Published Feb 20, 2010If there are one black metal band that can hold their own in the extreme metal world of sub-genre elitists, they are Rotting Christ. These mighty veterans are known for taking black metal and adding some of their native Greek flavour. The band's latest release, and tenth full-length, Aealo (meaning "catastrophe") is the follow-up to 2007's highly revered Theogonia, and it exceeds expectations. After 20 years, Rotting Christ have stuck to their formula of pairing harsh, obliterating riffs with beautiful melodies. But on Aealo, they've taken it up a notch; with the Greek choir Pliades featured on most of the album, there is a stark contrast between these chanting vocals and the extreme, relentless riffage on tracks like "Demonon Vrosis" and "Noctis Era." But it all somehow fits together when mixed with subtle melodies and heavy rhythmic beats. Primordial vocalist Alan A. Nemtheanga also lends his voice to "Thou Art Lord," adding some more culture with a Celtic vibe. A natural progression from Theogonia, Aealo highlights just how unconventional Rotting Christ's sound is, especially on "Fire Death and Fear," further showcasing front-man Sakis Tolis as one of the most unique extreme metal vocalists, in terms of intonation. Although under pressure to create a record that lives up to Theogonia, Rotting Christ have risen to the occasion with the godlike Aealo.
Rotting Christ have always been a band that, despite being primarily black metal, even fans of other metal sub-genres enjoy. Why do you think you've been able to cross those boundaries?
Tolis: We were never a traditional extreme black metal band, but were always seeking new directions [while] keeping our roots, of course. Our artistic anxieties do not leave us in the narrow boundaries of black metal, so we're always expanding our style, faithfully, to our black and dark roots. Also, I think that our mentality, our Mediterranean mentality, led us to this, because Scandinavian people have much different personalities. I think that we provided, and we still provide, an alternative way of how black metal could also sound.
What was the writing and recording process like for Aealo?
I took really seriously the composing process and I isolated myself for more than a year in order to find out a way for [the] unexplored paths of my soul. I worked different this time; I was based more on the thoughts and less on playing guitar. I philosophized a lot, I slept a little and I finally came up with Aealo. Concerning its recording, we moved to the glorious mountain Olympus (the mountain of Gods) in order to get the inspiration we were really seeking for the recording. This is where the studio Lunatech was located and spending almost four months there and having a continuant spiritual touch, I think that we expressed our feelings as we really wished.
Why did you choose to self-produce/mix the album?
I grew up with the motto "do it yourself." I grew up artistically in the era when the underground metal scene was born and as you can understand, things were way more romantic, honest and true than now. We had no luxuries of managers, agencies, producers, etc. So I kept something from this era. I produce, mix and master everything by myself and try sometimes to book our shows. This is the way I like and the way that I feel I am playing in a band. To be honest, I do not think that someone else except you will take care more than you concerning your band.
How does Aealo compare to your previous release, Theogonia? Did you feel any pressure after the underground success of Theogonia?
More metal and more epic! It was a kind of nightmare for me, being the only composer in the band. It is common knowledge that every good album can hardly be surpassed, so that filled me with stress and a little touch of insecurity! As an artist, I had to surpass my abilities, so I worked hard on an album that I want to believe will bring the band a step up and considering the first feedback, I think that we did manage to create a worthy, and maybe better, follow-up than Theogonia.
Especially on Aealo, there is a very distinct, native Greek vibe. Is letting your cultural roots shine through in your music a conscious decision or does it come naturally?
I feel like [it] comes naturally. The more I grow, the more I return back to where I was born. I am more fascinated with the ancient Hellenic culture, even if I still consider myself as a citizen of planet Earth. I am really into researching civilizations all around the world, listening to their music. And on the last album, I am more into my native cultural roots.
How would you say the band's sound has progressed over the years?
If something doesn't evolve it simply dies; we do not want to die and Rotting Christ are evolving album by album, providing new elements, but faithful to our metal roots. First of all, we are metallers, and this is the idea we fight for.
I read that "Aealo" means catastrophe. Why did you choose this as the album title? How does it tie in with the general concept or theme of the album?
This is how you feel listening to an album that has to do with the feelings of a warrior during a battle. Weird feelings, strange feelings, feelings of anger, the feeling of fear, the feeling of grief and so many other variations that a warrior can have during a battle. Listening to the album, you will feel that you are in the middle of a battlefield and you are fighting against your feelings!
Primordial vocalist Alan A. Nemtheanga lends his voice to one of the tracks, how did that collaboration come about?
Alan is a metal brother to me and when I was composing the song "Thou Art Lord," I said to myself that his voice will fit very well with the atmosphere of the song. So I did ask him and he accepted pleasurably. Working with Alan is a pleasure. And yes, it is the first time that you can hear an English accent in Rotting Christ music!
Why did you decide to features the choir Pliades on this album?
We wanted to catch this primitive feeling. These ladies are specialized in singing lament songs based on the ancient Greek tradition, and definitely were a better choice than the usual digital keyboards. I think that they add an additional dark atmosphere on the whole album and they definitely sound unique.
Why did you decide to cover Diamanda Gala's "Orders From The Dead"?
I just decided to cover one of the most soulful songs ever in music. A song that has to do with genocide and could fit very well with the whole atmosphere of the album. It is one of the few songs that made me cry the first time I listened and it was in the back of my soul always the idea to cover it. [The] time had come with Aealo. I did contact the mistress of darkness, Diamanda Galas, asking her if I could write some music for her song and she answered positively. It was my biggest challenge as a composer; I had to cover one of the best vocalists of music history. I did; I worked hard. I couldn't sleep, but in the end I came up with a result that Diamanda Galas approved and enjoyed. I am honoured because of this! (Season of Mist)