REVIEW: Septicflesh – The Great Mass
Returning with their 2nd offering after a hiatus, and 8th in total, Greek atmospheric death metal band Septicflesh have taken a reversed songwriting approach in The Great Mass, and formed the classical foundations before applying the bludgeoning metal. What results is a neurotic mix of the two which some may consider watered down, and others an innovative approach that certainly beats other recent attempts .
To get an idea of the insanity within this album, take “We, The Gods” and “Lovecraft’s Death” from Communion and multiply. The opening track, “The Vampire From Nazareth”, is a perfect example of this, akin to a symphonic Behemoth that combines an ethereal female vocal and Anton’s own harsh grunt, which has now morphed into a Nergal tribute, while Benardo overpowers most other instruments with his blistering drum patterns. Ax-men Antoniou and Anunnaki are therefore relegated a lot of the time, only providing a few melodic riffs on tracks like the melancholic “Oceans Of Grey” or triumphant “Rising”, the latter of which is easily my favorite. Anunnaki’s cleans really shine through here, as well as on the gothic “Therianthropy”, which sports some creepy lyrics about possession: “If I can smell your scent, if I can hear you breathe/If I can use your skin, you’re there for me”.
Lyrics are an interesting theme within this album, ranging from topics such as Pythagoras’ star of elements through the construction of the pyramids to being trapped in a never-ending nightmare. They mostly fit in with the music itself, although the opening growled verse of “The Undead Keep Dreaming” is a little jarring. Choruses are a strongpoint on this album, whether during “Rising” or the echoed cry of “God wants to die” on “Apocalypse”. Both Anton’s and Anunnaki’s voices also meld well with the orchestral moments. The classical elements themselves, designed by Antoniou, range from complementary to eccentric, especially in the cinematic opening of “Oceans Of Grey” or carnival-esque feel of “Mad Architect”, but they mostly help rather than hinder.
The Great Mass is at once a natural evolution of Communion and a confusing move for Septicflesh. Classical elements have been once more thrust into the limelight, but this throws into question in which musical direction the band will develop. Whether a fully classical album à la My Dying Bride or a return to a more bludgeoning style, the next release will be very interesting to witness when it emerges. For now, the listener is left with an album which although doesn’t quite top previous releases in my eyes, is a solid release bound to interest both established and potential fans.
Song to try: