Septicflesh, ‘Titan’ – Album Review
In 2011, Septicflesh released perhaps their most astounding album, 'The Great Mass.' Harnessing the power of the Prague Philharmonic, the Greek act masterfully balanced brutal death metal with sophisticated orchestration. 'The Great Mass' is a turbulent work which never weaves too far into disorganized or sheltered territories, and thus captured the imaginations of metal fans worldwide. The standard for symphonic death metal had been set, and 'Titan,' Septicflesh's ninth full-length, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its acclaimed predecessor.
'Titan' starts off with 'War in Heaven,' which creeps up on the listener with hushed orchestration before the members of Septicflesh humbly add their own instrumentation without attempting to outshine the Prague Philharmonic. 'War in Heaven' can best be described as menacing, like an horrific reality that's been ultimately accepted by a guilty party. The track can also be described as cinematic, painting the many stages of battle between angels, demons and deities.
'Titan' blasts forward with a direct approach to death metal in the album's second track, 'Burn.' The short chugging breakdowns exhibited within 'Burn' sound gigantic, almost like the sound of steel doors clamping shut in the original 'Doom' video game. Septicflesh also add their theatrical and tortured clean vocals into 'Burn,' creating a truly creepy vocal harmony during the song's choruses.
The Prague Philharomic begins to take on a larger role from 'Order of Dracul' onward. The phenomenal orchestration composed by Septicflesh guitarist / sampler Christos Antoniou feels like it should be in a Wagner opera. In fact, if Richard Wagner was still alive, he'd probably be playing with Septicflesh. However, Antoniou has taken Wagner's sense of orchestral density and injected it with surgical precision into 'Titan.'
During the central section of the album, the Prague Philharmonic attack from all directions, adding not only an adult choir in various cuts, but a children's choir as well in 'Prototype.' Little kids are always creepy in horror films, and Septicflesh managed to tactfully insert that complexion into 'Prototype,' 'The First Immortal' and other songs, characterizing corrupted youth by the forces of darkness.
'Prometheus' could be the most heavily symphonic cut from 'Titan,' which is one reason why 'Prometheus' works so well in the middle of Septicflesh's ninth album. Fans who made it from 'War in Heaven' to 'Prometheus' are already locked in for the ride, so the willfully-captive audience can unapologetically bathe in the Philharmonic's encapsulating qualities. Futhermore, as 'Titan' moves beyond its title track into 'Confessions of a Serial Killer,' the piece weaves through an intro, multiple interludes and an ending birthed in some sort of evil dimension where Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' elicits never-ending nightmares.
Finally, 'Titan' concludes with 'The First Immortal,' the intro of which spotlights giant sustained strings that would make Hans Zimmer feel inadequate. Arguably, 'The First Immortal' follows the old adage, "Save the best for last," as the cut features absolutely everything one desires from a Septicflesh track. It's a triumphant ending brought by soaring choir vocals and orchestration while frontman Spiros 'Seth' Antoniou declares, "I am the first immortal" before finally bringing the album to a close with "I am the last."
Though the Prague Philharmonic provides a large portion of the standout moments within 'Titan,' perhaps the most captivating aspect of the album is that Septicflesh act as the gravitational center at all times. Where unpredictable and apocalyptic orchestration, soaring choir pieces and heavy use of experimental and percussive backgrounds swirl, the entire Prague Philharmonic cascades around Septicflesh. The band is able to maintain a leading position while allowing perhaps the most admired philharmonic in the world to fly free. Check out 'Titan' to hear it for yourself, otherwise, you'll be missing out on one of 2014's definitive metal releases. To order a copy of 'Titan,' click here.