Septicflesh – Codex Omega

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Codex Omega is Septicflesh’s tenth album in their long, illustrious career, and their brand of symphonic death metal has provided a showcase for the band’s various literary and mythological interests. Given that one of their most well-known songs is about the Egyptian god of the dead, it is unsurprising that they would continue with these interests on Codex Omega.

Septicflesh Codex Omega

What Septicflesh do exceptionally well is mix elements of death metal and symphonic metal together to create something otherworldly yet deeply structural. There is something formulaic about their approach to making music, as if they have a number of ideas they write about before putting it together. [1] Then, they add the orchestral elements and create a bombastic firestorm of music that supports the vocals—particularly, the strong, signature growl that makes the music sound majestic. Given that my main reference to Septicflesh is their 2008 album, Communion, [2] I always remember that album to be both epic and sinister. Something about Septicflesh’s music commands attention and yet makes the skin crawl, as witnessing something majestic yet sinister arriving at the gates of a castle. Afterwards, the music continues to haunt you, almost compelling you to ruminate on it. However, the tone in Codex Omega has changed. Despite having that same sinister atmosphere and sound that can only be achieved through the use of both orchestra and choir, one can claim that there’s a reverent quality to the music. The atmosphere of the album hints at something forbidden and you should respect it, even when you decide to look at the forbidden content. Given how there’s a song that implicitly deals with being persecuted for being knowledgeable (‘Martyr’), it’s fitting that those sinister tones exist in the musical structure.

However, it appears the album places a lot of its focus on its lyrical content, which simultaneously gives you a lot of insight into the inspiration behind the songs and allows for interpreting the context as you see fit. Songs like ‘Dante’s Inferno’, ‘Our Church, Below the Sea’, and ‘Faceless Queen’ are straightforward in their insight and context; they are from The Divine Comedy; the works of Lovecraft, particularly The Shadow over Innsmouth; and the mythology of Tiamat, the primordial sea goddess in Mesopotamian mythology. However, the more ambiguous songs on the album, such as ‘3rd Testament (Codex Omega)’ and ‘The Gospels of Fear’, require a more thorough understanding of their subject matter. ‘3rd Testament’ is basically an inverse Book of Genesis that talks about the creation of Satan and his family through the written word and the imagination of man. Given the Book of Genesis talks about the creation and eventual spread of Man on Earth, it would be no surprise that the Church would potentially accept a series of books about Satan in its canon. Man created the devil; it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to accept him as part of the Biblical canon. After all, it would be fitting to have the Third Testament begin after Revelation. [3]

Meanwhile, the topic of ‘Gospels’ is a fascinating biological exploration; there are numerous references to the release of cortisol due to stressful events. When you are scared or in severe stress, your brain releases cortisol, a stress hormone that helps dampen bodily function (i.e. hunger) to conserve energy for core functioning—that is, your fight-or-flight system (adrenaline/epinephrine) is activated and you can choose to run from the stressful situation or you can fight it. However, excessive cortisol in the brain can lead to the loss of memory and excessive damage to important portions of the brain like the hippocampus4, thus leading to brain damage. ‘Gospels’ may be a song about the ever-present reminders of fear, but it is also a song about the prolonged effects of fear.

All in all, Codex Omega is an album that shows both expert musicianship and lyricism. It builds on past endeavors, honing on their signature sound with minimal experimentation. While the music is fantastic and contains enough reverent overtones to impress the listener, the lyrical content is put forward and shows the research the band did in order to write deep-meaning lyrics. However, at the end of the day, the music remains one of the most intense experiences the record has to offer. Septicflesh is a band that writes music first and lyrics second, and what you get beautiful, emotional yet bombastic music that fills the listener until the album is over.

Footnotes:
1. Seth of Septicflesh had an AMA on Reddit and answered questions fans had. You can read the entire thread here.

2.  I have listened to all the Septicflesh albums after Communion, but I can’t remember anything from The Great Mass and Titan.

3. See The Book of Revelations, chapter 22, verses 6-21, known as the epilogue.

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