There are many directions a discussion about new music from Septicflesh could go, with the most potential topic for off-course communication going to which era of the band is the most appropriate benchmark for criticism. Just a fancy way of saying that after being a band for over thirty years, there’s a shit ton of history to sort through, and several distinct changes to their sound.
I believe the defining Septicflesh moment came with the release of their eighth record, The Great Mass (2011). “The Vampire from Nazareth” is one of the most effective opening tracks in Symphonic Death Metal. The band kept refining their own balance of symphonic and metallic thereafter, with each album (arguably) better than the one before.
With their newest effort, Modern Primitive, Septicflesh has perfected the method to their particular form of madness. After several listens, that still feels strange to say, because I thought the same thing about Codex Omega (2017).
Comparing Modern Primitive with Codex Omega comes down to subtlety in the production and the ease with which the symphonic and choral elements intertwine with the rest of the music. Both records use a mixture of modernity and mythology in their approach to storytelling, by outlining power struggles between old and new gods and maintaining a healthy judiciousness for the “truth.” Additionally, both records make their first impressions boldly with the cover art – by the great Spiros Antoniou himself- and Jens Borgen as the producer for both makes them perfect companions.
The orchestra seamlessly melds with the band, and the choir brings with it a church-like grandiosity. At times to horrifying effect, which can be heard on “Hierophant,” along with both the clean and harsh vocals having an equally menacing tone. It is an example of excellence in production and songcraft, as are “Coming Storm” and “A Desert Throne.”
There’s a line in the film “Leaving Las Vegas” where Nick Cage’s character says something like “I can’t remember if my wife left me because I’m an alcoholic, or if I’m an alcoholic because my wife left me.” Well, I feel a similar way about Septicflesh taking on attributes of Gojira. Or has Gojira taken on elements of Septicflesh? Either way, there are some insanely heavy riffs on this album. More melodic in some areas than Codex Omega, and certainly more organic sounding overall, but that has a lot to do with the mix. Of course, there have been five years and a global pandemic between the two. The band has made excellent use of the time, indeed.
Modern Primitive is Septicflesh at their very best, and exceedingly so on just about every level. The album is brilliantly constructed and produced, and comes off as strong the fourth time through as it does the first.