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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.