Fleshgod Apocalypse is an Italian technical death metal group, of whom I have been following for quite some time now. Their debut album “Oracles” is one of my all time favorite technical death metal albums, right up there with Nile’s “Annihilation of the Wicked” and Decrepit Birth’s more recent effort “Polarity”. Fleshgod’s follow up ep, “Mafia”, was even better than “Oracles” by introducing operatic clean vocals, expertly perfomed by bassist Paolo Rossi. Other than a few demos, those are the only 2 releases the band has produced, and in a short amount of time have helped perfect a rarely visited form of death metal. In fact it is almost impossible to find death metal with heavy symphonic usage without drowning in a sea gothic, doom or black metal bands, which makes Fleshgod’s craft even more refreshing and interesting.
Now that we have the introduction out of the way, let us get to the meat of the review. If you are familiar with Fleshgod Apocalypse prior to hearing this album, then like me, you will be pretty shocked the first time you listen to this album, for many things have changed in this bands sound. Unlike the first album, symphonics are no longer a tool to emphasize specific parts of specific songs; they are now an instrument that is constant throughout, just like drums or guitar. This stylistic change was beginning to become evident on “Mafia”, but the change had not fully taken hold. This is a positive aspect because it is very cool to hear a heavy form of music- that is already full of complexities, soaring epic melodies and speed- become enhanced by an even more epic and complex sound. However, this is also a strong negative due to the fact that since this sound is almost constant from the beginning of the album to the end, it becomes very monotonous and is hard to digest in one sitting. I can almost guarantee you will need several days, if not weeks, to fully process every song on this album. It is intense, it is intricate and it can also be very overwhelming.
Once you do get past the initial “dude this album is soooooo crazy sounding”, you will find a very heavy tech death album that is both melodic and brutal. “Agony” is heavy, REALLY HEAVY, and despite what seems to be a conscious decision of the band to take a more orchestral direction with their sound, it shouldn’t be hard to fall in love with this album if you are a fan of Fleshgod Apocalypse.
I should also mention that the band has one secret weapon that does help diversify the new album– an aspect that I personally was hoping would increase on “Agony”. This is, of course, the operatic clean vocals of Mr. Rossi that I previously mentioned. This man is a very capable singer, and I am honestly curious if he is professionally trained. His vocal parts provide a very welcome break from the twisting insanity of “Agony”. Just when you think you can’t possibly stand any more Spawn of Possession meets John Williams, Paolo will come and whisk you away on his gilded epic vocal chords. Also, if we are talking about specific members, I really need to mention Fleshgod’s percussive end– Francesco Paoli. He is by far one of the most intense drummers on earth, his speed is unmatched and even though he obviously uses triggers, this is a band that NEEDS someone like him.
I would like to give specific tracks that I find particularly interesting, but due to “Agony’s” greatest strength and greatest weakness (keyboards) it’s very hard to tell the songs apart. This doesn’t mean there are not passages that do not stick out. For example, the back half of “The Forsaking” is one of the most grandiose and crushingly hopeless outros I have heard in metal music. Period. However, I think you may be doing this album a disservice by singling out tracks; rather, it would be better to listen to “Agony” as a whole, and let the parts that are interesting and unique come to the surface naturally.
Overall, this is a really interesting take on the genre. It has the best of many worlds and few shortcomings. If you are the kind of person that likes fast-paced, epic yet still heavy music, then this is definitely for you, particularly if you are a fan of symphonic black metal who dabbles in death metal. “Agony” is a whirlwind of all things opera, classical, death metal and technical flashiness, but once it steps on the gas, it rarely slows down until the final conclusion. That being said, if you decide to check this out and find yourself a touch overwhelmed, simply step back for a little bit and try again later, because if you put forth the effort into the learning curve this album presents, the payoff will be well worth it.
-Chaz 9/29/2011 4:48pm