"These songs are so good that even a band called Rotting Christ should be able to capitalise." With Pro Xristou, Greece's premier extreme metal band have just crafted their most accessible - and perhaps most magnificent - album yet

Rotting Christ have written the most immediate hooks of their career without compromising one jot

Rotting Christ
(Image: © Chantik Photography)

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Paragons of reliability, Rotting Christ are widely acknowledged to be one
of those rare bands that never release bad records. Rather than engaging in nervous speculation, long-time fans can simply sit back and wait for the band’s next imperious statement, safe in the knowledge that everything Rotting Christ do, they do with distinction. Impressively, they remain eminently capable of surprises. Deep into their fourth decade, Sakis Tolis and his comrades seem to have made the most overtly accessible album of their careers. Pro Xristou is still resolutely dark as fuck, of course, but listeners could find themselves humming these tunes, even as humanity circles the plughole.

There have been many significant milestones in Rotting Christ’s recorded history to date. Few fans of underground metal would question the seminal impact of 1993 debut, Thy Mighty Contract, or the way 2007’s critically lauded Theogonia seemed to freshly define Rotting Christ’s portentous cacophony. Somehow, Pro Xristou feels equally important to those records, if not more so. A perfectly timed entry point into their vast legacy, the band’s 14th full-length deserves to be one that introduces them to a much bigger audience. Put simply, these songs are so good that even a band called Rotting Christ should be able to capitalise.

The focused flipside to the frantic intensity of 2019’s The Heretics, Pro Xristou is almost entirely delivered at a regal mid-pace. Rotting Christ’s sound has always hinged upon grandeur and dark melody, but these songs have been given extra space to breathe, and the clear and concise results are glorious. After a typically bombastic overture, The Apostate establishes this new and more emotionally potent formula, wherein absurdly memorable hooks are woven seamlessly into a haughty barrage of guitars, and every fist in the room suddenly finds itself heading skywards. Like Father, Like Son repeats the trick, with a graceful, Bathory-like gait, riffs that defer to the old school and sublime guitar motifs that spiral upwards like an infernal Iron Maiden on a mission to the moon.

A bitter yarn about some ill-defined God’s creation of man, The Sixth Day leans heavily into 90s gothic metal, with echoes of The Cult and Paradise Lost adding to a sense of crestfallen nostalgia. In contrast, La Lettera Del Diavolo sneaks blastbeats under the stylistic radar, for an exercise in machine-gun storytelling that unexpectedly blossoms into another sumptuously melodic refrain. Most enjoyably, The Farewell is built upon a riff that shares roots with Manowar’s Gloves Of Metal, and has an overall tang of 80s hard rock bravado.

The notion that this would all sound phenomenal billowing into the air in an arena is hard to resist. Most pleasing of all, Rotting Christ have not had to compromise one jot to make Pro Xristou. Songs like Pretty World, Pretty Dies and Saoirse are derived from the same well of inspiration that led to cherished anti- hymns like The Sign Of Evil Existence and Non Serviam. The difference here is that Rotting Christ have realised what a truly great heavy metal band they are, and that everybody loves a good tune. It suits them insanely well.

Pro Xristou is out this Friday, May 24

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.