Album Review: SEPTICFLESH Codex Omega
Codex Omega is Septicflesh’s best record in years and a towering majesty of extreme metal that is certain to be remembered as one of 2017’s crowning gems.
That's not exactly subtle, but neither is Codex Omega, Septicflesh's monumental 10th record. The Greek quartet's latest is an artfully constructed ode to brutality that almost perfectly fuses symphonic metal and death metal together to create a graceful and elegant, yet staggeringly violent, masterwork of chaos. It genuinely doesn't get much better than this.
This isn't the first time Septicflesh has approached such a high standard of excellence, and though Codex Omega isn’t perfect, it is nonetheless so consistently phenomenal that it practically doesn’t matter. A few minutes of Codex Omega are great. Those are the low points. Elsewhere, this is a jaw-droppingly epic and thoroughly hellacious metallic tsunami that only gets better on subsequent listens.
There are numerous examples of this throughout Codex Omega, but "Enemy of Truth" is a particular highlight on a record with no shortage of standout moments. Its symphonic and metal elements initially stand apart, but each does a phenomenal job of bolstering the other without overcrowding things. The two distinct elements gradually converge into a thrilling midsection, where things abruptly break off, only to again build up to a cinematic and wailing conclusion.
That's a bit technical, so here's another way to describe it: The track positively slays. Codex Omega is full of these quiet nuances and they go far to extend its longevity and bring clarity to the crushing heaviness, but they're subtle enough to avoid diluting the core of the music.
For newcomers skeptical about the fusion of death metal and symphonic music, any hesitation will be eradicated mere minutes into the record. Septicflesh's symphonic elements are key to the music and it's impossible to imagine Codex Omega as a straight death metal piece, but that's not to imply that it skimps on the ferocity. Codex Omega is one of 2017's most merciless albums, and is actually considerably more aggressive than Septicflesh's other recent works, which were already formidable affairs. The death growls sound more like thundering death roars, while the average distorted riff carries the bombastic gravitas that is typically only sustained for mere seconds in lesser records. Soaring symphonies and loud-as-hell production tie everything together, yet the songs move at a brisk enough pace and offer just enough reprieves to keep things fresh for the duration.
Sometimes, Septicflesh abandons all nuance in favor of smashing the listener half dead with pure savagery. The results, on tracks such as "Faceless" and "Gospel," are no less stunning. The first is Codex Omega’s monstrous apex—no small feat—and without a doubt one of the finest pieces in the band’s catalogue. “Faceless” opens with frantic, borderline desperate, riffing and some especially emotive howling, and Septicflesh maintains the blistering intensity for the following five minutes, while still somehow logically integrating a fair number of clean vocals and symphonic breaks.
Again, Codex Omega isn’t perfect, but its low points are still of the high quality that most bands only dream of. The clean singing on “Dark Art” and “Our Church” is a bit strained, and both lack the raw fury of that carries most of the other songs here. The thing is, they’re still good, and only stand out negatively because everything else is so astonishingly impressive.
Communion, Septicflesh’s 2008 album, is still the band’s magnum opus, but Codex Omega isn’t far behind. Tracks on the former record, such as “Anubis,” “Babel’s Gate” and the monolithic title track, are among the greatest metal songs ever recorded, and the fact that Codex Omega comes even remotely close to that level of aptitude is a sign that this is a truly incredible release.
There's been no shortage of incredible metal releases this year, and while early talks about 2017's absolute best albums is certainly a topic for contentious debate, there's no doubt that Codex Omega unarguably deserves to be considered in that conversation. Death metal fans, symphonic metal fans and all other metal music fans need apply. This isn’t one to miss.