Their name – Rotting Christ – has gotten Greek black metal band banned from performing in a municipal venue in Greece’s third largest city, Patra, after protests from nationalist and religious groups over what they called an “anti-Christ band.”
With some 98 percent of the populace Christian, and mostly Greek Orthodox, religion is a serious issue in the country although Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, an atheist, is seeking separation of Church and State and hasn’t faced protests.
Sakis Tolis, the lead singer and founder of the group, said in a Facebook post that a scheduled March 16 concert at the Aigli venue in Patra was called off.
“The real dark powers of this country did everything they could to postpone a cultural event which was, in their eyes, extreme,” he said. “Freedom of speech is a right that we have fought for and actively supported for more than 30 years,” he said. “A battle was lost but not the war,” said Kathimerini.
Organizers GG Events said that Patra Municipality, which owns Aigli, said the venue would not be available, although it had received payment in advance, citing technical reasons.
They acknowledged municipal officials had received protests from the Metropolis of Patra and told the paper that the concert was canceled due to technical reasons that weren’t explained and that it could be rescheduled.
“The venue is available to everyone except for Golden Dawn,” the Mayor said, in reference to Greece’s third-most popular political party, ultra-right nationalists whose 15 lawmakers and dozens of members are in the fourth year of a trial on charges of running a criminal gang, which they deny, and one charged with killing an anti-Fascist hip-hop artist.
The group has been around since 1987 and played in Greece before, including Rockwave Athens 2015. They were one of the first first black metal bands within this region, as well as the European underground metal scene.
In November 1999 during the 2000 United States Presidential Primaries for Republican Nomination, when candidate/Christian conservative Gary Bauer accused the band of being “anti-Catholic,” Tolis wrote: Living in (so called) democratic societies, I think everyone should have the right to call religions as he/she wants. We in fact simply believe they are “rotting”! We are not a “Satanic-crusader” type of band but rather one of the many bands that represent the dark side in nowadays Metal music.
In April 2018, Rotting Christ was scheduled to play in Georgia but founding members Sakis and Themis Tolis said they were arrested under suspicion of terrorism due to their band name, as reported by an announcement from the band’s label, Season of Mist.
They had their passports and cell phones confiscated and were detained in prison, without being permitted legal representation or contact with the Greek Embassy for 12 hours, being held on national security grounds before being released, allowed to perform.
Afterwards, they were informed by their lawyers that the two were included in a “list of unwanted people for reasons of national security” that labeled them as “Satanists” and “suspects of terrorism.”
The two were eventually released, after arrangements made by the band’s other members in collaboration with the local promoter, “who involved legal experts, journalists and activists in Georgia.” The band was allowed to perform their scheduled concert and left for their next destination, Armenia, without hassle.
Black Metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, a shrieking vocal style, heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, raw (lo-fi) recording, unconventional song structures, and an emphasis on atmosphere. Artists often appear in corpse paint and adopt pseudonyms.