Friday, July 11, 2008

Tartarus Rising

There is an army forming in Greece. Last year saw Rotting Christ release another strong album, Theogonia (2007), to their catalogue and introduced me to a new sound in Metal. Press releases defined Rotting Christ as “Goth” for their synth use and approach to melody; a dramatic voyage in genre progression since it began with Grindcore. While thematically Rotting Christ can be associated with Black Metal’s tropes of the ancient world, the sound wasn’t nearly as harsh, the melodies and production values were radiant enough to break through the distortion, burning hotter than their Nordic forefathers. What about Viking Metal? While I have to admit I am not a big fan of the sub-genre, along with Folk Metal; the two share a similar relationship to Black Metal in ancestral imagery and progressive attitudes towards established melody? Eh, moving on…

I have been mulling over this ever since I got a chance to listen to Septicflesh’s (previously Septic Flesh) new album Communion. If Theogonia’s melodies stirred up enough heat to break through walls, then Communion has an army to topple them. What everyone will mention about this album is the 80 orchestral and 32 choral members whom were enlisted to back Septicflesh’s epic return. The band had split-up, and after a few years, are back with one of the biggest arrangements for an album that I have ever heard of. When this Titan raises up before you, it is truly something to behold.

The duration of the album is relatively short for such an enormous assembly, but what the album lacks in length, it makes up for by capturing the moment with plenty to spare. The orchestral work deserves repeated listenings, and elevates the melodies to soaring lengths. On the title track their Death Metal roots are expanded on when choral vocals echo after the assault like heat from the flame. Septicflesh has an amazingly diverse background as well, and an explosive attack on “Babel's Gate” shape shifts into some technical breakdowns that flaunt the bands musicianship now long recognized. Like I said earlier, the album is really all about melodies. Sung vocals on “Sunlight Moonlight,” build them like moutians, while booming horns and thunderous drums on "Persepolis,” turn them into avalanches.

Metal’s evolution has always been rooted in its international appeal and Greece has been playing an important role for some time, while continuing to harness a distinct sound. Whatever this “Greek” sound is, it’s on par with anything being released in sibling genres, and with more albums like Communion, Septicflesh will remain casting their shadow over the land.

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