Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth (2013)

When Fleshgod Apocalypse released “Oracles” back in 2009, they introduced themselves with an above average death metal album. It didn’t break any new ground, but the speed and ferocity was commendable. With the release of “Agony,” they brought their sound to a new height with the inclusion of large scale symphonic elements. Adding Francesco Ferrini as a full-time member was an excellent choice. His keyboard and orchestral arrangements gave them a flair they desperately needed. Upon first listen however, it feels like that there is too much going on. With the orchestra, guitars and the inhuman drumming, it was really hard to focus on the songs. After a handful of listens, the experience gets much better but not without its problems. Some of the songs tend to drag on and sound the same. “Agony” is a lot to take in, but it’s rewarding once you get over the initial hump. Now merely two years after “Agony,” Fleshgod Apocalypse returns with “Labyrinth” which is their most focused, ambitious and downright best album thus far. Even though “Labyrinth” is an easier listen than the previous album, it doesn’t mean that it won’t take a few spins to get the full genius of the album.

The album opens up with “Kingborn” which already is a big improvement from “Agony.” The guitars aren’t muddled anymore, the orchestral elements are much bigger and prominent and the operatic vocals add a nice touch. The only problem with this track is the addition of the high pitched, almost screeching vocals. On the rest of the album it’s not a problem, it just sounds out of place on this track. It’s brief so it doesn’t detract to much from the quality of the song, but the listener will definitely have to get used to it. The overall song is epic as hell though, and a great way to start the album. "Minotaur (Wrath of Poseidon)" continues the epic sound and takes it one step further. This is one of their most classically influenced tracks and also one of their all time best. Everything works on this song and it’s absolutely breathtaking. “Elegy” picks up the speed a little bit but doesn’t sacrifice anything in the process. Francesco Paoli is a human drum machine and it really shows on this track. "Towards the Sun" slows down a tiny bit, but continues the flow of the album perfectly. “Warpledge” brings back the operatic vocals that fit perfectly with the music, no matter how weird that sounds. It’s evident on this track more than any other so far, that they really spent time on this album to get everything to be balanced. The symphonic elements, drums, vocals, and guitars all blend perfectly together. “Pathfinder” brings the album to it’s absolute height. It’s the culmination of everything the band has done and it’s probably their best song ever. They have never sounded this full and this epic. “Pathfinder” is an absolute masterpiece.

“The Fall of Asterion” is the perfect track to have after “Pathfinder.” It keeps the emotion at full force. It also serves as the turning point in the album. After this song is “Prologue” and “Epilogue” which are a welcomed break from the aural assault that is the rest of the album. “Prologue” is in the perfect spot on the album. It gives the listener time to recharge before continuing on. “Epilogue” is heavy again, but it’s slower and thought provoking. It sounds like it should be in a gladiator movie. “Under Black Sails” is the second best song on the album. It’s fucking epic, balls out, and just bad ass. It doesn’t do anything different from the rest of the album, but it’s a welcomed addition. The album closes with the title track, “Labyrinth,” and it’s a perfect ending. It’s basically just piano and orchestra, but it ends the album on the perfect note. From it’s opening to the haunting last note, this song wraps everything up nicely.

“Labyrinth” is Fleshgod Apocalypse’s crowning achievement. Three albums into their career and they already found the winning formula. It takes everything that was done on “Agony” and made it better in every possible way. The first listen is still hard, but it’s worth everyone’s while if they stick with it. There have been a lot of symphonic death metal albums so far this year, but this one takes the cake. No other band in the genre can match the speed and songwriting skills on “Labyrinth.” Everything is concise and flows perfectly. The emotions and moods on this album will stick with you for long after youre done listening. This is Fleshgod Apocalypse pushing their own boundaries and making a masterpiece. Yes, it’s that good.


- Brian DuBois

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