Jesus Rotting Christ, is Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy Good!
You could make a decent argument that Rotting Christ have a much bigger legacy than they deserve. After all, a lot of people know about them. But why do they know about them? Because they’re called Rotting Christ. You don’t hear a lot of folks name-check them when talking about important bands; you mostly hear about a pissy Dave Mustaine refusing to share a lineup with them because of their name. And admittedly, it’s an awesome, evocative name. I’d say it’s a cut above Dying Fetus in that department. Perhaps with a more innocuous name, Rotting Christ would never have rippled outside their native Greece.
That last statement’s incorrect, though, and it’s where the argument is ultimately undone. If anything, Rotting Christ were allowed to mature while their band name provided them notoriety (and thus longevity). So while there will always be a stirring of “OMG ROTTING CHRIST EW” controversy when the band have something to promote, what they’re promoting has become fascinating and unique. Much like with their last album, it’s hard to find a point of reference for Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy. Filled with the band’s trademark tribal rhythms and weighty music that isn’t necessarily dark, it’s a bruiser. Controversy has granted them attention, and they’ve used it to put out whatever the hell they want. Few bands have that kind of luxury. Rotting Christ utilize it wonderfully.
While there are undeniably noticeable traces of black metal, it’s hard to pin down just what exactly Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy is. It’s got an Amon Amarth-style bare-chested, antiquated masculinity; Enslaved’s penchant for proggy time signatures; and the slick, grandiose production of most Big Metal records. But in the end, it undeniably resides in the realm Rotting Christ have created for themselves: rhythmically insistent and melodically unconventional. In fact, in the wake of black metal’s obsession with nationalism, the band are possibly the most true to their roots without getting too heavy-handed. The tremolo-picking sews itself into Greek music’s history with lyre, in addition to tastefully-chosen bits of orchestration. Most orchestral death and black metal bands feel the need to slather on as much as possible even if it doesn’t call for it (ideally, Fleshgod Apocalypse have ushered in the nadir of this), but Rotting Christ pick and choose what non-rock instruments need to be used where. This makes Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy lush and expansive without becoming gluttonous.
Oddly enough, the only time the album slips up is when it goes too conventional: big, hooky numbers like “Iwa Voodoo” or “Ahura Mazda-Aŋra Mainiuu” come off more rote than applying universality to their unique brand of world metal. Rotting Christ are at their best when they’re allowing themselves to go off the handle: “Rusalka” cleverly places black metal’s forward momentum in the vernacular of Greece; the piano-drenched “Cine iubeste si lasa” is almost post-metal in its gradually swelling dynamics (with some truly inspired guest vocals); and Daimona’s best song, “Gilgames”, is simultaneously its most genre-faithful piece as well as the album’s most effectively metal selection. Rotting Christ have the sort of vision and confidence where they don’t need to rely on “singles” to make an album work. If they went batshit for an entire album, it would probably upend metal altogether. But as is, Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy is a blissfully varied album. Rotting Christ have most likely evolved beyond the novelty of their name, and records like this make you feel like they’d be worth following if they were called “Sakis Tolis’ αρμάδα featuring Themis Tolis.” What’s in a name? Not a goddamn thing.