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‘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.