During the late eighties and early nineties, while church burnings and stabbings in Norway were plaguing the now-infamous birth of the second wave of black metal, something else entirely was happening further south.
While a frostbitten Nordic atmosphere guided the sound of the second wave, the Hellenic black metal scene was birthed from Mediterranean and coastal climates.
The black metal scene of Greece took inspiration from the traditional folk music of the land, and still favoured more conventional heavy metal riffs. One band that spearheaded this sound was Rotting Christ.
Yeah. I get it. You hear that band name and think the worst. You’re thinking of the Norwegian church burners I mentioned earlier. Again, this is something else entirely.
Don’t get me wrong, Rotting Christ are still heavy – Hellenic black metal is still black metal. But it’s an entirely more riff-driven, culturally expansive, story telling tale on the genre. And by “culturally expansive”, I really do mean a band whose stories and concepts navigate multiple cultures and enormously varied traditions and peoples. This is world music for extreme metal fans.
On their 2016 album ‘Rituals’, Rotting Christ employed their native Greek, as well as some English, but also Latin, Hebrew, French, Egyptian, and even Sanskrit. They’ve also shed even more of the tropes of black metal, incorporating more gothic elements, while still maintaining a triumphant and truly grand sound.
It’s black metal, but it might be some of the most palatable black metal you’ve ever heard, carrying with it a plethora of influences from many far-reaching sources.