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Before I started to write this review, I was just reading some of the ones left by other users for the newest album, Labyrinth and I felt the need to also re-read some of the ones for Agony, to finally go back to what I originally wrote for their second full-length. The mixed opinions on the discography of Fleshgod Apocalypse and the release of the album Labyrinth served as that little push in the back I needed to finally do this review that I’ve wanted to do for quite a while.
I just now realize how much of my short career as a reviewer I’ve spent writing about Fleshgod Apocalypse. And that is because this band is fascinating not only because these guys, especially Paolo Rossi and Francescon Paoli (just listen to their work with their previous band Tyrannic Ethical Reconstruction, it’s great!) managed to play some of the most inspired death metal I’ve heard in a long time with the album Oracles, but also because ever since their Mafia EP came out, it just looks like they can’t seem to decide where they want to go with this band. I don’t see anything wrong with experimentation and exploration, but what Fleshgod Apocalypse did after Oracles with Agony and Labyrinth isn’t exactly “exploration”. To me, it just feels like they are walking around blindfolded in a vast dark room.
Now I feel that the previous review I wrote for the album Agony was not only a statement as to how everything went to hell with this unbelievably disappointing album, but it was also a way to praise Oracles. And now, I feel that I have to complete the circle and explain exactly why Oracles is amazing, especially compared to their most recent efforts.
Oracles is real, authentic, thought-out, brutal and symphonic at the same time. On their first opus, Fleshgod Apocalypse manages to play symphonic death metal, while keeping the focus on the death metal roots of their music, which isn’t something that most bands who attempt to do end up achieving. The symphonic elements on Oracles aren’t taking the spotlight like on Agony, they are well-incorporated into the music and usually, it’s the guitar’s role to add this symphonic or even classical touch to the death metal assault that this album has to offer. And that’s the key. The classical elements on the tracks are found within the guitar riffing. What we have here is a duo of two guitarists working together in the good ol’death metal fashion: One is providing rhythm guitars and alongside him, you have the lead guitarist throwing in melodies and leads I could almost believe to be borrowed from Mozart, Wagner or Dvořák themselves.
The key element is right there, in the guitars! Not in some lame plastic orchestration. Oracles has ambition! What this album is all about, is four guys (And I can’t believe they didn’t hand out a ten-year contract to the drummer Mauro Mercurio after they recorded this album.) playing massive, symphonic, brutal, thick and abrasive death metal in a new and fresh way. Fleshgod Apocalypse managed to sound larger than life with just a few musicians giving us their take on what classical music could bring to death metal. And they did that rather well!
A track-by-track review would be unnecessary. I don’t feel this album to have any weak link. The bass provides the thickness and low sound needed to sustain the impressive guitar duo. The vocals are typical but well-executed death growls, with occasional rasped vocals (sometimes layered) and the presence of clean female vocals on In Honour Of Reason. The drumming throws a wall-of-sound at us, but every bit, every fill, every bridge section was written to follow what is going on with the guitars at the same moment. I can easily recognize the track by listening just to the drummer rehearsing.
Every single track on Oracles is packed with amazing riffs and drumming, it makes it quite hard to choose a favorite one. If I really had to, I think my choice would have to be Retrieving My Carcass, but that’s only because Infection of the White Throne sets the tone for it and finishes on a sample of what I assume to be monks chanting in a monastery, that makes it even better when the fast-paced aggression of Retrieving My Carcass kicks in. Having the self-titled piano track as the closing-piece of this album makes us feel like the curtains are falling down in front of us on the stage where was just played the greatest death metal opera.
Oracles stand alone as the best Fleshgod Apocalypse album released to this date and also as a pioneer and a milestone for modern death metal. It gathers together everything this band needs to regain to be able to write amazing material again. Let’s just hope that their little blindfolded stroll won’t last too long...
For me, death metal is and likely always has been something that I'll either really like, or not care for. Much of it finds its technical brilliance marred by poor recording values, or a lack of tact when it comes to songwriting. Enter Fleshgod Apocalypse, a band that has stirred the death metal circle with only a single studio album and EP on the market, disregarding demos. I first came across this band with their 2010 EP 'Mafia', and was pleasantly blown away by the technical ferocity and heaviness of the band. On top of that, I immediately recongized their connection to erudite classical music, which only set them further apart from the legions of typical death metal acts. Seeking out the full length, I have not been disappointed. 'Oracles' is a vicious forty minutes of death metal that seeks to impress. Apparently, it succeeds to a fair extent.
My first impression of the record is that of extreme heaviness, surprisingly clean production, and the evidence of classical sections which really seek to add a level of regal class to what Fleshgod Apocalypse does. While there is not the same melodic proficiency as I first heard on 'Mafia', the classical parts really impress me; the arrangements do not quite sound as if they are performed by a live orchestra, but they are close enough to do the compositions justice. In the death metal elements themselves, there are also plenty of neoclassical riffs, played at rapid pace, to the point where they can get exhausting by the end.
The most powerful aspect of Fleshgod Apocalypse is tied between the rhythm guitar and the furious drumwork, courtesy here of Mauro Mercurio. The band has just a powerful ability to make the heavy sound beautiful as well, but unfortunately 'Oracles' still does not stand as a masterpiece in my eyes. This is greatly due to the songwriting itself, which is strong enough for death metal, but many of the songs feature little to no distinguishing traits, apart from the classical nuance here and there. In fact, the greatest impression left by any single track is the title song, which is ironically a classical piano piece.
Fleshgod Apocalypse would later go on to polish up their act even further, but there's no surprise to me when I hear metalheads speaking so highly of the album. With a little greater focus within each song, the band's next full length could be a real landmark for death metal.
When it comes to hyperspeed death metal, I've always been really picky-choosy about which bands I praised as awesome and which I condemned as pointless noodlers. I think Origin is great fun, but Brain Drill is so insane that its hypothetical brain has actually begun to deteriorate. This type of brutal technical melodic reversible what-have-you death metal walks a very fine line in terms of quality. When it spends too much time focusing on being brutal, it has a habit of sounding like one of the squintillion Suffocation clones, and when it takes a more precise approach, it carries a blinding sheen that totally overpowers the grit that is so important in the first half of death metal. The mushroom stomping plumbers in Fleshgod Apocalypse have found the line and straddled it beautifully (not much unlike your mom). If you want a visual representation of Oracles, think of the censored (but far superior) album art for the legendary Severed Survival by Autopsy. Make no mistake, this shit is brutal and dirty, yet also surgical and calculated. It's frenzied as much as it is barbaric and as precise as it is gritty. These motherfuckers got chocolate in my peanut butter, and god dammit I love them for it.
Like most brutal tech death albums, the experience runs for less than 40 minutes, but this is slightly disheartening in this case since the music is so damn superb. A lot of albums in this style have a nasty tendency of having one idea and stretching it out for the duration of the release, but Fleshgod has managed to take their one idea, hack it into nine little pieces, paint each piece a different color, and then intermittently sprinkle in a totally different idea along with it. What I mean is that every track is fast, intense, and filled with enough guitar theatrics to warrant an investment in fretboard pyrotechnics technology, but each track stands out as it's own entity as opposed to one faceless blur of minigun-esque percussion and more sweeps than Mickey Mouse could ever command. Take this profound songwriting talent and combine it with classical passages tastefully placed throughout and you've got yourself one of the very few song oriented brutal tech death albums. I won't lie to you and say this is as blatantly varied as, say Beyond the Permafrost, but it's more like one of Rhapsody's finer moments. Every track follows the same basic idea (in this case, warp speed brutality and finesse) but they all kick insurmountable ass. There are a few parts like the chugging section in "Infection of the White Throne" and downtempo segments in "Requiem in SI Minore" that deviate from the cast somewhat, but on the whole you know what you'll be getting once the album starts.
That said, these noble Romans were kind enough to give we, the listeners, a chance to gather ourselves a few times during the album. The classical sections come and go tastefully a handful of times throughout the album and offer a pleasant breather between the metallic madness that otherwise saturates the record. Be it the maniacal piano intro to the album's highlight, "Embodied Deception" or the purely grand piano outro of the title track, not one second of Oracles is wasted, even during these breathers. "In Honour of Reason" even manages to mix some female vocals alongside the totally masculine bellows of the lead vocalist. The juxtaposition of beauty and bowel evacuating horror is constantly explored, and can make one ponder about the dual nature of human existence. Is there truly beauty in ugly? Is there really a selfless good deed? One could ask if this is actually one of the most sophisticated, complex, and intelligent metal recordings of all time. One could ask this if they weren't too busy punching the snooty types who ask these questions in the face thanks to the sheer power of this album.
Fans of Hour of Penance and the like will eat this up, and with damn good reason. There is some member sharing between Fleshgod Apocalypse and the aforementioned group, and it's evident in the sense that both bands manage to stand out in the flooding scene of technical death metal. I'll end this review with a true story that should hopefully help you, the reader, understand the all consuming fury contained within. A while ago, I was listening to this album whilst dicking around on the internet. Three minutes into "As Tyrants Fall", my girlfriend walked into the room. Her eyes lit up at the pleasant ensemble emanating from my speakers, so she pulled me out of my chair and begged me to dance with her. Reluctantly, I obliged. We waltzed in the computer room for just under a minute before the track changed and the waltz abruptly shifted into furious blasting death metal madness. Instinctively, I headbutt my dear girlfriend in the face hard enough to break her nose and give me a nasty headache. Consumed by the music, I then dropkicked her dog and punched a hole through a nearby wall. I was only recently released from prison.
Translation: "This slays, buy the hell out of it"
This is Fleshgod Apocalypse’s first LP after a demo and a split out, and by the time I was chuckling at their name, I had already been intrigued by the talks going on the internet about the Italian band gathering together the brutality of death metal and the artistic splendor of classical symphonies, but little had I imagined that it would be something entirely different from sounding like another Lykathea Aflame (which I haven’t been able to dig into easily in months).
The first 30 seconds or so had slightly treated me a wtf! – a pile of guitars had provided me the metalcore/groove metal sensation, and I was starting thinking of some Beneath the Massacre technical DM already, and the altered state gave me some grindcorish impression (fuck me for this one – I was really thinking of Misery Index when the second riff was introduced). And suddenly, what I was offered was something totally different I could envisage from the band’s freaky name and the gay 30 seconds – the skull-crushing death metal, technical in a mean that it was straight-forward in the speed of X-43. Vicious riffs, splendid skin slamming and all sorts of spices thrown in, every vile ingredient to make one splendid DM album, and the technical aspect is just brilliantly managed to keep it simplistic and adorable. For being a technical death metal, they are more into the Hate Eternal / Nile wall than Necrophagist or Decrepit Birth’s.
There’s no reinventing of wheel in the bars of death metal, but it sure is quite different and genuinely original. The songwriting is of top-notch excellence (but which of course varies in at couple of times), where the guitars are brutal and moderately melodic at the same time. The mixture of some catchy and some complex segments and a whole lot of epic feel lurking around – well, they are the Roman Behemoth for that matter ;-)
Now the keyboards. The instrument on the whole hasn’t made it any cheesy, it’s just there to form a separate part in itself, and I cannot applause less on how well these parts have fit in amid the viciousness of the infernal death metal, while the nay-sayers of keys in brutal DM could also be convinced here, because this thing is only plaguing once in a while. “As Tyrants Fall” ends with a very sweet classical piece. The ending self-titled is another fine one.
All in all, this is a very bold display the Italian band has put front. It’s brutal, at the same time epic, it’s technical, it’s got the ferocity, and it may make you think for a while that Necrofaggot are really pussies if you’re counting a technical extreme music with brutality and which isn’t an inch farther from the point it’s not headbang worthy. A must have for all metalheads, whether or not you’re into death metal. Period.
Well, frankly, I haven't been bumping into a lot of excellent brutal death metal albums this year, I don't know whether it is because 2009 hasn't really come up with much excellent brutal death metal or it was me who didn't search well; nothing was -or almost- flawless... Stuff like Putrefy's ‘One Nation Under’ Gore and Devourment's ‘Unleash The Carnivore’ wasn't really that good and was rather far from my conception of good brutal death metal. But once I came across Fleshgod Apocalypse's Oracles I had to stop for a while, a really long while. Since I'm a die hard Hour Of Penance fan, Fleshgod Apocalypse was easily and quickly labeled "My cup of tea" being principally too close to HOP and as well featuring two HOP members: the great Francesco Paoli on Vocals, Drums and Guitars and Mauro Mercurio as a session drummer.
The band does employ a lot of mindblowing brutal death metal elements; riffs are fast, drumming is insane, rhythm and lead guitars are inhumanly consistent, bass is nicely audible, the harmony as a whole is definitely extraterrestrial; you can barely criticize a single moment on the album or think about how partially better could it be.
Starting from the beginning, the first track of the album: "In Honour Of Reason" appeared too gay to me until the second 30; the first thirty seconds of the track reminded me hardly of gay metalcore music that I was seriously thinking of leaving this crap and playing some other real music since I'm allergic to metalcore and all alike stuff. But after the second 30, when the second riff in the track came along with the chaotic blasting and later the aggressive death metal vocals it really got into me and I thought: "Oh yeah, I love this band!" and I begun to realize the apparent similarity between Fleshgod Apocalypse and Hour Of Penance.
The all along infernal blasting backing the fast catchy riffs which their transition does not (not much at least) affect the run of the blasting is one of the things which define fine brutal death metal and which as well is applied professionally by Hour Of Penance and now Fleshgod Apocalypse have come to follow along with the basic and fundamental conditions that help produce a good brutal death metal album. In addition, Fleshgod Apocalypse did persist on astonishing me by marvelously enhancing their record with some magnificent Orchestral/Symphonic/Classical soundbites along with beautiful choruses and piano solos which have softly and moderately added an ancient Roman atmosphere into the core of the blasphemous violent evil sound to end up with an ineffable superb harmony adding a new dimension to the art of brutal death metal. This was distinctly manifested in the last third of the first track in the album "In Honour of Reason" when the female chorus came to craftily flourish the extreme brutal sound to end up the track epically. Also the Orchestral soundbite that calmly finished the third track "As Tyrants Fall" sounded mostly like a requiem being played after almost three minutes of total war. The piano solo that started up the seventh track of the album "Embodied Deception" was as well TOO brilliant to be described; it was almost the best opening of a track in the whole album. The eighth track "Infection Of The White Throne" as well ended brilliantly by a dismal Orchestral chorus following the bestial chaotic violence which was the whole track. And after all moments of glory comes the outro and the main track of the album "Oracles" which is nothing more than an elegant, classic, touching and well composed piano solo which longs for about three minutes putting an honorable end to one of the greatest brutal death metal releases to ever exist.
The lyrics are really worth reading carefully; your time won't be wasted while reading those powerful epic lyrics. The album cover is really good, attractive, artistic and consistent. Overall, this is a great valuable record that I highly recommend for hardened death metallers and which I can totally guarantee them; "This will definitely satisfy your needs." I think this record will be remembered afterwards as one the greatest brutal death metal albums ever and as one of the best 2009 releases. And personally, this is really what can easily draw smile on my face... This is true good music. All hail Fleshgod Apocalypse!
The greatest death metal album of this generation.
Immediately the album punches the listener directly in the face with the album opener: In Honour Of Reason. The riffs are top notch, brutal, and the compliment the production with sincere genius. The solo (well, more like an incredibly intricate lead) in this particular song is a mix of emotional wrenching brutality intricately dancing from the fretboard into your ears slicing your cranial sack as is enters the brain and as your body is mercilessly beaten by the underlying riff. Definitely the standout song, and an incredible opener.
If that sounds appealing to you, by all means, read no more and just get the album!
The brutality lets up during the course of the album only for familiar classical tunes that flow in and out periodically leaving you (the listener) a slight break to relax and brace for the next pounding. You may be wondering if they misuse or abuse the classical input in their song writing, FUCK NO, that's for pussies, and these guys are too busy kicking your ass, in an oddly intelligent manner.
The lyrics are a very interesting read. Yes, anti-religious as you would expect by a band under the moniker, Fleshgod Apocalypse, but do range from the thought provoking ,(i.e. "Paradox of entropy of failing reign of clay") to even pretty catchy as in the chorus in Infection Of The White Throne.
A truly impressive monster of an album; Oracles is absolutely invincible. These really are an incredibly talented group of guys who put out a debut that will reshape brutality in the modern sense forever. Fearing that they might not ever be able to touch the immensity of this album with forthcoming efforts, I say: Bask in this release all that you can. Get the word out, buy this album, buy your friends this album, and tell your children about them. A new world order, is in order.
Ever since I first heard of Fleshgod Apocalypse, I was basically hooked. As their MySpace page was up, and “In Honour Of Reason” started blaring through my cheap headphones, I knew I was going to like this album. After releasing their debut album Oracles, Fleshgod Apocalypse have squirmed their way to the top with ease, which is in no doubt due to the fact that they’re signed with a healthy label Willowtip Records, and that some of the members are also in Italy’s other brutal band Hour Of Penance.
Speaking of that band, you will find similarities between their latest offering The Vile Conception and this one. Of course, the vocal departments of both albums are bellowed by the same person, but besides that, the brutal riffs, the relentless pounding of the drums, and the overall heavy production sound remarkably alike. I haven’t checked, but I would assume that the production job was handled by the exact same person. If so, it shows. But it’s the smaller disparities that set Oracles apart, and actually, drives it ahead.
Unlike The Vile Conception, there are several songs here that have a good balance of brutal and melodic riffing. Some of these may not be distinguished at first, but repeated listens to some of the songs, in particular “Requiem In SJ Minore,” with it’s slower beginning and conclusion, will reveal the hidden melodies, driven by the backing guitars. The drumming still delivers its brutality with double kicks and speed, but the guitars contradict that with purpose and finesse. “In Honour Of Reason” includes some subtle melody, most notable during the chorus towards the end of the song, with the growled vocals in tandem with cleans behind it. None of these melodies ever delve into melodic death metal territory, but are just poking out enough to create an extra dimension, which The Vile Conception lacked.
The more obvious use of melody would be the classical interludes used. Upon my first listen, I was disappointed that there were not as many as I had initially hoped, but recurring spins have quashed that dissatisfaction, because now I feel that there are just enough. My favourite would have to be the stringed orchestra closing “As Tyrants Fall,” and segueing into the next track. A small problem with some of these interludes is that they don’t seem to blend correctly with the music; some feel like they’re just sitting there, notably the opera at the end of “Infection Of The White Throne.” Hopefully this can be rectified on future releases.
I’ll be honest, though: The first time I heard the album, I was not exactly thrilled by it. I didn’t pick up on all the melodies and the little things that separated this from The Vile Conception. Little things like the, how do you say, “jumpdafuckup” section in “Infection Of The White Throne,” and the brutal breakdown in “Retrieving My Carcass.” Couple these with what’s found everywhere else, and Fleshgod Apocalypse have made a debut album that could be contender for best death metal album of 2009. The trigger-happy production won’t sit well for some, but for the rest, this is a real treat.
Fleshgod Apocalypse are an explosive technical death metal act from Italy who have wisely chosen to sign with Willowtip for distribution of their first full-length release (Candlelight in EU). This was an excellent decision for all parties because their brand of choppy blasting, swift lead precision and tech stomping will undoubtedly create salivation among the many US fans of tech deathcore (Job for a Cowboy) and brutal death (Cryptopsy, Necrophagist, Suffocation, etc). 'Oracles' is a good album, because despite their obvious ability to create sickening pit grooves or noodle off into arpeggios at any turn, they focus on what's most important to this style: the creation of bewildering, grinding and winding riffs that can hold the attention of the death metal purist through the creation of a caustic and blood pumping environments.
This isn't to say Fleshgod Apocalypse are very original or that 'Oracles' is a masterpiece. It contains a lot of what we expect to hear: mute chugs for moshing, mute to squeal riffs, and average brutal grunts. But their use of chants and classical interludes between the tracks is a nice touch, and they incorporate enough hyper melody into the mix to keep each track interesting. They also focus on occult and philosophic lyrics rather than the all too common gore and perversion. As far as specific tracks, there aren't many that stand out from the remainder. The album is consistent in quality. I might give a specific nod to "Post-Enlightenment Executioner" for its killer song title and really laying the smackdown or "Infection of the White Throne" for the frenetic pace and cavorting melodies, but if you like any one track here you are going to like them all.
'Oracles' sounds fully functional, though the bass is often lost under the punishing chug/blast combo. Drummer/guitarist Francesco Paoli is also a member of Hour of Penance, another good Italian death metal outfit (in particular for 'The Vile Conception') and he excels behind the kit. There is a high caliber of talent in all of the musicians, and I'd easily recommend this album to fans of Severed Savior or The Faceless who have both recently released great tech death.
If Hour Of Penance, Rome’s favourite brutality-loving sons, have been happily tearing scraps out of the book on mixing the most extreme forms of coruscating death metal with orchestral compositions and fanciful embellishments, then their sister band Fleshgod Apocalypse seem to have gone several steps better and are by this point shredding the volume to tattered slivers, absorbing any and all ideas the tome may conceal and throwing them into their own work with borderline gleeful abandon.
That’s the first aspect of ‘Oracles’ that strikes the eardrums, even on first listen. There is a certain sense of ‘abandon’ here; an undeniable feel of enormous energy and unbounded enthusiasm that stand out from its peers. While all too many technically proficient death metal albums fall prey to sounding phoned in, as though the artists have spent more time working through every fanciful note sequence possible for the sake of it, rather than play with any sense of bright-eyed passion. On ‘Oracles’ the band never once lose that fire in the belly and that twisted love for the brutal that motivates all the best death metal – that they manage to marry all this with the perhaps more po-faced elements of their classical inspirations so seamlessly makes the album an absolute stormer to listen to, each and every time.
While the record has all the myriad of chord progressions needed to stimulate the tech-heads (‘Sophistic Demise’ will blown thy brains out thy arse), and is imbued with enough pummelling, relentless riffage (delivered through a full-bodied, crunching tone, most notably on ‘Post Enlightenment Executor’) to more than satiate the thirst of those out for more brutal fare, ‘Oracles’ carries itself with an air that could also be described as regal. While there are moments where the band simply source straightforwardly orchestrated pieces to open and close their material (an idea used with surprising success on ‘As Tyrants Fall’), they weave the grandiosity of classical compositions more fluidly into the material.
The subtle layering on the lead vocals, tasteful use of feminine backing vocal tracks, and the galloping, soaring quality of the riffs all combine with the more overt influences in their sound to give the songs an epic feeling that is far more understated, and by degrees far more individual and unique, than the usual overly bombastic fare dominating classically influenced metal these days.
That the players here are more than able to match up to the ambitions of their songwriting – Francesco Paoli delivers an astoundingly powerful performance, pummelling seven shades of shit out of his kit whilst Christiano Trionfera must surely have been bleeding all over his strings after playing at these speeds – certainly makes the experience all the more enjoyable.
While Fleshgod Apocalypse’s approach will hardly tick everyone’s boxes, bearing a few too many similarities to modern-day Behemoth for many a metalhead’s comfort and a seeming inability to ever slow down until a song’s conclusion, this is nowhere near enough to tar a record of consistent quality, zealous gusto and brazen adventurousness.
Surpassing all the members various other concerns (even the primary ones such as Hour of Penance and Eyeconoclast) by a country mile, ‘Oracles’ is an easy contender for the title of top death metal album of 2009. Not a bad way to kick off the running, eh?