Rotting Christ, Carach Angren, Uada, Gaerea @ The Gramercy Theater
Between nightfall and storm clouds covering the island of Manhattan, the black clad concert goers seemed to melt into one long stream of darkness, occasionally outlined by a colored patch sewn to a battle vest. And yet, among the shadows, the blue and white colors of the Greek flag easily pierced through their grim surroundings like the brightest of stars .
Held in the hands of multiple groups in line, several flags made their way into The Gramercy Theater like a Panhellenic parade. An appropriate welcome to the legendary Rotting Christ of Athens on their 'Under Our Black Cult' tour stop in New York City.
While Rotting Christ is sure to sell out any show when visiting North America, a stacked bill with support from Carach Angren, Uada, and Gaerea sealed the deal. Those fortunate enough to hold a ticket eagerly entered the venue for a night of mysticism, horror, and wonder.
Dissonant, chaotic, uncanny: these are just a few words to describe the music and performance of Gaerea. Hailing from Portugal, the faceless quintet took the stage emerging like wraiths from the realm of nightmares.
As their first visit to the United States, the immense roar of approval from the crowd and the calls for 'one more song' clearly demonstrate the demand for more Gaerea stateside. The unsettling nature of the band was nothing short of the perfect start to the blackened bill still to come.
Without a doubt for fans of Dark Fortress and Batuskha, if songs such as 'Salve' and 'Urge' were not enough to send chills down one's spine, the nearly inhuman twists and ticks of their vocalist (real name listed on several websites but never officially confirmed by the band), certainly did.
"I've been to more shows than I remember", said one fan after the set, "but that was the first time I felt anxious or afraid during a set." Breaking out into laughter, they concluded simply that "I need more of that in my life, that was amazing!"
Sharing similar influences with Gaerea while blending elements of Dissection and Panopticon, the bleakness of the Pacific Northwest came to life through the music and lyrics of Oregon based quartet, Uada.
Opening with the title track of 2020's Djinn, the stage lights were cut for most of the set, with the band illuminated by pale blue, green, and purple lighting against backdrops depicting mystic symbols.
Premiering a yet unreleased song, "Retraversing the Void", fans new and old got a taste of new Uada to quench a three year old thirst. At nearly nine minutes long, "Cult of a Dying Sun", the title track of the 2018 album of the same name, was the centerpiece of the set, engulfed in blast beats and the periodic break for ambient guitars.
Uttering not a single word to the audience throughout the performance, Uada, as with Gaerea before them, unquestionably focus on the music and let it speak for them. Given how many Uada shirts and patches could be spotted in the crowd, this approach has definitely served the band well.
Proudly referring to their tours as 'hauntings', the halls of The Gramercy Theater were behold to a ghastly sight as the member of Carach Angren stormed the stage with "The Ghost of Raynham Hall". Forging symphonic black metal with the most ghoulish of lyrics, the Dutch masters of horror charged through nine songs spanning fifteen years of incredible releases.
Under the spell of vocalist Seregor, the frontman took sinister pleasure in demanding a wall of death from the audience before the performance of "The Carriage Wheel Murder", one of the oldest songs in the set. "When the blast beat begins, I want you to smash into each other, am I clear? AM. I. CLEAR?" he barked as the crowd parted down the middle of the dancefloor and prepared for a warzone.
Having unfortunately missed last year's show in Brooklyn, on tour with Hypocrisy, the dissonant piano opening of "Franckensteina Strataemontanus" was at last brought to a New York stage at the hand of keyboardist, Ardek. Taking advantage of the song's groove and tempo, the pit opened up as the bodies of crowd surfers flew over the barricade.
Closing with "Bloodstains On the Captain's Log" from 2010's Death Came Through A Phantom Ship, Carach Angren bid goodnight to the Big Apple under deafening applause. "They always steal the show, every time I see them," said a fan shortly before their set. While there is certainly enough evidence to support this claim, a friend of the fan replied with "I agree with that in most cases, but you can't touch the headliner on this tour. No band can."
A stillness fell over the room, the presence of something ancient and wise. As the thundering roar of gutiarist/vocalist Sakis Tolis rang out over the marching drums of "Χ ξ ς (666)", delivered by his own brother, drummer Themis Tolis, the fury and might of Greece was unleashed onto the streets of New York.
From the spiritual force of "Kata Ton Daimon Eaytoy", to the headbanging riffs of "Non Serviam" off the 1994 album of the same name, the Tolis brothers, flanked on either side by touring members, Kostas Heliotis (bass) and Kostis Foukarakis (guitar), wielded the force of Hellenic occultism and mythology.
Originally scheduled to perform in New York City in 2020, headlining the Devastation on the Nation tour, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the tour to 2021 and then again to 2022, before Rotting Christ finally playing Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn last May.
After so many delays, it was no wonder why fans gladly celebrated the return of the Mediterranean Kings to the sound of "Elthe Kyrie" and "Grandis Spiritus Diavolos".
With the closing notes of "Noctis Era" from 2010's Aealo, those who entered the venue with I Galanolefki, 'the blue and white one', raised their flags over their heads or draped it over side railings.
Considering the civil unrest that has been going on in Greece in recent weeks following the tragic train collision near Tempi, there could be no better time for Greeks and Greek Americans to come together to share music and culture under the banner of their brothers in Rotting Christ.
Press and photo pass courtesy of Season of Mist