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The finest death metal opera - 98%

HeavenDuff, October 4th, 2013
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Candlelight Records

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...