Sound: The sound of apocalypse never really grows old, no matter how old you may grow. Septic Flesh are perhaps the biggest innovators in death metal at the current time with a career based on the successful marriage of classical music, classical composition and heavy-as-all-out-hell death metal.
Also Peter Tagtgren and Jonas Kjellgren produced. Just thought it should be mentioned.
This is one of those 'albums to hear before you die', where elements of the past and present combine to make sheer aural terror for the listener. Taking 2008's 'Communion' then redoubling every detail doesn't even come close to this. 'Communion' saw the sound of the band shift into the best possible collab with an orchestra and a metal band, every song was so meticulously crafted that it felt unreal. 'The Great Mass' just defies belief.
The base of raw and crushing death metal has been refined to a point where it blurs the line between death metal, melodic death metal and black metal, being equal parts in each and sharing each others traits. The core members are a powerhouse of musical prowess: Seth, bassist and vocalist, has such a vitriolic death growl that it puts most death metal bands to utter shame, first guitarist Sotiris has a very interesting mid-range singing voice, second guitarist Christos is the genius behind the orchestration and composition and lets not forget Fotis on drums, perhaps one of the fastest drummers in death metal right now.
The other half of the music is the most obvious right from the kick-off: Great walls of symphonic harmony greet your ears in 'Vampire from Nazareth', a song that has no doubt made impressions on those yet to hear the full album. 'Communion' featured the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra on a good chunk of the album yet the orchestra was never used to full effect except for 2 or 3 songs. Now the orchestra is everywhere, effectively making 'The Great Mass' literally one huge modernized symphony, a darkly powerful masterpiece. // 10
Lyrics: Vocals are a major strong point of Septic Flesh's sound, a combination between unique death growls and Sotiris's cleanly sung parts, but not only does 'The Great Mass' feature two very talented soprano singers at many points through the album (Androniki Skoula from Chaostar and Iliana Tsakariki) but a full choir to boot. Need I say more?
Lyrically, this is a fairly complex affair going on. Even songs with the most simple of titles (for example 'Five Pointed Star') have abstract metaphorical lyrics, with 'Five Pointed Star' discussing the interpretation of the symbol that is a star, from the modern military to pagan religion to scientific beliefs. Fairly intelligent stuff, it takes a while to fully appreciate or comprehend the amount of detail gone into just the lyrics alone. // 9
Overall Impression: Symphonic metal is an genre of scrutiny and faffing about, either its entirely cheesy and done on a keyboard or a Dimmu Borgir clone (who have apparently been demoted to 'Disney metal'). But no band has (from my experience at least) properly merged a real orchestra into extreme metal until 'The Great Mass' came along.
To really give a blunt understanding of how great this album is, listen from 2:03 onward in the song 'Mad Architect'.
There are only two problems with this album, one of them big, the other relatively small. The small problem is that unlike on 'Communion' where each song was a unique and memorable experience, 'The Great Mass' is one massive interconnected symphony. Whether you see that as a good or a bad thing is up to you. But the major bad point is perhaps one of the more worrying: HOW THE HELL WILL THEY DO THIS LIVE?
Songs to look out for: Whenever you can, the entire album. This isn't for 'casual' listening, although 'Rising' and 'Therianthropy' (undoubtedly Sotiris's best vocal performance) are the easiest to listen to. // 8