Septicflesh – Communion (10/18/2010)

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“Epic” Metal for the lactose intolerant.

I’ve had a lot of cheese in my day; I can tell you it comes in many flavors, textures, consistencies and colors, and everyone enjoys even a little bit of cheese every now and then, but at the end of the day… it still makes your breath stink.   There’s a fine line to walk when including atypical (or prototypical, in a lot of cases) influences to your music–there are pitfalls on either side: the chasm of gimmicky crutches, or the maw of Munster cheese.  And that line is thin.  Very thin.  The problem lies within the intention of the addition–why it was included, and how it adds to the whole of the music, instead of being a separate entity,  cheap putty to fill in the cracks or a trick of the hand to draw the eye elsewhere.

Adding an orchestra to genres of music, whatever it may be, has that infuriating magic power to very interesting and plausible on paper, and then prove infinitely harder in application when you’ve got all of your building blocks in front of you.   Indeed, the very thought of adding an orchestra to a metal album is not only fairly commonplace, it’s become a downright  cliché in some circles–tacky gimmicks to try to separate themselves from every other band doing the exact same thing, the exact same way.  Most of the time they forgo any sense of restraint or intelligent placement, slathering bombastic, yet genetic string arrangements on top of their drum triggers and single note bass playing, drowning out the  actual band themselves, as if they were guest appearances instead of the main act.   I don’t know if they only Classical pieces to which these people were ever exposed were the most famous passages of In the Hall of the Mountain King or Night on Bald Mountain, but the compositions generally are stuck in one gear, and that’s CRESCENDO!  CRESCENDO! Not only does it reek of laziness on the writer’s part (come on, it’s not hard to add a crescendo to the end of each of your 5 minute Power Metal songs), it also shows a general unappreciative attitude and misunderstanding of the music and style they’re trying to use.

Septic Flesh (or Septicflesh, because whothefuck knows) are certainly not a new band, and have been around long enough to gather their own identity.  The Greek band released their first demo in ’91, and began releasing their own brand of Death Metal, slowing incorporating more styles along the way, from Gothic histrionics and aesthetics to industrial, ambient influences; they followed in the wake of bands like Rotting Christ, however, who also shared their nationality and a few musical traits.   They disbanded in 2003 following the release of Sumerian Gods.  In 2007 they reformed for a short while to go on tour with a few other acts, and they received such positive reception they returned to the studio and Communion was born.

The wonderful accents the album receives from its orchestral usage are the product of Christos (who also covers guitar) and his arrangements–recruiting 80 musicians and a 30 piece choir, he works the orchestra around the band–instead of acting like hen-pecked husband around the orchestra’s whims. This is what separates a band featuring an orchestra from an orchestra featuring a band.  What separates Sotiris’ arrangements from the musical bilge that floods most bands, is which pieces of the orchestra he uses, and how.  The cheese is entirely nonexistent, and it shows.  Very much so.   From tense, choppy strings to sinister, low key brass sections, the arrangements accentuate the bands music to the best of their ability–instead of a crutch, they’re a delicious spice giving character and depth.  It truly grabs that “Epic” feel with the appropriately placed inclusion of the choir and evil, blaring trumpet section on the song Communion, as well as the sinister feel with erratic drumming and terse strings on Babel’s Gate. Everything is placed smartly within the workings of the metal.

The meat and potatoes of the music, however, needs to stand on its own in order to avoid the usual trappings–and it certainly does.  The guitar playing of Sotiris is clear and sharp, giving the right crunch with the percussion; Spiros’ bass playing is what you’d expect from death metal, so audible when necessary, but generally giving muscle to the sound.  As well as covering the bass, Spiros covers the harsh vocals, and they unabashedly fit that moniker well: vile, deep and strong, they truly give a very aggressive, otherworldly feeling to the songs with his unique range of growls.  He also has a fairly articulate style (for someone trying not to), as the lyrics are generally decipherable and clear. Sotiris covers the clean vocals, which are probably the weakest link in the band–not that they are bad, or that he has a bad voice (it sounds oddly 90s Prog Metal to me), but that it seems the most unexpected within the songs–his chorus in Anubis is melodic and almost catchy, and fits well, but his prominent feature on Sunlight Moonlight seems odd for the rest of the album, having a very melodic, light tone to the rest of the album.  The drums, covered by Fotis, are fantastic, a driving force in the album, skittering along the spectrum and break-neck speed from drum trigger blast beats to hard hitting rhythm drivers, adding unique sounds to the appropriate moments. Every weaves together wonderfully, avoids that cheddar tinge almost completely,and only hits a few shaky parts.

The lyrics, in pretty typical fashion, deal with mythology from a few areas of the planet,  Egypt, Greece and Sumeria being the main three.  They’re solid, but if you’re looking for something more than typical (if good) fair, you’re not going to find much.  They fit the album and the atmosphere, but aren’t the highlight of the album.

Bottom line: It’s good. Really good.  It may not sit well with some stick-in-ass death metal purists, but it’s a fantastic album with a great deal of attention to detail, soul and musicianship.  Those with doubts about how heavy they can hit, while still retaining a melodic sense of composition as well as an orchestral feel get a bitch slap and scolding.  That familiar cheesy consistency and tang is not there, and virtually absent from everything.  It’s not a perfect album, and I do have a few problems with some songs, but certainly not enough for me to care much, and not nearly enough to avoid giving  a recommendation for it.

Definitely listen to this, fan of the band or not.

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4 Responses to Septicflesh – Communion (10/18/2010)

  1. Voy says:

    Fuck you Boskov, cheese is epic >:-{

    • fuckyournames says:

      Well, you are right that “epic” and “cheese” generally go hand in hand. :3

      I do however enjoy cheese more than most.

  2. nostalgiatape says:

    So sick. This looks just like a pimp. Things are really coming together around here.

    Dope write up, too.

  3. d_m says:

    I believe I actually saw these guys open for Rotting Christ once, can’t be sure though will need to drag out the ticket stub D:

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