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Fleshgod Apocalypse formed in 2007 from Roma, Italy. Up to this point, the quintet has had two full-length records ("Oracles" and "Agony") and an EP entitled "Mafia" under their belts. These releases have already rose the band to high fame in the metal community for their destructive blend of fast-paced death metal and orchestral music. Naturally, because of this, the band's third full-length release "Labyrinth" would be heavily swarmed upon release in 2013.
The musicianship is not only as potent as ever, but it's also very well-utilized this time around. The vocalist's screams let out the same level of aggression as in previous records, and the operatic choirs in the background actually do pile onto the album's sense of eerie. Sadly, the clean singing is also as distracting as ever, and because of how silly and forced it tends to sound, it does get in the way of the album's enjoyment whenever it shows. Thankfully, it isn't to the point where it becomes a total nuisance. The guitars do not have much to show for themselves, but that is possibly what the band was aiming for; it blends in quite nicely with the orchestra, and it is a bit of an interesting way of going about guitar work in this album.
Two of the greatest points where the band has improved are the drums and orchestra. While the drums continue with their incredibly speedy blast-beats, they actually have developed more substance; They have steadier paces and more true complexity to be an intriguing and very well done part of the band's musicianship. On top of that, the orchestral elements are placed much more strategically than before. As opposed to being just there, the violins, piano, and other aspects are used in a manner that generates a truly cinematic and grand atmosphere. Instead of sounding like an orchestra trying to keep up with rapid-fire death metal, they actually add to the music's violent drama, and that is certainly another area of vast improvement for this band.
Eyeconoclast guitarist Stefano Morabito (Also known as Saul) was the one in charge of the album's sound production, and his work certainly paid off. The mixing made the vocals and instruments sound very massive and resonant. Alongside the orchestra, it reinforces the dark, theatrical aura that the record intended to pull off. The production is definitely another plus to this album.
As expected from this renowned group, "Labyrinth" stays true to the band's staple fusion of symphonic and technical death metal. Unlike before, however, this album takes a somewhat different, if not better, approach to the formula. Instead of focusing on sheer velocity, the album leans more towards atmosphere, dynamic, and complexity, which is the album's greatest strength overall. In fact, "Minotaur: the Wrath of Poseidon" is definitely the record's largest highlight, and the ending title track is a slow piano outro that's just as ominous. On the other hand, though, the faster segments of the album do hold up as well. "Kingborn" is a powerful opener, and "Elegy" is particularly enjoyably chaotic. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the record is that the music does get a little too repetitive and monotonous in the midst of its dramatic violence. Nonetheless, the songs are very decent overall.
As the follow-up to "Agony," this album is quite a strong improvement. As a stand-alone release, however, it's a very solid death metal specimen. It does get repetitive at times, and the clean vocals can be slightly grating, but those flaws are nicely outweighed. The musicianship is great, the production is quite phenomenal, and the songs are generally well-built. Fans of the older releases will want to get their hands on this, and symphonic death metal fans could probably take a liking to it as well. "Labyrinth" may not exactly be A-grade material, but it's certainly great to see the band taking a step in the right direction.
Originally posted on: http://metaljerky.blogspot.com/
When I say that Fleshgod Apocalypse’s latest album Labyrinth is noisy, cluttered, a total mess, substanceless or loud for the sake of being loud, I’m not going to take the road of the usual criticism and just stop there. Because really that’s what they intended this to be. This was supposed to be an aural assault with tons of elements crammed into the mix with little regard for actual songwriting. However, that doesn’t make it any less of a piece of trash. Intent does not signify quality. Just because something was supposed to be a certain way doesn’t excuse it from criticism.
I’ve never really heard any of this band’s other albums, so keep that in mind – I’m just going off of this one alone. Frankly, it’s about what I expected. The sound is little more than what I have already described. You get some loud symphonics, some loud growly vocals and some loud drums. The guitars are somewhere in there, playing some half-decent riffs, but really putting them at the front of the mix would only serve to make this more boring than it already is. The bulk of this album isn’t really about making good music, it’s about showing off. This whole thing is just a silly competition – which instrument can be louder? Sometimes instruments “battling” each other can be fun, when they try to outdo each other in virtuosity, but here they’re just fighting over who’s louder. Yup. Nothing else. The effect is somewhat akin to your annoying neighbor turning the radio up really loud with kind of a song in the background, but mostly just static blasting your ears because the station it’s tuned into is too far away. And then your other neighbor doing the same thing but a notch higher in volume.
The individual elements of this don’t really seem to matter – it doesn’t seem to matter one bit how interesting the symphonics or the riffs or the vocals are; just that they are THERE and constantly in your face all the time. Occasionally you get a decent groove metal riff in the background, and sometimes the drums will stop blasting long enough to snap into a headbangable section. But not very often. Occasionally the leads, which are quite power metallish in nature, crop up – they are about as generic as they come, without anything really interesting about them. Most of the songwriting is like that, drawing from clichés so bland that you can’t even really attribute them to one band anymore; so many have used them.
So with all that boring crap out of the way, let’s talk about the most important things the band wanted us to focus on…
The symphonics are certainly there, and they are competent and not out of tune. That’s about the best I can say. I mean, yeah – they’re definitely doing things, it’s not like the band just put in some random shit. But they’re not doing interesting things. They really only serve the purpose of adding in something faux-eclectic so metalheads can say they have broader tastes than they really do. You get some slow atmospheric bits here and there; some of them are decent. Most of the time they’re just space wasters. The band knows they want to do a slow atmospheric part, but have no idea what the atmosphere is they’re trying to evoke. Not that the sterile production job would really let them do it anyway, whatever it is.
The vocals…well, they pretty much suck. I guess he can growl or whatever, but his tone is dry like sandpaper and he doesn’t sound very menacing or unhinged or anything. When that mouth breather from Dethklok is a fair comparison, it might be time to just quit music. This is a very Amon Amarth-esque situation where the harsh vocals are so un-threatening and unnecessary to the rest of the sound that it might just benefit the band to hire a full time clean singer and ditch this guy. Which, I guess, they do on this album – two of them even. One of them is a horrendous screeching noise from either the bass player or one of the guitarists. It sounds more like a cat being tortured with razorblades than anything good. Picturing the kinds of people who think this sounds good is just scary to me – I’d rather not even go down those alleyways. Just listen to horrible cacophonous shit like “Elegy” or some parts of “Under Black Sails” – it’s like nails on a fucking chalkboard. Seriously, whose idea was this?
The other is a woman named Veronica Bordacchini, who does soprano vocals on most of these songs. She sounds kind of Nightwishy at times, which is ironic considering most of the people who like this would immediately decry Nightwish as “metal for pussies” or something similar. But if a singer like this appears on an album that has blastbeats and crappy death metal riffs on it, well fuck, it must be worth hearing, right? I dunno. She’s pretty good and all, but really doesn’t have much character to her voice – then again it’s not like the music’s claustrophobic nature really lets her do much. “Warpledge” has a good chorus, but otherwise it’s all pretty unremarkable.
The real problem with all this is just how unenjoyable it all is. It doesn’t even really sound like the band likes what they’re doing. Certainly they don’t seem to care too much for the bulk of the ideas they shoehorn into these songs – the soprano vocals, the slow parts, et cetera are all present, but they are just there to make appearances for a few seconds to make the band different, and then disappear. They are in love with their blasty sections and groovy riffs and boring vocals, but they can’t just be a death metal band. They have to throw in the other shit because otherwise they wouldn’t be unique.
And yeah, I know – obviously that isn’t exactly their thought process. They do care about what they’re doing, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. But the problem is that it just sucks. They undermine their own originality by not focusing on what makes them original. They don’t spend time lingering on any of these elements and actually exploring compositionally what makes them so cool to have in such a disparate musical style. They don’t really do much with it – they just let it all hang out, throw it all in a blender and then dump it onto a CD. What could have been an interesting experiment just becomes wasted potential with how weak the songwriting is. You could take out the symphonics and the goofy vocals and this would be like any other modern metal CD ever.
So, yeah, interesting idea, lame and disappointing execution. If these guys would just stop feeling so confined by the boundaries of modern technical death metal – not one of humanity’s creative zeniths – then they could possibly make interesting music. Until then I guess we’ll just keep getting disposable junk like this.
Having been introduced to Fleshgod via the supremely punishing, orgiastic violence of the excellent Mafia and then Oracles, Agony didn't grab me at all when I first heard it. It's just drums and symphonies, I thought. Then for some reason some months later, maybe a year or so, I kept going back to it. I mean it was symphonies and drums- rich exciting extrapolations of classical pieces, and blisteringly, brilliantly fast drumming. And with the right audio setup the thundering guitar riffs and yowled clean vocals started sounding extremely fresh too.
So by now I was rapt, rather than reticent like many of Agony's detractors, to guzzle down this latest draught from possibly the most dominating thing to come out of Italy since the Roman Empire.
This is more of the same and then fucken some. This is Agony matured, grown mighty and unconquerable through an expanded palette and musical concept and even further tightened instrumentation. This is the culmination of the ferocious death metal of Oracles and Mafia channeled through the sophomore's luscious, adrenaline-fueled epic textures.
In terms of performance, thangs are tight. The death growls are as excellent as ever, though the complementary vocals now see the soprano wailing (which sounds most legit indeed) brought front and centre, while the high-pitched air raid sirens from the band's bassist have given way to the occasional emphatic shout - though he plays a key role on the magnificent 'Pathfinder', a song I will likely still be listening to when I have grandchildren.
Powering tech-death harmonies switch between orchestra and guitars at will or play alongside. So where arpeggios played on the first guitar might then be borrowed by the orchestras to continue the song's motif, a song like 'Under Black Sails' actually sees a couple of very well known classical pieces being played on the guitar (I won't spoil it for you). But a cursory spin won't unlock these areas unless you're looking for them: it's dense and highly rewarding, and given how many bands would just smack a bit of neoclassical noodling on the lease guitar front and centre and forget the rest, the busy, compressed nature of the compositions and production actually aids the feeling of tasteful implementation I so laud these Italians for.
There is more focus on actual riffs here and the payoff from having these elements tastefully entwined in a slightly more even share than on the record's predecessor is huge. Actually making a song like 'Warpledge' sound both like it could work purely as a thrilling bit of orchestral movie music and like an uninterrupted death metal rush is an achievement enviable to the fitfully composed recent attempts of bands like Septic Flesh.
Brass sweeps accent charging death metal rather than pushing the guitars back into a rhythmic role as on records by Dimmu and Nightwish (which often reminds me of 'and then Brian comes in and I change up the tempo, Brian comes in and he changes the song!' Know what I mean). Leaping strings and noble cinematic ambience accompany scorching percussion and tense slower sections accordingly.
The pianos are better than ever- at times leading verses or epic choruses, at others providing a precisely timed breather from the carnage. My only complaint is that the customary closing title track isn't quite as immortally memorable as 'Mafia' or 'Agony' with their sumptuous gangster vibes.
So it all comes together very nicely then. But could I dig this same album without the 'non-metal' bits, comprised purely of the guitars, drums, bass and growls? Yes. The drumming and growls are beyond reproach, the blast beats astounding and the range of tempos flawlessly implemented. The riffs, informed by the canonical works of Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse and Malevolent Creation, aren't always memorable but are at their least serviceable and at their best excellent, and the passionate solos are great. Granted the riffs aren't as immediate as those on Oracles, nor the guitar sound as clear and serrated, but there is a ton of great guitarwork to be enjoyed here. There is a good deal of more emotional tremolo lines adding to the record's flavour. The downcast guitar lines opening 'Epilogue' need no orchestra or opera to be great. But the way it is all combined really takes it into the stratosphere, into the realm of year-end top tens and enthusiastically bug-eyed recommendation.
Hugely helped by the fact that the metal part is almost as good as Oracles, and the symphonic part is better integrated than ever, Labyrinth is, after much deliberation and several play-throughs of the band's catalogue, my favourite piece yet crafted by Fleshgod Apocalypse.
Fleshgod Apocalypse is a band you either absolutely love, absolutely hate or stand in-between and say "I like everything they did before Agony." If you're in-between, run, run far away! This review is not for you! Or maybe it is, I don't know. I'm just an internet monkey made to entertain. If you hate Fleshgod Apocalypse in general, you'll probably hate this album, but perhaps a bit less than their previous works. Why? Because the production has improved significantly since the sound-mess of Agony. Personally, I loved Agony, but this album seriously makes that one look even inferior than what people who dislike Fleshgod Apocalypse make it out to be.
Well, now that I've started with it, I may as well roll along with starting by talking about the production value on here. The biggest complaint about Agony that I heard over and over and over again is that the drums were way too goddamned loud. I can definitely agree on this. If I could thoroughly describe how much my ears hated me for listening to that extremely over-the-top snare volume, I'd probably end up self-loathing myself for ages. On Labyrinth, the everything is perfectly leveled out. The snare is quiet, but loud enough to hear even the shortest of blast beat. The cymbals are pretty loud for this kind of album, but they mesh in pretty well with the chaos of the orchestrations so manically provided by Cristiano Trionfera and Francesco Ferrini. Every single tom is leveled out perfectly, and unlike in Agony, they actually differ from the sound of the kick drum, which is very good. I'm not totally sure if the "impacts" used around this album (see 3:00 of Minotaur) are taiko drums or just a really loud floor tom hit, but I do know that they shock me to the core when I hear them. The actual drumming itself, though, is just as insane, if not even more disturbingly fast than Agony. I always hear how Francesco Paoli learned drums in a very fast manner after departing from his previous band, Hour of Penance, to join Fleshgod Apocalypse as their dominant hammer-lord. Personal things such as this don't fit well within reviews, though, so I won't keep my jaw-dropped for more than five seconds here before continuing.
I'm going to cover both the guitars and orchestrations here for the reason that they work together as one rather than two seperate entities... And here is where I get a bit apprehensive against those who claim that they "Can't hear anything because of the blasted orchestrations!" in this album. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course. However, if you want people to respect you, you better have some good reasoning with those opinions. Have you heard many other bands who use symphonic elements as a "follow-up" instrument? Of course you have. For example, Emperor, Septic Flesh, Odium, etc may come to mind. By follow-up, I mean that they more-or-less play the same thing as what the guitars play. Do you know what happens, despite most production efforts, when instruments play the same exact note most of the time? Instead of sounding like two individual instruments, they tend to sounds like one mesh. What I'm getting at is if you don't "hear the guitars", then you're most likely not listening right. You can definitely hear that the guitars and orchestrations are there and presume them to be separate entities right? What you're most likely hearing is the "texture" difference. The orchestrations on this album are much more smoother and easier to listen to than the guitars, which have a harsher, more distorted tone. I believe the reason that people have trouble hearing the guitars is because they're tuned to B standard, which is a very low tuning. One of the things I'd like to point out is that when the lead guitar plays notes that aren't the same as the orchestrations, you can CLEARLY hear the difference. This goes the same way around for when Ferrini decides to go all ridiculously technical with his wild piano solos and string section compositions. Coincidence? Illuminati? It's really up to you to decide. After a few listens, I can make out most of the riffs in most of the songs pretty easily. Admitting, there are a few songs that could a little bit less going on to make the guitars much more accessible. I don't find a problem with these songs, due to Fleshgod Apocalypse having a habit of repeating riffs. In case you didn't hear or understand them the first time around, I gathered. The composition of the melodies in this album are pretty similar to what Agony was. The guitars generally follow the orchestrations, with the occasional arpeggio (WHICH YOU CAN HEAR ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY, DAMMIT!) thrown here in there. The melodies are pretty similar to that of Romantic-era classical music from Italy. Not to get too in depth with it because I'm not exactly qualified to talk much about that era of music, but if you fancy the works of Gaetano Donizetti, Niccolò Paganini as well as others, you may want to check this album out for it's Romantic-worship melodies.
Wait, what? You can actually HEAR the bass guitar on this album? You better believe it. I don't think these men were lying about this album being their "best production yet." The bass guitar basically follows the guitars, who in turn follow the orchestrations. It all flows well, like a weird Italian Human Centipede that somehow also yells out opera every once in a while. While the bass guitar does minimal work on terms of technicality, it's still a very important part of the album as a whole. It gives it the "meat" that it needs to have a professional, full sound. The bass has two jobs in this album, the way I see it. The first one is keeping you "on the ground" during those orchestration interludes, just so you don't forget where you are for a split second. The second job it has is drawing out the lower notes of what the guitars play. It's a simple trick that almost every band does, but it works wonders on this particular album. It's like a sweet elixir that coaxes out the deepest note-reaches of the album. I'm quite positively convinced that a lot of parts of this album would just sound like drum-and-noise without the bass guitar being at the exact level of volume as it is right now.
A friend of mine on Facebook once said "I love Fleshgod Apocalypse, but every time that bassist tries to do his out-of-pitch high vocals, I want to stab his throat." Well. I believe this problem (if you believe it to be one) is all but fixed here, so feel free to sheathe your blades. I believe this vocal styles of Paolo Rossi CAN be a bit strained, but the good news is that they're pretty minimal/in the background of this album. Most of the passages that would be predicted to be featured in Agony are more or less replaced with the operatic vocals of Veronica Bordacchini.
And man, can she fucking wail. It's almost eerie at times to hear this kind of banshee screaming chaotic vocals over something that's already nearly over-the-top chaotic. I believe it to be a good thing, as they mainly used her in the most "intense" moments of songs. The outro of "Kingborn" is a great example of this. Bordacchini is definitely not young, nor is she totally what I would consider beautiful, but her voice has the look and feel of an Italian babe that everyone wants. Although she is frequently used throughout the album, her appearance is pretty limited within the passages. Which is yet another good call. I think her wailing would seriously get on my nerves if it went on for more than thirty seconds. The harsh vocals provided by Cristiano Trionfera have always been a weak spot of Fleshgod Apocalypse for me, personally, and unfortunately, it doesn't cease here. Mid-pitched growls don't usually do it for me in this low-tuned of death metal, and I don't think it ever will. It's a real shame, too, because the lyrics are brilliant. I just wish I felt like a disgustingly huge Minotaur was yelling them at me instead of someone who seems to have smoked/drank too much in his lifetime.
Fleshgod Apocalypse is either a band you love or hate. It's just how it goes. What I can't exactly relate to, though, is how the same people who proclaimed Agony to be a genius album call this album totally boring/shit. It's MILES ahead of Agony, and I mean MILES. Everything from production to constructing new and original material, I'll repeat it; It's MILES ahead of Agony. While bringing new material, and living up to their promises of great production at the same time, Fleshgod Apocalypse are definitely at their pinnacle with this album. There are few faults that I see with it, such as the vocal style of Trionfera, but the fact that I can listen to this album with an orca-sized headache and still enjoy it tells me that it's definitely nothing short of an almost-perfect album.
Not all men who enter the Labyrinth are lost.
Fleshgod Apocalypse exists for a variety of reasons. One, this Italian metal act remains one of the most popular acts in the very niche genre of symphonic death. Two, Fleshgod Apocalypse serves as a constant reminder that Italy has more metal acts than just Rhapsody of Fire. Three, this band has been created to confuse people that think classical music and metal have anything to do with each other even more. No, Vivaldi was not metal before metal existed. Put down the vaporizer and look into my eyes.
Since 2009, Fleshgod Apocalypse has made an impressive impression upon the metal landscape with their near unique brand of calligraphic death metal. Imagine if every other death metal was chicken scratch written with crayon on a table cloth and Fleshgod Apocalypse was flourished script in fine ink on artisan parchment. That is right, elegant, fancy, and just as hard to read. Though their 2009 release, Oracles, was a success it was not until their 2010 release Agony with the music video for “The Violation” that the proverbial party got into full swing. At this moment in our timeline, the party has kicked into its peak and guests are starting to throw things through the windows.
Labyrinth is the third proper full length album from Fleshgod Apocalypse and follows the band’s obsession with themes and concepts. While Agony had a very nice naming convention with their songs, Labyrinth pulls out all the stops and presents a record about the Greek maze myth. Yes, this the Labyrinth at Knossos where the myth with the Minotaur originated. Yes, there will be horns at one point in this record. Yes, we are all wearing togas. It is this dedication to concept that makes Fleshgod Apocalypse somewhat charming as well as somewhat convoluted.
Labyrinth follows in the tradition of Agony by filling the space with as many things as it can, all at once. While the choir sings in the front, I want the string section in the back and the three other types of vocals over here, and right in the center I want the relentless drums. Upon initial listening, the whole formula feels flushed with seemingly needless material. True, I guess this whole complexity sort of fits into the maze concept but my head is starting to swirl. Labyrinth lacks the clarity heard in Agony and that seems to be one of the largest criticisms attached to this record. The music literally assaults the listener with clubs and does not stop until they have finished. At times, I was ready to give up on Fleshgod Apocalypse, and the possibly of symphonic death, then I sort of got it.
I did not “get” Labyrinth until the very end, particularity with everything that came after midway through the record. From the very excellent “Fall of Asterion,” to the piano closer, which also serves as the title track, the back half of Labyrinth offers much more reasonable compositions than whatever dominates the front. The frenetic technical style that is rooted in the band’s history is exquisite in “Under Black Sails” and the assault and quiet template works with the combination of “Prologue” and “Epilogue.” It is not until the second half that clarity, in which things make sense, really puts the first half in context. If you can, listen to this record backwards.
Fleshgod Apocalypse has a style that works very well. Not wanting to subtly dance around anything, the band is very good as unleashing everything at once. Some of the first half material, especially “Elegy,” is a blinding whirlwind of drums, operatic screams, and growling vocals. It works very well. Though I may be blurry eyed afterwards and slightly nauseous, the template of “pull all of the levers at once” is effective when reasoned and processed correctly. Though everything may just sound like needless noise at the beginning, there is structure in it, and with some exceptions and the right type of umbrella, it all works sort of well with each other.
Labyrinth has its successes, though it lacks the immediate surprise that hallmarked Agony. There are few that will be surprised who have heard Fleshgod Apocalypse before. With that being said, Labyrinth is a decent enough record for the Fall. Despite the first half being an avalanche and some chunky guitar riffs in “Minotaur,” the record matures with time and finishes stronger than it began. Hell, even writing this review I started to enjoy it more. I mean, I need to take some Ibuprofen right now but I am still enjoying myself. Just give me a moment, I just need to lay down in this quiet room for a bit.
[ Kaptain Carbon ]
Originally Written for Hollywood Metal
Personally, I created a lot of expectations for this new Fleshgod Apocalypse effort, mainly because I think the previous one, Agony, is a true classic of modern death metal.
But not even nearly Labyrinth can tackle its majestic predecessor. The album follows obviously the same musical structure of Agony, but this time the exaggerated mixture of growling vocals, guitars, drums at the speed of light, clean vocals, operatic vocals, pianos and many, many symphonies, made Labyrinth something difficult to understand. Throughout the album, the sounds just come and go in no particular order. Of course this was never a prerequisite for a death metal album, but in this case, there are dozens of different sounds to be assimilated by the listener at the same time at a very fast speed. It makes the music easily forgettable.
Nevertheless, something that shows new is the theme used by the band, addressing the Greek mythology in the compositions. It's really remarkable the effort of Fleshgod Apocalypse in making Labyrinth absolutely epic, inserting passages with ambient sounds of battles and mythological characters. The big problem is that this goal ends up getting lost throughout the album, due to passages with unstructured riffs and without much connection with the operatic parts covering them. At least this time (and this is a huge improvement over Agony) one can distinguish the sound of guitars amid the mix of other instruments, for which his predecessor was heavily criticized. Moreover, the presence of female operatic vocals (which appeared a few times in Agony) is constant on much of the songs, but it ends up confusing the listener, because they just do not seem to belong to the climate of the music and are not absolutely good to hear (try Towards the Sun).
Individually, we must again highlight the brilliant work of Francesco Paoli on drums. Fast, accurate, the sound of their harrowing blast-beats is one of the great advantages of Fleshgod Apocalypse. However, amid the chaos caused by the other band members, often the sound of the battery just seems to fill the void that separates the riffs and the symphonies. Tommaso Riccardi’s guttural vocals did not change, appearing in Labyrinth even a little less potent. The guitars do not have much to present, they’re just a constant tremolo picking and stand out basically when the tempo drops slightly, or in the creative guitar solos, that I always thought are one of the strengths of Fleshgod Apocalypse. These are melodic and rhythmical and give time to the ears of the listener to rest a bit. Obviously we cannot forget Paolo Rossi’s clean vocals, who were widely worshiped in Agony. Sincerely, in Labyrinth they most seem one unsuccessful attempt to achieve a serious tone like the legend King Diamond or some Helloween-based stuff.
Labyrinth was designed with a great responsibility which was to be the successor of a masterpiece, Agony, but I believe that even the most ardent fans of the band will not endure to hear it often. Fleshgod Apocalypse failed deeply thinking that the same formula squared, cubed, to the thousandth power, would generate a result proportionally better. What happened was that the chaotic sound that the band advocated became a meaningless noise of about one hour.
Originally posted in opusoculto.blogspot.com.br
Symphonic death metal seems to be the big underground movement over the past 5 years. If you search for pure symphonic death metal LPs and EPs by year, up until 2007 the most you would ever see is 6 releases a year. Come 2008, 17 Lps/EPs were released. That is more than double in a year. Last year alone had 22 releases, and they are slowly but steadily on the rise. Symphonic death metal seems to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, Fleshgod Apocalypse's latest “Opus” is just another swagger of their symphonic death metal penis. They are too drunk to notice that their cock pales in comparison to just about every other band's. That and they haven't washed it in a couple days.
Probably one of the talked about parts of FA is the drums. They are fast, heavy hitting if a little loud, but hey....and totally fall in the mix. When I can make a full discernment of them, I like them.
The guitars do have a small hearken back to Oracles. Some guitar parts like the ones in “Pathfinder” do call back to better times. Besides that you get a couple wanky bits for a half second in a couple songs. But in all truth, the most noticeable part of the guitars are the solos. Not in a “Hey, these solos ROCK!” type of way. It is more like “didn't I hear this in Agony?” I'm pretty sure you could swap solos between Labyinth and Agony and not notice at all. They follow the same type of melody, pattern and note choice. The only solo I got enjoyment was from “The Fall of Asterion” as it sounded out of place. But besides that, the guitars blend badly with the keyboards. Same with the bass, so much so that they only get one sentence of mention. I felt like copying the album in barely mentioning them.
Tommaso Riccardi's vocals are fine. They are your typical modern death metal vocals. Sometimes you can hear the lyrics, sometimes you can't. Thankfully, you can hear the lyrics in his death metal vocals.... It is his spoken vocals you have to look out for. The songs “Minotaur”, “Pathfinder” and “Toward the Sun” have laughably bad spoken word parts that you can't understand at all. More so the former two of the three songs. The latter isn't that extremely bad with their spoken word part, but it is still pretty laughable.
When FA played Summer Slaughter, before the release of Agony, they had four songs that were a little more notable due to the clean vocals. “Thru our scars”, “Conspiracy of Silence”, “The Violation”, and “The Egoism”. I was pretty gung-ho. Sure, they weren't that good. But they came out of nowhere and for me, had an good effect. To put a long story short. When played live. The clean vocals SUCKED ASS and after having a clean vocal part in essentially every song of Agony, I got tired of them. I think everyone else got tired of the gimmick also. I think the band learned their lesson on this one. For the bassist's high pitched vocals stay in the background. Just wailing along at certain parts. They range on either bad (Under Black Sails) to horrible (Kingborn)
And speaking of gimmick. Remember the opera vocal in “The Egoism”? I thought that part was fucking badass. Unfortunately FA though so also and felt like cashing in on it. For Labyrinth, they switch the bassist's clean vocals with opera vocals. Boy, they wore out their welcome fast. In Agony, they were in the first track and “The Egoism”. In Labyrinth, they are in “Kingborn”, “Toward the Sun”, “Warpath”, “Epilogue”, and “Labyrinth”. The difference is 2:5. She in half of the songs and she doesn't even sound good. At the most, she is passable. But then she tries to hit the high note and fails miserably (Towards the Sun). Backtracking a sentence. Yes, I did say she is on the song “Labyrinth”. The opera vocals are in the piano solo that graces the end of every FA album. Not only that, the symphonics are in it also.
Fuck you Fleshgod Apocalypse.
Oh, and the Symphonics? They sound like shit. I'm pretty sure they were all put into one track with no equalizer. To their credit, they sound upgraded. But this type of upgrade is the equivalent of adding a bigger stock to a Raging Bull. The keyboardist tries to fire it off, but his arms are weak so instead of being a crack shot, he instead succumbs to the recoil and messily butchers the target. Only now, he can shoot a couple extra shots. Either that or he heard the orchestra build in “A Day of a life” by The Beatles and thought. “I CAN USE THIS”. Oh, and there is a cello solo in Epilogue. It was done on a keyboard. It sounds like shit.
Of course, the biggest thing griped about in Fleshgod Apocalypse's Agony was the horrible mixing. The keyboard symphonics buried everything, the drum kicks became indistinguishable from the guitar chugging, ect. You shall be happy to learn the mixing sounds better, you can actually hear guitars in the mix. Unfortunately, that isn't a good thing. Not a good thing at all. Since Labyrinth has upgraded keyboards, more goes on in the background. That would be good if you couldn't hear the guitars at all. Instead, it becomes another instrument that blends in with everything else, fighting to be the dominant flavour. One example is “Toward the Sun”. The intro is such a mess it is rendered unlistenable. I love “Wall of Sound” productions. This is...well...a labyrinth. I feel exactly like Theseus. Only problem. My thread was replaced by string cheese.
Now, I was going to elaborate on some of the good parts of the album. Like the fact the opera vocals in “Warpath” aren't half bad, the mixing get's better from “Pathfinder” onward and that “Prologue” is a nice intro-filler. But I'm still at a loss on why they had to add the keyboard orchestra and the opera vocals in the final track. With so much flavor in each album the piano piece at the end acts like a palette cleanser. I still have the bad taste in my mouth.
Perhaps it's just old age catching up with me, but I think it telling that Fleshgod Apocalypse's substantial third full-length album Labyrinth gave me a headache within about 10 minutes of the grandiose intro to "Kingborn". Funny enough, so did their last album. A few Tylenol later, I was armed and ready to return, and after giving this more of a chance, I found that I could appreciate it ever so slightly more than Agony. While they are still insistent on performing this symphonic re-branding of their debut Oracles (good stuff), I felt like at least this time they did a superior job of mixing the synthesizers in with the rhythm guitars, and created a greater depth of maniacal Mozartsian brutality. That's not to say that this is a step up or a step down in terms of songwriting, or not even remotely as unique as some will make it out to be, but as more or less a hybrid of Sigh's Hangman's Hymn, Septic Flesh's last three records, and Death Cult Armageddon-era Dimmu Borgir, it's at least functional.
The problem is, like with the last album, that a lot of focus here is on playing as quickly and intensely as possible with no regards to catchy rhythm guitars or truly brilliant dynamic shifts, and that's why it retains a sense of 'faux orchestration', like someone fast-forwarding an old black & white artillery march set to Wagner in an incessant loop of crescendo. Exciting in small chunks, but exhausting and uninteresting in the longer run. Probably a good eight of ten riffs, and about half the keyboards immediately depart the memory after entering, and so the listener is generally left to stand 'blown away' by the speed of the drumming and the spastic, spasming energy of the colliding and contrasted choirs and 'strings' flying around everywhere. But I wont' fault Fleshgod Apocalypse for not trying here. This isn't just a straight blasting migraine, they actually do embed the 54 minute track list with some versatility. There are a few 'breathers' among them, like the acoustic "Prologue" and the dramatic piano finale "Labyrinth", but I do wish they had come a little earlier in the run time. They also divvy up the importance of the orchestration and methodic guitar picking here, so while "Warpledge" might rely very heavily on the girly operatic screams and choirs over its raging substrata of kick drums, other tunes have plenty of surgical riffing harmonies.
But the intensity is a constant, and often a nuisance. We don't really feel like we're being allowed to travel on this journey of splendor and terror through Greek mythology, but rather, we're being kicked along, like by a cadre of annoying, bullying, brutal death metal ushers in a theater. 'You done with that popcorn yet?' 'Let me have those candy wrappers.' 'Shut up and LISTEN to the fuckin' choirs!' 'No making out in the theater!' 'This is the good part, now move along, nothing more to see here.' Any time I think they're on to some tasty flight of strings or pianos, or a delicious riff pops up through the surging bombardment, it's gone in a flash and I find it irrevocably frustrating. I won't doubt that many hours went into sharpening Labyrinth, crafting the densest and busiest recording imaginable, but when at the end of the day it sounds like Dethklok paying homage to Virgin Steele, I can't really give credence to this pushing the boundaries of 'extremity' like so many fans of Agony decried. And I'm not saying that as some crusty vest-metal advocate who defies everything that sounds like it came out after 1993 because it doesn't fit into my carefully-cultivated self image; I enjoy quite a lot of modern, triggered clinical tech death and always will. This has all been done: Fleshgod is simply filling in what few blanks remained in the phrasing, with symphonic overkill.
So, what DID I like about Labyrinth? Well, for one, considering just how fucking much is happening here, I was impressed that I could make out almost all of the details. Francesco Paoli, as usual, is a goddamned bull. Don't get me wrong, he's a 'mechanical bull', inhuman, and very likely to side with Skynet once our robotic overlords come to prominence, but if I were to watch this guy perform I'd have to untangle my jaw from my shoelaces. Meticulous, brickwork blasting and untiring kicks everywhere, I just don't see drummers going further than this without cybernetic implants. That's not to say the beats are interesting, they're really just setting the pace for the sum shitstorm of Labyrinth's components, but that he's incredibly driven and talented is impossible to deny. The soaring lead harmonies, where they appear, are also like a spike of sunshine parting the turbulent storm-clouds of orchestrated excess, rays of 'class' amongst the barrage of cheese. The screaming, wannabe King Diamond vocals here are consistently irritating, but hey, at least they try and break up the monotony of stock growls that, while loud, are nothing all that special. The bass lines are probably sick, but they blend in too well against the rhythm guitars and I often lose them altogether...
Ugh. I wanted to like this so much more than I did. Labyrinth might not be the most unique choice of Greek mythological concepts, but I think the lyrics are handled with some passion and knowledge of the subject matter. Minos, Daedelus, Icarus, they're quite thorough with this little subsection of the lore, even throwing in a reference to Procrustes the Stretcher. Not to mention, the title alone seems to gel well with Fleshgod Apocalypse's style, because there's much to traverse and pick apart here, even if most of the riffing ideas wind up at dead ends like Asterion's maze. 54 minutes is quite long here, and the flow of the record would have been bettered served with a piece like "Labyrinth" earlier in the roster, but then, this is not something I'm going to find myself listening to in its entirety very often (if ever). 1-2 tracks I can stomach, but even then there are few which really deserve the attention. Despite the sheer magnitude of the Italians' efforts and capabilities, I always had the feeling I was headed somewhere but never arriving. I guess that's the point of a 'labyrinth', to trap the aspirant into a sense of claustrophobic, unending dread, but unfortunately there's no aural ball of string, no Theseus to give us the comeuppance, the payoff all this chugging, banging and sweeping calamity deserves.