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Septicflesh - "Codex Omega" (CD)

Septicflesh - "Codex Omega" CD cover image

"Codex Omega" track listing:

CD 1:
1. Dante's Inferno
2. 3rd Testament (Codex Omega)
3. Portrait of a Headless Man
4. Martyr
5. Enemy of Truth
6. Dark Art
7. Our Church, Below the Sea
8. Faceless Queen
9. The Gospels of Fear
10. Trinity

CD 2:
1. Martyr of Truth
2. Dark Testament
3. Portrait of a Headless Man (Orchestral Version)

Reviewed by on August 15, 2017

"'Codex Omega' has all the booming orchestral elements working smoothly alongside extreme death metal you'd expect from Septicflesh"

My poor virginal brain wasn't ready to be ripped to shreds by the eldritch horrors of “Communion” back in '08, an album that still stands the test of time and blows away the competition. I was astounded when follow-up “The Great Mass” in 2011 ended up being even a smidge better, and stands among one of only five albums I've ever given a perfect 5 star rating in my 10 years at Metalunderground.

On those two albums, as the group rebirthed itself following a lengthy hiatus, Septicflesh worked mythological themes and dark metal tropes into symphonic music in a way that most other bands just can't match. The Greek band has really been operating on a whole different wavelength in the last decade than most other symphonic metal groups. There might be similar instruments involved, but you can't even really compare anything like Dimmu Borgir to Septicflesh, as the tone and direction is so radically different.

It's movie score quality orchestral music mashed with full force extreme death metal, and that's what you get again with “Codex Omega.” There is a downside now, however. From “Communion” through “The Great Mass” and onto 2014's “Titan,” Septicflesh has ended up with a very clear formula, and there's a lot less shaking up of that formula going on this time around. You already pretty much know what to expect from each song. Some people dig the predictability of a band's sound as it ages, but I prefer some growth. It's what made “The Great Mass” so fabulous. That album still sounded like Septicflesh, but it was noticeably and markedly different from its predecessor album.

The Septicflesh standard guitar styling and harsh vocal work manages to get sort of repetitive by the time you hit seventh track “Our Church,” but there's bigger concerns than that. The “Martyr” guitar riff on the first half of the song is exactly the same as “Annubis” from the “Communion” album. Let me be clear – I don't mean similar, I mean identical. Play 2:05 of “Martyr” next to 1:03 of “Annubis” and you'll hear that its unquestionably exactly the same song.

Thankfully its not all lifting of previous ideas. “Portrait” has a killer tempo and superb mashing of style and substance, while “Faceless” shifts back and forth between a frantic tempo and slower pacing with clean vocals. Pretty much every song has some interesting acoustic guitar flourish or string segment that changes up the tone a bit between tracks. The only oddball moment that didn't work for me was the clear harsh vocal enunciation over some deathcore riffing at the start of “Trinity,” although the more melodic riff that comes out around 1:30 saves the track.

After the main 10 tracks, Disc 2 goes entirely orchestral and offers a different interpretation of the Septicflesh sound on three songs. “Martyr Of Truth” shifts between horror movie music, the Tibetan style of Gorguts' “Colored Sands” album, and epic sounds that strongly bring to mind the Baldur's Gate battle music. “Dark Testament” and “Portrait Of A Headless Man” are then very much on the movie score side, making me question yet again why Septicflesh hasn't been brought on to compose music for a summer blockbuster or major horror flick yet.

So here's the thing: “Codex Omega” has all the booming orchestral elements working smoothly alongside extreme death metal you'd expect from Septicflesh. It's all solidly there, and its a solid album, it just hasn't blown me away in the same manner as the previous couple of releases. As much as I love the band, it might be time for another hiatus and rebirth before too long.

Highs: As usual, Septicflesh utterly crushes the mixing of symphonic and orchestral sounds with extreme death metal

Lows: The formula is getting stale, to the point where some riffs are lifted entirely from previous albums

Bottom line: It's going to be time for a new formula soon, but for now Septicflesh is still championing symphonic death metal

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

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)