In case you failed to notice, one of the longest and most consistently exciting careers in extreme metal belongs to ROTTING CHRIST: the Greek institution founded and run since 1988 by vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Sakis Tolis with a little help from his drum-pounding brother, Themis, and too many temporary sidemen along the way to recall.
Perhaps even more impressive, this incredible quarter-century run has seen ROTTING CHRIST accomplish the enviable feat of dabbling in grindcore, doom, industrial, goth, symphonic, death and black metal, at one time or another - mixing and matching them in varying doses as pleased their muse, while rarely coming away with egg on their bodacious schnozzes.
On the other hand, this reluctance to commit to any one metal genre box has also probably lost the band a few less adventurous fans along the way - not least when a particularly obsessive impulse took the band a little too far away from their extreme foundations (1999's ultra-gothic "Sleep of the Angels" comes to mind), or simply proved too idiosyncratic for widespread acceptance.
The last accusation could well be leveled at 2010's "Aealo", since its whirling dervish melodies evoked a Greek folk music festival from hell, at times; but not, thankfully, its more diverse 2013 follow-up "Kata Ton Demona Eaftou", which in English translates to "true to his own spirit" - a phrase that allegedly also graces Jim Morrison's tombstone!
Not that the Lizard King plays any other part in ROTTING CHRIST's eleventh studio album - nor, as it happens, do overwhelmingly Greek themes, but rather an eclectic mix of most every metallic subgenre cited above, topped with a variety of occult subjects, including assorted Helenic tales and characters, the ever-handy number of the beast, and even some obscure book called the bible.
As if to prove this point, opening blowout "In Yumen/Xibalba" covers almost every widely utilized RC musical base: the doom-laden intro, clinical industrial precision riffing, black metal blast-beats and orchestral backdrops, capped by one of the band's trademarked earworm melodies, to boot.
Next, "P'unchaw Kachun - Tuta Kachun" browbeats the listener with syncopated atonal blast-waves before settling down to a comparatively melancholy coda; "Grandis Spiritus Diavolos" rides majestic riffs and monastic choirs right down Armageddon's gullet; "Kata Ton Demona Eaftou" unearths exotic instrumentation and folk strains amidst blackened intensity; and the Romanian traditional, "Cine Iubeşte şi Lasă", magically manifests an overactive piano and haunting soprano out of the smoke for the album's only, truly oddball moment.
But then, to counter this unforeseen walk on the wild side, "Iwa Woodoo" delivers ROTTING CHRIST's most straightforward, immediately accessible heavy metal experience in years; followed in short order by another set of melodically charged, percussive powerhouses in "Gilgames" and "Rusalka"; then more deliberate black magic rituals in "Ahura Mazda Anra Mainiuu" (where Sakis' goes all Cookie Monster on our asses) and "Χ ξ ς" (a.k.a. "666"), which would frankly be kinda dull if not for the title - HAIL SATAN!
And hail ROTTING CHRIST, for that matter, because the Greeks have bounced back with perhaps their most broadly appealing LP in years (which is a funny thing to say about such horrifying, beautifully brutal music) with "Kata Ton Demona Eaftou", proving their remarkable career streak will go on until further notice.