Metal Monday: Septicflesh Q&A

How many Greek metal bands can you name? Chances are this number won’t be very high if you’re not from a place near or in Greece. Now, how many bands that recorded a metal album with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra can you name? Chances are this number is also pretty low. Well, Septicflesh works as an answer to both of these questions. They released a pretty fantastic album earlier this year titled The Great Mass, a follow-up to 2009’s masterful Communion (which was also recorded with the Prague Philharmonic). Fresh off their second release with Season of Mist and currently touring with Obscura, Devin Townsend and Children of Bodom, guitarist Sotiris Vayenas took some time to answer some questions for us about the band’s recent happenings.

OS: Describe the process of recording with the Prague Philharmonic for The Great Mass (much like you did with Communion).

SV: Chris Antoniou was once again responsible for the creation of the classical arrangements of the songs and also the main supervisor of the specific recordings which took place in Prague. This time, Chris supervised the whole recording process from Greece utilizing the great potential of the Internet. As you can imagine there was a lot of hard work and planning for everything to work out as we demanded, especially considering the fact that The Great Mass has the most elaborate symphonic parts that we ever recorded. Chris started working with the symphonic parts at a very early stage of the [creative] process. So we had a lot of time to experiment and at the same time to try to achieve the proper balance with the heavy parts.

OS: Did the writing of the symphonic elements change after Communion when you had the experience of recording with a full choir and orchestra?

SV: With Communion we gained a lot of experience considering the combination of the brutal with the symphonic elements. So now we felt more confident to attempt a bolder experimentation towards the specific musical direction. In The Great Mass, we had a lot more instruments in our disposal and, in other words, a wider range of sound fields to experiment with. Chris had the chance to try a lot of different techniques that are used in modern classical compositions and even in film scores, and that is why the new album has an almost cinematic feeling to it.

OS: It would appear that you guys haven’t created an official music video to any of Septicflesh’s music since 1998“would you ever consider it again? Why or why not?

SV: Indeed, although our music is perfect for visualization we have not a lot of visual material to present to our fans. So we are thinking it is about time to shoot a videoclip for one of the songs of the new album. But we won’t rush things, as we want to create something special, dark and artistic. We will think about it later this year, after the first wave of touring in USA and Europe is completed.

OS: What sorts of composers or orchestral works provided influence for the scored parts of the album?

SV: Igor Stravinsky, Wojciech Kilar, Danny Elfman, Clint Mansell, Howard Shore are some from composers that we admire a lot.

OS: What do you think of the performance Dimmu Borgir did with a full orchestra live? Would you ever consider doing an event like that?

SV: It was really cool for Dimmu Borgir to bring the orchestra to the stage and perform their songs in full detail. It is something that we are also intending of doing, although we are not so rich to attempt it in such a large scale. At the time being, we are considering our options and we are in touch with some classical musicians. I hope that everything will turn out well and that we will manage to organize such a tricky special event for The Great Mass.

OS: So, tell us about some of the lyrical themes from The Great Mass, and what inspired you to write them.

SV: Esotericism is always one of my favorite sources of our inspiration. The Great Mass is actually a kind of a Black Mass composed from ten psalms, which praises the rebellious spirit. Each psalm deals with a specific theme. Some topics discussed are amnesia, dreams as a uniting bridge between the living and the undead, the importance of forging an iron will and choosing everlasting goals, the duality of beast and man, the secret behind the Pythagorean star of the elements, etc. Something that connects the various themes is the use of religious symbolism in an unsettling, deconstructive way. Also I attempted a word-play throughout the album, with the different meanings that can be attributed to the word “mass”…

OS: If someone were to approach you and ask you to do the score/soundtrack to a film, much like Daft Punk did for TRON: Legacy or Trent Reznor did for The Social Network, would you consider it (why or why not)? What sort of films would you want to score, and which would you not want to score?

SV: It would be great to get involved in film scoring. Our music could fit to science fiction, horror, psychological thrillers, even to epic stuff. Of course it would be out of context to be involved to a romantic movie or a comedy.

The last two Septicflesh albums are absolute must-haves for any metalhead’s collection, especially if they like symphonic or death metal”Septicflesh can’t really be beat in those departments. Skeptical? Check out the teaser trailer for The Great Mass below. If you’re already hip to these guys, props to you as you’ve clearly got great taste in metal. If you’re looking to spend some of your hard-earned cash on some Septicflesh music or gear, look no farther than the Season of Mist official e-shop.

Metal Monday: What Makes It Metal?

In the metal community, the word “brutal” gets thrown around a whole lot these days. From the newest and most brutal breakdown from this deathcore band to the most garbled and brutal lyrics from that death metal band, the word is starting to lose its meaning. Then there’s Adult Swim’s cartoon series Metalocalypse, which really takes the idea of brutal to a hilariously extreme degree. In the first episode a large number of people at Dethklok’s concert were scalded to death by giant vats of coffee”certainly brutal, but mostly just laughable. Here are five things that really examplify essence of metal, and can truly express what brutal means in a serious way.

The Oakland Raiders – First off, before we discuss the aggressive and brutal nature of American football, let’s talk about what a Raider actually is. describes a raider/raids as “a commando, ranger, or the like, specially trained to participate in military raids (a sudden assault or attack, as upon something to be seized or suppressed).” Loosely, this could describe metal musicians and their aural assault on listeners. Beyond what a raider is, the team dresses in all black and silver, as do their fans”again, much like metal musicians. It’s really a perfect match made in hell.

They're looking hungry for your brains.

Zombies – Although zombies are quite popular in mainstream cultures, no one has quite embraced the idea of zombies quite like modern thrash metal. Take the band Lich King, for example, and their album Toxic Zombie Onslaught. The idea and image of zombies are all over the metal scene, used by bands such as Iron Maiden with their mascot Eddie, Municipal Waste‘s album covers, or Death‘s song “Zombie Ritual”.  The list goes on. Metal has unofficially adopted zombies as its mascot. We all know what zombies are, but let me reiterate: it was alive, now it’s dead (sort of). Dead, decaying flesh that wants to eat your brains from your living skull.

Igor Stravisnky’s Rite of Spring – Musically, Rite of Spring was one of the most heavy, erratic, and chaotic pieces of its time and continues to be so today. What really takes this comparison over the top, however, was the situation that arose when the piece was premiered in Paris on May 29, 1913. Due to the nature of the choreography and music, the audience became agitated and as the music escalated so did the audience’s mood”eventually erupting into a full-blown riot in the seats. The riot got so out of hand that the Paris police had to arrive to settle down the audience. Further explanation is likely unnecessary, as your brain has probably already made the comparison of rioting at a concert to a mosh pit” certainly a logical step.

Now THIS is a fire made for grilling animals.

Barbecues – Step one: find a dead animal (more metal if you killed it yourself, even better if it was with your bare hands). Step two: make a fire, the bigger the better. Step three: let the animal carcass roast on that fire for a while. Step four: you eat it, and depending on the meat, you do so with your bare hands. Though grilling animals is a bit more sophisticated than it was in medieval times when vikings roamed northern Europe, the general principle still applies. Dead things, fire, and dead things on fire are all pretty cliché topics for metal at this point, and barbecues certainly fit that bill.

Slaying dragons – If you’ve heard more than three power metal songs in your entire life, there’s a fair chance you’ve heard a song involving the slaying of a dragon or other evil and mystical creature. The idea of a knight in shining armor saving a fair maiden from a dragon is noble and all, but that is not a fair fight, nor would it be very pretty. It’s a fair assumption that the dragon would breathe fire (since that’s what dragons do, breathe fire and capture maidens), and the knight probably only has a sword, armor and a horse; advantage: dragon. Either way, one of these parties is dying, and in a pretty brutal way (scorched to death by fire or mutilated with a big honkin’ sword). Power metal’s not so much for wussies now, is it?

So, the next time you and your friends are hanging out and someone says “Oh man, that was brutal” or “That’s so metal””think for a second. Was it really that metal?