The End of the Beginning of the End
Symphonic Greek death metal outfit SEPTICFLESH has been through some changes since they first formed in 1990, but with the reissue of their debut album, Mystic Places of Dawn, on French metal label Season of Mist, it appears as though the four-piece (not counting the huge orchestra) is looking to start over rather than rest on their past. However, this is a band that has improved with age.
The newly remastered Mystic Places of Dawn, originally released in 1994 and rereleased in 2004 with the Temple of the Lost Race EP (also included on this version), has benefited from a makeover. It sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday, fitting right in with countrymates Nightfall. What makes SEPTICFLESH stand out, however, are the lush Gothic arrangements, some performed by the guitars and others by an orchestra. Unfortunately, in these early years, bassist/vocalist Spiros Antoniou growled and grunted with no sense of rhythm or melody. Extreme care and attention are given to the instrumental portions of the album; no apparent thought toward the vocals.
The title track starts the album with a deceptively simple pounding and dissonant riff which leads into an impressive high-speed arpeggio. We are then shocked by a two second bass solo by S. Antoniou before he harshes the buzz with his randomized screams. At this point, the keyboards enter the mix as well, rounding out what will follow on nearly every song on Mystic Places of Dawn.
The most successful moments on the album come when guitarist/composer Christos Antoniou is given room to spread his wings, such as the beginning and middle of “Crescent Moon,” the guitar moments of “(Morpheus) The Dreamlord” and the entirety of the instrumental beaut, “Mythos (Parts 1 and 2).” Layering orchestral madness with death metal is nothing new, and SEPTICFLESH have the chops to pull it off, and have for a long time. While Mystic Places of Dawn may serve as a primer for new fans, they would be more likely to check out the old stuff if they latch on to the later material first. Check out 2011’s The Great Mass to see what SEPTICFLESH is capable of. Then their back catalog will serve to complete an historical understanding of the band.