Title: The Great Mass
Genre: Symphonic Death Metal
Label: Season Of Mist
Release Date: 18th April 2011
When SEPTICFLESH announced they were working on a new album just a few years after their exciting return with ‘Communion’, fans were overjoyed. It seemed like the band would refrain from going on another five year hiatus and continue to keep things steady. As a result, the band’s symphonic death metal glory has only gotten better with this new offering, ‘The Great Mass’, very similar to ‘Communion’ but more provocative in the symphonic areas (perhaps due to some of the members finishing up their classical music studies). Fans that have been hungry for this release should be sated, and those who are just getting into the band are going to hear a real special album!
At first, it may seem like ‘The Great Mass’ is just another rework of ‘Communion’. The opening of ‘The Vampire From Nazareth’ has a great female soprano vocal feature - the singer is actually part of a side project of SEPTICFLESH members, CHAOSTAR - and does the album justice through this track and many others. As the heavier parts come in, it seems like ‘Vampire’ borrowed a few riffs from ‘We The Gods’, but eventually it develops into a much heavier and darker symphonic piece, complete with thundering drums, choirs, cellos, and just a raging symphony that keeps one suspended in awe. Sometimes it is even hard to tell if the vocals are the only metal thing present because the guitars, which still have their eerie buzz, can get drowned out by the rest of the music. However, they are more prominent on other tracks like ‘Pyramid God’ - easily the best track on the album - due to its catchy rhythms and fantastic drum interlude. The vocals still alternate between the death growls and the higher clean singing (which may not annoy people as much as it did on ‘Communion’, but the growls are still preferred). Some tracks like ‘The Undead Keep Dreaming’ are slow and churning with both vocals being given even weight, but usually the clean vocals tend to repeat the same lines over and over, which can get tedious. Usually SPETICFLESH sounds best when performing solely with the growls.
Ultimately, it is the symphonic atmosphere that makes ‘The Great Mass’ such a jewel. The title track holds an excellent balance of crushing melodies and symphonic backdrop (the female vocals make their clearest appearance here; other tracks like ‘Five Pointed Star’ has them muddled). The choirs in the background make a low, haunting chant that repeats over and over but really sets the scene for ‘A Great Mass Of Death’. It is almost at a ‘Persepolis’ level of epic proportions, but falls just slightly short. ‘Mad Architect’ features a frantic symphonic tone that sounds like it came from a horror movie and really brings out the gothic bits that were involved in previous albums by SEPTICFLESH while retaining a heavy and chugging presence. Finally there is ‘Oceans Of Grey’ which is one of those tracks that just lures on in and then explodes outward before sucking one back in again with some more lulling sections created by the symphonies; there is even a flute involved that really brings forth a new sound. The guitars also tend to chug here methodically, but repetitively too. As said before, since ‘Communion’ SEPTICFLESH seem to have been more focused on their symphonic output than worrying about creating overly complex death metal riffs and solos. To remove the symphonic elements from this album and leave in just the guitars, bass, and drum with the vocals would be disastrous.
Overall, this album contends for one of the top metal albums of 2011. Those who heard ‘Communion’ before may not be as awestruck with this as new fans may be, but it is still a very impressive outlet. The direction of the album theme and lyrics lean still towards the theological, but they are not as Sumerian themed as ‘Communion’ was. Fans who were expecting a fall back towards ‘Revolution DNA’ days will be disappointed, but the presence of evolution is still here with SEPTICFLESH, as it has been for the past several years or so. Fans probably could tell that with ‘Sumerian Daemons’ - the snowball that started the heavy focus on symphonic elements - where the band was headed, but nobody expected ‘Communion’ when it came. And most likely no one will expect how truly great ‘The Great Mass’ is. Yet another milestone in death metal…
01. The Vampire From Nazareth (4:08)
02. A Great Mass Of Death (4:46)
03. Pyramid God (5:13)
04. Five-Pointed Star (4:33)
05. Oceans Of Grey (5:11)
06. The Undead Keep Dreaming (4:29)
07. Rising (3:16)
08. Apocalypse (3:55)
09. Mad Architect (3:36)
10. Therianthropy (4:28)
Seth Siro Anton - Vocals (harsh) / Bass
Christos Antoniou - Guitars / Orchestrations
Sotiris Anunnaki V - Guitars / Vocals (clean) / Lyrics
Fotis Benardo - Drums / Percussion
Total: 8.5 / 10