Review Summary: Crushing death metal with a surge of melody and complete with orchestra and choir arrangements to maximize the soundscape.
2008 finds Greek legends Septic Flesh returning to the metal fold with a pummeling slab of extreme metal. Despite being around for more than 15 years, Septic Flesh have remained quite hidden amongst the ever expanding worldwide metal scene. They have released just their seventh record, “Communion” off of their label Season Of Mist. In the past, Septic Flesh have been compared with their fellow countrymen, Rotting Christ in terms of layering atmospheric gothic overtones with the harsher aspects of black and death metal. This time around, Septic Flesh have stepped outside of the box and become deadly serious with what they wanted to create. To be ominous and crushing yet melodic and accessible, that was the goal and Septic Flesh have passed the test with flying colors. “Communion” is split up into 9 powerful tracks with a duration of less than 40 minutes. The first step was hiring a full orchestra and choir to complement their downed tune riffing and guttural vocals. This idea of blending orchestral passages into extreme metal has been done to death and for the most part, many of these bands don’t have the experience or the talent to pull it off. Luckily, Septic Flesh have been around the block long enough to expand as songwriters. With each album, the production seems to improve and this time Frederick Thordenhal was around to man the boards. His work captures the sound in it’s essence with a pristine yet intense feel to it. Drums blare, vocals are brutal, guitars are sharp, and the orchestra is booming.
Communion really finds the band at it’s best when they mix things up. Some songs rage with speed and brute force while others slow down and possess an overall more melodic feel than the others. Fortunately none of the songs sound out of place or forced when they begin to experiment. At the base, the album is death metal with a surge of melody sweeping the corner. Around the base is the blaring orchestra that takes the music to another level. Sharp edged riffing tears away with speed and aggression when soon enough, the duo begin to slow down and play some infectious melodies. Christos and Sotiris play good together, mixing tempos and furious riff patterns to lay waste to your ears. Solos are present but sparingly used. I don’t mind about the limited number because when heard, they leave a stronger impact. Drumming is tight and filled with blinding double bass/ blast beat patterns. Fotis is a tight drummer that plays extremely well on the album. Displaying speed with restrain, he really makes his presence known. The title track is a prime example. Chaotic double bass hits you head on with choir vocals overlapping the mayhem. Christos is the main guitarist and also the man pulling the strings of the orchestra. He recruited over 80 musicians and 32 singers to add their touch to the music. And I just got to say that the orchestral work is executed phenomenally well without overstaying their welcome. Symphonic, epic, and ominous without being overbearing or over abused. I like that the base of the music is still geared towards the traditional death metal side but with a twist of ominous passages seeping their way through the song structure. Include the diverse vocal patterns from Sotiris, Seth and the choir and you have a potent brand of extreme metal.
Harsh vocals are primarily used on the album and it never loses its intense edge once. The harsh vocals are vicious and guttural, fitting the style of music perfectly. Occasionally, clean singing is presented and are take it or leave it. As shown on the ripping head banger Sangreal, almost falsetto like vocals are introduced. I don’t like it but I don’t hate it either, I just don’t think they add much. Chanting is present but not played to the point of annoying the viewer. When heard, I think they add a really cool sinister edge to the music. Where you would normally depend on growls or screams to make the music bleak, the choir really shines on fitting this part. A con but not so important is the bass. The bass is present but hardly interesting nor cleanly heard. Usually tuned low, the bass doesn’t play much of a role. This isn’t that big of a big deal to me because there is so much going on. Aside from the bass and the questionable clean vocals as a con, Septic Flesh have released the strongest metal album I’ve heard so far in 2008. The beauty of this album is that although many ideas are presented through the music, the majority is performed masterfully. There is no filler on the album. Every track stands apart with killer melodies and tightly executed song structures that don’t rely on ridiculous song lengths or prog wankery to gain a few fans. The few flaws that remain are instantly forgotten upon putting this in your player.