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Sunday Old School: Septicflesh

Greece is a country as fascinating as it is beautiful, though it’s had plenty of problems to contend with over the years, in recent times being one of the countries worst hit by the global financial crisis. Such harshness, as well as a history both violent and cultured, seem to be a perfect place for metal music to be born and thrive, and so it is that this week, we’ll take a look at one of their best known contributions to the field, Septicflesh.

Septic Flesh was formed in the Greek capital city of Athens in 1990 by bassist/vocalist, Spiros Antoniou, with his younger brother Christos Antoniou on guitar, as well as second guitarist Sotiris Vayenas. Nineteen months after coming together, the group released their first demo, "Temple of the Lost Race," which didn't take long to sell out and is now a highly sought after collectable. It was songs from this demo, as well as, "Morpheus (The Dreamlord,") which helped the band grab the attention of Holy Records, who signed the band up and released their debut full length album, "Mystic Places of Dawn" in 1994. The record was co-produced by former Rotting Christ keyboardist, Magus Wampyr and is still considered to be one of the best releases by Septic Flesh, as well as one of the best of the year, a notable feat considering this was the same year Emperor released, "In the Nightshade Eclipse" and Mayhem unleashed, "De Mysteriis dom Sathanas."

Only one year later, the band released their sophomore effort, which is often Anglicised as, "Esoptron." It was another very well received work, retaining the torturous brutality of their debut, whilst adding doom metal elements and ancient Greek influences to their sound, creating something of a bleak romanticism. Though this album was a popular one, it was their third outing, "The Ophidian Wheel," released in 1997, that is credited with bringing Septic Flesh to a larger audience and greater exposure. It grabbed potential buyers attention with its celestial, but no less demonic album cover and from there mesmerised listeners with a hybrid of death and gothic metal styles, helped in the latter aspect by the guest vocals of Natalie Rassoulis.

This collaboration of sub-genres seem to be what the group was looking for and so they continued where they left off on their next album, "A Fallen Temple," which again featured contributions from Rassoulis. While it’s generally considered a good album, some fans claim that it lacks the spark the previous three possessed and that the first half of the record is far superior to the second, though others have cited the record as a milestone in symphonic gothic metal, a style which somewhat overshadowed the death metal roots on their next album, 1999’s, "Revolution DNA." The album marked the first time they had an officially recognised drummer in the ranks, having previously used drum machines and session musicians, and boasted some very attractive guitar work, as well as extremely dark compositions and some daring risks, leading some fans to point to it as an overlooked classic or a pleasant surprise.

Those who were beginning to grow tired of the gothic metal sound were presented with something different on the sixth Septic Flesh album, "Sumerian Daemons," which came out in 2003, marking a significant gap since their last record. It brought death metal back to the forefront of their compositions and introduced elements of industrial metal into the mix too. It was immediately hailed as one of, if not, the best album in their catalogue, with particular praise being given to the natural mix of brutality and electronics. Despite the acclaim the band received however, Septic Flesh decided to call it a day eight months after the record's release.

Less than four years later however, the band delighted fans with the announcement that they would be returning to perform at the Metal Healing Festival in their native, Greece, confirming a short while later that a new album was also in the works. The group brought with them a full orchestra to record the album, dramatically increasing the symphonic influence they had begun to display in the nineties, as well as shades of gothic and black metal. The comeback was considered a successful one as the new output, "Communion" received very good reviews worldwide, with the song writing and structures cited as highlights. It was also their first album to mark a change in their moniker, with the band now going by the name, Septicflesh, which Christos Antoniou claims was done both to represent a new era of the band as well as an aesthetic choice.

Before long, the band confirmed that they were already working on their next album, which surfaced in 2011 under the title, "The Great Mass." The record once again focused on the symphonic death metal style, underlined by their collaboration with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and once more earned mostly positive reviews, with many fans and critics praising the effort for the blend of atmosphere and extremity, though there were some detractors who felt the album was a little boring in comparison to previous releases.

Last year, the band continued their seemingly new tradition of releasing a new album every three years with, "Titan," an apt name for the group to choose, given it comes from the giant forces of nature that came before the gods. Though it received positive feedback as is practically standard with a Septicflesh album, it’s generally perceived as not up to par with other efforts, with some feeling that the style of music has become bland and tired and that it’s one of the weakest in their catalogue yet. It was also their last to feature drummer, Fotis Bernardo, who was replaced by Austrian native, Kerim Lechner, who has previously worked with the likes of Behemoth, Decapitated and Mondstille. Where the band goes from here remains to be seen, but while there are no doubt many who would like to see them take similarly risks to their younger days, there will be plenty who are happy just to have the Hellenic Hellspawn back on the stage, which they’ll be sharing with Portuguese pioneers, Moonspell in North America from this month, solidifying their place as one of the most recognisable names in Greek metal.

Septic Flesh - "(Morpheus) The Dreamlord"

Septic Flesh - "Ice Castle"

Septic Flesh - "The Ophidian Wheel"

Septic Flesh - "Brotherhood of the Fallen Knights"

Septic Flesh - "Science"

Septic Flesh - "When All Is None"

Septicflesh - "Sangreal"

Septicflesh - "Prometheus"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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