Photo Courtesy of Rotting Christ
Arguably, Greece’s Rotting Christ have the most controversial band name in heavy metal. Oh sure, there are and have been way more perverse band names involving extreme violence and/or various bodily fluids. But none of those acts have achieved the international acclaim that Rotting Christ has.
The most notorious incident occurred in 2005 when the band was forced to withdraw from two Greek summer festival dates, after Megadeth frontman and newly born-again Christian Dave Mustaine threatened to cancel his band’s headlining sets if Rotting Christ was on the bill. Basically the name is as offensive to the mainstream as you can get before you move into ultra-shock territory.
But the name isn’t the real story. What’s actually worth noting is that, in spite of the name, the band is one of Greece’s most well-known cultural exports with a career spanning nearly three decades. This speaks to the high quality and diversity of the band’s music. Every three or four albums they’ve changed musical directions, and unlike when Mr. Mustaine does it, these changes are generally embraced by their fans.
They debuted with a raw, yet melodic black metal sound, but by the mid-nineties they had infused it with a groovy gothic/romantic atmosphere. This period was also when they would perfect their signature brand of catchy and nearly unforgettable riffs. In the 2000s their sound became accentuated by ethnic musical influences from Greece and around the world. This style attracted a much larger international audience, particularly the 2004 album Sanctus Diavolos and 2007’s Theogonia.
On their more recent albums (the most recent being Rituals which came out earlier this year), the band have traded in their signature riff style for sprawling orchestral compositions with layered choral vocals. I caught up with Rotting Christ co-founder and frontman Sakis Tolis on a recent tour stop in Toronto to talk about the band’s musical journey and what has influenced the latest change in style. We also spoke about their lasting legacy, and whether they still get in trouble for their name.
Rotting Christ’s latest album Rituals is available now from Season of Mist. You can stream the whole album here, and you can watch the video for “Apage Satana” below.