The Ophidian Wheel [Reissue]
(Season Of Mist)
This third Septicflesh reissue is considered gothic metal by the label, but there’s definitely a good bite of death metal still to be had here in between the classical landscapes and operatic elements that find their way into this interestingly intriguing mix. To date, no other artists have created an album with the amount of unparalleled class and style that you’ll find here. “The Future Belongs To The Brave” merely brings a shadow of what is to come much later on the release in the form of Natalie Rassoulis, who shows an unexpected operatic edge to the music with her angelically soft vocals. It’s almost like a devil and angel duet in some places, clearly being influenced by Paradise Lost as noted. “The Ophidian Wheel” itself is a dead-ringer for the Gothic album, of that there’s no doubt. But then we have the intrigue of “Phallic Litanies” which introduces the use of early synths that almost sound a bit like the era of classic gaming. However, that opens for a product that does great justice to the traditional gothic metal genre, before the days when death metal elements were far removed and the genre strained of its dignity.
“Razor Blades Of Guilt” further emphasizes these gothic death metal elements, making this an album that any fan of traditional gothic metal would appreciate. The melodies are sullen, yet beautiful; as the vocal element displays a thick and hoary growl which is sometimes accompanied by the use of a sharp scowl, or female vocal as in the early days of Theatre Of Tragedy. “Tartarus” allows for the elements of Greek Opera, as chants seem to emanate from several corners, creating a very ominous sense of dread (those familiar with Tartarus should know that it was the precursor to the Christian concept of Hell, and was thus a place of torture) that will either leave the listener curious or unsure of what’s going on. Yes, The Ophidian Wheel is at some points that kind of disc; it doesn’t necessarily stick to a certain formula and is therefore open to all sorts of experimentation.
“On The Topmost Step Of The Earth” does manage to swerve things back onto track however, and with it return the thick growls and an array of dazzling melodies that further reinforce the Paradise Lost influence. “Microcosmos” is a symphonic display of neoclassical that like “Tartarus” seems out of place, so “Geometry In Static” serves to bring the album back to its original nature. Perhaps in 1997 Seth didn’t quite realize that some of these songs were entirely out of place, as one in their youth, still brimming with ideas and imagination usually doesn’t notice until much later in their life, when more focus and wisdom has come into play. Then of course came the odd experiment in “Shamanic Rite” as it utilizes traditional Native American ritual chants and might not be for everyone. I actually found the track a bit interesting however, as it experimented while still staying in the same style as the rest of the album. The fiercely melodic “Heaven Below” is the final exercise on the album, save for a forgettable outro entitled “Enchantment” which left me under the impression that Seth might have taken an odd cue from Summoning, as it certainly reminds me more of Middle-Earth than a nightfall over ancient Greece. Included are three worthwhile and alternate mixes of “The Ophidian Wheel”, “Phallic Litanies” and “On The Topmost Step Of The Earth” which I’ve personally found better than the original, due to their enhanced melodic content. This album very well could have been Septicflesh’s version of Gothic, yet there were a few out of place tracks that slightly warp the formula. It’s a minor gripe in retrospect though; because even uttering that a band was able to fashion a record as wonderful and timeless as its inspiration, is truly something that only happens once in a blue moon. (Eric May)
Purchase The Ophidian Wheel [Remastered] here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en/catalog/TheOphidianWheel