The Great Mass

Well, it sure is big. And some metal people, you know, they like big ones. And Greeks, well, it almost goes without saying. They have this entire history of bigness. And now they have The Great Mass.

Even though Septicflesh have been giving us really good big ones for a while, with 2008’s Communion flirting with great, they’re sometimes even better at shooting themselves in the foot along the way.

For instance, calling themselves Septicflesh in the first place. “Septic Flesh” doesn’t describe their eerie brand of non-wussy goth metal.  “Septic Flesh” brings to mind images of rot, decay, and general putrescence. It’s a word clump that would work with a Cannibal Corpse side project, not a band that’s sung about Persepolis and Faust.

Despite their inappropriate name, Septic have found a following for their effective merger of dark metal and orchestral support systems without the later dwarfing the former. Septic can even pull off silly and pretentious: check out the ridiculously-titled “Lovecraft’s Death”, where a spidery/spindly guitar figure is so unnerving and the orchestra cues so violent, it sort of does sound Lovecraftian in a big budget, Hellboy way.

But back to shooting one’s self in the foot. After thirteen odd years putting out reasonably titled records under their terrible band name, they’ve decided it was time to up the gross-out ante by titling their new issue, The Great Mass.

Mmmmm. Septicflesh‘s The Great Mass.  A great septic mass of putrescent, rotting flesh. Can’t wait!, say the metal fans that would actually like this kind of music. They probably meant evil mass or something but I kept coming back to something cancerous and gross. Maybe it’s me.

Onward to the music. This press release talks about them basically using orchestras differently than any metal band ever has. It’s true: this is the first band to use orchestras like they’d just seen Inception.

And not just that Brrruummmm!!!! cue of celestial time-space collapse—we’re talking the creator of that Brrruummmm!!!! In general, of Mr. Hans Zimmer, go-to composer for all of Christopher Nolan’s loud, crashy films, The Man for other directors looking for the state of the art in portentous hugeness, for that patentable wall of brass and choirs and more brass and timpani’s and then strings and more brass that only Zimmer seems to have the skill and pluck to provide. That’s what the Septics are trying to replicate here.

So, a new subgenere: Hans Zimmer metal. Zimmercore. Some bands, when they say, “Oh, there’s orchestra on the new CD”, you start having nightmares about vast Celine Dion-esque string sections gone bad.

Well, with Zimmercore, you have nightmares about huge Inception-esque brass sections with the instruments gaining cartoon eyes with an evil mouth and looking at the actual band, Septicflesh, and cackling, “Mmmm, a metal band! I think I will eat it.”

And it does. The mixes here vary between 50/50 and 40/60 with the orchestra winning handily in the splits.

“Five-Pointed-Star” seems an early winner. For starters, it sounds like Septicflesh, and I really like Septicflesh.

But at about 2:24—Inception’s Brrruummmm!!!! blows up any Septicflesh pep the song had and hast la vista metal, hello Zimmercore, as all 150 pieces of the Filmharmonic Orchestra of Prague pretty much absorb the band. (Incredibly, Peter Tagtgren mixes the orchestra’s percussionist louder than Akis Kapranos’s actual hardware, one supposes, to make it sound more, like, classical.)

In the same anti-metal spirit is “The Undead Keep Dreaming”. There’s an initially encouragingly, creepy wall of Septic guitars, a nicely pounding 16th note-based beat, an agonized growl, and you’re feeling all pumped and then, as we say here in Brooklyn, fugheddaboudit.

The orchestra/band stops and starts like some Hulk-sized Kurt Weil, Sotiris V and/or Seth Siro Anton growls like Tom Waits when he tries to sound like Popeye, a string section and men’s’ choir come to the fore, and what has this to do with metal?

Dude, it’s Zimmercore—pay attention.

Picking the best in show here is a cinch: It’s “Pyramid God”. Because 1. It features an actual killer guitar riff and 2. Instead of sundry Hans Zimmer-y cues, it feels imported from Clint Mansell’s endlessly copied circular theme of existential dread from Requiem for a Dream.

And so it goes. But what does the actual band sound like? Well, there are these huge, moderately complex orchestrations, right? And clearly, the guys in Septic, especially guitarist Christos Antoniou, who penned these orchestral arrangements, they went to a lot of time and expense here, to say nothing of how much energy went into organizing and in some way paying for and fretting about studio, musician, producer, engineer, programmer and tea boy time.

So you can understand the urge to want to show for all that agita. And they do. As far as the orchestral stuff goes, we’re talking near- Deutsche Grammophon quality sounds, real audiophile shit.

The band, not so much.  You get the sense the band did everything they could to not get in the way of these excellent orchestral recordings. The drums are muted and controlled, the guitars downright polite in Septic terms. When it’s a choice between a Zimmercore cue and a metal sound, you know which is going to get a thumb’s up, mix-wise.

Putting aside the CD’s designed bloodlessness, Septic has also stranded themselves in an aesthetic no man’s land. Not nearly complex enough to be taken seriously as “classical” or “serious” music, there’s also none of the cheesy pleasure of Cradle of Filth, the enjoyably, hyper-goth symphonic melodrama of Within Temptation, the serious chamber strings musings of recent Sunn 0))), or the refreshingly pure entertainment value of those other semi-Zimmerians, Dimmu Borgir. Speaking of pleasure, there’s none of it in reporting so sourly on a band as inspired as Septicflesh. I’ll just hope this is one of those foot-stepping moments and next time they’ll follow their pattern and return to the brilliance thing.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Ian Grey
April 4th, 2011


  1. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    So, this is terrible , like Inception ?

  2. Commented by: Clauricaune

    Inception’s good.

  3. Commented by: Clauricaune

    I’ve only heard the single, “The Vampire from Nazareth” and it’s kinda meh. Christos Antoniou’s love for cheap pretentious gothic symphonies strikes again, just when I thought he had purged them all with that crappy Chaostar side project.

  4. Commented by: Ian Grey

    I liked parts of INCEPTION. There really isn’t one song here that isn’t orchestra’ed to death.

    Hey! New verb: “orchestra”. As is “to destroy a metal band with extraneus string and woodwinds”. As in, “Hey, Joe, that new Septic Flesh record sure was orchestra’ed to death, wasn’t it?”

  5. Commented by: shaden

    perfect band name,always was(moron),inception sucked ass,don’t watch american movies! and this cd is not bad at all.better than losers like dino burger..t .didnt they just tour together?the better bands almost always open shows…

  6. Commented by: BreedingtheSpawn

    I thought sooner or later you would get done with all that rambling in this review.

  7. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Shaden- YES, finally, a voice of reason. Inception was terrible.

  8. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I thought Inception was quite good. And some American movies can be quite good, Shaden. Have a look at Todd Solondz’s resumé. Besides, the director/writer is a Brit, so it’s not exactly an American movie. By the way, I never pay attention to what anyone has to say about Septic Flesh, I will always buy their new one no matter what. This is hardly a review anyway.

  9. Commented by: Cynicgods

    EDIT: can be quite good too, Shaden.

  10. Commented by: faust

    Idk what to make of this review. I did like a few parts but it really does seem like Ian got lost along the way and ended up rambling, spouting out extraneous, superfluous arrangements of words not unlike the arrangement of orchestral overkill he pans.
    This is one of my most anticipated releases of 2011. I’m hoping the “rambler” wasn’t too accurate.

  11. Commented by: O

    Gotta laugh at this guys review. Even if the album doesnt live up to expectatations He has no idea of Septic Flesh’s music. And ultimately fails to express whats on this album.
    Zimmercore? Get a fukkin grip! Hopefully this is album is better than communion Ive heard samples from all the tracks on amazon and i gotta say its lookin good, Septic Flesh’s best albums are their first two so far< Theyll have to go a long way to top them But im heariing good stuff on this one. "there’s also none of the cheesy pleasure of Cradle of Filth, the enjoyably, hyper-goth symphonic melodrama of Within Temptation" To this i say thank fuck for that!…And.. Grow some fukkin balls! Review is an epic fail on all accounts!

  12. Commented by: Clauricaune

    That’s just Ian the Rambler, but he did manage to give a somewhat clear idea of what the album sounds like (in like 3 of the 20 paragraphs he wrote there).

    I’m a big Septic Flesh fan, so I’m still gonna buy this album even if I find it boring and keep facepalming through it’s entirety (and, if that single is any indication, that’s probably gonna happen).

  13. Commented by: Apollyon

    I for one, thought that the new album is actually quite worthwhile.

  14. Commented by: noe,lvis txdm

    lmfao@Hans Zimmer metal!!

    wow great review, this was great to read after work… thanks Ian.
    and inception,(i’ve never seen it) seemed to have ripped off an anime from the 80s called psycho diver…

  15. Commented by: shaden

    ive never replied on here after ive made one post but i have to say yea todd solandz,who doesnt know his movies.doesnt even touch miike but cmon,give me something to work with.would have been better if you used aronofsky instead as a comparison,lol.but yea,whatever.once again inception sucked,the writer director sucked,it was made in the usa which amde it suck and it even tarnished the career of an outstanding canadian’s(where i am from)career.from trailer park boys to this weakness?lol! im gonna watch re-cycle again…metal forever!(not power metal)

  16. Commented by: Ian Grey

    Hey, Ian here, glad this has gotten so much feedback.

    Again, the deal is, I really like Septic Flesh. And I really try to
    avoid writing negative reviews unless there’s something
    to it beyond me proving I can be a douche.

    In this case, it was me feeling the band had really strayed
    off the reservation. I used the Inception thing as a way to
    get across a sense of something bloated, pretentious, over-done–plus,
    the orchestra bits DO sound like Hans Zimmer!

    Anyway, I hope the band get this out of their system and get
    back to being the creepy goth-METAL band they were.

  17. Commented by: Ian Grey

    As for why my US iPhone does this weird formatting–I got nothin’.

  18. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Inception ripped off many films, including Psycho Diver. Also: Total Recall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dark City , The Matrix….. and topped it all off with a terribly boring script that required the actors to basically recite the plot directly to the audience, in the place of actual dialogue.

  19. Commented by: Ian Grey

    An hey!

    If you guys get a chance, maybe drop by my blog to check out this re-write
    of an article I wrote called “Screaming Mimis”

    It’s about women in metal.

    Of course, after you read it, become a life time follower of the blog (which is now updated with articles going back 10 years!)

    You must immediately return to Teeth of the Divine!


  20. Commented by: Clauricaune

    I thought Inception’s plot was rather nice: self-discovery and the function deception can play in it. And yeah, it’s an analitical script, but that’s just Nolan’s style: all his movies are like that, it’s just a mixture of telling and showing, instead of pure showing. Nothing wrong with that. On the other side, the action and mind-bending scenes were very nicely done and entertaining. And as for ripping other movies: everyone does that, it’s not a bad thing in itself as long as you can come out with something coherent and good. And yeah, the hype is annoying, but you shouldn’t put something down just because it’s popular.

    See what you have done, Ian? :p

  21. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Speaking for myself only, Im not putting it down because of it’s popularity…I was putting it down because I genuinely think it was a terrible movie. I’ve always loved all of Nolan’s work since Memento (with “The Presitige” being my favorite), and went into this film very , very excited. I LOVE mind fuck movies…but this movie didn’t even fondle my brain ! Like I said, the acting was terrible,which may have been the scripts fault. It made ever line of dialogue a forced explanation of the (extremely simple) plot directly to the audience. It’s like Nolan though his audience was too stupid to get the movie!? Maybe they are, judging by the million people online that have called the movie too confusing or whatever.
    Again, I LOVE movies that don’t reveal everything and make me think..those are the best of all, but this did none of that. And, on top of it all, I thought that for a movie with shit blowing up every 2 minutes that it was extremely boring, and a complete chore to sit through. When I saw it in the theater, a guy in the row in front of me was snoring loudly during many of the loudest, action packed parts. I basically think it was a shallow Michael Bay style popcorn flick dressed up as ‘deep’ and ‘intellectual’, when in reality, it was just a bloated ego stroking piece from Nolan. Im kinda nervous about his future. It seems like there is a bit of a cult forming around him that worships everything he does without question…

    …sorry, rant over ! heh

  22. Commented by: gabaghoul

    lol I finally got around to hearing this, and not realizing a review had been posted, I took notes on about half of it before checking the site. oh well.

    this does sound hugely impressive, and I love the monstrous, keening, Hans Zimmer meets God of War meets Rosemary’s Baby sound of it all.

    However, ultimately I also agree that if you strip away the orchestration, many of the actual metal parts are more fragments than compelling, propulsive experiences.

    So in terms of melding symphonics with black or death metal, I still gotta give the crown to Dimmu Borgir, who always entertain (yes even In Sorte Diaboli), though I’m eagerly awaiting to see what Stormlord does next as well.

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