Septicflesh – By Daemons Be Driven

Saturday, 30th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

Seeing Septicflesh annihilate an unsuspecting Pittsburgh crowd last year while on tour with Behemoth made yours truly think of the possibilities for this long-running Greek outfit. The sum of their parts (read: vast orchestration, cinematic strokes, memorable riffs, exotic melodies, etc.) at this point in time may outweigh some of black/death metal’s most imposing heavyweights. Their catalog since 2003’s killer Sumerian Daemons has been flawless, culminating with 2008’s monstrous comeback Communion, and now with this year’s The Great Mass, owing to the realization that the timing couldn’t be better for the band to make a huge indent on Yankee territory. Translation: Septicflesh has the potential to be even bigger than Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir, and Cradle of Filth.

There’s no questioning the grandiosity in which The Great Mass operates – it’s a hulking beast, especially when the booming Prague Orchestra gets going. However, the Greeks’ well-honed sound remains the foundation, as the deep bellows of singer Seth Siro Anton and heady melodies the band first ushered in during the mid-90’s are as striking as ever. From the opening barrage of “The Vampire of Nazareth” and the quick-attack of “The Great Mass,” to the vaunted death metal runs of “Rising,” The Great Mass shows an evolving Septicflesh, a band that is ready to handle the demands of being at the forefront of the now burgeoning orchestral metal scene.

With the band’s breakup a distant memory (they split after Sumerian Daemons, and reformed in 2007), momentum is on the side of Septicflesh, so we snagged the guitar team of Sotiris Anunnaki V and Christos Antoniou for a round of questions. Here’s how the mysterious Greeks responded…

Blistering.com: Obviously, Communion was a massive comeback for you. Was it the kind album that a pre-breakup Septicflesh would have been able to make?

Sotiris Anunnaki V: I believe during the years of Septicflesh’s inactivity, we matured even more as composers as we experimented with different projects. So when we reunited our forces, each member had something more to add to the music, taking the sound of the band further than in the past. We feel very confident about the future. There are so many ideas for development.

Blistering.com: During the time you were not active, did it become apparent how much each of you needed the band?

Christos Antoniou: Yes from our fanbase. We saw on Myspace that many fan pages occurred and the comments there were of how the miss the band and how we split up after such a good album like Sumerian Daemons. As we have said, it was inevitable, we had to end the band as we had to take crucial decisions about our future. I had to work in London as a composer and Seth also was busy with his artworks and exhibitions. Also the financial situation in our label Hammerheart was really bad and “helped” our decision, a very difficult one. To have a band is like a “virus” without antidote. Septicflesh is part of our life and always will be.

Blistering.com: You did a North American tour with Behemoth last year. What did you take away from it?

Antoniou: I believe we succeed our task which was to win the crowd. I think USA is our future for us. We are “new” band there and ready to make a breakthrough.

Blistering.com: Were you surprised as to how receptive North American audiences were to you?

Antoniou: Yes, we had amazing response since our first tour with Cradle of Filth and Satyricon. We are lucky that we are under very good agency and each of our US tours is with big bands. The audiences are really friendly and warmer than European [ones], definitely. If you compare the feedback from Europe with [the] USA, is day by night for us and we have [had] only two tours in the US till now.

Blistering.com: When did you start the lay the groundwork for The Great Mass?

Antoniou: It was a long process. As we were on tours, the majority of time first Sotiris started composing around a year before. Of course the changes are radical from the first sketches. We filter the weakest elements and the final result is the distillate from that. Then we started also to compose parallel and as we take all of us part on composition process we take the final decisions of which direction we will take.

Blistering.com: What made you decide to work with [producer] Peter Tagtgren [Hypocrisy, Dimmu Borgir]? After listening to the album, he seems like the perfect guy to handle not only your sound, but the orchestra.

Anunnaki V: That was exactly the reason we wanted to work with Peter. He is a very experienced producer and a great artist. He worked very hard to achieve the right balance between the metal and symphonic element of our music and he kept an open mind to our suggestions. We are very pleased from the sound of The Great Mass.

Blistering.com: Speaking of which, the orchestration on the new album is the biggest thing you’ve done. Were there any concerns when figuring out how to mix and match your compositions with them?

Antoniou: I would like to analyze our “orchestral” tool as our comeback marks our new era and stands the orchestra as our 5th irreplaceable member. In contrary with Communion, I composed the majority of the orchestral themes and then we added the metal part.

With Septicflesh you will not see an orchestra that replaces a keyboard player or just accompanies the music. Orchestra for us plays a vital role as we had to “metal”-compose on top of the orchestral material. Also rhythmical and harmonic paths are more complex and dissonant towards “horror” film music. All this blends and unites the two worlds creating an interesting sonic sphere.

Blistering.com: From purely a conceptual standpoint, what does The Great Mass represent? Judging by the cover, it appears you are once again delving into the topic of religion.

Anunnaki V: One of themes is religion. However I used religious symbolism in a dark, disturbing way. There are also topics that deal with the subject of the ultimate loss (death), dreams as a passage between the living and the undead, the importance of memory, the importance of will, the importance of controlling power and not being controlled by power, the importance of choices and the labyrinthine paths that we may choose to take. You could say that The Great Mass is a bizarre liturgy, composed by 10 psalms that appraise the rebellious spirit that dares to stand out from the mass of the herd.

Blistering.com: The visual aspect of Septicflesh is something that has become very intrinsic to your overall look/feel. Would you say put as much effort into artwork/design as you do the music?

Anunnaki V: Septicflesh is an artistic experiment. We give the same importance to all aspects of our art, the musical, the lyrical and the visual. We are very lucky to have a very talented visual artist, Seth Siro Anton, as a member of the band. So we have 100% control of everything. Our aim is to make an unholy union of sounds, images and emotions.

Blistering.com: Do you ever revisit your early albums, ala The Ophidian Wheel and Fallen Temple? What do you remember most about those times?

Antoniou: Not very often but is part of our history it will be always in our heart. Each of our albums has an evolution and state. I miss the simplicity which has been affected most from the music in general. From studio to the quality of the music, we listen. Many things became sterilized.

Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for 2011?

Antoniou: Till now we have two festivals in France one we will be headliners and the other will play along Epica, Dagoba. In May is our headline tour in France for 11 shows and June we have Hellfest again in France. End of June and for a month we will tour in US/Canada with big package but I can’t say anything more for that. From September, we will tour again in Europe and of course we will start our Greek shows.

www.myspace.com/septicfleshband