As per usual, Rotting Christ continue their journey in changing their listener’s views on what we know about black metal. These Greek legends perfected the experimental nature of their last few records on their newest album, The Heretics. Rotting Christs’ latest record perfectly combines melody, old school black metal, and experimental elements into something that perfectly sums up their years as a band. The Heretics will go underlooked and undervalued due to the band’s name, but maybe that’s for the best. Rotting Christ is at the forefront of the underground, never wavering in making music that pushes the boundaries and, of course, never failing to make the same record over and over again.
To understand why The Heretics is such an important album, one must first learn about the band itself. Forming just before the Norwegian Black Metal explosion in the 90s, Rotting Christ started as a grindcore band influenced by bands like Death and Napalm Death. It wasn’t until their fourth demo tape that Rotting Christ began their descent into the dark side of music: making songs that were notably longer than those on their first few demos, adopting satanic imagery, and making music about occult and anti-religious themes. It was four years later with the release of their debut full-length album, Thy Mighty Contract, that put Rotting Christ on the map in the metal underground. Each album since has had notable changes in sounds and experimentation, and that is why I love Rotting Christ. Never conforming to trends or overdoing one thing, Rotting Christ is still one of the freshest bands around after making music for 32 years.
There is a lot of variety on The Heretics. It switches between fast-paced and very slow tempos, much of the time during the same songs. The quicker parts outline the intensity and the seriousness of the boys in Rotting Christ, whereas the slow moments are there to bring atmosphere and dread to the listener.
The vocals on the album are what really speak to me. There is a huge variety in the vocal styles used on this album, and that is what really sets Rotting Christ apart from the rest. Of course, mainman Sakis Tolis commands the album with his growls and screams, but these seem interspersed throughout the album, taking a backseat to spoken word parts. Making use of spoken word works to enhance the feeling that the music is more than just music—it is a ritual in the form of an album. Making use of English, Greek, Arabic, and Latin, the songs command an eerie presence that is sure to make you contemplate the meaning of them, as well as bang your head.
It’s hard to pick a favorite song on such an exceptional album, but “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is one that sticks out. It is dreadfully slow, picking up pace as a tease only to settle back down almost immediately. The creepy spoken word that runs throughout the song is sure to send shivers down your spine and stick with you long after the album is over. Another song that stands out is “The Raven,” which perfectly recaps the album. It makes one want to furiously headbang in the beginning, eventually slowing down during the spoken word to drive home the occult and fear, until finally dying out, leaving the listener with a need to hear it again.
Once again the Greek masters of intelligent blasphemy don’t hold back when it comes to creating bold and exciting new music. The Heretics is diabolic art in the form of hymns that beckon you to rethink what you know while never forgetting to give ode to the past. Overall, Rotting Christ mate darkness and beauty, giving birth to the masterpiece called The Heretics.