds arsenaux / Où dort enseveli le peuple des métaux, / Toi dont la large main cache les precipices / Au somnambule errant au bord des edifices”). And as heavy and tribal as it can be, Ἄπαγε Σατανά (Apage Satana), the Greek for  “Begone, Satan”, brings forward a hellish march where its background noises and vociferations add an extra layer of obscurity to this disturbing chant, sounding like a satanic mantra at times.

rotting christIn Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou), or “Death’s” from Greek, although you can hear straightforward Black Metal in the background, the music is at the same time very melodic and ritualistic, with hints of Symphonic Gothic Metal enhancing even more the quality of this beautiful cover version for a traditional Greek song by Nikos Xylouris. The initial and final narrations in For a Voice like Thunder (taken from the Prologue to “King Edward the Fourth” by William Blake) are obscurely amazing thanks to the fantastic contribution by the one and only Nick Holmes, who together with Sakis and his crew makes sure there are plenty of Gothic and Doom Metal elements from his band Paradise Lost added to the music.

Dark shadows continue to be over the music by Rotting Christ in Konx om Pax, which means  “Watch and do no harm” from Greek or “Light rushing out in a single ray” from Egyptian, another solid war-like composition where all instruments sound powerful, especially the sustained drumming by Themis Tolis and the song’s background keyboards. The same can be said about देवदेवं (Devadevam), or “God of Gods” from Sanskrit, a more melancholic and somber tune featuring guest singer Kathir which despite being very complex and dense, it lacks the Black Metal “venom” found in the other songs of the album. And the grand finale in Rituals comes in the form of a unique cover version for a psychedelic tune by Greek Progressive Rock band Aphrodite’s Child, entitled The Four Horsemen, where Themis and bassist Van Ace have exceptional performances while Sakis continues firing his bestial and effective growls.

There are so many details, so much content and so much to absorb in Rituals (which can be listened in its entirety HERE) that it becomes extremely difficult for an occasional listener of Rotting Christ to understand and enjoy everything the band is offering. However, if you’re a fan of occult and extreme music with a robust production and a primeval background, I’m sure you’ll have a very productive time listening to each “ritual” of the album. Rituals will take you to a time where crossing the thin line between war and religion was just a matter of accepting or not that the world we live in is hopeless, and there’s nothing we can do to change its wretched destiny.

Best moments of the album: In Nomine Dei Nostri, Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie) and Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou).

Worst moments of the album: देवदेवं (Devadevam).

Released in 2016 Season of Mist

Track listing
1. In Nomine Dei Nostri 4:57
2. זה נגמר (Ze Nigmar) 4:43
3. Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie) 4:49
4. Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal) 3:55
5. Ἄπαγε Σατανά (Apage Satana) 3:50
6. Του θάνατου (Tou Thanatou) (Nikos Xylouris cover) 3:37
7. For a Voice like Thunder 6:11
8. Konx om Pax 6:21
9. देवदेवं (Devadevam) 5:18
10. The Four Horsemen (Aphrodite’s Child cover) 5:24

Special Digibox bonus track
11. Lok’tar Ogar 4:25

Band members
Sakis Tolis – vocals, guitars
George Emmanuel – guitars
Van Ace – bass
Themis Tolis – drums

Guest musicians
George Zacharopoulos – additional vocals on “In Nomine Dei Nostri”
Danai Katsameni – additional vocals on “Ἐλθὲ κύριε (Elthe Kyrie)”
Vorph – additional vocals on “Les Litanies de Satan (Les Fleurs du Mal)”
Nick Holmes – additional vocals on “For a Voice like Thunder”
Kathir – additional vocals on “देवदेवं (Devadevam)”