Being a fan of early Septicflesh, I’m keen on the Tim Bricheno-style emotive leads – less evident from their middle period onwards – and I fell away from the Greek ensemble after the bizarre, Big Top like noodlings of A Fallen Temple (Holy) which verged on lunacy and alienated many. Though new full-length Titan (Season of Mist) displays much pomp and grandeur, the seamless blend of death metal and orchestral effects is a throwback to their salad days.
Opener ‘War in Heaven’ begins with the duelling of sharp, buzzing riffs and symphonic keys, and when both blastbeats and Seth Siro Anton‘s alarming growl kick in, it portrays the impending cataclysmic battle well. Its centre-point sees chopping rhythms augmented by complex drum patterns, and this explodes and ebbs in fiery fashion to the Gregorian coda. It is a powerful, dramatic beginning that sets the album’s tone. Elsewhere, the death brutality of ‘Burn’ and ‘Ground Zero’ are countermanded by softly intoned choruses, symphonic swells and a brief appearance from those mournful leads. The orchestra is here in force as horns, strings and bass drums decorate the mildly odd ‘Order of Dracul’ and ‘Confessions of a Serial Killer’, the former seeing a harpsichord also absorb the angry pace.
The drama and intense passion reaches a zenith in ‘Prometheus’ with the growling passages quieted by choral breaks reminiscent of ‘Carmina Burana’, whilst the centre break of flute and harp adds the power of emotion. This continues into the heavy-as-hell title track, with galloping strings and more Orff-style choruses augmenting the blistering power and a most addictive chant-a-long refrain. The euphoric closer ‘The First Immortal’ skirts with that kitsch “metal musical” trapdoor but this time retains its strength and brutality amongst the moments of pomp and beauty to create a meaningful and stirring end piece.
There can be few more divisive bands around than Septicflesh at present, but whichever side of the fence you’re on, you can’t deny they’re bloody entertaining. Those of us with a fondness for them can only breathe a sigh of relief at another show of form.