02. Minotaur (Wrath of Poseidon)
04. Towards the Sun
07. The Fall Of Asterion
10. Under Black Sails
[Nuclear Blast Records]
Fleshgod Apocalypse are truly a one of a kind band, and that’s something you don’t see much of these days. Sure, people have made the metal-classical connection in the past, and groups have been doing symphonic metal for decades. Fleshgod however are in a league of their own, gaining relative success from music otherwise doomed to fall only on the ears of those enthused with the esoteric sounds of avant garde music. Even more telling is that the band began to break out as they began to experiment with an even more ambitious sound that took their early idle symphonic influence and ramped it up tenfold. What we saw with the band’s transformative sophomore album Agony — their first for Nuclear Blast records — was truly epic, and floored listeners the world over with their over the top orchestrations that were completely devoid of camp. Fleshgod continues their conviction and mastery in this manner with Labyrinth.
Labyrinth is largely the record that fans hoped Fleshgod Apocalypse would create following the success of Agony. Labyrinth takes Agony‘s style of neo-classical death metal to its reasonably predictable and logical next step as a follow-up; minor tweaks here and there are made to craft an entirely new album, yet the “big picture” remains intact. In other words, Fleshgod haven’t gone soft, nor have they toned down their grand orchestration; Labyrinth is as fast, brutal, and mesmerizing as any fan of their already established sound would want it to be. The album’s leading single ‘Elegy‘ is pure Fleshgod exemplified, with blistering fast drumming and chaotic symphony highlighting the interplay between death metal and classical melody and timbre.
The only major surprise in store for listeners comes from bassist Paolo Rossi’s signature singing style being downplayed in favor of returning session vocalist Veronica “ValchiRea” Bordacchini, who was featured throughout Agony. Her presence is much more involved, nearly replacing Rossi entirely, save for ‘Elegy.’ While Bordacchini’s voice adds to the authenticity of Fleshgod’s operatic and symphonic endeavors, fans will likely miss Rossi’s ridiculously extreme voice. His singing is like a novelty that augments Fleshgod’s insanity, and Labyrinth could have used more of him.
However, Labyrinth doesn’t disappoint in its exhibition. Stefano “Saul” Morabito’s production has grown with the band’s sound. Labyrinth sounds fuller and “cleaner” than Agony, in the best ways. The record isn’t necessarily “polished” by modern death metal standards; Fleshgod needs a dense and chaotic atmosphere to highlight their prowess. Instead, a greater balance is found that we didn’t realize was missing from Agony until Labyrinth came along. The mixing on this album is a marvel in and of itself, taking into consideration how difficult it must have been to sit a death metal band in a mix with full choir and orchestra without sounding muddy. Listening to the two records back to back makes the gloss of Labyrinth that more noticeable, and we even praised Agony‘s production at the time of its release.
At the end of the day, Labyrinth is every bit as powerful and ambitious as Agony, with the added benefit of having a concept to match its grandiose spirit. As Francesco Paoli’s inhumanly fast drumming and Tommaso Riccardi’s roars give way to the title track’s somber piano and cinematic score, Labyrinth begs listeners to begin the journey once again, with its density leaving many details to be found within its walls. On par with their past work, Fleshgod have so far proven the exception to the rule of diminishing returns; Labyrinth is likely one of the most powerful albums you’ll hear this year.
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth gets…