The atmosphere of "Ophidian Wheel" feels mystical and enlightened, as if flying beyond the heavens and understanding the roots and miracles of the universe. This rich experience continued to morph the musical texture of Septicflesh (or Septic Flesh, or whatever), worlds apart from the group's first two records yet still garnished in their formless mythical themes. In scope and shape, "Ophidian Wheel" is an opus of doom and gothic tendencies echoing the ancient semblance of atmospheric death metal, coming together in an unforgettable network of meditative melodies, forlorn antagonism, and poignant songwriting that surpasses much of Septicflesh's other works. "Ophidian Wheel" soars beyond the ideas of its brothers, stylistically a remarkable achievement on all levels and a timeless offering by one of the finest Greek factions ever.
Septicflesh was never restrained creatively. Even the group's more straightforward numbers encompass many traits that add more depth and color to the musical vision than the typical experimental flops done by most. The style of atmosphere-based death metal meshed naturally into gothic oils and hints of doom makes for an absolutely riveting texture, exceeding the limitations of "Esoptron" and touching the ceiling of the universe. "Ophidian Wheel" glides on its triangle of archaic wisdom in varying degrees throughout, yet keeps its base stable. The sort of magic it has is just kaleidoscopic, willingly shaping death metal and these other influences into a single entity. The malevolent strikes are met with purposely simple, powerful melodies and ethereal bridges that intertwine this dimension, making everything simultaneously ravenous, melancholic, and beautiful.
"Ophidian Wheel" is likewise superbly crafted, hoisting what might well be the finest set of songs Septicflesh had ever carved in stone before its initial implosion. Much of the atmosphere is opened up by Natalie Rassoulis, a soprano vocalist who had a prominent role in Septicflesh for some years. Her appearances here, on perhaps half the anthems, are otherworldly against Spiros Antoniou's demonic grunts (whose growls are the best in the business, if you ask me) and the mysterious clean chimes of Sotiris Vayenas. This three-pronged vocal attack is as perplexing and magical as the record's arcane spine, and it enriches the pieces rather than cluttering the environment. The finest of this craft include "Phallic Litanies" and "The Future Belongs to the Brave," both shining like beacons in fog, this triptych of sound in divine form.
The remaining tracks, though without the succor of Rassoulis' vocals, reach the same high level of quality. In particular, the atmospheric "On the Topmost Step of the Earth" is a journey that lives up to its title, while "Heaven Below," glazed in serene melodies and mellifluous keys, remains a timeless classic. The work of Septicflesh is more of an experience than music: it ebbs and flows from mountains to chasms of fathomless depths, orchestrated through cabalistic interludes, immortal epics, and canticles pulled from the tongues of gods unknown. Few records live up to the majesty of "Ophidian Wheel," and it stands as any towering apex should among Septicflesh's stellar gallery, proud and defiant against the winds of time; the illuminated sapphire crowning a throne long since forgotten.