Septicflesh’s new album is a symphonic death metal masterclass

Author John Hagen - 20.5.2022

Some years are more memorable than others, and 2008 was one of such. Many life changes occurred, some of which still impact me to this day. And believe it or not, one of them was the release of a “Septic Flesh” album. It was not the band’s debut or sophomore, but their seventh label release, “Communion.”

Septicflesh (then Septic Flesh) emerged in the early 90s from their native home of Athens, Greece. Their music continually evolved on a spectrum of death metal—adding, as time went, elements of doom, black, and even industrial metal to their formula—until their eventual demise in 2003.

Five years later, “Communion” appeared. As though a meteor shot out of the heavens, the band returned under a new(ish) name: Septicflesh. Spiros Antoniou revived his old band’s rituals while reworking some aspects, like adding heavy symphonic instrumentations in lieu of industrial ones.

The result was a grandiloquent work of death metal and symphonic orientalism, which, to some, may sound like nightmare fuel. On the contrary, for me, the new music was instrumental in inspiring some of the creative work I have since undertaken, and I am likely not alone.

“Communion” and the anthology it spawned feature brilliant symphonic death metal, but one constant shines through: atmospherics—audible miasmas that conjure moving pictures of jinn and afrit in the midst of mountain-sized dunes, or onion-shaped domes and walls secreting steamy baths and harems.

Symphonic metal bands may often veer off course, taking some concepts to excessive degrees, musically and lyrically. So far, Septicflesh let their listeners suspend their disbelief, and their new album, “Modern Primitive,” is no exception.

The recording is a delicate balancing act between symphonies, death metal, and the extensive range of vocal performances by Spiros Antoniou and his female counterparts, as evident on one of the singles, A Desert Throne.

Released alongside Neuromancer and Hierophant, A Desert Throne features as one of the stronger tracks of the album, rife with engaging hooks and atmosphere.

This is not to say that the rest of the album does not match the intensity of its singles, but “Modern Primitive” definitely warrants multiple listens to process fully.

This was also true for its predecessors. Atmosphere builds with each listen, as subtle hooks become more apparent after sifting the heavier movements. Listen, for instance, to the dramatic play of growls, clean vocals, and brass elements on Neuromancer.

“Modern Primitive” is not a revolution, but a continuation of what Spiros “Seth” Antoniou and his band set forth with the introduction of “Communion.” The latter still sits atop ranking for many fans and critics alike. Is “Modern Primitive” the album to dethrone “Communion?”

“Codex Omega” came very close a few years back, and while the jury is still out, “Modern Primitive” has a fighting chance.