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  • Review by Faye Coulman

Rotting Christ’s Sakis Tolis reflects on the making of blasphemous new masterpiece ‘The Heretics’

As a genre that’s been relentlessly blamed and belittled, marginalised and misunderstood since the dawn of its notoriously devilish inception, no form of music lends itself to radical and fiercely independent self-expression more instinctively than metal. And with over 30 years spent relentlessly pushing and progressing their crushingly majestic craft to untold heights of brutal, ritualistic brilliance, Rotting Christ certainly know more than a thing or two about creating music on their own fearlessly individualistic terms.

“It’s funny, around two years ago, I suddenly realised that I’m actually quite an erratic person, looking back on the kind of life and path that I have chosen,” muses Rotting Christ vocalist Sakis Tolis in a calmly measured and reflective manner that seems instantly at odds with this aforementioned judgement. And despite humbly apologising in advance of our interview for “anything I say that might not be 100 per cent clear or make sense,” the fluent and penetratingly insightful responses that follow are impeccably free of any such aimless rambling or incoherent filler. Indeed, the philosophically-minded frontman’s carefully considered and economic choice of words here richly abounds with all the characteristic meticulousness for which the Greek metal titans have long been admired.

Having, at every turn of their prestigious 30-year career, unleashed record after record of brutally brilliant extreme metal, few bands are more consistent in the regularity and uncompromising quality of their sonic output than these relentlessly industrious legends. With the dawn of 2018 witnessing the advent of this momentous, three decade-long anniversary, Tolis and co. were quick to commemorate the occasion with a ‘best of’ compilation affectionately titled ‘Their Greatest Spells’. But for all the momentous significance and nostalgia attached to this landmark anniversary, Tolis’ restlessly creative instincts were already urging him on to fresh and uncharted new creative territories.

“I’m always constantly looking ahead,” the singer agrees decisively. “I’m quite anxious to discover new life and fresh challenges, and before I die I’d like to discover as many things as possible. So fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, I’m the kind of songwriter whose personality is reflected very strongly in the music that I create and it just so happens that I’m the only composer of the band. And if you look back at our back catalogue, you will realise that Rotting Christ is a band that has changed a lot. We have had several past musical directions and this happens because of me. I respect and love my past deeply, but at the same time, I always focus on looking ahead. That’s my philosophy; let’s do as much with this life as humanly possible.”

Conceived out of an extended period of rigorously intense study and reflection, it was through much painstaking forward planning and premeditation that Sakis set about bringing his latest darkly atmospheric vision to fruition. The songwriter expands, “I want to believe that the more I grow up, the more mature I am concerning the composition process, which means for me I first read, and then I think and then I read some more and then I pick up my guitar. Whereas, in the old days, I’d pick up my guitar and wait for the riffs to come to me spontaneously. Nowadays I don’t work spontaneously any more. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing. Everything I write these days is a product of deep and intensive meditation. So I firstly think, I write and then finally came up with this album.”

But despite the meticulously disciplined conditions of the aforementioned composition process, there’s no mistaking the lawless creative energy that abounds from every bristling, blackly grandiose inch of newly-unleashed masterpiece ‘The Heretics’. Penned as a darkly impassioned and historic tribute to those who bravely dared to deviate from the mindlessly oppressive evils of organised religion, this blasphemous epic sources inspiration from a varied plethora of historic writings and pioneering figures. From darkly atmospheric voice-overs reciting the timelessly inspiring words of legendary founding father Thomas Paine to intricately constructed verses penned entirely in Arabic, this darkly accomplished body of work richly echoes the restless, revolutionary spirit of those who famously inspired it.

“I’m someone who definitely doesn’t go with the flow,” Sakis notes of this uniquely conceived long-player. “It’s very important when you listen to music to sit down and think about these things. Then again, who am I to be saying all this stuff and expressing all these thoughts? I’m not that young any more, which means that I try to find a purpose, something to believe in, and the more you grow up, the more wisdom you have, so you fight for something. I have to find a reason when I’m writing music. I don’t want to write records that sound exactly like the previous one or just to make some money. I’m quite a soulful person and I believe that is reflected in the music I create.”

With a slew of hotly anticipated tour dates set to commence in April 2019, it’s with relentless energy and enthusiasm that the ever-industrious Greeks are presently priming this freshly released material for a suitably explosive live debut. The vocalist reports, “We try to create the most simultaneously atmospheric and brutal sound possible. We’re not the kind of guys who just drag ourselves up on the stage and have fun. We are fans first and foremost, so when I see a band and the singer or guitarist is drunk, it’s like they don’t respect or care about their followers, so I do my very best in order to avoid such situations. We are working on a very soulful and very atmospheric and brutal Rotting Christ experience. We hope to see you all in the UK very soon, and hopefully not disappoint you.”

'The Heretics' is out now on Season of Mist

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