Album Review: Rotting Christ – “The Heretics”

It’s official: Rotting Christ are Homeric!

For a band that formed in 1987, had a profound influence on Nordic black metal and continues to innovate—to varying degrees of success—it’s a small wonder that Greek legends Rotting Christ are putting out some of their best material since Triarchy of the Lost Lovers (OK, Thy Mighty Contract if you’re too true for school). The Tolis bros—Sakis and Themis—continue to be the heart of Rotting Christ. While the spirited duo have had their ups (Sanctus Diavolos) and downs (Aealo) over the years, on lucky-number-13 The Heretics, Rotting Christ have delivered an true ace—the culmination of the Greeks’ successes, in fact.

The record is dark, heavy, mystical, memorable and fucking awesome all the way through. Not sure what has gotten into Sakis’ guitar playing (and songwriting), but the dude is emerging as one of the scene’s most dynamic players/composers. He can write epic, Bathory-esque anthems like “In the Name of God” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” and then pivot to melodic death metal in “Vetry Zlye,” “The New Messiah” and “The Raven” with ease. Of course, the savagery of early Rotting Christ is scarcely present in the chant-driven “Dies Irae,” “I Believe” and “The Voice of Universe,” but the rawness of teenage Sakis has been smoothed over by time—and, on The Heretics, by Jens Bogren’s excellent Fascination Street Studios production. What was done 26-30 years ago doesn’t matter when Rotting Christ have a start-to-finish jaw-dropper on their hands. There will be few albums like The Heretics in 2019. And that’s a good thing. Kings of the stellar war wage on… join them! For real this time.