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Septicflesh - Esoptron Review

by Matt Hensch

Whereas "Mystic Places of Dawn" sounds like an expedition through the ruins of an extinct civilization of Lovecraftian lore, "Esoptron" (or "Εσοπτρον" is more of an introspective journey into the unconscious and the arcane. Septicflesh (or Septic Flesh, or whatever) had taken an atmosphere-rich analysis of the death metal blueprint throughout "Mystic Places of Dawn," revealing a world of mythical, violent magic that planted the groundwork for seasons to come. "Esoptron," while taking spiritual fragments from the first Septicflesh offering, flies out of the ashes with minor glazes of doom-laden oils and gothic tendencies la Paradise Lost gracing its strange and ethereal flight into the gray world of the forgotten and the macabre. "Esoptron," the Greek word for mirror, is an ancient reflection showing a Septicflesh reaching beyond the void, and the cabalistic entity which reaches back.

Although grandiose, "Esoptron" stacks up awkwardly against its predecessor and "Ophidian Wheel." It is a step down in terms of content, yet two steps forward in creative vision, a vice Septicflesh frequently exercised during its original run. Here, the design boasts a simpler construct of mid-paced riffs and melodies cooking slowly beneath Spiros Antoniou's excellent vocals and the expected obscurity of Septicflesh. Generalizing the record with a sentence or two, of course, fails to capture the overall picture of "Esoptron," yet the focus is rooted in the dreary semblance of dark, mysterious songs that are thickly covered in tension and atmosphere. The title track is a perfect example of the band's direction, relying on simple riffs, mild folk/gothic touches, sultry guitar leads, ghostly clean vocals, unparalleled intensity, the nameless atmosphere of hidden mysteries unearthed.

"Esoptron" carries over many facets of Septicflesh's barbaric genetics, usually conducted through blast beats and fierce riffing inherited from "Mystic Places of Dawn," although lightly suppressed compared to its predecessor. "Rain" and "So Clean, So Empty" are the heaviest of the bunch, focusing more on death metal riffs and blast beats than the others; they're still undeniably Septicflesh's children, however. As for favorites, I've been more inclined to teeter towards "Ice Castle" and its dynamic use of clean guitars along with the nine-minute "Narcissism," which is stuffed with an ancient folk coat and the record's finest melodies, over numbers that are regionally traditional such as "The Eyes of Set" or "Burning Phoenix," although these offerings will find no quarrel on my end.

The interludes ("Astral Sea," "Celebration") are folksy and cryptic. The former's earthly chimes are bizarre yet make a frightening amount of sense in the album's context, whereas the latter is a calm and meditative medieval transition caught between the darkness within worlds. Like many of Septicflesh's primordial releases, "Esoptron" has only just begun to receive the respect it deserves after years of hiding in the dust-filled vaults of obscurity. Thankfully, the nice folks at Seasons of Mist reissued this record, and, along with the other forgotten gems, have given this fine album a new chance to smoke up the world of death metal. Although not the best record forged in their early days, "Esoptron" is less of a steppingstone and more of a snapshot of the bliss that was to come.

Septicflesh - Esoptron


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