Germany’s Septagon goes for the trad metal splicing approach on their debut, Deadhead Syndicate. While this is indeed a debut, three of the four instrumentalists are current or former members of long-running power/progsters Lanfear, and vocalist Markus Becker might be better recognized as the voice of the great Atlantean Kodex. While these names might not get everyone super hot and bothered, the music within certainly reveals the value of this collective experience, providing a listen that is almost always quite entertaining, if only occasionally truly great.
Septagon’s sound comes through as a pretty even mix of Spreading the Disease-era Anthrax, the single-oriented side of Iron Maiden, and the long tradition of German power metal. It’s a fun mix, with the thrashier riffs offering a punchy foundation for the power metal elements and Becker’s often irresistible vocal hooks. Becker, it must be noted, often brings a different personality to Septagon than he does to Atlantean Kodex. Where there he is sensitive, brooding, and deliberate, here he is obviously having a blast, adding a moderate amount of swagger without necessarily changing the style of his wails. It’s a quality performance regardless of the listener’s experience with his other band, but Kodex fans ought to get even more out of it due to the contrast.
Becker’s charisma – and really, that of the whole band – is on full display in “Revolt Against the Revolution,” the album’s first proper track. The verse has a classic power/thrash feel (complete with some blast beat fills), the pre-chorus a key lead harmony, and the chorus the kind of vocal melody that worms its way deep pretty quickly. And for as naturally catchy as it is, it almost feels understated in a way. A solo, a repeat of that chorus, and bang: statement made.
Much of the rest of the album follows this general formula to varying levels of success. When all is working at its best, it is because Septagon anchors the songs with huge, infectious choruses; thankfully, this is quite often. The huge title track has one of the best of these, making sure to include no less than three segments to the chorus, while also allowing time for an extended solo passage. “Unwanted Company” is another of the album’s most memorable moments, hitting the gas for an extra boost of speed at a key time late in the album.
On the flip side are some slightly awkward tracks. The intro is almost completely superfluous, especially considering how “Revolt Against the Revolution” has a couple minutes of buildup itself. Ditto with interlude “Henchmen of Darkness,” which brings a welcome respite to the momentum, but overall fails to add much to the total of the album. A couple other tunes, such as the brooding, vaguely Iced Earth-ish “Ripper,” lack the hookiness present in so much of the album.
When all is said and done, Deadhead Syndicate is a very enjoyable album, but one with some obvious potential for improvement, even during its best moments. Despite the extensive experience of the band members, some more refinement as this unit would go a long way to upping the various characteristics of the band’s sound—tension tightened, swagger amplified, and soaring melodies backed by more confidence. Still, Septagon is off to a pretty great start, especially considering that they already stand out within a genre saturated by several decades of countless bands. Keep an eye on these guys, for sure.