Septicflesh Prepares To Oversee "The Great Mass"
Tearing themselves free from the depths of hell to ravage the metal community once again come the Greek demons comprising Septicflesh, a band at the pinnacle of symphonic death metal. The 2008 album "Communion" may have been a monstrosity that hit plenty of "best of" lists, but it was really only a teaser for the new release "The Great Mass" (reviewed here).
"The Great Mass" is nearly upon us, and the demons are on the warpath to herald the coming destruction. Sonic magicians Christos Antoniou and Sotiris Anunnaki V have shared their vision of the coming mass with Metalunderground.com, explaining the composition of the album and working with the Filmharmonic Orchestra and Choir of Prague to hit the right balance of death metal and orchestral elements.
xFiruath: Tell me a bit about your own personal start in music. When did you first get involved with music and what bands influenced you?
Christos Antoniou: I started quite late to be honest. When I was 15 I took some guitar lessons and around there I heard Mozart’s symphonies and Requiem Mass. I was so impressed from his music that I started to play Mozart’s pieces on my guitar. But the work that changed my life and said I want to be a composer was Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” It is a masterpiece that even now after nearly 100 years sounds fresh. Then at my 18th I went to London to study composition and by 25 I had a degree and master’s in composition/orchestration. Also all of us like sound tracks and classical music and was natural to add our “classical influences” to Septicflesh. You can see that in our song “Mythos” from our first album “Mystic Places of Dawn.” “Mythos” is an orchestral instrumental song that ends the album. Now about metal bands I was big fan of Death, Morbid Angel, Celtic Frost, and Metallica. As I was shocked with “Rite of Spring” I felt the same with “Human,” its a pity that Chuck Schuldiner is not anymore with us, his absence is unbearable.
xFiruath: Where did the recording sessions for “The Great Mass” take place?
Christos Antoniou: We started in the summer in our professional Devasoundz studio and parallel with the recordings I was working the orchestra parts. In September we recorded with Filmharmonic Orchestra and Choir of Prague and in the beginning of October Peter Tagtgren started the mix of the album.
xFiruath: How did the recording differ on this album than on “Communion?”
Christos Antoniou: We decided first to record in our studio instead to go to Sweden as we did in our 3 last albums. Also we changed producers. With Fredman we worked for three albums, it was time to renew our sound and choose Peter Tagtgren. His work is amazing. Peter helped us a lot to achieve the right balance between our symphonic and metal element. A massive sound, for a great mass…
xFiruath: Were there any leftover songs that were recorded but didn’t make it onto the album?
Sotiris Anunnaki V: We composed a lot of songs before we reached to the final 10 songs that made it to the album. There were a lot of ideas but we had to make some painful choices having in mind the overall result of the album. However I must point out, that the choices about the songs took place before the actual recordings of the album. So, when we entered the studio we knew exactly the songs and how we wanted them to be and we rather focused on the performance factor.
xFiruath: When were the songs from this album written and how do you guys go about writing music?
Christos Antoniou: It was a long process. As we were on tours the majority of time first Sotiris started composing around a year before. Of course the changes are radical from the first “sketches.” We filter the weakest elements and the final result is the distillate from that. Then we started also to compose parallel and as we take all of us part on composition process we take the final decisions of which direction we will take. I composed the majority of the orchestral parts and we built everything on top of the orchestra. The other members added their ideas in our orchestral template in order to give to the orchestra a protagonist role.
xFiruath: Fill me in on the lyrical themes of the songs and the overall concept of the album.
Sotiris Anunnaki V: Each song deals with a different subject. I visualized the whole album as kind of a strange liturgy and each song as a psalm on this mass. I have used also some religious symbolism in a peculiar, thought provoking, way. There are various layers on the topics of the album. I have a prologue for each theme, where I ask bizarre questions about, life, death, knowledge, reality etc. I tried to provide food for thought and prepare mentally the listener for the lyrics that follow each prologue.
xFiruath: Comparing this album to the last one, what can fans expect to hear that’s going to be different and what will be the same?
Sotiris Anunnaki V: We are the same band so the new album has the characteristic Septicflesh elements. Yet it is a far more advanced album than “Communion.” The compositions are more mature and also the intension of the emotions is really great. It is an almost a “visual” album, that will give to the audience many layers to explore. Concerning the use of the orchestra, we have gone to the next level. It is unlike anything we have done in the past. On the other hand we are always an extreme band and we sound as heavy as hell.
xFiruath: Do you have a particular favorite track off the album or a specific segment you are most proud of?
Christos Antoniou: “Oceans of Grey” and especially the transition from the bridge to the refrain. We were shocked from the result with the orchestra and the operatic vocals. It was really difficult for me to orchestrate this part as it has this ostinato (repetitive) melody accompanied by 2 only chords. I made many orchestrations for that and I ended in a solution to add and other melodies from the song and it worked really well. The colors of the orchestra and the passion of Iliana (coloratoura soprano) stand probably as the best moment of “The Great Mass.” The end of “Vampire” is also unique for me. The blend of Sotiris vox, the ethnic instrument (yahli tambur), and the interpretation of Androniki are also in my favourites. The great mass refrain and the middle percussive part on “Five Pointed Star” is in my daily listening.
xFiruath: Will there be a music video from any of the songs on this album?
Christos Antoniou: Yes there are thoughts about a video clip after we will return from our tours in the summer. Probably we will visualize the “Vampire from Nazareth.”
xFiruath: Who did the artwork for “The Great Mass” and how does the art correlate to the music?
Sotiris Anunnaki V: We are fortunate to have Seth Siro Anton as a member of the band, as he is also an acclaimed visual artist. He has created the covers of a lot of famous bands such as Paradise Lost, Exodus, Kamelot, Soilwork, Moonspell, etc. to name a few. So we used his vision for the artwork of “The Great Mass.” As he is also the vocalist of Septicflesh, he has the insight, to express the thematology in a deep level. It is important for us to properly present our emotions and thoughts through all the aspects of our art.
xFiruath: Have you personally been to any good live shows lately or seen anything interesting at a concert lately?
Sotiris Anunnaki V: I have been to a concert of Dodheimsgard and I loved it. They are a great band and I was really absorbed by the darkness and madness of their live performance.
xFiruath: Does the band have any tour dates lined up in support of the new album?
Christos Antoniou: We have booked three festivals in France including Hellfest in the summer. A French headline tour in May and a month tour in USA/Canada with big package. I can’t say anything more for that yet. In September we have a European tour and after that we will start our Greek shows.
xFiruath: What bands or albums do you listen to in your spare time?
Christos Antoniou: To be honest I don’t follow metal so fanatically as when I was younger. A band that really impresses me with their harmony and rhythm is Norma Jean.
xFiruath: Are any of the Septicflesh members currently active with any other projects?
Christos Antoniou: I have my band Chaostar an atmospheric band with many classical elements. In 2012 we will release our new album by Season of Mist.
xFiruath: Anything else you’d like to discuss?
Sotiris Anunnaki V: I send an invitation to all the restless spirits out there, to attend to “The Great Mass.”
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