Review Summary: The Greek quartet manage to exceed expectations for their ninth studio album, without raising the bar too much.
Back in 2003, the band formerly known as Septic Flesh released an album called "Sumerian Daemons" and fused the raw brutality of death metal with the beautiful melody of symphonic orchestrations. Now, after a four-year hiatus, personal differences, and a revival that led to two studio albums being released, Septicflesh is back with the very same goals in mind; create a seamless mesh of screaming and synth, and kick all kinds of ass while doing it. This mission statement is personified in "Titan
", the latest and greatest full-length from the symphonic death metal... titans. The Greek quartet have successfully crafted a beautiful sound environment that can bring about a sense of calmness - or a sense of calamity, if that's what's called for. Delivering upon their vision of a unified sound, Septicflesh's 2014 effort could give even Fleshgod Apocalypse's "Labyrinth
" a run for its money in its forty-five minute running time, as it proves that you don't have to be an hour long to have substance.
With Spiros Antoniou screaming and Sotiris Vayenas singing, the vocalists of Septicflesh haven't left, but they have changed. The deep, almost guttural bellows of Antoniou are stronger than they were before, grasping the listener's ears as his voice drives the orchestration to its eventual and inevitable climax. Vayenas' appearances on "Titan
" are scarce in comparison to the more raw vocals of Antoniou, but still pack a punch all of their own, giving a much-needed and much-appreciated variety to the already strong sound that Septicflesh has cultivated. The midsections of "Ground Zero" and "The First Immortal" showcase Vayenas' latent talents behind the microphone; between the harsh vocals that serve as the band's throat and the clean singing that do wonders to spice things up, the vocal presence on "Titan
" is impossible to miss, and equally as impossible to forget.
What Vayenas lacks in vocal appearances, he makes up for in fingerwork, serving as one of Septicflesh's two guitarists (as well as the band's lyricist). The guitarwork can be plain in many instances - the title track especially - but can also soar beyond simplicity with surprising technical passages and breathtaking melodic solos that occasionally deviate from the established song structure. Tracks like album opener "War in Heaven" and "Ground Zero" work the guitarwork into the mix as a driving force behind the entire structure and direction of the song, integrating Vayenas and the other Antoniou of the band as vital components. Christos Antoniou is also responsible for the superb orchestrations on the album, which shine even brighter than usual on "Order of Dracul" and album closer "The First Immortal". Cycling between beautiful, rising high notes and powerful, imposing tones, the instrumental aspects of "Titan
" are both awe-inspiring in scope and addictive in sound design - audible proof that Septicflesh have succeeded in their mission.
The fills on "Titan
" are brought to you by a man called Fotis Bernardo, and while his pronunciation may bewilder you, his drumming will enthrall you. Bernardo's performance belies experience, his technique a calculated variance of the traditional hat hits, bass kicks, and snare slams. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his work on tracks like "Burn" and "Prometheus" is that he uses the very same components of every average death metal drummer, but delivers a much more satisfying experience. Meanwhile, harsh vocalist Spiros Antoniou provides "Titan
" with its bassline. His integration of fingerwork is plain, which is par for the course when you're not only the throat of the band, but the arms as well. Despite his perceived handicap, Antoniou backs the mix with his basswork in a satisfactory manner, lacking in complexity but delivering in necessity.
Septicflesh's efforts on "Titan
" successfully fuse the perceived chaos of death metal with the perceived beauty of instrumental orchestration, and in doing so, show a complex understanding of either component. Though they aren't the first to do so, nor are they perhaps the most masterful, they have given it a grand effort - and created a well-polished album in the process. Given the band's somewhat-tumultuous history, "Titan
" may surprise some with its contents, but most will see past the initial bout of awe and behold a land of promise. The future of Septicflesh is as bright as the harmonies on "Prometheus", and as ambitious as the riffs on "Ground Zero"; this is a record that is more than worthy of a listen.