The mid and late nineties have always been underestimated in terms of groundbreaking metal releases because the big names didn’t deliver at that time and because the scene didn’t get that much attention anymore. Younger generations were rather exposed to the grunge hype, the rise of alternative rock and crossover music and the proudly growing hip hop community while older fans turned away from their idols after several disappointing releases, unusually long waiting times between albums or fatal line-up changes. That’s why many people missed a couple of really essential releases and new sounds in the metal scene. While comparable bands like Absu, Amorphis, Moonspell, Orphaned Land, Sigh, Therion or Unexpect finally got some well deserved attention, the ambitious and unique avant-garde style of the symphonic extreme metal band Septic Flesh (or Septicflesh as they are called since their reunion in 2007) never got its breakthrough. If you like any of these bands, you simply can’t get around them.A Fallen Temple would be an appropriate album to start your journey with if you have missed this band until now. Sixteen years after its initial release, metal is back in strength and the amazing French label Season Of Mist where other experimental extreme metal bands like The Old Dead Tree could already release their innovating music reissued the Greek band’s fourth record.
The new version includes some additional material for collectors but it’s nothing really essential. Paradise Lost has always been overestimated in my humble opinion and that’s why I don’t need a cover song of them. “Underworld Act 3” drags on for almost eleven minutes and simply goes nowhere as it can’t mess with the first two parts. The instrumental “Finale” offers nothing intriguing either. The single version of “The Eldest Cosmonaut” is not as effective as the regular album version. These songs should have remained collector’s items only. It’s always sad when true fans purchase rare editions of their favourite bands’ releases to get all extra tracks just to see that these tracks are later reissued and available for any occasional fan. Labels don’t seem to understand that this is rather harming the weakened music industry than helping it to arise from its ashes. I don’t need dozens of different editions of the same release either. Most people are fed up with these strange release policies and prefer downloading all the extra stuff instead of purchasing the different incomplete physical products. On a positive note, the sound of the reissue is quite good and the new cover artwork pleases me more than the original one.
Anyway, let’s focus on the record which is simply brilliant. Greece’s best metal band ever has moved away from its extreme metal roots for a slower gothic and symphonic sound. The combination of grounded male clean vocals, powerful growls, female soprano vocals, a few guest vocals and a few choirs gives this record a dynamical, epic and positively sophisticated touch. The band has developed a great sense for atmospheric buildups, enchanting guitar and orchestral melodies and an amazing mixture of intriguing avant-garde ideas and a constantly coherent flow. This album even has a couple of truly catchy choruses that won’t get out of your mind. While many similar bands sound challenging and need multiple spins to open up, Septic Flesh convince at first try even though one can discover more and more elements with each spin. Even though some tracks are quite long, they never get boring and the whole record has perfectly homogenous flow that distinguishes an excellent concept album from a good one. It’s hard to point out any song because they are all at least very good and there is no negative filler included. You really need to listen to this music in one shot but once you’ve heard the first few tracks you simply don’t want to stop anymore and should feel like listening to this record until the end. If that’s not the case, this genre simply isn’t your cup of tea. I would put this record on the same level as Moonspell’s Irreligious, Therion’s Theli and Novembers Doom’s Of Sculptured Ivy And Stone Flowers.
The original album is rather hard to find and it’s great that this forgotten pearl of the nineties is back in stores now. If you care for atmospheric and innovating metal with a darker touch close to gothic and symphonic metal, this release is a definite must have.