Fleshgod Apocalypse - King - Artwork

Artist: Fleshgod Apocalypse

Album Title: King

Label: Nuclear Blast

Year Of Release: 2016

You can’t beat a bit of unadulterated brutality. My life would be much the duller without some brutality in it. I’m not, of course, talking about physical violence here. After all, I’m the kind of coward that runs away at the first hint of bodily harm on my part. Musically however, and depending on my mood, I have been heard to utter the words ‘the more brutal the better’. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that I was keen to offer my thoughts on the new album from Fleshgod Apocalypse.

As well as being a band with a fondness for brutality, Italian quintet Fleshgod Apocalypse are not a band to which the phrase ‘less is more’ can be applied. Throughout their eight year and three-album history, Fleshgod Apocalypse have experimented with a brand of symphonic and technical death metal that is ambitious to say the least. Alongside the pummelling riffs, the bludgeoning drumming, the growled vocals and the overall high speed extreme metal assault, Fleshgod Apocalypse also introduce elements of symphonic classical music, operatic female vocals, and clean male vocals. The result is a sound that can, without any doubt, be referred to as epic. However, with album number four, entitled ‘King’, some of these elements have been increased whilst others have been honed and refined to a point where I’m now confident to declare that Messrs Tommaso Riccardi (Vocals, Guitar), Cristiano Trionfera (Guitar, Vocals), Paolo Rossi (Bass, clean Vocals), Francesco Paoli (Drums, Guitar, Vocals) and Francesco Ferrini (Keyboard, Piano, Orchestral Arrangements) have delivered the best record of the their career to date.

Credit: unknown

Credit: unknown

After a short but dramatic classical film score overture entitled ‘March Royale’, ‘In Aeternum’ kicks in with the subtlety of a brick to the face. Warp speed blast beats and scything riffs duel with a heavy orchestral score to create an intense listening experience, full of bombast and technical prowess. As the track develops, melody is introduced brilliantly to take an already ambitious track to another level entirely. The passionate clean male vocals enter the fray, as does a surprisingly melodious and soulful lead guitar solo that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic metal or power metal record. There is the briefest of moments of acoustic guitar-led calm before a reintroduction of the soaring vocals and in the blink of an eye, the song is over.

There’s no let-up however, as ‘Healing Through War’ picks up the baton with literally no pause for breath. Again, the blueprint is technical death metal blended wonderfully with an electric and dramatic classical score, made all the more palatable thanks to a rich and vibrant production topped off by a typically polished mix and master from Jens Bogren (Fascination Street Studios)

And whilst this blueprint is accurate for a large proportion of the tracks on ‘King’, this statement comes with a huge caveat: at no point do I feel daunted or exhausted by the almost unrelenting tumult that Fleshgod Apocalypse creates. Within the compositions and their impressive structures, there is a surprising amount of variety if you’re prepared to take the time to listen out for it. There is also plenty of melody to catch the ear and I also get the feeling that the band themselves are having fun creating this music. As such, almost imperceptibly and despite much of the dark subject matter on offer, there is an almost light-hearted and fun vibe about this record.

‘Cold As Perfection’ still retains the ever-present insane drumming but the overall pace is slowed to allow a touch more groove to proceedings and to allow the relatively simple central melody to shine through. When the guitars drop out and then return to ring out for a few seconds, the tone is intoxicating. Additionally, there’s even room for a spoken-word section and the female operatic vocals make quite an impact. All this within a five-minute window of opportunity is impressive and demonstrates just how accomplished the song writing on this album is.

Other notable songs include the hyper-fast and unrelenting aggression of ‘Mitra’, and two tracks that offer something a little new to the Fleshgod armoury. The title track closes out the album by way of a piano-only instrumental, almost the equivalent of a cool flannel to a fevered brow. And ‘Paramour (Die Leidenschaft Bringt Leiden)’ is a quirky mid-album palette-cleanser which again is a classical piano-led piece overlaid with female operatic vocals.

And if all that wasn’t enough, there’s the charmingly-titled ‘Syphilis’ which has to be my favourite track on the album. The first half is full of brooding intensity where the operatic vocals juxtapose the metal to nice effect but after a female spoken word section, the song transforms into a truly epic and quite majestic piece that delivers a powerful crescendo full of sorrow and pain. What was it I said about a sense of fun earlier?

Overall, I find myself really rather impressed by this latest offering from Fleshgod Apocalypse. I’ve never been a super fan, more of a distant admirer. However, based on the music here, that could be about to change.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.25

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXOucG8rM5k&w=560&h=315]

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

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