A Rotting Christening of the new Studio TD

Greek black metal legends Rotting Christ stormed through Montreal on March 7th, playing the newly refurbished Studio TD (formerly L’Astral) in the Quartier des Spectacles. Dubbed the “Under Our Black Cult” tour, the band were supported by three other ghoulish groups - Gaerea, UADA, and Carach Angren.

With a black metal roster like this, I was expecting atmosphere over energy. While death and thrash metal shows tend to empty beer kegs faster than barbacks can run, black metal shows are often low-tip nights for staff behind the counter. The subgenre caters towards more straight-edge folk who like to go on long walks soundtracked by their favourite white Norwegians. Black metal fans are outcasts in society, and even greater outcasts at black metal concerts, because they’re all trying to be cooler than the weirdo next to them. In short, these shows tend to suck vibe-wise.

Rotting Christ envangelists immediately proved me wrong when some surfin’ bird kicked me in the back of the skull like I was the last cross eyed furry in a sweaty game of whack-a-mole. As I was recovering from the crowdsurfer’s dissatisfaction with my head, fans continued to crawl over me in an effort to make it towards the stage. I really don’t blame them - have you seen the hunks in Rotting Christ? Those Athenians are top.

To be fair, opening acts Gaerea, UADA, and notably Carach Angren did do their best to bring enthusiasm out of the audience. My favourite were Carach Angren, Dutch symphonic black metallers with a fetish for spooky keyboards. Frontman Seregor put on an energetic performance as he commanded the stage. The best part of their performance however was keyboardist Ardek, brutalizing a stage piano like John Cale wearing corpse paint. Ardek also occasionally busted out this sweet keytar - the bastard child of a guitar and piano. Carach Angren were really a good time!

But whatever energy the opening acts could drum up was nothing compared to what would come. Apparently everyone was really just edging for Rotting Christ - and frontman Sakis Tolis’ opening power chord strum let everyone know it was time to go nuts. The band pushed ripper after ripper through the speakers and by consequence through the audience, whose centre crowd were now brawling to the pulse of blackened Hellenic chants, Mythos running smooth through their bloodstream.

I wasn’t kidding about the Hellenic chants. Rotting Christ do an amazing job of working anthemic aspects into their music, which translates wonderfully live, as the more symphonic elements to their sound mesh amazingly with the rawness of their heavier cuts. Their songs are also amazingly varied tempo-wise, transitioning from obnoxiously catchy grooves to blastbeat assaults. These aspects all point towards why Rotting Christ shows seem to hit so different than other black metal acts - Satan aside, their music is fun.

I was genuinely surprised at the energy Rotting Christ brought out of the audience. Even under the black metal moniker, the band were able to get the house moving more than some of the better hardcore acts I’ve seen. And the lack of karate was nice. This was a damn crazy show, proving that Rotting Christ are still a force to be reckoned with in the metal scene - even after 35 years in the business.