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Septicflesh - "Communion" (CD)

Septicflesh - "Communion" CD cover image

"Communion" track listing:

1. Lovecraft's Death (4:08)
2. Anubis (4:18)
3. Communion (3:25)
4. Babel's Gate (2:58)
5. We The Gods (3:50)
6. Sunlight Moonlight (4:09)
7. Persepolis (6:09)
8. Sangreal (5:17)
9. Narcissus (3:59)

Reviewed by on November 11, 2008

"It would be hard to peg the album down and declare whether it would fall under the category of death metal or modern black metal, as it has strong symphonic elements and uses multiple vocal styles."

Any and all upcoming horror movies or video games should officially take note of “Communion,” the latest metal opus from Greece’s Septicflash. The album would be excellent mood-enhancing music for scenes involving frantic flights from swiftly approaching death, otherworldly eldritch horrors come to turn reality inside out, or even slowly building dread leading to something very, very bad. By no means is the music relegated solely to ambience or atmosphere creating status however, as every song on the disc has a ferocious battering of pure metal mayhem that makes the entire album worthy of any metal fan’s personal collection of prized masterpieces.

It would be hard to peg the album down and declare whether it would fall under the category of death metal or modern black metal, as it has strong symphonic elements and uses multiple vocal styles. The entire Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague got recruited to add their instrumental and choir singing talents to “Communion,” but despite their presence there is not a single song here that could ever be mistaken for anything close to resembling the work of a band like Therion. While traditionally thought of as nothing short of the exact opposite of brutal, the soothing strings and angelic voices of the orchestra are twisted by Septicflesh to a much more sinister purpose, taking a very dark and evil bent with an emphasis placed on the heavy characteristics of the music.

The band gets immediate props for titling their opening track “Lovecraft’s Death” and doing their best to emulate the mind-rending terror of author H.P. Lovecraft’s works while staying within the framework of skull-ripping death metal. That the song is able to effectively deal with the contradiction of combining the direct and physically daunting nature of extreme metal with the cerebral, understated, and archaic qualities of Lovecraft’s stories speaks volumes about how talented these musicians are. The second song, “Anubis,” has a much more laid back opening than the first track, emulating the melancholy emotion felt by a spirit floating along in the afterlife. While it has nothing left to fear, having passed through death, it still has an eternity to feel regret for life lost and opportunities passed over. The heavier parts show up a little later, but they aren’t ever as relentless as the guitar assaults on the first song, using a much stronger drum beat and even some clean vocals entreating the Egyptian deity to not allow the spirit wither and die.

Title track “Communion” uses the choir singers very effectively to give a ghastly occult aura that strongly replicates the experience of standing in a summoning circle drawn in blood and getting that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach as the realization dawns that something not of this world is about to come clawing its way out of the darkness. The choir then shifts without skipping a beat into a deep and distorted growl, with minimal drum beat background noise, calling out to the fallen angels to share their dark dreams with humanity. There are some very trippy layering of vocals used halfway through the song, which are placed so subtly that they may not be totally apparent without multiple listens.

The next track, “Babel’s Gate,” is purposefully chaotic, frenzied, and frequently switches between full-force guitars and softer stringed instruments to give an insane sensation of something beyond what the human mind can comprehend. More Lovecraft themes are presented, as the song deals with the mythical star gates mentioned in the Necronomicon. “Sunlight Moonlight” follows up with a much different tone, keeping the drums nice and heavy and throwing in some growling vocals, but then featuring a catchy and repeating clean vocal chorus with some ominous whispers. It is overall much more accessible to the average listener but still has the mystical and otherworldly feel of the other songs.

Another specific themed mood is established in “Persepolis,” which uses the orchestra to give the feel that the listener is revolving around in a room like they are in some kind of enthralling dance with death that they can’t get out of or perhaps even in a horrific drug trip they can’t shake no matter how hard they try. Second to last track “Sangreal” has that surreal horror feel of ghost movies where the protagonist may very well be completely insane and imagining all the terrifying events going on around them. It had the distinct opportunity to go way too over the top but manages to keep the ethereal elements reined in enough to work well without getting silly. The song also boasts some seriously fast and impressive drumming throughout. The album as a whole knows how to use drums effectively to build tension or make a song sound heavy even when there aren’t guitars present. The ending track, “Narcissus,” has a little more of a rock vibe with some power metal riffs. It’s a good enough song on its own but the tone is quite a bit off from the rest of the album and the style of guitar doesn’t perfectly match the vocals like the other tracks.

“Communion” has ranked itself among the best albums of the year with its prevalent horror theme and impressive display of musical talent. Any fan of death metal, black metal, or horror oriented music will undoubtedly find themselves coming back to the album again and again.

Highs: Strong horror theme, full orchestra and choir, and excellent musicianship

Lows: Final track doesn't quite fit the mood of the album and some of the songs are a little short

Bottom line: Horror and occult themed death/black metal hybrid that is one of the year's best metal albums

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)