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One of the great things about metal music these days is the need for innovation and integration. There are many bands that combine elements of other genres, such as classical and operatic influences that really bring the music up a notch with regards to the power of the musical message being offered to the listener. There are some bands that take this approach of integration to a whole new level. One such band that comes to the top of my mental list is The Project Hate MCMXCIX. Their bombastic classical arrangements compliment the sheer aggression of the music and gives the listener an exquisite extreme metal experience. Another such band is Septic Flesh (or in this case, Septicflesh). These Greeks are one of the great bands coming out of the Aegean and set the bar high for others to follow.
Here we have "Communion", their first full length release post breakup. This was my first introduction to the band, and I was impressed with the elements of powerful classical music; namely a nod toward Gustav Holst's "The Planets", and Wagnerian emotive movements. There are many huge horn sections, especially in the first five songs. We get a hint of some of the later tracks and what they will offer, which would be from the track "Anubis Gate". In this track, we not only have hard-hitting horns and driving extreme metal melodies. We are also introduced to a semi-power metal vocal style that is coupled with the death metal growls. A typical recipe for these songs is driving blast-beat laden death metal with the growling vocals for the verses, and headbang-worthy bridges and choruses. This is also where the heaviest orchestrations take place, and the songs are elevated from "pretty good" to "fucking awesome" within a few bars of music. A great example of this is the first track Lovecraft's Death, as well as We, The Gods. Unfortunately, this excellent formula goes awry, and it will be here that I attempt to convey my irritation for the deviation about to take place.
First and foremost, there is a brooding, and angry tone to the entire album that brings thoughts of Dante's Inferno, and the deepest depths of Hades. The only major deviations are the tracks Sunlight/Moonlight, as well as Narcissus. These deviations are what throws the wheels off this speeding freight train. To me, these songs turn the momentum gained from the first half of the album into something akin to an 18-wheeler needing to use the runaway truck off-ramps that are nothing but big sand pits. This album is plowing away, eating up the miles of the musical highway, until there is a big old sand pit right in front of it, and saps all momentum in a flash. Sunlight/Moonlight is a song that would have a fitting place on Therion's album "Gothic Kabbalah". Sure there is the death metal element, and growling vocals, but if you take a look at the musical elements and lyrics, something doesn't match up right. It has a pop metal feel, with the clean pseudo-power metal vocals, a complete lack of underlying anger, and the subject matter in the lyrics are MUCH less mythological and occult-like in nature. It feels completely out of place, and the same exact thing can be said about the final track on the album, Narcissus. This song is another track that has no place on this mammoth album, and has a less playful feel than Sunlight/Moonlight, but still does not fit the motif of the overall album. There is absolutely no atmosphere and is a straight-up mid-paced melodic death metal song. What it is lacking in atmosphere, it does make up in a mid-song solo, which is not too bad; but the damage is done.
These two tracks seem to me to be thrown in there willy-nilly because they were out of ideas, material, or both, and does a huge disservice to the rest of the recording. What makes things worse, is these two out of place tracks bookend songs of the same vein as the first half and make the misstep even more grossly apparent to the listener. Despite this however, this is a whale of an album, and is a great listen. I highly recommend this for fans of bands like The Project Hate, and Rotting Christ, as well as any other death metal band that infuses crushing death metal with classical influences.
The 21st century Septic Flesh, which takes its sweet time plotting and refining its Gothic death metal legacy into blazing, unforgettable hymns of eloquent brutality and extravagance, has continued to scale in quality which each consecutive release. Sumerian Daemons went beyond a just recompense for the seasoned Greeks' sole stumbling block (Revolution DNA), and through Communion, they've honed and polished their modus operandi to new, streamlined heights with even better balanced and catchier songwriting than nearly any of their back catalog, and the one exception, Ophidian Wheel, simply can't match the stunning production values here; rich and fulfilling, dark and exotic, an impeccable median between modernism and antiquity.
Communion is, at its core, a celebration of all of the band's previous iterations, a hybrid of Goth and death and doom, with an undercurrent of weighted grooves and searing, longing melodies that even succeeds in one-upping Revolution DNA at its own game. The architecture is truly extraordinary, with each track providing both refreshing thrills and memorable compositions that the listener will be constantly rewarded with. The orchestration is perfectly laid out behind the central chug and churn so as to rob it of ever succumbing to ennui, and the guttural vocals and choirs incessantly struggle with one another as if a grudge match of the seraphic and unholy, with that same Far Eastern melodic mysticism bands like Therion and Celtic Frost once tapped into during their primes. Some might balk at the Greeks' constant use of chugging, prevalent low end guitars here, but I can assure you that they are all means to a glorious, mighty end that excuses their cultural primacy.
Fuck, even the COVER of this album won't let you forget it. A paean of old. A patient, pagan beast. Staring.
The hooks are immediate here, with "Lovecraft's Death" ensnaring the listener with its tide of male and female choirs, layered bark and rasp, incendiary melodic glaze, double bass barrage, and the roiling, thickness of its muted substrate. The horns cut straight through, conjuring images of the fell empires, mad Arabs and arcane abominations implicit in the titular author. But then, just as quickly, Septic Flesh have changed up the formula with their tribute to Egypt's jackal faced death deity, "Anubis", which opens with dreary, memorable clean guitars before the sailing, desert melodies ensues. The title track receives merit for its chaotic surge into one of the more belligerent, ominous bridges on the album, just after the minute mark, in which Fotis Benardo beats the living fuck out of his kit while cautionary orchestration bleats out in the background and Spiros' vocals grumble like an earthquake. A few further tracks mirror this formula ("We the Gods", "Babel's Gate"), but there is further deviation as the band crank out a couple cuts in the mold of A Fallen Temple, Gothic tinged death/doom elegies like "Sunlight Moonlight" and "Narcissus".
Hell, they even one-up Revolution DNA with a similar creation called "Sangreal" which sows the same, accessible seeds of sharper, clean vocals over driving rock chords, but then manages to tilt back the scale with its brutal bridge. The one area in which I didn't find myself completely drawn in to the album was the lyrics, which often feel a bit cliche and simplistic. For example, their tribute to H.P. Lovecraft plays like a potpourri of fanboy references rather than allusion of truly obscure horror which the man deserves. Only the final lines 'you stared at the abyss/you'll never rest in peace' feel even remotely poignant. "We the Gods", "Anubis" and "Sunlight/Moonlight" also feel rather half-assed. It's not that I can't appreciate the simplicity of the images, but I too often felt that the music itself was more poetic than the words. However, as I've been reminded many times by fellow metal fans that they pay attention to lyrics about as often as delinquent medical bills, I suppose this is not the most capacious of gripes. And in every other category, Communion is one of this band's highlights, a sensor staring into both the future and the past.
In all honesty when I first heard the name Septicflesh I was not all that interested in hearing them. Call it ignorance or basing a band solely on their name, but I thought they were a grindcore band more than anything. I mean with a name like Septicflesh surely most would come to that assumption.
Recently, a friend of mine sent me one of their songs, which was "Lovecraft's Death." I listened to it and let me just say I know when I am wrong and I am not afraid to admit it. Hailing from Grece, the same country as Rotting Christ, a band I am also quite fond of, Septic Flesh offer the same atmosphere as Rotting Christ, but they are a great deal heavier.
What really struck me about this album first of all was the use of the synth. This provided the album with a very eerie atmosphere at some parts of the record, but at other parts for example in "Sunlight Moonlight" it provided more of an uplifting atmosphere. Albums with such mood altering use of atmosphere are very rare to me, but this is what makes this album so enjoyable.
The second aspect that struck a chord with me (no pun intended) was the riffing. The guitars do not sound overly complex, however they are very audible and provide some parts in songs that would make any metal fan want to headbang along. I also really enjoyed the drumming. It may not have been technical either, but it kept a great tempo that flowed nicely with the guitar.
Now, I am only rating this album at an 80 % for one very simple reason. The only drawback I find in this album is that the vocals seem to take a back seat to the instruments. I would like to be able to have the vocals a little more audible, but this may be because I myself am a death metal vocalist and I am biased towards vocals over anything else.
Aside from this one minor detail Septicflesh's Communion offers an emotion provoking listen coupled with excellent musicianship. I would strongly recommend this release to anyone who is a fan of Rotting Christ or other atmospheric bands who are interested
‘Communion’ the latest opus of Greek lords Septic Flesh, is something of an unusual album, in that it is abundantly clear from the album’s first play that normal parameters for a band commonly painted with the ‘atmospheric’ brush have been almost entirely disregarded. Few of the traditional conceits about atmosphere and mood are present here, but despite this overt subversion of expectation, the music still leaps forth from the speakers and leaves an indelible mark in an entirely different fashion.
Songs such as ‘We, The Gods’ and ‘Sunlight/Moonlight’ are not compositions dripping in ominous mood, largely due to the fact that the aggressive force of Septic Flesh’s heavier side runs riot around the grandiose cries of the plentiful orchestration used throughout, and very little time seems to be given to ambience of the menacing sort.
Instead, ‘Communion’ dives headlong into the task of blending chaotic and refreshingly unpredictable death metal with a classically-influenced taste for grand, melodic textures. Standout tracks such as the ambitious opener ‘Lovecraft’s Death’ and the storming war-cry of the title piece see Septic Flesh meld these metallic pretensions seamlessly with haunted choral passages and towering orchestration – and this is orchestration done extraordinarily well, neither underdone through a lone synthesizer nor overdone with a mammoth philharmonic of musicians.
With a production that is enjoyable unpolished, yet still sharp and defined, assisting matters no end, the album is a supremely in-depth and rich experience. Deep, bellowing horns clash with shrieking, writhing violas on a constant basis, creating a surprisingly varied sound despite the band’s (wise) decision to avoid loading down the record with unnecessary pompous embellishments.
These elements, backed up with the additional influence of clean harmonised vocalisations and lead passages, serve both to underscore and valiantly progress the satisfyingly hard-hitting work of the conventionally amped-up Septic boys, rather than hijack the material and become a prop for the material to stand precariously up against.
Make no mistake, as a pure extreme metal album, ‘Communion’ is powerful all in its own right – those who will care little for the orchestration can revel in compositions that have masterfully retained an innate sense for heaviness; blast beats, grooving headbang-worthy passages and some purely superb riffs are all here. The masterstroke of ‘Communion’ in short is that it is an album that engages openly and expertly in a myriad of ideas and concepts, while still remaining in possession of a forceful drive that just begs a listener to start a bout of pit-based violence to it.
Septic Flesh have bridged a gap between extreme metal audiences with sublime ease here. ‘Communion’ is an album of extraordinary maturity and depth of thought, and yet it will still appeal unendingly to those out for a purely heavy modern death metal album. An album to suit every musical pallet, Septic Flesh have outdone themselves superbly well.
Sumerian Demons, the last album released by this Greek extreme metal band in 2003 was simply stunning and the band’s best. After that, for whatever reason the band decided to disband and I thought that was it for the band. However, the band decided to reform in late 2007 and earlier this year released Communion.
Septic Flesh was always an ambitious band and Communion is no different. The music is mostly death metal but what makes the songs stand out is the use of an orchestra and a bombastic over the top symphonic feel to the music that is more militaristic than classical.
The album opens with the stunning Lovecraft’s Death with its chugging groove and what sounds like a horn section merrily blasting away. The choirs and synth effects push this song up to Therion standards while the deathly rasp is a particularly effective vocal style for this music. Lovecraft’s Death sets the blueprint for the rest of the album. It’s all mostly chuggy death metal with some very inventive use of an orchestra, synth and choir with some melodic underpinnings and the occasional clean sung vocal.
Stand out tracks include the superb Annubis with its epic feel and the rampaging title track Communion which again makes terrific use of the orchestra. Babel’s Gate is probably the heaviest song on the album and again boasts of some very cool use of the orchestra and terrific drumming to ensure that the song has a very unique vibe while still retaining its death metal feel. There’s some Therion in the music in the sense of a death metal band combining orchestration and a full blown choir but the comparison is made at the surface level. At the end of the day this is Septic Flesh as they’ve always been, epic, grand sounding and absolutely fearless when it comes to experimenting. Another thing that works for the album is that it’s all wrapped up in less than forty minutes and the songs are mostly short and to the point. There’s plenty of experimentation but luckily very little wankery.
The band is pretty much the same except for a new drummer who sounds terrific. The vocalist is still one of the most brutal fuckers around in extreme metal but uses a fair amount of effects this time round. All in all, the band are in terrific shape and have put out an album that’s as good as Sumerian Demons if not better.
Communion is an album that is going to make long time fans of the band very happy indeed and at the same time if you’ve never heard this band before then Communion is pretty much the perfect place to start.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com
Like many other modern symphonic metal albums having an actual orchestra to bolster up their sound, Communion forgets substance over style. Guitars are blunt and pretty simple, mostly there to underline and accentuate growled/shouted vocals and keep the rhythm solid. Songwriting-wise this album contains many promises but does not come through with all of them. A few times it is found that the songs do not grow to satisfactory endings, instead opting to repeat old parts in a semi-aimless fashion. "Babel's Gate" or "Communion" are good examples of this, with very interesting beginnings but slightly disappointing (if enthralling) endings.
The mood, while slightly impersonal because of all the overbearing epicness, will grow to useful heights at times thanks to several subtle factors. Lyrics for one are unusual and fitting to the sound, consisting of strange mystic ideas and atmospheric stories. Choirs and chamber music parts also enhance the precious mystic edge this album has. It has to be mentioned here that the album's mix and overall sound is clean, clear and almost perfect - it helps too.
Great for a few listens but then it starts to wear thin. Hopefully they realize their full power before next release, because their style and ideas have a lot of potential.
They're back with a vengeance. One of the founding fathers of the Greek death metal scene and probably the best known act abroad alongside with Rotting Christ, really delivered with their latest release "Communion". It has been a total mystery to me why this formidable band decided to follow separate ways after the release of the much praised "Sumerian Daemons" album. Fortunately, they are back together creating quality music once again.
This album is characterized by maturity in compositions and a very well polished sound. It sums up many of the various musical paths the band has once followed since it combines atmosphere, melody and raw power. Thus, while the first half up to "We, the Gods" could be characterized as brutal and straight forward, the remaining four tracks are more mid tempo and quite melodic bringing back memories from their "Revolution DNA" experimental period. The blending of brutal and clean vocals is in an optimal analogy, balancing successfully on the thin line of power and emotion.
A special note should be made for Christos Antoniou's orchestrations that add a unique touch to the final result. Not many musicians out there can claim to possess such musical prowess. Get this album and I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Don't expect a new "ESOPTRON" or "Ophidian Wheel" (my personal favorites) as masterpieces don't come out every day, but expect a robust death metal release from a band that has never stopped evolving.