Our Greek symphonic metal mavens return with a new album.
Septicflesh is an interesting mix of brutal death metal and Dimmu Borgir style symphony. I first came across these guys when a sample disc for Sumerian Daemons came into my then local record shop. I decided to give it a listen that night at work and was more or less instantly hooked.
The imagery of the artwork and the band name made me think I was getting something similar to Aborted and not a brutalized (and in my opinion often better) Old Man’s Child. The mixture of symphony with metal is a difficult thing to pull off, and elitists will always turn their nose at anything with a keyboard. Septicflesh has a bit of an advantage over the countless other bands in this genre in that their vocalist Spiros is excellent. The rawness and power of the vocals pulls these guys ahead in almost every way.
For me, the band has had a turbulent time since Sumerian Daemons (which is probably my favorite). Communion, which released in 2008 is simply fantastic and marks the highpoint of the band. The Great Mass (2014) isn’t a bad album, but I found it a little boring. After listening to it a couple of times it just went back on my shelf and I only recently pulled it back down to do a running comparison. Titan (2014) likewise did not hold my interest in the long term. After Communion it seemed that the band was more or less spinning its wheels without advancing to new levels. Their albums became predictable and there was a level of “Oh, the new Septicflesh—sounds like Septicflesh.”
Another thing that hurts the band for me was the one time I saw them live I thought the performance was simply uninspired. Prerecorded keyboards and clean vocals simply sucked a lot of the force of the performance out of the moment. Now, I have heard that this might have been a one off, but it is hard to recover my feelings toward a band after a truly bad experience.
Many years later, and now with a new album I came in ready to re-embrace these guys back into my regular rotation. So, how does it hold up?
The album comes out strong, and the first two tracks “Dante’s Inferno” and “3rd Testament” simply crush. The fury of the metal and the over-the-top orchestration and symphony creates an epic and fantastical sound. This is the type of shit the Night King in Game of Thrones would listen to as his army burns a city to the ground.
Unfortunately, after a very strong start the album shifts to just some tracks that sound like each other. The middle chunk of the album isn’t necessarily bad, but nothing truly stands out either. We have some pummeling segments, orchestra, choir, pummel. It all starts to feel a bit formulaic. Sure, we will shove some clean vocals in here and there to break it up, but there just isn’t enough happening.
Part of my problem with Septicflesh is that their albums are all quite long. I personally believe a couple random tracks could be cut from this and the whole thing would feel stronger for it. The first disc ends quite strongly (yes, there are two discs). “Gospels of Fear” harkens back to Communion once again with a strong groove and consistent edge.
The second disc, which I assume comes standard, offers up more orchestral versions (often lengthier) of previous songs. I have listened to this disc a total of once, and that will probably be the extent of it. It felt a bit gimmicky to me, and I don’t know if I am in the minority or the majority there.
Perhaps the harshest criticism I can give the album is that it simply doesn’t have a lasting impact for me as a listener. I might change my tune later (I will keep it in rotation on commute for a week or two), but as of now it doesn’t make me want to listen to it more than have me reaching for Communion. In the end we have talented musicians making okay music. 5/10