If 2016 was the year of thrash metal, one can argue that 2017 is the year of death metal. Some of the biggest names in the genre have released new material, including Decapitated, Origin, Decrepit Birth, Dying Fetus, Abhorrent Decimation, and the list goes on and on. Well, the time has come for another heavy hitter to enter the fray: Septicflesh are back with Codex Omega, out September 1 on Prosthetic Records. Their 2008 release Communion is one of my favorite death metal records, so I was excited to see how things went on their latest outing.
As part of the relatively small subgenre of symphonic death metal, one has a general idea of what they’re getting into with a Septicflesh album. Their brutal, semi-technical, and orchestral arrangements are quite recognizable, and this one starts out no different with “Dante’s Inferno”. After a subtle symphonic opening, bombastic horns, strings, and blast beats blow the song wide open, with Spiros Antoniou’s powerful growls adding to the chaos. As any opening track should, it sets the tone for what’s to come, both lyrically and sonically.
One thing that I enjoy about Septicflesh is that they create metal that isn’t afraid to get creepy. They embrace the themes for which metal is almost always disdained, and they do so in a way that is convincing, charming, and cohesive. Much like fellow Greecians Rotting Christ, they pull no punches when it comes to talking about controversial ideas and religion. To me, this validates the music they make and the way they make it, and “3rd Testament” demonstrates, or should I say, ‘demon-strates’ my point.
The second track slightly shifts the composition when compared to the opener. “3rd Testament” puts the orchestration in the back seat and lets the traditional death metal instrumentation do the driving. Things stay pretty much the same here vocally, and that’s in no way a problem. The lyrics of the song deliver a chilling take on an alternate interpretation of holy writings. It’s good death metal, and I like it.
The next notable moment on the record is the fourth entry, “Martyr”. This is one of most progressive moments on the album. Contrasting the two main elements of metal and orchestration is done throughout the song, along with several thematic shifts. The strings create a sweeping melody behind the growls, which moves things away from the technical leanings of the band. This is welcome and memorable, as it creates a song that is almost catchy. Yeah, I said catchy. The track also has some of the most traditional riffs you’ll hear this band play. It’s a dynamic piece, and one of the best on the album.
Speaking of catchy, we have to talk about “Faceless Queen.” I won’t go into every detail of the song, but I have to talk about the chorus. While this isn’t the first time we hear Sotiris Vayenas’ clean vocals on Codex Omega, it’s probably the largest single dose. It’s a swelling, haunting, beautiful piece of music that I found myself singing for days. The song’s a lovely bit of music that shows just how much this band can do, and do quite well.
Coming to a conclusion on my feelings about Codex Omega was actually somewhat easy for me. Septicflesh have put together an album that met my expectations, and my, they were quite lofty. With the variety of elements that go into making music in this fashion, there are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong. They didn’t. The mix is consistently good throughout, the songwriting is interesting, and the grandiose production is impactful. It would be easy to throw horns (not those horns, brass ones) and strings into a death metal song and call it a day, but that’s not the case here. Everything was written and structured in a way that makes it indelible. We have another great death metal release on our hands, don’t miss this one.
FFO: Fleshgod Apocalypse, Abhorrent Decimation, Rotting Christ
Notable Tracks: “Martyr”; “Faceless”; “3rd Testament”