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Whilst their name might suggest a goregrind band, Greek band Septic Flesh actually play in the Mediterranian Black Metal style, i.e. black metal infused with NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) sensibilities and Maidenesque guitar melodies, as championed by their fellow countrymen Rotting Christ and Varathon and, more recently, Italian counterparts Janus.
Much like Rotting Christ's latest album, 'Theogonia', 'Communion' represents a dynamic return to form. Clinical, choppy yet heavy riffs and melodic rock guitar lines rub shoulders with ominous orchestral passages and operatic backing singing, alongside guttural yet intelligible vocals. The enormity of the production is immediately apparent, and it comes as no surprise to learn that both the Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague and a Czech Choir were employed in the recording of the album.
'Communion''s sound is therefore comparable to the ominous orchestral backing employed by Nile and Celtic Frost, the polished grandiosity of Emperor, and even the majestic symphonic pomp of Bal Sagoth, complete with war drums, french horn, timpani, cello, viola and a half dozen other instruments that I'm not knowledgeable enough to differentiate. At times it has a positively Wangnerian ring to it, with ominous fugues complementing the frenetic riffing and dramatic backing vocals, most notably in title track "Communion", and in the ominous, thunderous orchestral bridge that marks the midsection of the epic "Perseoplis".
Septic Flesh stay true to their roots however, and each track is resplendent with their characteristic melancholy-yet-uplifting harmonised twin guitar melodies, bringing to mind Rotting Christ's excellent 'Triarchy of the Lost Lovers' album (the track"Sunlight Moonlight" being a particularly good example). These are hugely catchy and frequently accompanied by melodic rock solos, as well as by a mix of clean and growled vocals, which fit well around the aforementioned grandiose orchestral and operatic contributions. There is a hint of Dark Tranquiity's Gothenburg-tinted, keyboard-accentuated melody at work too, both on the aforementioned track and on album closer "Narcissus".
Although the album ends a little abruptly given its grandiose nature, as a package it remains largely flawless. Even the sleeve art is excellent, its depiction of Mesopotamian demons representing a cross between Greys Anatomy illustrations and the realisation of some dark Lovecraftian nightmare.
Part metal album, part soundtrack to some lost mythological epic, "Communion" is a brilliantly realised, highly polished release and a superb addition to the Mediterranean Black Metal canon, making it a must for fans of heavy metal and melodic black metal alike.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Lovecraft's Death
4 Babel's Gate
5 We, The Gods
6 Sunlight Moonlight