Back in 2003 death metal veterans, Septicflesh, began experimenting with symphonic elements much like some of their black metal brethren. From that point on the band began to fall into the very rare category of “symphonic” death metal. There are only a small handful of other bands in this subgenre so it makes Septicflesh’s style very unique. This type of originality leaves the band open for both high praise and harsh criticism. In my estimation, anything that gives some differentiation in death metal, which at this point seems to be over-saturated with brutal, melodic and technical acts, is welcome and refreshing.
Their first two symphonic albums, Sumerian Daemons and Communion met with a ton of critical praise, while their last album The Great Mass was mostly panned due to lack of variation in sound. Upon my first couple of listens, I thought that Titan was going to be another album that fell into the trap of less diversification. However, I was dead wrong. This initial feeling was my own fault for zoning out and not giving the album my full attention (I unfortunately have a lot on my mind right now). Thankfully because of my excitement due to all the pre-hype this album has been receiving, I listened to the album more times than I would normally when writing a review. When I really focused all of my attention, I began to pick up more and more amazing elements upon each subsequent listen.
Once again Septicflesh recorded with the Prague Philharmonic and made use of quite a large choir for some backing vocals. The symphonic arrangements are so well written and executed on Titan that the tracks feel like classical movements rather than your run of the mill individual metal songs. This feeling reveals itself right off the bat with the almost six minute epic, “War in Heaven”. This song is the perfect album opener with a well written symphonic piece that mixes perfectly with all the death metal elements and amazing drumming courtesy of Fotis Benardo. “Order of Dracul”, which is the album’s first single, is another song that contains this great classical/death metal conglomeration, but in a totally different way. This track focuses much more on classical string instruments and also has a really sudden and atmospheric horn blow that helps announce the move from slow to fast pacing.
Of all the great symphonic layouts on the album, “Confessions of a Serial Killer” definitely boasts the best one. It contains great classical musicianship, the best written arrangement on the album and a really creepy and haunting atmosphere that flows back and forth into brutal blast beat driven death metal. “Confessions of a Serial Killer” definitely has the best of the symphonic, but what is the best overall track? That would have to be the latest single “Prototype” with its heavy guitar riffs combined with an equally as heavy symphonic accompaniment. This is the song that offers both top quality music and the best head banging experience all in one tight package.
For those of you worried that Titan might not be brutal enough, don’t sweat it. There are a couple of tracks that tone down on the symphonies. “Burn” and “Ground Zero” are two such songs that really kick up the intensity and speed. On top of that most of the songs that rely more on symph arrangements definitely mix in the the brutality quite well. This is most notable on the songs “Prototype”, “Titan” and “Confessions of a Serial Killer”. There are also some of us that like the pace slowed down a bit from time to time and Titan provides that as well. The tracks “Dogma”, “Prometheus” and “The First Immortal” are a bit more deliberate with a very down tuned heaviness. The addition of choir backing vocals on these tracks really help to drive these plodding tempos home.
The one caveat to Titan is that the diversity in the symphonic pieces as the tracks move forward is much greater than the variation in the death metal elements. Therefore you really have to focus your attention fully on the music when you dive into the album. This is exactly what happened when I had my mind on other things while listening the first couple of times. For some reason when your brain is distracted, the heavier elements come to the forefront and the more complicated pieces get lost. Unfortunately the underlying guitar portions on each song can sound quite similar at times making your brain think that you are listening to one continuous song. I definitely would have liked to see more experimentation and evolution with regard to Septicflesh’s death metal style. However, if you really dive into this with all of your senses about you, you will really notice the stark differences and tempo changes as you go from one song to another.
The songwriting, arrangements, mix of tempos and atmospheres featured on Titan are nothing short of excellent. Septicflesh weaves in all the symphonic and choir pieces perfectly with each song, so that absolutely nothing sounds out of place. Experimentation and progression are where things can fall a bit flat. The addition of the children’s choir is definitely different and the symphonic/metal mix is well executed. However, the same old same old death metal instrumentation can wear at times. Titan brings much more song diversification than the band’s previous release, but there has not been much in the way of evolution of their core death metal sound. Then again, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Yes something different would have been nice, but the overall quality and emotional atmospheres of the album more than make up for what’s lacking.
Titan is due for release on June 24th from Prosthetic Records, but in the meantime you can check out the free stream below. Take a listen and give us your thoughts on the album in the comments section.
Make sure to check out the interview that I conducted with Sotiris Vayenas HERE.