Released: 2011, Season of Mist
What is it with Greek heavy metal bands and their penchant for selecting monikers that at best could be described as socially awkward? Take Rotting Christ for example - a phenomenally talented outfit, whose fortunes may have been infinitely improved had they not opted for such a direct slur on christianity's favorite son. Then there's Septic Flesh; their name instantly invokes the bile-soaked stench of the goregrind set, and yet anyone whose cared enough to keep tabs on their progress since they first came on the scene in the early nineties would attest to the fact that they are by no means a Cannibal Corpse clone. In fact, they put the symphony into symphonic metal well before Dimmu Borgir and the like graduated from the basement.
Whether or not the increased profile of such acts had anything to do with their decision to step up their own efforts in that regard is debatable, but one thing is certain: their orchestral dabbling turned positively cinematic on 2008's COMMUNION. Going by what's on offer across the sprawling expanse of their latest offering, they were just getting warmed up. The sheer scope of the first cut alone is sufficiently telling, boasting dueling male and female operatic vocals, ethnic and orchestral instrumentation, and a progressive lead break halfway through that would make Dave Gilmour cream his psychedelic pants. Then of course, there's the death metal, because let's be clear - as expansive as the Septic Flesh blueprint has become, they've sacrificed little of the sonic vehemence that brought them to the dance. It's here where vocalist, Spiros Antoniou delivers a career-best performance - his coarse, guttaral roar verging on animalistic on album highlights like "Oceans of Grey" and "Mad Architect". At their core, the riffs have plenty of bite too, and as much as they may be wrapped up in a far denser layer of instrumentation than the band have ever managed before, they remain potent when examined in isolation.
That incidentally, is something you may find yourself have to do a fair bit of on Septic Flesh's eighth full-length. That the record is a triumph on several levels is beyond question, and yet as much as its disparate elements work together exceptionally well throughout, for some it may almost be too busy to properly appreciate. Put it this way, THE GREAT MASS makes Dimmu Borgir's ABRAHADABRA sound stripped down by comparison. Your view on whether that's a good or bad thing will likely play a big part in your decision to part money for this record, though it must be said that for the stunning cover artwork alone, it may worth the splurge.