In 1987 two Greek brothers Sakis Tolis (Guitar/vocals) and Themis Tolis (drums) started Rotting Christ, a band that is seen as one of the most innovative in the underground Metal scene. Over the last twenty years the band has kept their passion and drive though often mired in controversy due to their name and the themes within their music.
This year the band releases Aealo, yet another chunk of extreme metal goodness that manages to keep its individuality as most of the metal world languishes in repetition. I got to chat for a while with Sakis about Rotting Christ, the new album and other such fanfare. Though his English may be a bit rocky there’s denying the commitment both Sakis and Rotting Christ has for extreme music.
CRAVEONLINE: After two decades together, what keeps Rotting Christ continuing on?
SAKIS: Maybe our deep love or better my obsession about Metal and generally this way of life. When I was kid I was thinking that when I would reach the age of 30 years old I would have quit with Metal and I would have a “normal” life. Now I am reaching the age of 40 and I am hungrier than ever. I do not know where this comes from…maybe a little vanity?
CRAVEONLINE: Talk to me a little about your new album Aealo. What can people expect?
SAKIS: A really soulful album our most soulful album ever but also more Metal than ever with a touch of ancient Greek civilization music and lyrical elements. I do not know how you’ll react but definitely you can listen something unique and METAL!
CRAVEONLINE: Aealo is the Greek word for catastrophe or destruction. How does that lend itself to the lyrical content of the album?
SAKIS: AEALO...The transfer of the ancient Greek word ΕΑΛΩ into Latin characters which means Thrash/catastrophe/destruction/The Fallen and has to do with the musical and lyrical concept of the album. Aealo will be the feeling after listening our album.
Aealo refers to the feelings of a warrior during a battle. Weird feelings, strange feelings, feelings like the feeling of anger, the feeling of fear the feeling of grief and so many other vibrations that can a warrior 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. No it is not a warlike album…I think the opposite. When you end up listening it you feel relieved you will feel like you escaped from the trials that only a war could create!
CRAVEONLINE: What new direction or musical challenges did you try to explore with the new album.
SAKIS: I am always an explorer. I am always trying to discover new things, hidden thoughts, hidden feelings of my personality of my soul and this time I did find some treasures of my ancient origin…Hey I am talking artistically here no political bullshit ok?
CRAVEONLINE: Where did the idea for the title track backing vocals come from? Who sings them?
SAKIS: I do. I tried so many voices on this album and I also had some help from a choir that is specialized in lament songs that have roots back in ancient history. Together I want to believe that we did create a gloomy atmosphere.
CRAVEONLINE: Who created the album artwork?
SAKIS: Jerome…Our labels designer. He has deep knowledge about ancient Greek civilization and when I gave him my idea he got into it directly and he created maybe our best cover ever…It is really METAL!
CRAVEONLINE: You have several guests on Aealo. Who are they and did come to be on the album?
SAKIS: We had several appearences on the album, which I based more on experimental artists who are friends of mine and I have personal connection with. When I was done with one song I would think which artist could lift that song up. For instance on Thou Art Lord we worked with Alan Nemtheanga from Primordial and on Nekron Iahes we used Magus Wampyr Daoloth. There a lot more and they all helped the album to be better.
CRAVEONLINE: Do you prefer to produce your own records? Why?
SAKIS: I am a big fan of the motto DO IT YOURSELF and I always enjoy doing things by myself and not involving other people because I am sure that nobody can follow my sick rhythms of work.
Of course the rest of the members help me in the studio but I feel like walking my path by myself…I grew up in the 80s era of metal where everyone was doing things themselves and enjoying more of what they were doing. I am addicted on this and I cannot bear it down. Maybe I do not create the best-produced albums but definitely I offer to our fans a fair result.
CRAVEONLINE: Top 5 Desert Island Records
CELTIC FROST-MORBID TALES
BATHORY-UNDER THE SIGN OF BLACK MARK
IRON MAIDEN-THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST
BLACK SABBATH-VOL 4
CRAVEONLINE: What changes good or bad have you seen over the last twenty years in metal?
SAKIS: Metal has become more commercial and more open to the masses…is it good or bad? That needs a long chat bro…
CRAVEONLINE: What problems has the band’s name brought down on the band? Is it difficult to deal with these reactions?
SAKIS: There are several things that have happened due to our name. We’ve had problems with lives shows, tours, distributions but we are here to keep on fighting against any kind of conservative idea. Metal is a battle and we ready to fight till death for our ideas.
CRAVEONLINE: Has the band’s Greek heritage come into play when writing? Do you draw on it for subject matter?
SAKIS: Not in purpose. Maybe deep into our DNA but we do not say that we are Greeks and we do things better and such stupid things. We are civilians of planet earth that happened to born and grow up in this territory rich of history. Ok maybe that can influence us sometimes.
CRAVEONLINE: What will Rotting Christ be up to in 2010?
SAKIS: Touring in every corner of this planet and spreading the plague. I can't think something more than touring and believe me will be a lot.
CRAVEONLINE: Talk to us a little about the Non Serviam DVD.
SAKIS: NON SERVIAM A 20 YEARS OF APOCRYPHAL STORY includes 2 DVD’s and 2 cds in a very low price. It is a fixed band request to have low prices faithfull to our underground roots and I want to believe that with that release we managed to compact a great part of our story as a band in one release and it is a fair reaction to our fans. It includes the complete ROTTING CHRIST history so if you’re a long time fan or a new one it’s the right release.
CRAVEONLINE: What’s the major difference between European and American Metal Fans?
SAKIS: Actually Metal fans are more or less the same worldwide. Believe me, we have played in every corner of this planet and the Metal heads we met from the deep jungles of Amazon till the steppes of Siberia were raptured under the same god, The God of Metal.
Ok there are some little changes between USA and European crowd in the past. It seems that Europeans like more atmospheric and philosophized music contrary to the American fans that are more into straight in your face music. But things have changed last years and it seems that USA is back to a more underground attitude and I am glad as European that the last decade so many European bands have the ability to tour the states something that was really difficult back in the 90’s.
CRAVEONLINE: Do you dislike being referred to as Black Metal?
SAKIS: We love to be called metal my friend and you can add any aybthetic you like. Black Dark Heavy whatever…but METAL!
SAKIS: So hard to say. Too many good releases too many clear productions …really good bands around but what I miss is the soul…Where the fuck is the soul nowadays? I am stuck more in the past without scorning the present that definitely create good bands but difficult to follow all of them.
CRAVEONLINE: When Rotting Christ calls it a day who do you want the band’s legacy to be?
SAKIS: Their non-rock star attitude that will be followed with a remarkable music legacy that could talk to future human beings’ souls.