Rotting Christ Albums – Ranked! (From Worst to Best)

Rotting Christ are a Greek black metal band from Athens, consisting of brothers vocalist/guitarist Sakis Tolis and drummer Themis Tolis. Often overlooked, and with a career spanning over three decades, the time has never been better to take a look through their back catalogue, as we rank and review every album through history.

#13 – Rituals (2016)

Not a bad album by any means, but one that I find difficult to return to as frequently. The ideas on display here are all solid, with Ze Nigmar and Elthe Kyrie being particular highlights. It’s a dark album through and through and prioritises atmosphere over the stellar guitar work the band is known for. 

#12 – Sanctus Diavolos

A product of its time, the early 2000s were not the most accomodating years for black metal, and unfortunately Rotting Christ right come away unscathed. Sanctus Diavolos is rarely talked about these days and that’s a shame, there are some great songs here such as Shades of Evil, Tyrannical and You My Cross. It’s a heavy album that is more on the forgettable side when considering the band’s other works. Worth a listen for sure, but they did much better.

#11 – Genesis (2002)

Suffering from many of the same problems as Sanctus Diavolos, Genesis benefits from more focused songwriting, whilst also tripping up in its own unique ways. This was one of the first Rotting Christ albums that I ever heard, and there are so many phenomenal tracks on display, with Dying, Daemons and Lex Talionis being some of my favourite songs by the band. This momentum isn’t carried evenly throughout the rest of the release, as a result I feel it unfair to rank Genesis higher than some of the more consistent outputs.

#10 – Khronos (2000)

Redefining blasphemy, Khronos rocks. Hyperbole aside there is a lot to love on this release. This album could quite easily be considered Rotting Christ’s darkest to date, songs such as; If It Ends Tomorrow, Art of Sin, Fateless and You Are I can attest to that. Unlike some other entries lower on our list, Khronos is very consistent, I don’t find myself reaching for the skip button to find gems among the filler.

#9 – The Heretics (2019)

What an improvement over Rituals! There’s so much life and passion poured into every fibre of this record’s being. It oozes out from every pour, rich black blood. Where to start with this one? Highlight for me is that incredible guitar solo towards the end of Fire, God and Fear. Special mention too for the band’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven as well. From start to finish The Heretics impresses, it’s clear just how well-read Sakis is and his lyrical songwriting has never been stronger. It’s a little slow in places, mostly speaking about I Believe and In the Name of God, but when this release is in full swing it’s something to behold.

#8 – Sleep of the Angels (1999)

Building on the blueprints laid down by prior albums Triarchy of the Lost Lovers and A Dead Poem, Sleep of the Angels delved deeper into the slower and more deliberate approach that gothic metal employed. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable dark metal album that gave us standout songs such as After Dark I Feel and The World Made End. I missed the traditional black metal approach of early records, but this was the culmination of new ideas fully realised, and I need to give it the respect due.

#7 – A Dead Poem (1997)

My thoughts on this album are largely interchangeable with how I feel about Sleep of the Angels. There’s a heavy emphasis on synths and clean passages. It’s a beautiful sounding record, richly produced too, where the novelty of this new approach hadn’t quite gone as long in the tooth as it would. As If By Magic and Full Colour is the Night are gorgeous! Don’t sleep on this one.

#6 – Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού (2013)

My first exposure to the band and still one of their finest outings. Eaytoy broke away from the Theogonia formula and took things back to the band’s roots in stellar fashion. In Yumen – Xibalba is iconic! Just as the lyrics ‘Welcome to my dark kingdom, behind the sun!’ haven’t left my mind since I first heard them all those years ago. I was pleased to discover that this album is spoken predominantly in Ancient Greek, and it was refreshing to hear Sakis’ powerful bark in his mother tongue.

#5 – Triarchy of the Lost Lovers (1996)

The album where the fearsome Rotting Christ began to slow down. The old school sound may have been lost, at least before the likes of Thou Art Lord (band), though with such enjoyable songs on the tracklist, it’s difficult to stay mad for long. In my opinion, the gothic influences were expertly implemented here. One listen to King of a Stellar War or Tormentor and you’ll hear exactly what I mean. It was something new and exciting, and the risks paid-off well.

#4 – Aealo (2010)

This album is absolutely brutal! It may be less special than its predecessor, but Aealo is one heavy motherfucker! Same time, the band melded traditional Greek instrumentation with their aggressive chugging guitar some, rhythmically resembling the rumble of battle. I love Aealo. It’s a challenge to pinpoint the best moments, but you cannot go too far astray starting with Demonon Vrosis and Noctis Era.

#3 – Theogonia (2007)

Few albums can claim to innovate a genre quite how vividly Theogonia had. Learning from what worked on their early 2000s releases, Rotting Christ struck a death blow of vitriol that permeates every second on this modern masterpiece. Gaia Tellus, Enuma Elish and Nemecic are just skimming the surface on the majesty of this record.

#2 – Thy Mighty Contract (1993)

A crowning achievement in the black metal genre and one of my favourite albums ever recorded. The only reason why it doesn’t take the top spot is because I personally believe that the band’s sophomore effort does things just that little bit better. The undeniable force that is The Sign of Evil Existence, the insidious His Sleeping Majesty, and The Coronation of the Serpent cement this album into that of legend.

#1 – Non Serviam (1994)

I will not serve! The very quintessence of Rotting Christ. My first thought when considering exactly what the Tolis brothers stand for, and nearly 30 years later nothing has changed. It’s as Sakis says, religion is rotting. The standouts from this landmark album for me are The Fifth Illusion and Where Mortals Have No Pride. Greece may have been overlooked in the black metal scene, especially when compared to that of Sweden and Norway at the time, but Rotting Christ are a key reason that demonstrates that the country can hold their own.

Rotting Christ – The Heretics Review

The mind is a universe, it can make a Heaven of Hell and a Hell of Heaven. Blasphemy refined on Rotting Christ’s latest effort.

It’s been a busy period for Rotting Christ in the last few years what with the band celebrating their 30-year anniversary recently with the release of not only Non-Serviam: The Story of Rotting Christ, but also with compilation album Their Greatest Spells to reinvigorate interest in the band. That said, The Heretics is a strong if safe follow up to Rituals which delivers on their core tenants masterfully whilst not bringing much new to the table.

Right from the off-set Rotting Christ deliver their signature pulse-pounding, primal palm muted chug-a-long riffing style in the same vein as what was found on Theogonia and Aealo, as In The Name of God ushers us in the way it means to continue. The spoken word pieces which open the record and permeate the album overall do an outstanding job of cementing in the band’s firm anti-religious stance, albeit in a very on the nose and non-subtle fashion.

‘Since man cannot live without miracles, he will provide himself with a miracle of his own making’ and ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities’ are among the sharpest lines delivered masterfully in this spoken word style and moments like this I believe are the most unique and striking things about The Heretics to me. The album displays a maturity and developed literary sense which shows off how intelligent and well read Sakis is and these themes are carried well from start to finish.

The album is laden with callbacks to previous efforts from the band all around. ‘Vetry Zlye’ sounds as though it could be right at home on the tracklist of Aealo and is a welcome reminder of the one of their strongest records ever recorded. In the same vein, ‘I Believe’ has flavours reminiscent of their 2002 record Genesis with a track blisteringly aggressive sharing riffs in league with songs such as Demons and Nightmare. I could go on.

The lead playing in the guitar work on offer is among the best that the band has ever offered. The solo on Fire, God and Fear is one of the greatest to ever grace a Rotting Christ album, and the soaring emotion that rides throughout their beautifully told rendition of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is stunning in every sense of the word. What we have here is a masterfully crafted and ambitious thematic release which largely delivers on its lofty promise.

Despite having a strong literary focus and delving deep into the philosophy from the likes of Dostoyevsky, Neitzsche, John Milton and Thomas Paine among others, it’s a shame that the same level of depth could not be applied to the lyrical content of the album. This is where the weakest link of an album of such promise begins to slow. For too much of the release, the same repeated lyrics about fire, death, heaven and hell are present in almost ever track and whilst serviceable and appropriate now and again, I believe their overuse and over reliance boil down complex themes into something too simple for what they are trying to express.

Lyrics aren’t the most important part of a metal album to me so it is not a big problem but it seems like a glaring fault in what would otherwise be a very thought provoking record. It’s intelligent for sure, broadcasting a strong not too subtle message but it could have been elevated further with lyrics that really stuck with you.

Themis behind the kit is masterful as always and his primal no-thrills drumming style is once again embraced with open arms. He isn’t the most technical drummer on the planet but nor does he have to be as the slower double kick beats and marching rhythms that charge along pounding against the guitars does the job beautifully. At the very least you will slowly be headbanging to songs such as Hallowed Be Thy Name as it rolls along at a gentle pace, and at The Heretics most aggressive, giving yourself whiplash with the build-up and chorus to I Believe.

There is not much new on display to report here but it feels like a refinement of everything Rotting Christ has been for the last decade or so. If you are familiar with the band’s work post-2007 with Theogonia onwards, you will be right at home here for better or for worse. Rotting Christ have carved out an entire new sound for themselves and are very happy continuing to refine, iterate and build upon what would come to define them in the modern age. It’s a truly great release which stands among their best of the recent material and well worth your time. It won’t change your world but it offers some great moments which should not be missed under any circumstances. Non-serviam!

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