In 2008, 18 years after their formation, Septicflesh elevated themselves to one of Greece’s hottest metallic exports. Communion, their first release since reuniting following a four-year hiatus, was a masterpiece, boasting nine tracks of well-polished imperial death metal that blew its competitors from Sweden and Poland out of the water. So The Great Mass, their follow-up, seemed set to raise the standard even higher, especially when the band announced Hypocrisy mastermind Peter Tägtgren as their producer. Unfortunately, this Athenian quartet has overdone it on their latest full-length, creating an album that often sounds like a parody of itself.
The first track, “The Vampire From Nazareth,” bodes poorly—immediately, one wonders if Septicflesh are biting a little hard on Cradle of Filth (no vampiric pun intended). Follow-up tracks “A Great Mass Of Death” and “Pyramid God” only further such suspicions, pummeling listeners with one keyboard-overlaid guitar moan after another. Wailing Mediterranean-style female vocals add spicy textures to the album, but are lost in vast deserts of chugging guitars and double-bass rolls. On Communion, vocalists Spiros Antoniou and Sotiris Vayenas used their harsh/clean vocal dichotomy to craft hooks worthy of a fist in the air, but on tracks like “The Undead Keep Dreaming,” there is nothing special for the listener to hold onto. The album closes as underwhelmingly as it begins.
In all fairness, Septicflesh have obviously worked their asses off on this record. Every song is expertly arranged, and some, especially the straightforward “Rising,” showcase the band’s original sense of tone and atmosphere. But overall, The Great Mass is as its title suggests—one uniform, unwieldy lump of ultimately numbing death metal.