|Review: Septicflesh - Mystic Places of Dawn|
|Mystic Places of Dawn|
Label: Season of Mist
Year released: 2013
Originally released in: 1994
Genre: Death Metal
Review online: April 6, 2021
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
for:Mystic Places of Dawn
Rated 4.6/5 (92%) (5 Votes)
Despite often being referred to as The Dark Ages, the '90s were actually a period of serious experimentation and growth for metal as a whole, with entire regions having the room to define their own unique styles while they were out of the global spotlight. The Greek scene is among the most celebrated from this period, largely known for acts like Rotting Christ and Varathron who took their Black Metal sounds and experimented with other metal genres to create a sound that was unlike anything else at the time. Among these bands was Septicflesh, who even among their contemporaries were something of an oddity as they pushed the boundaries of what Death Metal could do and pioneered what is today known as Symphonic Death Metal, and it all started with this album. Question is, how does it hold up nearly 30 years later?
Pretty brilliantly, as it turns out. While their later material is glossier and more technical, Mystic Places of Dawn is an exercise in taking aggressive and complex Death Metal and marrying it with symphonic keys and an almost classical songwriting approach to make for a sound that's esoteric and mystical even to this day. While the band wasn't afraid to lean on pummeling riffs and powerful demonic howls, as on "Return to Carthage" and the vicious "Behind the Iron Mask", it's songs like the opening title track and the mystical "Crescent Moon", where they slow down and focus on evoking a mood of arcane antiquity with dazzling melodic work and keys, where Septicflesh really carved out their own identity, along with an entirely new approach to the Death Metal genre. But really, every song on here is a deft balancing act between Death Metal brutality and stranger, more occult melodic sentiments. The sole exception to all that would be the orchestral closer "Mythos", which is a mostly grand and evocative bookend to the album despite running out of steam near the end.
The version I'm reviewing is the reissue Season of Mist put out back in 2013, complete with new album art that's more in line with their current direction and the entire Temple of the Lost Race EP slapped onto the end. The EP in question is much more direct and aggressive, focusing on blazing riffs and pummeling songwriting while still incorporating a bit of the symphonic edge they'd display shortly after. I wasn't too impressed at first, but repeated listens made me appreciate how tight and refined the band sounded even at their earliest, with songs like "Temple of the Lost Race" and the moody closer "Setting of the Two Suns" being worthy of anything on the following albums.
Septicflesh would go on to refine their craft on the following two albums before changing direction and eventually becoming too technical and disjointed for their own good. Still, that does nothing to tarnish either the legacy or the quality of Mystic Places of Dawn, and the fact I'd call it my least favorite of the first three speaks volumes about how great this band was. Mandatory listening.
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