Septicflesh has been many things over their lengthy career: from death-doom progenitors in their early years, to one-time melodic death metal maestros and symphonic metal overlords in their modern incarnation. What’s more remarkable than the sheer variety offered up by the Greeks over the last two-and-a-half decades is the level of quality they’ve managed to maintain at every twist and turn. Until 2014’s Titan the band had maintained a near-flawless track record. While that ninth release was still a solid offering in its own right, it was the first Septicflesh record that simply felt like more of the same, and its formula had likewise grown somewhat tired. Perhaps paradoxically then, Codex Omega sees the band getting back on track – not through reinvention, but by perfecting a combination of everything that came before it.
The album’s tonality is balanced perfectly between the sinister death metal undertones of 2008’s Communion and the gothic extravaganza of 2011’s The Great Mass. That these two records also happen to be Septicflesh’s two greatest (other) offerings sets Codex Omega up to be crowned the band’s true masterpiece, and perhaps even the pinnacle of symphonic metal so far. These guys have always been better at incorporating symphonic elements into their music than anyone else, and the use of symphonic here rivals anything else in their catalogue. From the twisting, almost folk-like melodies of “Martyr” and the tribal rhythms of “Enemy” and beyond, Septicflesh use these orchestrations to enlighten and distinguish their sound, without ever overpowering it.
This isn’t at all to say that the band’s metallic core lost among proceedings (as it arguably was for much of 1998’s A Fallen Temple). Codex Omega is also the hardest-hitting record Septicflesh have released for some time. “3rd Testament (Codex Omega)” is based upon the kind of stomp you’d expect out of Gojira, and “Dark Art” readily brings to mind Morbid Angel in its earlier moments before launching into a soaring clean section that puts most other attempts at the style to shame. Likewise, “Our Church” brings to mind the pounding stomp of Bloodbath and “Portrait” is the best Dimmu Borgir song to have come ‘round in nearly a decade.
The balancing act put on by Septicflesh on their tenth full-length record is absolutely astounding. Yet this shouldn’t come as any real surprise as the band has been excelling at all forms of epic extreme metal for as long as they have been around, and this album is only a further example of that mastery. What’s truly remarkable is that this far down the line, and with so many great records already under their belt, Septicflesh may have delivered their ultimate masterpiece in Codex Omega.