Review by Jason Guest
Classical music has long featured in the history and the temperament of metal and the former has bestowed much upon the latter but, given its influence on the genre, it’s been the relatively rare occasion that the two have been blended so well. Fleshgod Apocalypse’s 2009 debut album, Oracles, introduced a death metal band as big on brutality as they were on technicality, there were a few ideas scattered across that album that intimated what would begin to emerge with the impressive 2010 EP, Mafia. And then with 2011’s Agony, Cristiano Trionfera’s orchestration – hitherto an addendum still to be harnessed for all its power and impact – came to the fore. But though the guitars were there, as was the potency of their song-writing ability, the album felt too polished with the orchestration at the forefront of the mix overshadowing the rest of the band. And so, 2013 and it appears that Fleshgod Apocalypse felt the same because Labyrinth – an apt title if ever there were one for such an intricate piece of work – sees the band closer to mastering that balance between the brutality of their death metal style with the magnitude of the most majestic of operas and the fortitude of classical music’s greatest composers.
With Fleshgod Apocalypse delving deeper into their exploration of the grandeur of classical music and the refined indulgence of Italian culture, Labyrinth is an album that is at every instance an arresting piece of work. Labyrinth bursts with the precision eccentricity and defiant muscle of Beethoven, the overwhelming beauty and child-like freedom of Mozart, and the unfathomable ability of classical music and opera to overwhelm its audience and transport them to some heightened level of emotional and intellectual sensitivity. In direct opposition, the brutal battery of the ruthless assail of the drums, the intricate and technical hyperspeed riffing, and the guttural vocals – particularly when juxtaposed with the soprano vocals of Veronica Bordacchini – act as a fine counterpart, enhancing the impact of the album with the weighted vehemence of the best that death metal has to offer. It doesn’t always work, however. There are times when the relentless blasting of the band suffocates the album, particularly with the drummer’s feet being stuck in overdrive. That everything is full on all the time means that the album appears to be all sonic pageantry rather than musical acumen, and so becomes tedious at times. But those moments are very much the exception rather than the rule. Labyrinth is a complex achievement, an album that demands your attention in order to savour it in its entirety. Spend time with it and listen closely because it’ll be a long time before you consider looking for the exit.
7.5 out of 10
- Minotaur (The Wrath Of Poseidon)
- Towards The Sun
- The Fall Of Asterion
- Under Black Sails