May 312022


(We present DGR‘s review of the latest album by SepticFlesh, which was released by Nuclear Blast earlier this month.)

Modern Primitive, the eleventh release from Greek symphonic death metal group SepticFlesh, was quietly waiting to strike just out of our visual periphery. It’s a big, lumbering beast of an album that was patiently waiting for its moment of impact, and like many SepticFlesh releases there’s a lot to unpack here.

Now firmly ensconced in their specific style of symphonic death metal, SepticFlesh have become a band that moves in iterations. They have a solid and recognizable through-line in their music and one that has largely remained unchanged since the early-aughts – the general big, booming void of a SepticFlesh song is hard to mistake for anyone else.

What has become the story of each SepticFlesh album is just how far the band will drift from that line on each album, just how much they will go symphonic or just how death metal the band will be, with each release becoming a differing ratio of each.

Modern Primitive is no different and largely toes the line that the group found on Codex Omega, but it seems like SepticFlesh themselves recognize that, and have made an attempt to differentiate from that album. Modern Primitive is a release of sharp contrasts, because for every risk the band take on their newest album, they play it just as safe. Which means Modern Primitive may be the most ‘SepticFlesh‘ album that SepticFlesh could’ve been capable of putting out.

Make no mistake: This does not mean that Modern Primitive is a “bad” release. If anything, it’s pretty fucking enjoyable. Especially if you’re a fan of genre-fare or the band themselves. You’ll walk away pretty satisfied with Modern Primitive and it’s certainly just as strong of an excuse to get a band out on the road as any.

Hell, you’d never believe that there’s been almost a five-year gap between Modern Primitive and its predecessor, given just how quickly it picks up from where that last album left off. But that’s the thing with Modern Primitive, there’s a lot of interesting turns here within its nine-song, almost forty-minute confines – but you’ll also find yourself thinking back to previous SepticFlesh releases constantly.

It’s hard to describe the number of times throughout Modern Primitive we found ourselves thinking, “Wow, this is a song that could’ve slotted right into the tracklisting of Titan!” or being genereally surprised by just how much of the DNA of the song “Martyr” from Codex Omega has found its way into the music on Modern Primitive. Seriously, if you liked the large, booming horns of that song as they weaved their way alongside the rock-stupid chugging riff that defined that song, then you’ll be happy that Modern Primitive does that multiple times here and generally it works just as well.

SepticFlesh begin echoing themselves early within Modern Primitive. New and very interesting instrumentation abounds as Christos Antoniou expands the band’s sonic palette to include more than the arsenal of booming horns and choirs that have colored much of the band’s music. Modern Primitive gets regional on quite a few of the songs, so that the multitude of references to desert regions throughout are accompanied by fitting instrumentation. Musically they often serve the same purposes so you can see the analogues between them develop quickly.

But still, SepticFlesh journeying through ancient mythology – much of it Egyptian-inspired this time – is an interesting event no doubt. It’s what helps keep a song like “The Collector” interesting as it doubles into “Heirophant” early within the album. But that’s where you start noticing where songs feel like they’re written in pairs because “Heirophant” shares a lot with early-released single “Neuromancer” – though the latter benefits from a strong power-chorus – and “The Collector” winds up a twin to the darker and glowering “Self-Eater”.

All of these tracks of course feature Sotiris on clean vocals in a more prominent position than he had occupied previously. Perhaps the latter half of Codex Omega – wherein he made most of his appearances – really left an impression on the band in the years hence. Or, more reductively, the clean-sung chorus vs the deep bellowed yell of Spiros is always going to have appeal.

As always there is one song where SepticFlesh unleash the whole arsenal to just rip people a new one for four or so minutes and in this case it’s the song “Coming Storm”. After four tracks of big, stomping rhythms and booming orchestration SepticFlesh just unleash a string-section-sawed-in-half murderer of a song in “Coming Storm”. It’s so intense that the bludgeoning on “A Desert Throne” that follows plays out like you’re meant to come down from the adrenaline rush of that song.

SepticFlesh do this once or twice per album and in Modern Primitive‘s case, this is the main event. Afterward the group return to the massive and intricate songwriting of the front half. The title track is buoyed by a very strong melody and again a sing-song chorus, but the call-and-response section fits so well with the music that it becomes a highlight of its own before you get one more bludgeoner of a track in “Psychohistory”. A little less pyrotechnic than “Coming Storm”, “Psychohistory” is even leaner as the other death metal hammerer in the lineup. At only three and a half minutes, it’s surprising how quickly that one moves and it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that one blast right by people before they realize they’ve reached “A Dreadful Muse” and closed Modern Primitive out.

Modern Primitive is the album where SepticFlesh finally move into the cultural institution phase of their career. They’re going to do what SepticFlesh do best, and generally speaking that’s always going to be a pretty good time. However, if you’re a long-time fan expecting to be shocked by something here, SepticFlesh stay pretty close to the line that has defined the latter part of their career. It may be the first release of theirs where the symphonic – death-metal needle hasn’t really swayed hard in either direction, leaving the ration at a 55/45 at any given moment. The experimenting with different regional instrumentation is a lot of fun on Modern Primitive but it doesn’t quite move enough in any particular direction beyond the first ‘Oh, that’s the first time they’ve used one of those’ impressions. If anything the most surprising part of Modern Primitive is the amount of spotlight given to the acoustic guitar, since a few of the songs open on acoustic guitar melodies before the full weight of the band comes crashing down.

Its a solid SepticFlesh album for SepticFlesh fans and one that’ll be just as good a starting point as any for someone looking to get started with them. In fact, that might be a fun way to approach Modern Primitive since you’ll likely have so many songs to look at afterward that they drew from and combined into their current forms here.


  1. Good review – and totally fair. I think it is great – but also weirdly both epic and somewhat predictable (as you more eloquently lay out in your review). Whether it trods new ground or not, long-time fans (as well as those new and curious) should rush to get it!

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