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Septicflesh - Mystic Places Of Dawn (Album Review)

Monday, 21 January 2013 Written by Alec Chillingworth
Septicflesh - Mystic Place Of Dawn (Album Review)

Septicflesh. The name just sounds evil, doesn’t it? For those of you who aren’t wise to Septicflesh’s blackened brand of death metal, worry not; their music more than lives up to the evil suggested in the name. After a 5-year hiatus, they returned in 2008 with the grandiose, unparalleled majesty of ‘Communion’, following it up in 2011 with the inferior (yet still ridiculously skull shattering) ‘The Great Mass’. Fast-forward to 2013, and Septicflesh are on the cusp of re-releasing their 1994 debut ‘Mystic Places Of Dawn’. Given the fact that it was re-issued previously 11 years ago, I’m sure that many fans have been left wondering if they should actually bother with this one. And should they? Well... yes.

ImageFirst and foremost, let’s talk about the music. Because no matter what you think of re-issuing and all that nonsense, if the music is awful then nobody’s actually going to buy the damn thing. Thankfully, ‘Mystic Places Of Dawn’ erases this problem for Septicflesh. Fans who have only delved into ‘Communion’ and ‘The Great Mass’ might have a bit of a pant-wetting spasm when they wrap their ears around this one, for better or for worse. Gone is the sweeping orchestration that has dominated the past 2 releases. Gone are the unique, contorted clean vocals of Sotiris Vayenas that have peppered tracks released since the band’s hiatus. And gone is the crystal clear production. That is most definitely gone. You must bear in mind that this album is a reflection, almost; an insightful glance at a young band that had yet to attain its full potential.

Then again, to say that it’s a debut album and sounds like it was recorded in a bathtub with a budget of 50p, it’s a stupendously valiant effort. Opening up with the relentless title track, it’s immediately apparent that Septicflesh aren’t your meat and potatoes, run of the mill death metal band. The various corridors in which the listener is taken on throughout the song suggest a progressive edge, something that the band would refine and perfect during later releases. There are, however, elements of traditional death metal scattered about here and there. The vocals are harsh and unrelenting; what they lack in range, they more than make up for in sheer, bestial power. Ice-cold riffs are on display all over the shop; with the opening guitar fuzz erupting from ‘Return To Carthage’ providing enough thrash points to earn its place on a Slayer album.

The thing that niggles me about most death metal bands is the pacing. Don’t get me wrong; I love a bit of Cannibal Corpse. I just can’t listen to an album the whole way through, as they usually go something like this: Blast beat blast beat blast beat growl growl growl blast beat blast beat blast beat etc. Even on this early release, Septicflesh had an invaluable knowledge of dynamics; doom-laden, sludgy riffs are complimented by eerie, synth-laden key passages. Yeah, alright, the keyboards might seem a bit too camp and cheesy for some listeners. But I like a slice of Stilton rammed in my metal sandwiches. Even on the raging, blast beat heavy number that is ‘Behind The Iron Mask’, the keyboard still haunts the background, providing an ever constantly morbid feel to the album. Props go out to the drum machine that took a hammering on this release; apparently the band couldn’t find an adequate drummer to suit their needs, thus the poor drum machine was implemented. Let’s have a round of applause for the drum machine. Well done, drum machine.

But now is the time to have a bit of a moan. Well, to start with, anyway. As mentioned before, the album has been re-released before. Why release it again? Well, even the previous re-release is difficult for Septicflesh’s eager fans to get their paws on, so by releasing it once more, it’s just nice to have the entire body of the album being mass-produced again. The inclusion of the 1991 EP ‘Temple Of The Lost Race’ is also a nifty edition. To be honest, there isn’t a huge difference between the original recordings and this edition; the vocals and drums may sound a bit more integrated within the mix, but there’s not really any massive differences. And you can complain all you want about the mechanical, slightly synthetic drum sound, but then again… IT’S A DRUM MACHINE. Just be thankful that they didn’t use the same drum sound that Cradle of Filth used on ‘Cruelty And The Beast’ (you know, the one that sounded like Nick Barker was just smashing up countless rows of cardboard boxes). Or Metallica’s ‘St. Anger’ snare drum. I wouldn’t wish that snare upon anybody.

‘Mystic Places Of Dawn’ isn’t perfect. It doesn’t try to be; it was made nearly 20 years ago by a young, ambitious metal band lacking the funds and maturity to truly realise their true artistic niche. The album offers an introspective glance at the band Septicflesh used to be; it’s a testament to just how far the band have come in the last two decades. It’s raw, it’s abrasive, and it’s stood the test of time. And any death metal fan that doesn’t have this in their collection should feel very silly. Very silly indeed.

'Mystic Places Of Dawn' is released on Monday 28th January via Seasons Of Mist.



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