by Daniel Hinds

Beginning their career at the height of the thrash scene and the start of the death metal scene (1987), Greece's Rotting Christ quickly made it clear that they were charting a different direction.  Raw, fast and brutal, the band took cues from the likes of Kreator, Bathory and Possessed to create a sound that would later flourish into the black metal movement of the 90s.

As time went by, Rotting Christ weren't satisfied to just repeat themselves and their last album (A Dead Poem) features more melodic textures and varied structures than ever before, while still fully retaining the band's raw, heavy guitar sound and blackened vocals.

As their latest album hits the shelves, guitarist/vocalist Sakis Tolis takes a few moments to catch us up on the Rotting Christ phenomenon...

When will the new album be released?
I guess it is already out by now.

How did the recording process go?  Were you happy with the results?
Yes, it was our goal to have such a recording. We have a good collaboration with the producer, the studio was luxurious, and we expressed ourselves as we wished, so the result was really nice for us.

What are some of the lyrical topics covered on the new album?
Our lyrics are allegoric. They have different meaning than you think. And this is because we want to avoid apathetic listeners. We want them to search more into the topic and find their own messages.  So, our lyrics are dark in order to fit with our dark music.

Where do you compose your lyrics?  What inspires them?
Our lyrics come from the depths of our souls and express the dark side of our life.

Why did you choose the title, The Sleep of Angels?
The sleep of the holy, the death of the holy.  The death of the angels.  That's the meaning.

How much time did you spend recording and mixing the new album?  Is that more or less than usual?
Yes, it took me half a year to compose it and one month to record it. We had more time for this release and it is clearly reflected in the result.

Xy's production on A Dead Poem is excellent.  How did you first hook up with him?
Really good. We are friends with him and the cooperation was excellent.

When did you first get in touch with Fernando (from Moonspell) and whose idea was it for him to do backing vocals for "Among Two Storms?"
It was my idea because Fernando is a very good friend of ours and I find his voice to be really good, so I asked him to sing and he accepted.

The inclusion of Darkness We Feel (a label sampler) with A Dead Poem was an interesting marketing idea.  Were you happy with that decision or not?
It is a business trick. What more can I say?

Was the band logo changed on A Dead Poem for readability sake or some other reason?  (I like the old one better, but I can see where it might be difficult to read)
Only for readability. The new people that came into the ROTTING CHRIST world couldn't find the CD in the record stores just because of the logo!  So, we changed it, in spite of the fact that I do like the old one more.

According to the Century Media page, you will be touring Europe with Deicide.  When is that happening and what parts of Europe will you cover?
Yes, our European tour with Deicide starts on the 12th of February and we are going to play in more than 10 countries. Hope to see you there for a real Metal massacre.

Do you think you'll ever tour the US in the future?
It is one of our goals! I hope to fulfill it.

What is the single most memorable event from your past tours?
We played in more than 20 countries last year on the A DEAD POEM tour.  Every live show for us is a memorable experience and I can't really choose one.

How have your experiences been with Century Media compared to Osmose and Unisound?
We learn to work professionally. That's the main difference.

Why was the cover art changed for the re-issues of Passage to Arcture, Triarchy of the Lost Lovers and Thy Mighty Contract?  Was that the band's decision or the label's?
Some things couldn't change. Labels "buy" your songs and they have the right to do whatever they want with their product. So we didn't have any decision on that.

Will Non Serviam see a US release at any point?
Hmm  really hard! Hopefully someday because it is a good but not so well known album!

In the notes on your web page for the Satanas Tedeum re-issue, you mention some problems with bootlegging of the demo.  What exactly happened?  Also, how many copies did Unisound press onto CD?
It is unknown my friend. We haven't solved still the UNISOUND problem.

Looking at your discography, I noticed a number of LPs and picture discs.  Is it important for you to have your material available on vinyl as well as CD?
Yes, vinyl is a cult that must keep going on. I have a lot of vinyl in my home and it is really important for me to see our releases on vinyl.  IT IS A MUST!

Rotting Christ was definitely one of the bands that spawned the entire Black Metal movement.  How do you see yourselves within that scene in 1999?
Hmmmm ..... We are still alive and that makes us proud!  Of course, the scene has nothing to do with the scene that was existing 10 years ago, but we try to adapt to the scene nowadays.

How did Rotting Christ first get together?
Just three people that liked very much to play by themselves their precious music: BLACK METAL. The drummer was my brother and the bassist was my best friend.  So we picked up our instruments and we started to play like our idols VENOM, POSSESSED, BATHORY.

Did you have a sense when you first started out that what you were doing was ground-breaking?  Or was it more a realization as time went by?
It was a realization as time went by. Nobody knows the value of what he is doing in the beginning. Time is the only judge.

What, in your opinion, is the main difference between the music you are producing now compared to ten years ago?
Now we are composing more professionally, I guess, and to be honest we try to adapt our music to the needs of today. Ten years back we just wanted to play.. like the old Black Metal glorious gods . And that's all! No stress, no nothing.  Really which is the best.. I do not know!

When did you first get interested in playing guitar?
After listening to the first IRON MAIDEN  album!

What do you look for in an artist or a song when you listen to
The feeling. I really do care about this. No cheap stuff.

I believe you are the first Greek band I've interviewed - what is the metal scene like in Greece?
Many bands, many shows. It goes higher and higher and all out there keep an eye open for the Greek scene. Itís sure worth paying attention to.

Was it more difficult for you to establish yourselves in Greece or the rest of the world?
In Greece!!!!

Who are some of your favorite Greek bands?  How about 'zines?
SEPTIC FLESH, HORRIFIED,  EXHUMATION, ELYSIAN FIELDS, NIGHTFALL... all worthy!  Zines? Not so much. The commercialism tends to kill zines!

Based on other interviews I've read with you, you seem to be very open-minded and supportive of the underground metal scene.  Have you found most fans/bands to be similarly open-minded?
Yes, I try to be as supportive as I can because I came from theUnderground and I never forget my roots. Yes, there are open minded people in the scene, but there are also close minded people, too. Everywhere there are "good" and "bad" guys!

Did you read the Lords of Chaos book?  If so, what is your opinion? (personally, I found it interesting, but focused too little on the music and way too much on the political agendas of certain individuals, particularly those whose views were in line with the author's own...)
Unfortunately no! But I am gonna do it soon . I hope!

Tell me one thing about yourself that might surprise people.
That I am a normal being!!!!!!!

Did you have any idea ten years ago you'd be where you are today?  Any predictions for ten years into the future?
Really, am I gonna be alive?

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