Review: Septicflesh – Codex Omega

Septicflesh is not a name for a band that will garner much of a fan base in the mainstream media, but to the underground these Greek titans live amongst the kings of the death metal scene.  I first heard of Septicflesh when I purchased Death is Just the Beginning III in 1994 and “Return to Carthage” was a particular highlight of this compilation from Nuclear Blast. To me, Septicflesh are a band who deserve so much more than to be where they are just now and are a band who consistently experiment but deliver every single time. We all love our bands that stick to the formula of their first albums and don’t ever want them to change as there are plenty of cases out there where they have experimented and failed.

With Septicflesh, experimentation is key to their recent success and with Codex Omega, they use choral orchestration and effects to the maximum; better than any other band out there in my opinion and that includes Dimmu Borgir and Fleshgod Apocalypse.

Opener “Dante’s Inferno” begins with some acoustic guitars and orchestration which gets you salivating for the thundering drums and double bass and guitars that just couldn’t be heavier if they tried. This duly comes and immediately I couldn’t help but smile as this is the Septicflesh I know and love. That may sound as if they are playing their tried and tested formula and to a certain extent they are, but on this record I feel that they have perfected this formula.

“Third Testament” follows in the same trend as the opener; massive orchestrations and extreme death metal are the order of the day. Some of the riffs have a sense of familiarity to Gojira’s “Backbone”, but when you hear Seth’s deep growls, you know which band you are listening to. I have to listen to the last minute of this song over and over again as the guitar riff in the background is immense alongside the thumping double bass but overall, it is the power and intensity of Seth’s vocals that clinch it for me. Seth really has matured as a vocalist and already I can safely say that this is his best vocal performance for Septicflesh.

“Portrait” starts off lightly with orchestration before coming into the double bass and Meshuggah type riffs and Seth’s vocals again are just supreme. There are so many time changes in this song that are beautifully constructed and build that atmosphere during the verse until it comes to the chorus where things speed up a bit culminating in another excellent tune.

The next song that catches my ears and gets this head moving is “Enemy” where there are violins which open the track before we have the dual guitar attack of Christos and Sotiris and double bass from new drummer Krimh. Krimh has fitted straight into the Septicflesh way and has done himself and the band proud on this performance. Some of the best moments of atmosphere and orchestration effects on the album are on this song making “Enemy” one of my favourite songs on Codex Omega.

Onto the second half of the album and I felt that there was one ingredient to this masterpiece that was missing and then “Dark Art” gave me the final piece of the jigsaw. The clean vocals of Sotiris have always been a highlight of recent releases and I am surprised that the band did not use these in the first half of the album, as I rate him as highly as Simen Hestnaes. The mixture of deep growls and clean vocals over double bass and orchestration is just simply superb. This is one of the slower tracks of the album but one of the many highlights.

The pace picks up a notch again with “Our Church”’s blast beats and intense riffing and it only slows down when the clean vocals are in play again. There are plenty of stomping riffs which gets this head nodding in appreciation. Orchestration is excellent and I feel that this song is the major highlight of the album as it is is beautifully constructed and has everything that I love in a death metal song.

“Gospel” is the next song that caught my attention and had myself growling along with Christos and once again, everything within is superb. Krimh once again picks up the pace and with his relentless double bass, provides the backdrop to the art oozing from my speakers. The production and sound of this album courtesy of Jens Bogren and the band themselves is brilliant as you can hear every instrument and nothing is lost in the mix.

Album closer “Trinity” is a slower song and it’s as if Septicflesh feels sorry for the listener and they produced a lighter song overall for the end of the album.  The lyrics for the album have as much energy put into them as the songs themselves and with the addition of quotes attached to the lyrics, it gives the listener the whole concept of the album. With lyrical themes of the failures of man, good and evil and greed, it makes compelling reading and Sotiris has excelled himself again.

There are only so many superlatives I can give this album. This is Septicflesh at their most majestic, bombastic and magnificent. Special mention must be given to the Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague conducted by Adam Klemens.  I wonder what they think when they listen to the finished product. I have had this album on repeat since I was lucky enough to get this. This is a contender for album of the year and will take the metal world by storm. Hail these Greek titans!

Codex Omega is out now

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