Septicflesh May Yet Enter the Golden Age With Their Titan
When I praised Ovid’s Withering for touching on Greek mythology with Scryers of the Ibis, it somehow escaped my mind that Septicflesh (ok, and a bunch of other people) have been writing about those same legends for years. In fact, Septicflesh’s origin make them an ideal medium for retelling myth via music. The Greek natives may not be as specific in their mythological references as Ovdi, but the two bands align along their ability to sculpt plausible drama through symphonic metal as well as along their lyrical themes. The nature of symphonic metal makes it hard to properly articulate climaxes over the course of an album without diluting the impact of those climaxes. Theatrical elements in symphonic metal are kind of like salt in a gourmet meal – too liberal of an application will overpower the whole concoction, but too little often leaves the concoction feeling incomplete.
Production is that one component of theatrics that can spotlight the content while keeping the music from tipping over into unconvincing melodrama. And that clearly makes a lot of sense to Septicflesh, because the production is the first thing you notice while listening to Titan, the band’s first studio album in three years. Titan sounds legendary: it reeks of omnipotence and its accompanying egotism, crafting sonic textures that most mortals wouldn’t even attempt to imitate. A lot of that’s due to the Prague Philharmonic, whose appearance marks their third consecutive performance on Septicflesh records; no VST presets or iPhone apps here. Those symphonic sections serve as the main voice of the album, and they make Titan downright nasty – check out the slithering passages in the title track. The drawn-out orchestral sprawl of “Prototype” and “Prometheus” reminds me of the first time I heard “Oceans of Grey,” and the oddly-titled “Confessions of a Serial Killer” possesses that same fierce gallop that made you want to live inside tracks like “Lovecraft’s Death.” Titan possesses massive timbral weight, borne by catchy, entrenched grooves.
But once we’ve gotten used to the phenomenal production, we notice that Septicflesh aren’t changing their formula much. That’s ok, because the music quality is still high, but given the kind of stuff that’s been floating around these days, Titan seems ripe for experimentation. Bassist & vocalist Spiros Antoniou isn’t as generic as some growlers, but it’d still be a stretch to call him interesting in terms of textural variance. Septicflesh’s instrumentation similarly struggles. Septicflesh long ago exhausted the various permutations of “big, epic, and straightforward;” there’s more to death metal than octaves, power chords, and tremolo picking. Septicflesh and Ulcerate aren’t so different in their focus on atmosphere, and some technical, teeth-grinding dissonance seems like it would slot perfectly into Titan. The inclusion of a children’s choir (see “Prototype”) is cool, but it’s only a short distance away from the band’s standard choir usage.
I place Septicflesh to be in a similar category as I do bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Hour of Penance – their tonality choices and progressions are often more predictable than your average sloth. The music’s always well executed, but limiting tonalities and keys to such a select few is a bit like castrating oneself musically. It simply limits the intrigue and reach of a record, even if the music makes a hell of an impact in a live setting. These bands’ theatrics ultimately do accomplish their goals: reaching the audiences they know best and giving those viewers a hell of a performance. With Septicflesh’s currently established persona, Titan unquestionably hits home, but if the band hope to remain myth-worthy, they should be wary of being usurped by their younger, lither descendants.