In the modern metal lexicon, European metal has often been used to denote bands that relied extensively on Iron Maiden harmonies, keyboards, pseudo-classical melodies, female vocalists, tremolo picked riffs and overall less influence from Pantera and Metallica. Septic Flesh have come to epitomize this style despite adding a lot more Metalcore elements to keep with the times. Before the name change, the band were once an overlooked force and presented many ideas that metal as a whole was never fully able to capitalize on. Ophidian Wheel is the summit of the band’s creativity and pushes the romantic qualities of metal even further.
The heavy metal mannerisms utilized by the Hellenic Black metal bands merge with lush keyboards in relief against flowing European Death metal riffs. The keyboards emulate the timbres of various instruments while the guitars happily let go of the distortion to support such moments. The drums are programmed albeit with a convincing tone as they support the music perfectly without ever seeking the spotlight yet with enough variety to truly accentuate what is being played. The triple vocal attack of bassist Spiros, guitarist Sotiris and guest singer Natalie weaves these pieces into grandiose epics. Spiros utilizes both a traditionally European rasp and a dominating low end grunt. The vocal interplay never feels schizophrenic or forced as Spiros takes the lead for the most part and handles the harsher Death metal segments while Sotiris and Natalie alternate during the more consonant parts to create large vocal melodies that improve the music without ever becoming the sole focal point.
Septic Flesh’s ability to effectively orchestrate their music is unparalleled in metal as they always select the right tool for the job and never feel compelled to use them all within each composition. The individual elements each play a simple melody that would sound incomplete by itself or even derivative but the layering assures that each instrument adds something to complete the idea. “On the Topmost Step of the Earth” shows this perfectly as the final iteration of the song’s main melody features a combination of thudding rhythm guitars, a clean electric guitar, strong grunts and the synths emulating an orchestra yet if one of those elements were to be removed the whole passage would lose potency. On “Shamanic Rites” the band opt for a more aggressive approach and focus on a well done dichotomy of rhythm guitars and soaring harmonized leads that slowly lead to Natalie soaring like a prime Lisa Gerrard and this time the inverse is true as any more would have resulted in overkill.
Arrangements focus on using tense Death metal riffs to create tension that then culminates with short orchestral parts before then imploding into the fully grandiose passages. The riffs show great understanding of the Dismember school of Swedish Death metal and while they do briefly opt for some groovier moments, those parts are no more than brief transitions towards better riffs and melodies. The band work around these cycles but add deviations that adapt to the needs of each composition. Each iteration of an idea will retain the same essential motifs but will be orchestrated slightly differently that nourishes the Homeric vision of these ideas and maintains a sense of progress that stops these parts from devolving into simple choruses that provide respite from the harder riffs. Ideas are constantly reintroduced and exploited fully especially during the climaxes and conclusions that the band flesh out fully to ensure that every emotion is properly instilled within the listener.
A very rich album that managed to combine many great ideas into a rich and unique whole that shows how much could still be done within the Hellenic base. Ophidian Wheel is a forgotten classic that deserves its place at the top of the pantheon just below the unmovable greats.
Tags: death metal, Heavy Metal, hellenic black metal, septic flesh, the ophidian wheel
75 thoughts on “Retrospective: Septic Flesh – Ophidian Wheel”
This is what Therion could have been
this album is to mystic places… as whisper supremacy is to blasphemy made flesh
you are going to have support such claims.
the album sounds like NYHC crossed with gay British prog and theatre program music
thinking this is good for the composition is missing the forest for the trees
Where is the NYHC in this? what gay british prog. What the hell is theatre program music. It’s easy to throw around random jests without actually saying anything of substance.
it’s all there in the first minute and a half of the title track. there’s a chug groove that madball could have played with the singalong cadence, followed by an neutered thin lizzy riff, then the chorus which is again just a groove-bound hardcore section. they finally play a metal riff around 2 minutes in right after the chorus and then it’s back to madball almost until the end. the vocals attempt to bring evil atmosphere and clash terribly with the test of the music.
as for the rest, just check the next, hilariously named track, phallic litanies, which was so called because thereiwaa literally a dick in the singer’s mouth during the studio session. it’s dream theater tier disney soundtrack music.
just compare this fruitfest to hvis lyset tar oss or to the depths in degradation and tell me it’s “just below the greats” with a straight face. because it’s barely above the level of cradle of filth.
“thereiwaa” … there was
sorry the crust of cheeto residue on my fingers makes it hard to maintain my typical 190 wpm typing speed without some errors
It’s not a chugging riff, more like a Dismember/Therion that relies on melody more than rhythm, the lead is Seventh son of a seventh son stuff. I will give you that they accentuate that bend a lot on the main riff. I actually fell for this and put on Madball and it sounds like melodic Nu metal. Phallic Litanies is Dionysian. Infester had similar ideas to slam. Hyvis has carnival rhythms at times. It”s easy to vulgarly lump things together because there are some surface similarities. It’s like saying Suffocation is Slipknot because both have growls and guitars tuned low.
this is precisely what i mean by missing the forest for the trees. too caught up the details of individual strokes to recognize the picture they are being used to paint.
breaking things down and parsing their constituents allows you to rationalize their function in the structure but this practice reveals nothing about the capacity of the structure ultimately.
and you have to do some extreme rationalizing to pretend ophidian wheel is anything but a circus of gay cheese at the level of opeth.
Can we drop the structure meme? For fucks sake, there’s plenty of good metal with dead simple song structure and a landfill’s worth of bad metal with elaborate song structure. Can we just say “good songwriting”?
At that, Ophidian Wheel has great songwriting. They have more conventional metal riffs that focus on speed or rhythm but the core of these songs is in the esoteric heavy metal-style melodies, similar to their peers in Rotting Christ and Varathron.
structuring is an aspect of songwriting so when getting spergy about the granularity of a work it bears mention.
there is no real correlation between complexity and quality in songwriting but it’s worth noting that complex structures are harder to do well, but also more confusing for the average listener, so bands who lack songwriting chops can rely on excessively complicated structures to trick people into thinking the songwriting is just 2deep4u. see: nearly every other post on this article.
I bet you’re one of those ex-punk/hardcore kids who got into metal after the fact so you’re allergic to consonant melodies and need to constantly posture yourself as somehow having transcended them. Fuck off back to your minor threat records. Ophidian Wheel has great melodies but you’re so estranged from human emotion due to your steady diet of alt-right blogs and masturbation that you simply can’t appreciate them. Get fucking real, kiddo.
that’s a really specific stereotype, lol. i’m not old enough to be an ex-anything but i do like some hardcore. circle jerks, fear, bad brains. not sure if that’s relevant. but don’t you have that assumption backward since hardcore is like, way more consonant overall than metal? anyway… stay mad that some random asshole made fun of an album you felt cool for liking.
Who’s mad? Just playin the game, brotha. You should huff glue until you reach Nirvana, then maybe you’ll get Ophidian Wheel. Maybe during your glue trip you can confront and overcome the childhood trauma that prevents you from liking anything but angryboi music.
Infester is the carnival version of Onward to Golgotha and more carnival than anything in Ophidian Wheel. But hey, don’t let this fact distract you from your love for nigger hating lyrics.
My favorite Infester lyrical moments:
What is the African-hating lyric you had in mind?
“Repulsive ebony skin” is either that or some kind of bait for ku klux klan fantasizers. It’s all pseudo-nihilistic ironic crap anyway. What exactly do you like about the lyric you mentioned?
Infester went from being a poor man’s autopsy in the Threnodist demo to aping Suffocation and Incantation, albeit they mastered the atmospheric gimmicks. Their music isn’t better than Dead Congregation for example in that 2-3 minutes into each song you forget what you have listened to earlier.
Let’s look at those Infester lyrics, specifically “Braded Into Palsy,” since that contains the pwobwematic phrase:
Here’s how a Leftist — follower of the Big Lie, a.k.a. disguised individualist prole — sees it:
Here’s how I see it of course:
So let us start with the song title: “braded” means either braided, abraded, or an ancient word “brade” meaning “roasted or burned.” Palsy means paralysis.
So… roasted into paralysis?
First, we see that the song is about a female victim (“I love violating her ass”).
Then, that it appears to be about dismembering and consuming the corpse, with special attention to the anorectal area (“Fingering the feces from her ass”).
Let us then assume that the title is correct, and this is an older usage, meaning that it is about someone roasted into paralysis, killed, dismembered, sodomized, and cannibalized.
At that point, it makes no sense to read African-Americans into this: the roasted corpse is burnt, hence “repulsive ebony skin.”
Perhaps it is a fantasy of abducting an African-American prostitute, roasting her, and then eating her, but that is not borne out by any of the other lyrics.
I suspect that the assumed “racism” is mere fantasy.
As far as the band having controversial opinions, no doubt… the swastika in the pentagram suggests that. The lyrics however are mostly gross-out gore and misanthropy. I imagine that whatever their fascination with National Socialism, they have a greater degree of massive hatred for humanity in the sense of “kill everyone but the smart ones,” and that this is actually more controversial, or would be in a non-Leftist time.
It’s not the only reference. There’s also “pigmented abortion babies” or the klan-like hats on the cover. In any case that’s not my problem with them, Darkthrone were more obviously racist (Over fjell og gjennom torner) but no one seems to mind. Probably because they weren’t complete degenerates or use their lyrics for shock value.
The former might be on point, but the latter is ludicrous, given how they resemble religious garb more than anything.
The big problem analyzing these lyrics is that they seem to be subconscious imagery that mixes rape, horror, cannibalism, necrophilia, coprophagia, and religious imagery. Most would call them near incoherent, but I can see an artistry there… sort of like Dead Infection after being left underground with nothing to eat by psilocybe mushrooms for a few years.
Blood put it more succinctly
I have two guiding lights in my world:
1. Bill & Ted: “Be excellent to each other”
2. Blood: “Sodomize the weak!”
I like the hip hop drumming on that album
They deleted the swastika from the re-release. Its all cool, dawg!
see i never brought up carnival music, i said OW is gay theatre program/disney soundtrack music because it is. there’s hardcore chugging, gothic cheese, brootal vox, and prog affectations jammed together. it’s literally LITERALLY metalcore. the degree of carnivality never enters the equation; i was throwing out varied examples to illustrate the absurdity of comparing OW to the greats of which HLTO and TTDID are still below.
not that i need any more evidence that you’re a ree ree but it should be obvious that racism belongs in metal just as much as satan and rape and gore and death because metal at it’s best serves as an exposition and examination of what is viewed by morons as inherent moral dichotomies.
When attacking “moral dichotomies” (people are repulsed by rape and eating shit so we’ll talk about these) is a goal in itself, your music ends being as dumb as them.
The fact that Infester get more credit than other obscure bands like Ceremony is probably proof that the tactic works.
except Into The Depths isn’t a shitty grind album made by a a bunch of fat/malnourished/boring alchoholic noncreatives, its some classic and inimitable shit made by kids who were probably tripping their balls off on mushrooms and hanging out in graveyards and the album cover doesnt have anything gay on it like some kinda cute girl with her guts hanging out or futanari orgies, in fact its some of the coolest art ever. off with your head poser
How do you know what those cloaked niggaz have under there?
fuckin xenomorph jizz puking sickletoothed spinning swaztika propeller blade bloodstained ay-rab monster cocks
you’re so dumb you’re inventing arguments for yourself just to say something because you don’t comprehend what is being said in my posts. i wrote “exposition” and “examination” and neither of those terms even in the specific context of metal should have been construed as “attacking” if you were paying attention at all.
Inventing arguments? You are so mind-blowingly autistic I don’t know why I’ve bothered so far. What’s even worse is you are extremely self-centered too.
lol character attacks now? fuck off faggot. at least i know why i bother
I’ve got to say i think your a real cunt
those albums were thrown out as benchmarks to set up a gradient of sorts.
you’re not being cool rolling over a guy sticking his neck out here trying to educate nerds.
Moncw your a deadset cock head! So sickly full of your self
The homophobia in this statement made me spit out my Soylent. Seriously, why you gotta go and do us like that? The problem is that you’re totally right. This album is the degeneration of this band, not a triumph. They took some very basic bitch heavy metal and grafted a few prog parts onto it that only fascinate people who made it to only the thrid chapter of their “learn guitar in your bathtub” exercises book, and then called it “deep.” This shit is comical. The early album was honest. I can only guess that the drummer or somebody took over and convinced them that this was their ticket into being rock stars. Fuck, humans are so weak. Wave a dollar bill or “executive co-manager of vice presidential operations” title in front of their face, and they’ll let you fuck them and use their names to wipe up the weird stick stuff under the fridge.
People are as weak as you need them to be.
Weak punk riffs with chugging means “NYHC” to most of us since we are not remembering Agnostic Front or the CroMags but all the horseshit inferior bands that came afterwards. Basically Pantera for Sex Pistols fans.
see i never think of either of those bands being NYHC. just hardcore bands from NY. the knuckledragging chugga lugga chug chug with a rap vocalist meme was the ossification of the NYHC style which proceeded from a circlejerk of retards ripping each other off in the 90s, and it is the aping of those elements of which i accuse this band on ophidian wheel.
This album is to ‘Mystic Places…’ what ‘Obscura’ is to ‘Considered Dead’.
ophidian wheel is similar to obscura in that both happened when respective bands went all fruity and unconventional while grappling for relevance in the industry/scene
It’s an old trope in rock-n-roll. If you have no new ideas, just take the most basic bitch rock you can and add some jazz chords, weird song structures, strange riffs, etc. It fools the Opeth mouth breather smoothbrains.
It’s true. Therion went the same direction, which is basically warmed-over heavy metal, and lost the death metal spirit entirely. This album loses the mystic atmosphere of black metal and instead goes for easily-digestible heavy metal and punk riffs with overlaid keyboards. Yes, it shows more in the way of “music lessons,” but it has also become more of the same old stuff.
Name a similar album! This is in no way a simplification or a sell out, look at the band’s later works to see what happened when they sold out.
you’re still jumping at shadows.
no one said OW is a simplification. au contraire it is an irredeemably convoluted mishmash of styles that were happenin’ on the scene in the period which it was released. you can’t even tell anyone with a straight face that this is even death metal. it’s clearly proggy (ribbit ribbit) metalcore. and if you want similar albums check old dream theater, opeth, or strapping young lad. same ingredients.
With that logic neither TRitSio or The cube are Death metal. OW is clearly written in a death metal style.
yeah i concede that point. the cube are more proggy butt rock/alt-metal. and tbh i don’t even know what the call classic AtG, but that’s because the music is unconventional by virtue of creative idiosyncrasies, rather than comprised of disparate musical detritus grafted together like junkyard sculpture.
You’re the real MVP. I tip my fedora to you.
i saw them live last year and they didnt play a single song from their first three (and best) albums
Probably embarrassed. It’s like admitting that your life peaked early and now you’re just trying to squeeze some bux out of your teenage accomplishments in order to retire to some hut outside the city and die of a drug overdose or undiagnosed heart condition like the rest of the musicians out there.
I still don’t know who the person is that’s buying the later Septic Flesh, Rotting Christ and Samael albums.
Lol, so true!
Man I got rectally trolled by this years ago. I really liked the first Morbid Angel album, so I went off and bought an assload of death metal and black metal. The problem was that I read Decibel and other hipster metal sites, and they just reprint the press releases, so I read a lot about how Rotting Christ was at the peak of their career and this latest album was “the heaviest thing that we have ever done.” I ended up feeling like I got a cross between Static-X, Matchbox 20, and Venom thrown at me. This is why I torrent EVERYTHING first now, because you can’t trust the written word on the internet apparently. At first, I wouldn’t read the outsider sites because you’re all racists, sexists, and poncy rich bitches (sorry but it’s true) and I was afraid of how you might try to twist my mind away from the true path to wisdom.
You are dumb.
Listening to Ophidian Wheel requires a certain vulnerability, an openness to something which is seems gushing and cheesy. Once you get over your fake self-image as a trve nihilist who doesn’t have sentimental emotions, give this album another shot. It really is that good. Esoptron might be even better. Calling OW metalcore is retarded.
yeah ok, “hey man if you don’t like getting buttfucked just be gay and it doesn’t seem like such a problem anymore”
if this isn’t metalcore what would you call it? heavy metal? prog? death metal? black metal? grind? it’s none of those, it’s a bastard mutant commodity targeted at suckers who are conditioned to trick themselves into believing there’s something profound behind the curtain and will ignore the whole circus act taking place on stage in front of their face.
or they just wanna hear something else
I’m not even a big fan of Ophidian Wheel but I think the guy is trolling at this point (especially with the part where he finds similarities with Dream Theater). He basically criticizes Septic Flesh for randomness (among other things) but then brings up infester of all the fucking death metal bands.
cool baroque part to run of the mill speed metal riff to same stupid riff grind version to finally a part that is relevant to the opening one to auto-generated slayer riff and then back to the cool synths before everyone gets bored to death
But hey there’s no thin lizzy and disney music in it so all is great.
it’s funny that everyone disagreeing with me about OW can’t even muster a defense other than halfassed roasts of the bruzum and infester albums i brought up when those weren’t even introduced as a ceiling of any sort, but rather low standards for reference points.
speaking of points and infesters, what’s with this swarm of double digit IQ metal-archives-tier vermin up in this bitch anymore?
we’re not all here to argue mr smarty pants
the internet is only used for porn and arguing about totally irrelevant shit. nice try.
trying is for posers and arguing is for makeup sex
sex is for simps.
i doent know what is simp
The two Skeksis-like dinosaur beings (from the Dark Crystal) watching the three fingered baby alien about to be sodomized by a triangle … a priceless album cover moment.
Since when does metal need any rules? Isn’t the whole point of breaking them? I’m gonna listen to cradle of filth and praise the shit out of it just to spite you idiots. Enjoy your bubble, because nobody cares.
metal doesn’t “need” “rules” per se. it’s more like the way grammar is utilized to facilitate effective communication. you can just “break rules” by playing a lot of amusing nonsense for people to project whatever they want on to it, and you can type like this hkapuxhbeblapouxyggvrbakppjxhhxuopwkma for the same effect. it only starts to matter when you begin to ask what the point of it all could be.
there is no point, heres your diploma, you can go home now
This is pretty pathetic posturing, I really want to know where you see the circus. I even listened to Converge Jane Doe to have a real circus as a reference point and every moment is coherent and a lot of it falls in the Hellenic framework. Is Necromantia a circu?
posturing? lol… what exactly do you think i’m pretending to be? we’re just faggots arguing on the internet. nobody has any cool points to lose or gain here.
the circus is in the unjustified shifts in mood and riffing style that sounds like some dadaist cut-up technique applied to somgwriting. and the melodies are overblown gothic stadium rock for trendies who needed to feel like there was something deeper to metal than shock rock taken to the Nth degree (which is what the best metal is). all death metal is cartoony but OW is like aeon flux or some edgy anime that purports to reveal some profound philosophy while still being born of and squarely restricted to the realm of absurdist commercial entertainment.
i’m just gonna call it john williams metal and leave it at that.
as for necromantia, i’m only really familiar with scarlet witching black which has a lot of gothic cheese, stadium rock dick-swinging riffs, and unduly abrupt piecemeal structures. so yeah it sounds like a circus, but i don’t recall feel secondhand embarrassment for the band members when i listened to it however long ago.
This album would have been great as an instrumental. The horrible female vocals really ruin it along with the gay male vocals. The death puke vocals aren’t as offensive but add nothing, I am hoping there is an instrumental mix out there as I really enjoyed alot of parts but it’s just too fucking gay in many places. Overbearing male ballet student gay, doing sketches with nude male models gay. I know the ideal metal listener is a trust fundy IQ of 280 dude in a powdered wig who wears ballet tights everywhere but tone the fucking gay down a tad.
not the gayest shit ive ever heard but that opera voice is way too high in the mix for starters
This album is not good. You tell the person on whose behalf you wrote this review that it is not a good album. Apologize to daddy Prozak as well.
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