Interview: Rotting Christ’s quest for ancient knowledge

Rotting Christ: Kata Ton Daimona EaytoyRotting Christ: Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy (Season of Mist, 3/5/13)

“In Yumen / Xibalba”

Rotting Christ: “In Yumen / Xibalba”

Of the 11 songs on the latest Rotting Christ release, Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy, it’s the one that opens with a fluttering piano and the spellbinding voice of Souzana Vougioukli that band leader Sakis Tolis “want(s) to believe is the darkest.” Vougioukli and her sister Eleni — a globetrotting world-music duo — hold the reins on “Cine iubeşte şi lasă” for more than two tense minutes before the Grecian black-metal veterans swarm for an ominous march through Romanian folklore. By the end of the song — a reworked traditional piece based on a Transylvanian curse — the collaborators have come together like a fiery black mass.

“It is, in my opinion, the most diverse opus on the album,” Tolis says.

That’s actually saying a lot, considering Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy also incorporates bagpipes and horns, and forages into vast lyrical territory such as the Maya, the Inca, and Greek and Slavic myths. Tolis considers it all “a journey into the knowledge of ancient civilizations and into the occultism that is rising from the dark side of each one of them.” But it’s also a punishing, doom-infested metal record that may or may not have you chanting Voodoo by the last riff.

Recorded in Athens and mixed by Jens Borgen (Opeth, Katatonia) in Sweden, this is Rotting Christ’s 12th full-length release since forming in 1988. It’s just as dramatic and theatric as 2010’s Aeolo, which featured a traditional Greek choir and heavy folk influences. But whereas melody and broad technical experimentation reigned on the last record, Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy entrances with multicultural mysticism and patient, ritualistic grooves. The writing, Tolis says, was “based more on mediation and a deep search of myself, instead of the practical process of thinking only of the riff.”

The first offering, “In Yumen / Xibalba,” unfolds with a sludgy cadence soaked in dark psychedelia — elements that return throughout the album and drench it in occult atmosphere. Tolis, on guitar, bass, and vocals, and his brother Themis, on drums, are never far from their roots, though, hammering away often with blast beats and tremolo picking (see “Kata Ton Demona Eaftou” and “Rusalka”). At the same time, they ride grander, more complex themes that give the record great compositional depth and further evolve the band from its low-fi beginnings.

Fittingly, the album title is a loose translation of “do what thou wilt” – occultist Aleister Crowley’s maxim from his The Book of the Law. Tolis says that the statement isn’t a concept for Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy but is “quite agreeable” with the band’s philosophy. “A deep dip into the occult knowledge of the past led me to create this album,” he says. “I have no special message. I was tired of them. I just want you to make your escape from everyday life and trip with me into the past.”

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