Septicflesh - Έσοπτρον (1995)Release ID: 2552
Symphonic death-metallers Septicflesh are a hit and miss band for me across the various parts of their discography that I have heard. They occupy that space on the very outskirts of my radar whereby if they release something it will largely go unnoticed with the occasional track appearing on playlists at some point, briefly causing me to pause to listen, usually decide it is nothing new in terms of their standard grandiose arrangements that I find go nowhere in the end. All mouth and no trousers is a phrase that springs to mind whenever I am faced with a Septicflesh release.
Everybody must start somewhere of course and back in the mid-nineties the Greeks had a much more death/doom trajectory about their direction. Their second full-length Έσοπτρον (translated to Epsotron meaning “inner view/mirror”) is full of mournful melodies on the guitar with the support of melancholic keys for good measure. Both these elements drive the record forwards in a mix that leaves the drums firmly at the back of the studio and the vocals being hoarsely uttered somewhere just in front of them.
Upon first listen, Έσοπτρον sounds like virtually the same track played in the same order around nine times with the only real variance being the intro (Breaking the Inner Seal) and the medieval tropes of instrumental track, Celebration. Repeated listens – albeit slowly – dispel this notion as you come to understand that whilst subtle in nature, the nuances between tracks are there, you just must be patient in discovering them. I soon got to finding the album possessing an ethereal beauty after a handful of listens, despite there being some sections that step away from death metal (Ice Castle, which plays like some bastardised epic heavy metal track) for large portions of their run time. On their sophomore album, Septicflesh had a keen sense of dark harmony amongst their lead elements, and it is not hard to understand when listening to Έσοπτρον how this band elevated themselves into the symphonic powerhouse that we all recognise them to be nowadays.
As with Greek bm, I find the death/doom on display here to be warmer than usual, or certainly a lot softer than contemporaries of the time. Overall, despite the albums positive growth on me, the piercing tones of the lead guitar are overused and (taking into account that it is death/doom) the album lacks enough variety to make this album a standout for the sub-genre or the band overall. Those dungeon-synth moments that haunt the song structures in places are a welcome addition that add depth and atmosphere to proceedings and there is some stellar arrangements on the lead guitar front (So Clean, So Empty) to keep me focused for the whole album. An important if not outstanding release for Septicflesh.