The Great Mass
The Great Mass is calling...
... and those that hear it will probably be glad that Septicflesh decided not to go on another five year hiatus like they did after their release of 'Sumerian Demons’. In 2008 they returned with a monumental symphonic death metal masterpiece called 'Communion,' and it was considered one of the greatest merges of classical and metal combined. Now three years later listeners get a chance to hear a new offering and... it strangely sounds almost just like the previous one. 'The Great Mass' isn't as Sumerian themed as 'Communion,' but listeners can definitely tell that a lot of material was recycled. Just listen to the first track "The Vampire From Nazareth" and the orchestral moments combined with the guitar riffs sounds just like "We The Gods" from 'Communion’. It isn't the best way to start off the album, but fans will be happy to know that 'The Great Mass' isn't ENTIRELY a repeat, but a lot of things often will be.
The orchestral elements are still heavily present throughout the album; so much of the death metal chugs and melodic bits will be accompanied by frantic string arrangements, horn sections, flutes, and choral arrangements by the Prague Filharmonic Orchestra. For those who have never heard Septicflesh before, this is going to sound like the most amazing album in the world. For those of us who have heard 'Communion' though, it's more of a shrug and "That's nice... but..”. Fortunately, that 'but' is answered. One thing Septicflesh managed to do was add steady female vocals throughout the first half of the album. Performed by Androika Skoula (who, oddly enough, signed on to do vocals for one of Septicflesh's members other project, Chaostar), her highly trained soprano vocal style adds a bit more of a gothic element to the music overall and really heightens the experience. Mixed in with the deep growls, the In-Flames styled clean vocals that thankfully don't sound as whiny this time such as on "The Undead Keep Dreaming" she is a great addition to the group, and sadly her talent isn't used enough.
Septicflesh also throw in a more 'gothic horror' soundtrack quality to their music; again this is partially due to a departure from the Sumerian themes of their previous album. "Five-Pointed Star" features ominous hammering while Androika moans away before the ominous melodic guitar tones come in before everything just explodes with rhythmic drumming and slow, simple, but catchy distorted guitars. The growling vocals tend to overtake the music at time, but they are so unique and ferocious with their accented nature that it doesn't detract from the music at all. The orchestral part features long horn sections, violins, and whispered choirs to really enhance the effect. "Mad Architect" employs a frantic, almost random pace of the guitars and cellos/ violins for a 'Psycho' themed atmosphere, or something one might hear during an old Hitchcock movie. It is by far the most innovative track on the album.
The band also gears towards their more gothic metal days from an album like 'Revolution DNA' with the track "Rising”. It features mostly repetitive riffs over and over without too many orchestral elements, but the clean vocals tend to take preference over the harsh ones. It's the tempo and style though of the guitars that really give it that melodic quality without feeling too cheesy and over industrialized. It's only a slight nod to earlier days, but a good mention to the idea that Septicflesh have not forgotten their roots. However, it is clear as a whole that this album basically could have been called 'Communion- Part 2’. The closing track "Therianthropy" sounds like a hybrid of "Sangreal" and "Sunlight, Moonlight," both also from 'Communion’. The track "Oceans of Gray" even comes close to becoming the next "Persepolis" but doesn't quite reach that epic of proportions. Basically, 'The Great Mass' as a whole continues to new Septicflesh legacy by keeping things as orchestral as possible while aiming for a darker and more haunting presence in the metal world. And it works... wonderfully. But, new fans will probably find this a lot more exciting than older ones, particularly because almost everything has been heard before.
(Season of Mist/Riot! Entertainment)