WagnerianIt’s been said that Blue Öyster Cult put the first unnecessary umlaut in a band name “because of the Wagnerian aspect of Metal.” You probably already know how ridiculously bombastic Wagner made his operas, including the use of a giant cello that required two people to play—because it wasn’t heavy enough yet. Drama on top of drama made songs like “Ride of the Valkyries” so compelling, and though his compositions had their subtleties you don’t exactly need a critical ear to catch the main drift of any part of the Ring Cycle.
Although the Greek band Septicflesh doesn’t have any umlauts in their name, none could embody that Wagnerian aspect better. Titan has been out for a little while now, but if you missed it earlier this year then that’s an oversight you can correct now.
Symphonic elements have been added to metal a lot over the years, with varying results. If you’re anything like me, you like the idea of symphonic metal more than the reality of it, at least in general. The golden days of Therion and Dimmu Borgir are a distant memory, while the cheese of Nightwish and Turisas is the first thing to come to mind. But you can approach Septicflesh without trepidation. They deliver the ideal form of the genre.
The metal parts of the record might be classified as death metal, and a bit of black metal, but it’s more a general kind of ominous-sounding extreme metal. You might pick up on bits of Behemoth, Triptykon, and the best parts of Dimmu Borgir. Heavy riffs, string bends, blast beats, clean vocals, rasps, and roars are all here in a cohesive mix. But the classical elements are what put it over the top, in more than one way. Whether it be smooth strings adding drama to the quiet parts or trumpet blasts punctuating the loudest parts, it all seems to be in the right place. It serves the metal well, and it always serves the real purpose of extreme metal.
These tunes are memorable, in no small part because of the symphony, but it’s also worth noting the great dynamic range of the record, and not just the writing. The mixing job is absolutely superb. The quiet parts are actually quiet and the loud parts are fucking loud (if you turn it up as loud as you should).
Sorry, I should have said they’re löud.
The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars