"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Septicflesh - "The Great Mass" (CD)

Septicflesh - "The Great Mass" CD cover image

"The Great Mass" track listing:

1. The Vampire From Nazareth (4:08)
2. A Great Mass of Death (4:46)
3. Pyramid God (5:13)
4. Five-Pointed Star (4:33)
5. Oceans of Grey (5:11)
6. The Undead Keep Dreaming (4:29)
7. Rising (3:16)
8. Apocalypse (3:55)
9. Mad Architect (3:36)
10. Therianthropy (4:28)

Reviewed by on March 7, 2011

"Somehow, Septicflesh has surpassed even the high standard set by the last album, as 'The Great Mass' is a truly monstrous follow-up that actually deserves the overused title of 'epic.'"

When a record label or PR firm sends out a press release, it’s all too easy to dismiss grandiose band descriptions as hype meant to keep people in business, whether the music is actually good or not. When Septicflesh is described as a “legendary Greek demonic horde,” it’s one time when the hype actually matches reality. The band’s last album, “Communion” (reviewed here), was rightly hailed as a masterpiece for its blend of death metal and symphonic elements that was both amazingly atmospheric and absurdly heavy. Somehow, Septicflesh has surpassed even the high standard set by the last album, as “The Great Mass” is a truly monstrous follow-up that actually deserves the overused title of “epic.”

While the last album seemed to have a slightly different premise and overall feel on each song, “The Great Mass” is tightly focused and maintains a clear theme throughout the entire disc. The theatrical and horror movie style elements are nearly always present, but rest assured that doesn’t mean a lack of variety.

To the contrary, there’s almost too much going on in the songs, and that’s not a criticism. Huge choir chants and death metal growls work alongside black metal screams and prog-style clean male vocals. The album has all the elements that made “Communion” great, but also uses a better distribution of symphonic elements so they don’t get lost in the heavy guitars as often. To get an idea of “The Great Mass,” imagine if all of Cradle of Filth’s or Dimmu Borgir’s over the top theatrics were channeled and re-directed into something that could actually be taken seriously and was more heavy than Behemoth.

From start to finish, the songs are relentlessly massive and consistently crushing. Considering that the Prague Filharmonic Orchestra was recruited for the recording, it shouldn’t be surprising that multiple instruments, from the most symphonic to the most brutal, are constantly tearing their way out of the album and crashing against the listener. Those rare moments when only a single voice or instrument can be heard actually manage to be more epic by comparison, just through the cavernous echo from where more destructive sounds resided a moment before.

There are tracks that head well off the beaten path, using interesting song structures or non-metal influences. “The Undead Keep Dreaming” is this album’s psychedelic and heavily atmospheric offering, creating a sense of being drawn, or perhaps dragged, into the music. “Mad Architect” is another place where the album really shines, and is a perfectly titled song. The composition of the track is completely disjointed, like a building with angles that shouldn’t work.

Following in the footsteps of “Communion,” the final cut on this album, titled "Therianthropy," also has a different vibe than the rest of the tracks, using upbeat sounds and guitar riffs that have more in common with rock or power metal than extreme death metal. On the first listen through, the song almost doesn't fit as it significantly changes the flow of the album. After spinning the disc a few more times, the track really does earn its place among the rest of the songs, using a unique take on the idea of man being able to change into other, more bestial forms. The werewolf concept works so well with the music itself that the song actually ends up being one of the best cuts off the album once it sinks in.

For anyone who still plays “Communion” frequently, “The Great Mass” is unequivocally a release day purchase. Septicflesh has consistently raised its own bar, and the band did it again by surpassing earlier work while still maintaining the same onslaught of symphonic blended death metal that garnered the band so much praise in the past.

Highs: Everything that made the last album great was somehow made better

Lows: After repeated listens it becomes clear that there really aren't any lows to be found on "The Great Mass."

Bottom line: Essentially perfect, day-of-release purchase that even surpasses the last album and blends symphonic elements with brutal death metal in an amazingly crushing way.

Rated 5.0 out of 5 skulls
5.0 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)