Album of the Day: Rotting Christ, “The Heretics”

Much has changed since brothers Sakis and Themis Tolis started Rotting Christ as teenage boys in Greece during the late 1980s, effectively co-founding the Hellinic black metal canon. They have flirted with grindcore and goth rock, symphonic flourishes and industrial pummel, genuinely interested in advancing the hellscape they helped shape. But one thing hasn’t changed: their unapologetic devotion to subverting the sacrosanct, to turning crosses upside down by inverting the tropes and liturgical trappings of Christianity until they bleed and weep. For decades, they’ve had to defend themselves against charges of corrupting society; on The Heretics, their 13th album, they delight in inviting others to join that quest, at one point harmonizing, “I give you hell.” 

For these 10 songs, Rotting Christ not only troll the world of religion at large, but also impugn its implications—war and woe in the name of any god, “neo-messiahs” who invoke religion to commandeer power, the persecution that follows. They counter excerpts of the holiest Eastern Orthodox texts, like Ave gloria and Kyrie eleison, with quotes from Dostoyevsky, John Muir, Nietzsche, and Christ Recrucified author Nikos Kazantzakis, reading the faithful as their own sort of anti-religious rites. This all happens to the sound of what equates to a Rotting Christ mixtape—the low-tempo and choir-laced taunt of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and the black metal tirade and sinister incantations of “I Believe.” It is, for Rotting Christ, a particularly sophisticated battle in a long-waged war, as erudite as it is aggressive.

-Grayson Haver Currin

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