02. The Hypocrisy
03. The Imposition
04. The Deceit
05. The Violation
06. The Egoism
07. The Betrayal
08. The Forsaking
09. The Oppression
Since someone made me listen to “In Honour of Reason” from Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s debut album Oracles, I’ve been a fan of them. To be honest, I could never completely get into Oracles, because the songs didn’t have any dynamics and it was hard for me to distinguish them. Their following EP, Mafia, changed it all. The songs were still insanely fast, but each of them had a distinct sound, and the classical music angle was pushed even further with the composition. Now we have Agony, their sophomore album, which is a very reasonable progression from their past works. The classical elements are even more prominent, and there are even more clean vocals. Maybe this will upset the purists, but I think this is a huge step in the right direction.
First of all, the production is way better. Everything sounds crisp and crunchy, the way death metal should be. No element of the music overpowers the other, yet it is still very heavy and clear. This is no easy feat, given that every instrument is played as loudly and quickly as possible. The drums are as fast as ever (which means they are inhumanely fast), and the guitars don’t fall behind the drums either. Some call Fleshgod tech death, but in my opinion they’ve never been wanky enough for me to call them tech death. However, this album shows a lot more diversity in guitar work than their previous works, which is definitely a good thing. Their music used to get slightly stale during their first album, since every song was around 5 minutes long and was a nonstop flurry of picking. Fret not though, because although the songs on Agony are also around that length on average, but they are much more interesting than anything Fleshgod have ever written before.
The songs now have better structure. The songwriting has clearly matured and Fleshgod have realized that you don’t have to play at 280 BPM all the time. There are certain slower parts, and their presence only makes the faster parts sound heavier. This addresses my primary concern with their previous releases. Also, the riffs sound much more diverse, creating contrasts against each other, just like great classical composers do (and I believe that is what Fleshgod are going for). The biggest improvement, however, isn’t the guitar work. The keyboards are what take this album over the top and into the sky. Every song features orchestral keyboards very prominently, and this adds so much to the feel of the songs that it’s hard to believe without hearing them. This may sound like the band is not as brutal anymore, but that’s not the case. They’re just as brutal as ever, and the addition of keyboards as a central instrument makes the band’s sound incredibly epic.
There is no other band that sounds like this, which means Fleshgod have created a unique niche and sit on the throne very firmly. This goes to show that only technical skill isn’t enough to be considered maestros, you need to be able to write good songs too. Whilst on the topic of songwriting, there is also some interplay between songs. Certain riffs are hinted at in earlier songs and expanded later on following songs, and some songs flow into each other perfectly. Every song is memorable, every riff distinct. Some songs have orchestra-only sections at their beginnings or ends, which sets the mood perfectly, and emphasizes how heavy the band’s all out death metal sections are. “Temptation” and “Agony” are both keyboard only tracks (“Temptation” sounds like the soundtrack to a battle movie while “Agony” is a tasty piano solo), and they show how good composers FA are. “The Forsaking” is a slow song with very prominent orchestral elements, spoken voice-esque black metal-ish vocals, great solos, and it’s one of the best songs Fleshgod have ever done.
Speaking of vocals, they demand great praise too. They’re consistent and brutal like every other Fleshgod release, but this time around there are clean vocals too (performed by the bassist), and they add a lot of emotion to the songs. They are slightly reminiscent of ICS Vortex, but not enough to sound like an imitation. “The Egoism” also features female operatic vocals, which complements the classical-influenced sound of the band perfectly. The record reeks of emotion all over. Epic keyboards, brutal drums and guitars, great vocals, they all come together to create a soundscape that is unparalleled. Many death metal musicians have been trying to marry death metal with classical music, but none have come as close as Fleshgod Apocalypse. I could even go as far as saying this is the ultimate blend, but I’m sure Fleshgod’s next album will make me eat my words.
Overall, this is a truly unique and amazing album, Fleshgod Apocalypse have clearly outdone both themselves and all of their peers. Every song is perfect in its masterful mixture of brutal death metal and epic classical music. Everything is perfect. This is a definite must-listen, because they do everything right and nothing wrong. It is heavy, melodic, brutal, epic, everything a metal fan, if not a music fan can ask for. I’m sure some purists will disagree with the addition of classical elements, yearning for a more traditional death metal sound, but I do not restrict myself and the music I listen to by genres. I strive for perfection and quality, and Agony is—in my eyes and ears—the best album of the year so far, if not the best album I’ve heard in a long while.
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony gets…