After 2008 and the release of the astounding "Communion," SEPTIC FLESH (or SPETICFLESH as they seem to call themselves these days) gained a reputation as not only making the comeback of the year, but also possibly the greatest Symphonic Death Metal album ever created. Listeners had heard traces of this direction on their album "Sumerian Demons" before their hiatus, but "Communion" definitely set the stage. Everything was perfect on that album, and at the same time it presented a challenge to these Greek Death Metal heads that they had a whole new reputation to live up to. Any chance of making this a one time shot was hopeless because now so many fans were not only happy the band had returned, but also they had chosen a style that was pretty unique in a sea of mediocrity. So fans waited as the years rolled by. And waited. And waited. And when "The Vampire Of Nazareth" hit sites like YouTube or were leaked from the Season Of Mist website, the whole hornet nest got stirred up again. It seems that SEPTIC FLESH have done it again in impressing fans!
Basically, "The Great Mass" is in the exact same vein as "Communion." A lot of listeners may complain that the music borrowed a lot of riffs and production values from its predecessor, such as "Therianthropy" sounding a bit much like "Narcissus," but overall it can be agreed that "The Great Mass" is just another step in the SEPTIC FLESH evolution. One thing the band did that was a nice touch was bring in CHAOSTAR vocalist Androniki Skoula, who provides backing and atmosphereic vocal tones on tracks like "Five Pointed Star" and "A Great Mass Of Death." She doesn't play a huge part, but perhaps this is a good thing because so many symphonic/ gothic Death Metal bands make it a huge issue to have an even amount of beauty and beast vocals, and SEPTIC FLESH are trying to stay away from being as typical as possible. The orchestral arrangements, all mastered by Christos Antoniou, sound amazing such as the opening on the "Vampire Of Nazareth," the choral bridge of "A Great Mass Of Death," and the percussive beat on "Pyramid God." The growls by Spiros Antoniou sound as demonic and powerful as ever, still heavily accented, but clear enough to be understood. Even the clean vocals, performed by Sotiris Vagenas sound much better this time on tracks like "The Undead Keep Dreaming," and not as whiny as they did on "Communion," which is a huge plus.
There are no weak tracks on the album, and only a few slight fillers. While SEPTIC FLESH mostly does everything they can to make this album as unique as possible without lending towards too much in sound or Sumerian themes from "Communion," listeners may find tracks "Rising" a bit too simple in lyrics and the repetition of the clean vocals along with lacking a lot of the great orchestral effects that make tracks like "The Mad Architect" such a frantic and enjoyable song as it merges a fast, horror soundtrack symphony with heavy chugging guitars for atmosphere.
Overall, if listeners liked "Communion" a lot, then "The Great Mass" is going to be just as exciting. And if one hated "Communion," then they are going to hate this album. Boil everything down and one basically has the same type of music for two albums straight with different themes. Fortunately it's not a complete repeat from before while still carrying that whole Symphonic Death opus while trying to change the song structure up a bit by not copying riff per riff, but it's going to be pretty hard to top this album off in the future. For those who were hoping for a turn back to the "Revolution DNA" days, don't expect anything like that to turn up soon; those days are long gone. It seems that the more modern merge of Metal and Classical is the ultimate goal for SEPTIC FLESH these days. The real question is... can narrowly miss another bullet fault of making the same album twice?
(Online August 8, 2011)