Rotting Christ on Rockwave, Athens, 2015
Rotting Christ is a Greek black metal band formed in 1987. They are noted for being one of the first black metal bands within this region, as well as a premier act within the European underground metal scene. They are also responsible for creating the signature Greek black metal sound prevalent in the early 1990s.
The permanent line-up consists of brothers Sakis Tolis (vocals and guitar) and Themis Tolis (drums). Andreas Lagios was the bassist since 1997, taking the stead of Jim Patsouris until the end of 2011. Nightfall's Giorgos Bokos joined as a guitarist in 2005, replacing Costas Vasilakopoulos. In February 2012, Bokos announced his departure from the band for personal reasons. In December 2012, the new members of the band were announced: guitarist George Emmanuel and bassist Vagelis Karzis. George Emmanuel and Vagelis Karzis amicably left the band in February and May 2019 respectively to pursue other projects.
During their rehearsal era in the late 1980s, the band began as grindcore and released various demos and splits with other bands from the Athens area. The group would later alter their sound with influence from proto-black metal bands like Celtic Frost and Venom, and in the process became one of the genre's instigators. Their 5-song demo, Satanas Tedeum, would show a grindcore/black metal crossover, followed by their career-breaking EP, Passage to Arcturo, in 1991.
One of band's first major appearances was on the 1993 "Fuck Christ Tour" consisting of Immortal and Blasphemy. During this concert, some audience members had engaged in cutting and self-mutilation that resulted in hospitalization. Before signing to Unisound, Mayhem's Øystein Aarseth had expressed interest in distributing the band through his Deathlike Silence Productions label, but due to Aarseth's murder the same year, nothing materialized. The band would sign to Century Media in 1996 and remain on their roster for 10 years before joining Season of Mist.
Rotting Christ has played in many countries outside their native Greece, including both Americas, Greater Europe, Russia, the United Kingdom, Malta and the Middle East. Several heavy metal festivals around the world have hosted the band, including the 2003 Wacken Open Air in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Past tourmates have included My Dying Bride, Tristania, Tiamat, Vintersorg, Finntroll, Agathodaimon, Old Man's Child, Malevolent Creation, Anorexia Nervosa, Vader, Krisiun, Deicide, Behemoth, Melechesh and Nile, among many others.
Rotting Christ was one of the initial bands to be announced to perform the Barge to Hell festival, which is a metal-themed cruise organized by Ultimate Metal Cruises and take place aboard Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. Barge to Hell set sail from Port of Miami on December 3, 2012.
As of 2012[update], Rotting Christ has been around for 25 years and is one of the longest running bands within the black metal genre. In celebration of the band's longevity, the 2-DVD + 2-CD compilation Non Serviam: A 20 Year Apocryphal Story, shot in Athens on December 8, 2007, was released worldwide February 23, 2009.
Aealo, the band's tenth studio album, was released on February 15, 2010, for Europe and February 23, 2010, for the USA.
They made their first appearance in south Asia on September 13, 2014 in India (Bangalore Open Air 2014 Edition) and September 14, 2014 in Sri Lanka.
To coincide with their 30th anniversary, the band released a new 7" single "The Call" on February 9, 2018; the single's b-side is a live version of "The Sign of Evil Existence", which includes guest vocals by Behemoth's Nergal and Varathron's Stefan Necroabyssious.
To coincide with their 30th anniversary, the band also released an official biography entitled "Non Serviam: The Official Story Of Rotting Christ" in late November 2018, written by Sakis Tolis and British author Dayal Patterson (author of ‘Black Metal: Evolution Of The Cult’, ‘The Cult Never Dies Vol. One’ and ‘Into The Abyss’) and published by British publishing house Cult Never Dies. The book features extensive interviews with Sakis Tolis, Themis Tolis, Jim Mutilator, Morbid, George Emmanuel and members of the bands Watain, Mayhem, Enslaved, Moonspell, Blasphemy, Mystifier, Septicflesh, Behemoth, Macabre Omen, Cradle Of Filth and Immolation   The book has since been released in Greek, Russian and Czech languages.
Over the years, the group has faced controversy due to their name and gained international media attention in November 1999 during the 2000 United States Presidential Primaries for Republican Nomination, when candidate/Christian conservative Gary Bauer accused the band of being "anti-Catholic", among other things. In response to Bauer's criticism, Sakis Tolis wrote:
Living in (so called) democratic societies, I think everyone should have the right to call religions as he/she wants. We in fact simply believe they are "rotting"! We are not a "satanic-crusader" type of band but rather one of the many bands that represent the dark side in nowadays Metal music.
In response to their forced cancellation, Tolis noted:
I didn't expect something like that from Dave Mustaine, because, you know, he's supposed to be metal — you know, 'metal band,' all metal ... I just feel sorry for him and for every new Christian with new ideas, because we think Christianity is the worst thing to happen in human history. This is a well-organized trick in order to control society, so when I see someone that's very much Christian, that's full of the system, I feel very sorry for him because he's not free.
Nuclear Assault and former Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker defended Rotting Christ and criticized Dave Mustaine's actions, as did Nevermore's Warrel Dane, whose bands appeared on Mustaine's Gigantour in 2005. Dane added:
Everybody is free to believe anything he wants to; I just think that Dave misunderstood the whole subject. I have met the guys from Rotting Christ and I don't think that they are Satanists or something. I think that Dave overreacted on this.
When playing in Malta, a country which in its constitution declares itself as Roman Catholic, trouble from the Church and other Catholic groups ensued when an unknown person stuck a Rotting Christ flyer to a church door. The band was allowed to play eventually even though they had to change venue.
In April 2018, Rotting Christ were scheduled to play in Georgia. Upon arriving in Tbilisi, founding members Sakis and Themis Tolis were arrested by Georgian authorities under suspicion of terrorism due to their band name, as reported by an announcement from the band's label, Season of Mist . They had their passports and cell phones confiscated and were detained in prison, without being permitted legal representation or contact with the Greek Embassy for 12 hours. Afterwards, they were informed by their lawyers that the two were included in a "list of unwanted people for reasons of national security" that labeled them as "Satanists" and "suspects of terrorism". The two were eventually released, after arrangements made by the band's other members in collaboration with the local promoter, "who involved legal experts, journalists and activists in Georgia". The band was allowed to perform their scheduled concert and left for their next destination, Armenia, without hassle.
Early in their career, they were responsible for creating what is known as the "classic" Greek black metal sound which can be heard in other bands such as Varathron and Thou Art Lord. Despite the name, the band's traditional lyrical themes involving evil and occultism has evolved into a more "mystic" path, and they have modified their musical direction on each album, utilizing elements such as clean melodic baritone vocals, doom, gothic metal and industrial music traits, and male/female Benedictine chants. Recent albums, beginning with Khronos, have shown the band taking a more modern, faster and more aggressive approach to their blackened-gothic style. Their 2007 album, Theogonia, especially, has been described as more "atmospheric" and "epic" by their label.
The group's choice of producers, engineers and mixers has also been varied; Swedish extreme metal figures Dan Swanö (Unisound), Peter Tägtgren (Abyss Studios) and Fredrik Nordström (Studio Fredman), German producers Andy Classen (Asphyx, Belphegor), Siggi Bemm (Therion, Theatre of Tragedy) and Waldemar Sorychta (Lacuna Coil, The Gathering) as well as Xy (Samael percussionist/keyboardist) have all contributed to production on the band's albums.
- Thy Mighty Contract (November 11, 1993, Osmose)
- Non Serviam (October 10, 1994, Unisound)
- Triarchy of the Lost Lovers (August 20, 1996, Century Media)
- A Dead Poem (October 7, 1997, Century Media)
- Sleep of the Angels (March 9, 1999, Century Media)
- Khronos (August 29, 2000, Century Media)
- Genesis (October 29, 2002, Century Media)
- Sanctus Diavolos (September 20, 2004, Century Media)
- Theogonia (February 6, 2007, Season of Mist)
- Aealo (February 15, 2010, Season of Mist)
- Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού (March 1, 2013, Season of Mist)
- Rituals (February 12, 2016, Season of Mist)
- The Heretics (February 15, 2019, Season of Mist)
- Passage to Arcturo (1991, Decapitated Records)
Demos, singles, and DVDs
- Decline's Return (1988, demo)
- Leprosy of Death (1988, unofficial demo)
- The Other Side of Life (1989, split EP with Sound Pollution)
- Satanas Tedeum (1989, demo)
- Rotting Christ / Monumentum (1991, split with Monumentum)
- Dawn of the Iconoclast (1991, EP)
- Ade's Winds (1992, demo)
- Apokathelosis (1993, EP)
- The Mystical Meeting (1997, single/live/cover compilation)
- Der Perfekte Traum (1999, single/live)
- In Domine Sathana (2003, live DVD)
- Non Serviam: A 20 Year Apocryphal Story (2009, live DVD/CD)
- A Soundtrack to Mikael Häll's Doctoral Dissertation (2012, Malört förlag, split 7" single with Negative Plane)
- Promo 1995 (2013, EP)
- Lucifer over Athens (2015, live album)
- The Mystical Meeting (1995)
- Thanatiphoro Anthologio (2007, best-of compilation)
- Semigods of the Serpent Cult (2009)
- 25 Years: The Path of Evil Existence (2014)
- Their Greatest Spells (2018)
- Non Serviam: The Official Story Of Rotting Christ (2018)
|1999||"After Dark I Feel"||Arnaoutoglou Vassilis|
|2007||"Keravnos Kyvernitos"||Bob Katsionis||Theogonia|
|2013||"χξϛʹ"||Jon Simvonis, Aji Stone||Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού|
|2018||"Heaven and Hell and Fire"||Haris Kountouris||The Heretics|
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