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Rotting Christ Ventures back to a time “Pro Xristou” Album Review by Bernard Romero

Rotting Christ band

Upon the advent of death and black metal, bands tried to outdo each other with offensive names and album covers, if you could even read what their logo said. Early on, Rotting Christ took the mantle and has continued to run with it. Not only a provocative name, but album after album that consistently proclaims that they were not just hoping to upset 1/3 of the world that practices a particular religion, but they were willing to stand behind each and every song’s blasphemous message with articulate thought and creativity. As a Christian, I may not be crazy about the name, but I am pretty good at separating the art from the artist. In this case, I don’t need to because as crazy as it sounds, I respect both.

As a teenager when I struggled with my faith, I discovered Rotting Christ and was more turned off by the perception that they would sound like a wall of noise than the name. I was pleasantly surprised that A Dead Poem, had many elements of traditional rock and metal, although I was correct in the assumption that they at least started out as vicious, fast-paced extreme metal band on the verge of grindcore. Over the course of the next few decades, the music became more mainstream but no less heavy, with albums filled with melodic guitar licks over brooding, intense riffs. Pro Xristou, which translates to “Before Christ” in Greek, continues on this trajectory as they examine the destruction of Paganism at the hands of Christianity.

From the get-go, you know what you’re getting with this album. The title track, which is more of an intro, chants the names of various gods before reaching the second track, a pounding behemoth about Flavius Claudius Julianus, the last pagan Roman emperor. Somewhat repetitious, this track seems to be almost a bit of a second intro track, albeit five minutes in length. Like Father, Like Son does nothing to pick up the pace anymore but this side of Rotting Christ was always what appealed most. Simplistic, heavy, and with melodies that will get stuck in your head and if these songs took a few more twists and turns and played with the tempo, we’d easily have an epic on our hands. Such is the grandiose nature complete with druidic sounding choirs and pagan chanting.

The Sixth Day, which obviously refers to the day God created man, is vocalist and founding member Sakis Tolis’s opportunity for yet another mini-epic sound which could have the crowds growling along to the chorus with him. If given the opportunity, I would gladly join in, because after all, this isn’t overtly blasphemous, but what’s undeniable is the amazing live show they produce. Seeing them open for Watain and Mayhem several years ago, who are both bands to behold, I was taken by the energy of Rotting Christ and promptly went to the merch stand to stock up on what I may have been missing.

La Lettera del Diavolo gives the illusion that we will finally have a fast-paced song. While more uptempo than all the others, it simply has a more driving beat and stalls out a bit. I always appreciate the heavier side of most bands but I also like the albums broken up by a few curveballs. This song is not one, but doesn’t detract from the overall quality and consistent theme and style. The Farewell introduces another memorable riff, reminiscent of Black Sabbath but adding new unfamiliar melodies. It constantly amazes me how bands, Rotting Christ included, continue to create original yet traditional sounding grooves. The chanting through this album adds to the mood but I could see the average metal head getting annoyed by it as it is constant and throughout. For me, it might reach the echelons of being a bit much, but just barely.

For the listener, if you’ve heard one song and like it, and don’t mind another hour of much of the same, then you’ll certainly want to continue on the journey for songs like Konx Om Pax. This brings us back to a historical theme, this time about infamous occultist Aleister Crowley. Ozzy’s song this is not, as it does not ponder what drove him to dedicate his life to what he did, rather this serves as blunt praise of his ways. A few tracks later Tolis summons Norse mythology with Yggdrasil and then travels further west to touch on Irish lore.

Saoirse was the track I was most looking forward to as I recently became curious with my Irish heritage and the popularity of Gaelic names. I can mostly thank a hilarious show I found on Netflix called Derry Girls. One of the lead actresses is named Saorise, pronounced “seer-sha.” As it turns out, the early 1900s saw a rise in the popularity of the traditional Irish language as they attempted to throw off the chains of the British and gain independence, while leaning into life before being colonized. Saoirse translates to “freedom” as evident by the constant chants of “Hail Freedom” and speaks of the last pagan king of Ireland, Diarmait mac Cerbaill. I may be showing my bias, but this is the highlight of the album which invokes a triumphant finale, and the most majestic sounding song of the lot to pay tribute to the last King of Tara. While much of the history has been lost through the years, Ireland has a peculiar take on religion as their isolation meant they never fully assimilated into the Catholic faith, maintaining a belief in banshees, fairies, and leprechauns, far from the benevolent and peaceful beings you see today in pop culture. There always seems to be a little heritage of the druids left in the tank for us micks.

Rotting Christ are clearly not ignorant. Sakis Tolis is actually incredibly intelligent, usually articulate in his admonishment of Christianity. Believe it or not, I actually respect him and his philosophy. In fact, my biggest qualm is not the content of their album or even their name, but it is the implication that Christianity alone is responsible for the massive death and destruction over the last few millennia and the only religion that has undertaken problematic conquests. Understandable that their focus would be on Christianity, though, as the Greek Orthodox variety is the official religion of their land, and funded with their taxes. Sadly, religion at times can be its own worst enemy as I see church after church stray from the gospel of Christ, who is far from rotting in my life.

This is only my personal view based on my personal religious beliefs. My musical beliefs do not often conflict with this and I can say that Pro Xristou does nothing to interfere with my faith. At worst, it gives me pause to question certain things and at best it is a near flawless album that I am eager to hear live. My biggest complaint has nothing to do with the offensive nature of this Christian admonition, but rather that the album lacks diversity in tempo and we don’t see many hints of aggressive Rotting Christ of old. This is fine by me as this iteration of the band is by far my preferred era but a little more diversity may have served the album well. If you haven’t been happy with much Rotting Christ lately, you probably will continue to feel that way but if you’ve liked the trajectory of the band over the last 10-20 years, this may just inch its way up your ranking as it has mine. It may be too early to say, but this is probably among my favorite.

Bernard Romero is a history teacher by day and a music and film fanatic by night. While he was only vaguely familiar with 6th century Ireland, Sakis Tolis and Rotting Christ have inspired him to read up on it, go back and rewatch Derry Girls, and most importantly get his ass to church!

Bernard’s rating: 9.5/10 — Order your copy here

Rotting Christ album

Track-list

1. Pro Xristou (Προ Χριστού) (1:29)
2. The Apostate (5:01)
3. Like Father, Like Son (4:35)
4. The Sixth Day (3:56)
5. La Lettera Del Diavolo (4:01)
6. The Farewell (6:15)
7. Pix Lax Dax (4:33)
8. Pretty World, Pretty Dies (4:51)
9. Yggdrasil (5:04)
10. Saoirse (6:17)
11. Primal Resurrection (Bonus Track) (5:32)
12. All For One (Bonus Track) (3:37)
Total runtime: 55:17

Line-up
Sakis Tolis – Guitars, Vocals
Kostas Foukarakis – Guitars
Kostas Cheliotis – Bass
Themis Tolis – Drums

Guest Musicians
Amdroniki Skoula – Vocals (on ‘La Letra Del Diavolo’)
Nikos Kerkiras – Keyboard
Christina Alexiou – Choir
Maria Tsironi – Choir
Alexandros Loyziotis – Choir
Vasilis Karatzas – Choir

Andrew Liles – Narration (on ‘The Apostate’, ‘Pretty World, Pretty Dies’)
Kim Diaz Holm – Narration (on ‘Ygdrassil’)

Recording Studio
Deva Sounds Studios (Athens, Greece)

Producer
Sakis Tolis
Sound Engineer
Fotis Bernando
Aggelos Karatzas

Mixing
Jens Borgen at Fascination Street Studios (Örebro, Sweden)

Mastering
Tony Lidgren at Fascination Street Studios (Örebro, Sweden)

Artwork Artists
Thomas Cole – Artwork
Adrien Bousson – Digital Processing

Biography
Sebastien Gamez

Pre-order: https://redirect.season-of-mist.com/RottingChristProXristou
Pre-save: https://orcd.co/proxtristoupresave

Links:
Official Website: https://www.rotting-christ.com/en
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rottingchristofficial/
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/rottingchristofficial/
Twitter (X): https://twitter.com/athanatoieste
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/RottingChristOfficia
Bandcamp: https://rottingchristofficial.bandcamp.com/
Apple Music: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/rotting-christ/id28441629
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/7FhkwcO8Jd7BRWdllBpXBJ

Available Formats:
Digital Download
CD Digipak
CD Clamshell Box – Deluxe Digipak w/ Gold Foil + 2 Bonus
Tracks & Extras
12″ Vinyl Gatefold – Black
12″ Coloured Vinyl Gatefold – Crystal Clear
12″ Coloured Vinyl Gatefold – Crystal Clear, Red & Blue Mixed
12″ Coloured Vinyl Gatefold – Green
12″ Coloured Vinyl Gatefold – Turquoise
12″ Coloured Vinyl Gatefold – Yellow
12″ Coloured Vinyl Gatefold – Blue
12″ Coloured Vinyl Gatefold – silver & Black Marbled
Limited Box Set Vinyl – 12″ Gold & Black Marbled w/ Gold Foil + 2 Bonus Tracks & Extras
Cassette

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