Septicflesh – The Great Mass, Season of Mist; 2011

Having already established that they’ve moved on from the darkwave-electro influences to their form of death metal, Septicflesh now release a second album with an orchestral direction. Exploiting the dramatic flair and melancholic intensity of European classical music; ‘The Great Mass‘ is an extreme metal re-imagining of this atmosphere, though not without moments of hasty songwriting through burnout.

As with Tchaikovsky and later Beethoven in the symphonic world, Septicflesh‘s main asset here is excess. Making use of the shared complexity between both styles of music, the band draw out the finer intrinsic points to create epic miniatures, as opposed to death metal with symphonic bits here and there. Case in point, ‘The Vampire from Nazareth‘ and ‘A Great Mass of Death‘. Starting off with the blueprints of orchestral compositions; these songs build up in layers where distorted guitars follow a classical structure before the symphonic strings and woodwind. The grandeur of the symphony and the dark mysticism of Septicflesh thus combine into a vividly occult – and metal – “opera”, with vocalists Sotiris Vayenas and Seth Siro Anton in the leading roles. Both sides also avoid a clash between the backing choir, string section and heavy riffs, which allows an excess of dramatic height to flow naturally.

Yet for all the careful arrangements and atmospheric achievements, ‘The Great Mass‘ has the inevitable issue where excess is also its drawback; leading to burnout. For much of the album, each song comes like a soundtrack to an occult mythology of literally biblical proportions. For the remainder of it though, the notable lull in dramatic focus indicates a sense of exhaustion. ‘The Undead Keep Dreaming‘ is a literal example where the band’s tiredness is audible enough in their performance if not the composition. Even the closer ‘Therianthropy‘ comes as a slapdash effort with the lead guitar jamming out of place on the rhythmic pattern.

Overall, ‘The Great Mass‘ is an ambitious effort from a band that reformed after a previous hiatus. Yet in spite of its clear intent to aim high, such ambition may be best restrained a little; avoiding what sounds like a hasty finish to an otherwise fine banquet.

8/10

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