Septicflesh are something of an institution in symphonic extreme metal, elder statesmen of the genre, having been around for nearly 27 years now. Since their first official full length album in 1994, Mystic Places of Dawn, they’ve been charting a course towards the sound you hear from them today. Early works were suitably raw and aggressive while still maintaining the strong melodic and compositional sensibilities seen on modern albums like Titan and The Great Mass.
Now, in 2017, Septicflesh have released their fourth album since their 2004 hiatus, entitled Codex Omega, and somehow managed to not only surpass the bar for intense, dynamic and beautiful songwriting set by their previous work, but also to write one of the best symphonic metal albums of all time. As good as Communion, The Great Mass and Titan were, all three feel like appetizers compared to Codex Omega’s main course.
Opening with the ominous guitar chords progression and string section interplay in “Dante’s Inferno”, Codex Omega quickly explodes with fury and grandeur. The band are clearly firing on all cylinders right from the get-go, combining all the elements the band have included in their sound on previous albums but cranking the intensity and songwriting dynamics up to eleven. The excellent use of the band’s long time collaborators the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is bolstered by what is very likely the best production and mixing job on a symphonic metal album ever, courtesy of Jens Bogren. Even with so much going on in the songs, everything is easily discernable and ear fatigue, a common problem with music so densely packed and layered, is kept to a minimum thanks to the incredible mix.
Very rarely has a horn section sounded this heavy and menacing, as displayed on standout track “Portrait of a Headless Man”. Lead guitarist Christos Antoniou’s already fierce compositional skills have been honed even further since the band’s return, and on Codex Omega he’s truly outdone himself. Septicflesh have never been a band to use their orchestration simply as window dressing to the extreme metal, as so many bands in the genre tend to do, but never before in their long career has the orchestra been so tightly interwoven and integral to the song that it’s hard to think of another band who utilizes an orchestra this well. Perhaps only Dimmu Borgir in their prime could come close.
Besides the excellent orchestration, the core band members sound inspired and full of energy in their performances and songwriting, especially former Decapitated drummer Krimh, who joined the band shortly after the release of Titan. His performance here is the best he’s sounded in years, with energetic fills and truly furious blast beats. As good as previous drummer Fotis Benardo’s work was, Krimh seems like a natural fit for the band, performing as if he’s been a part of their unit for years. His incredible drum skills go a long way towards propelling this album from good to great.
And Codex Omega is truly great, perhaps even a modern classic in it’s genre. Septicflesh are not content to rest on their laurels and grow fat from their post-hiatus success, instead challenging themselves to continually grow as a band and hone and evolve their sound. And that’s exactly what this album is, an evolution rather than a revolution. But not every work needs to be truly groundbreaking, especially when your formula is as sound as Septicflesh’s is.
If you’re in any way a fan of forward thinking, epic and well composed metal, you owe it to yourself and the band to listen to this album. Septicflesh and Codex Omega are proof that sometimes hard work, perseverance, and skill really do pay off.
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Codex Omega is now available on all major streaming services and for purchase through Season of Mist.