Something evil stirs beneath the Akropolis1. Runes begin glowing red in the deep tunnels beneath the temple. Animals scatter in panic as drums rise from the depths. Vendors in Anafiotika pray to their respective gods, but find no respite in faith, as the ground begins to shake and crack. The reason for this unholy display? Septicflesh are back with another fat slab of orchestral death! After I somehow let the Greek purveyors of Sumerian cultism slip off my radar since the massive and memorable Communion, it was about time I reacquaint myself, as Codex Omega is released upon the unsuspecting world.
Codex Omega does not reinvent the wheel for the band. Their sound is well established by now: an epic, bombastic display of chunky riffs and pounding drums, overlaid with a thick blanket of orchestral elements, neighboring other big names like Rotting Christ and Fleshgod Apocalypse. Horns, strings, choirs, and a searing lead guitar make up the ingredients of this demonic cocktail, fronted by the incredible growl of Spiros Antoniou. Where many other symphonic death metal bands focus on the orchestra, Spiros is the greatest asset in Septicflesh, with a deep, menacing, venomous growl that injects the music with a kind of infernal majesty the Philharmonic Orchestra can support, but never replace.
The band always puts a strong figurehead on their bows, and “Dante’s Inferno” kicks off with bombastic verses and a powerful, hellishly stomping chorus. Guitarist Sotiris Vayenas puts in his usual share of excellent clean vocals of the ‘demonic priest’ persuasion, among others on “Portrait of a Headless Man,” which is driven by a rapidly oscillating string quartet. The strongest track, however, is the centerpiece “Enemy of Truth,” a fiery prosecution of modern misinformation. The application of the orchestra is both judicious and calculated here, and the use of a soprano choir in the chorus lifts the track above itself, escalating the epic grandeur to Lovecraftian proportions.
The songwriting does not quite reach the lofty heights of Communion, though it does get close. Comparing Codex Omega to my only reference point, the main tripping points here are variation and memorability. There is plenty of variety within the tracks, mind you, with interchanging tempos, different vocal approaches, and the range of instruments in the Philharmonic. Compared to one another though, few of the tracks truly leap out, “Enemy of Truth” being the exception that confirms the rule. This is mainly due to a minor shortage of hooks, which makes the tracks feel denser and not as easy to absorb despite being fairly straightforward in composition.
The production, on the other hand, is modern in a good way. Sure, the master is pretty loud, but it stops well short of being fatiguing, and I’ve had no problem spinning Codex several times in succession and at decent volumes. One of the biggest reasons for this is the mix, which is exact in doling out volume to the myriad of instruments, both classical and modern, and the vocals. Different elements rise up and quiet down, never just blasting at full volume all through a track. The variation in the track composition gives plenty of pause to the ears as well, while it makes the straight blasts feel more powerful by contrast.
Summing up, if you like the previous works of Septicflesh, you will like this too. It’s a thundering record, big on atmosphere, displaying grandiosity and darkness with every note. Antoniou remains a force to be reckoned with, filling the room with his infernal growl. The band does seem more keen on honing their sound than experimenting with it, and with further records, they need to beware the danger of growing stale, particularly on the songwriting. However, as of right now, that’s not a major concern, and it is easily overlooked by the precision in the execution and the heaping helping of demonic character the album exudes from its every pore. Codex Omega may not surprise long time fans, but neither will it leave them disappointed.