The problem with reviewing a new SepticFlesh album is expectation and having to pick it apart. As in, I have to be objective and meticulous and point out what could’ve been done to make things better. For example, is the 47 minutes running time really anywhere near long enough? Shouldn’t it be at least double that? On the other hand, if it were that long, would it not just be gratuitous and lack the punch that is delivered by the 10 tracks on this their tenth album? Of course it would. [Edit: I’ve just seen that they are releasing a Double CD version containing any extra 24 mins of music, so guess I’ll have to get my hands on that when it comes out.]
Once again, we have the FILMharmonic Orchestra of Prague conducted by Adam Klemens to bolster the sound, along with a choir to accompany Seth Siro Anton’s low deep roars. His brother, Christos, is still responsible for the writing of the music and orchestral arrangements including his guitar duties as is Sotiris Anunnaki V combined with the clean vocals as per usual. They do have a new addition to their Greek band this time around in the form of Austrian drummer Kerim “Krimh” Lechner.
A simple strumming guitar is joined by the orchestra and allowed to slowly build the sound as drums and percussion drive the heavier guitar riffs with their short sharp bursts, until Seth’s harsh but perfectly audible vocals on opening track “Dante’s Inferno” have the orchestra reach new heights and depths.
Some quick triplets merge into to some hyper fast blasting on “3rd Testament (Codex Omega)” before toning down a little for the verses and even further for the choruses, but slipping sans effort back into the blasting when required.
A duduk played by Vahan Galstyan starts “Portrait of a Headless Man” which keeps a languorous pace as the orchestra and choir build and crash with the ebb and flow of the song as the drums and guitars match the clean then death vocals making the song both heavy and melodic.
The sharp twang of Giannis Poupoulis’s oud gives “Martyr” a lovely Middle Eastern flavour as the song languidly works its way through its paces bringing forth visions of vast expanses of sand and cloudless skies.
Violins are attacked by the brass section as the guitars and driving drum beat on “Enemy of Truth” assault your senses in this tail of misinformation and deceit.
The soaring operatic vocals on “Dark Art” wouldn’t be amiss in a black mass and contrast both the haunting clean and anguished death vocals as the orchestra fills out the sound behind the guitars and drums.
Very easily the fast track on the album, “Our Church, Below the Sea” reminds me of ‘Mystic’ era Septic Flesh where the intricate melody is hidden in the brutal guitar riffs and antithetical vocal patterns.
Seth and Sotiris trade off vocals on “Faceless Queen” to complement the music with the death roars when everything is at full pelt while the clean vocals harmonise with the choir and gentle operatic music and expertly played oud by Giannis Poupoulis.
The way the orchestra and choir build the tension in the background for “The Gospels of Fear” only accentuates the ferocity of the drum attack and viscous guitar riffing.
Sotiris’s 12-string guitar opens “Trinity” until a brief bass rumble has the rest of the band join in on this relatively sedate track that wraps up the album. Seth’s bass riff keeps rising to the fore before being drowned out again by the guitars and drums and his guttural roars. The choir and brass add a bit of a cinematic feel to proceedings as it winds down leaving you wanting more… Good thing for me is I have the album on loop, so it just starts again with the strumming clean guitar and orchestra.
(9/10 Marco Gaminara)