Labyrinth by Fleshgod Apocalypse
Fleshgod Apocalypse Labyrinth
Release Date: 16 August 2013
Genre: Symphonic Technical Death Metal
As Good As: Decapitated Nihility, Ignominious Incarceration Of Winter Born, and Obscura Cosmogenesis.
Not As Good As: Decrepit Birth Diminishing Between Worlds, Hour of Penance The Vile Conception, and Death Human.
Hailing from Italy and leading the scene of Italian Technical Death Metal, second to only Hour of Penance (which a member of Fleshgod Apocalypse is also a member of) , Fleshgod Apocalypse has released their third full length album, entitled Labyrinth on the sixteenth of August this year. A more fitting title has never been placed on an album, in my opinion, for this album is littered with multiple twists and turns that at one point, you’ll have to stop and consider is you are trapped in a never ending maze or not. Fleshgod Apocalypse brings back its unique symphonic sound to the scene of death metal this year and stretches the boundaries of production while maximizing on their physical capabilities with their instruments.
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Labyrinth is the first album released by Fleshgod Apocalypse on their contract with the always promising Nuclear Blast Records and being a large fan of Fleshgod, you could expect that I was more than anxious to get this album in my hands, and on first listen, this album could very well be a landmark in the likes of all metal. Technical Death Metal is not a genre taken likely in the Death Metal Community and for Fleshgod, a name that most promoters of the genre are well aware of, it is second nature to play this music. This album is a conceptual album, following the tile, Labyrinth. The album follows multiple Greek myths , most notable, the stories of the Minotaur, Icarus, and Daedalus. The first track clocks in at six minutes long which, in this genre of music is quite long and unorthodox. The first minute of the intro is riddled with heavy breathing coming from a man, breathes that could only be interpreted to mean that he just finished doing work, or rather, he is panicking. The breathes are then accompanied by the sounds of a shutting door, likely the door of the Labyrinth that the title is named after. Low Opera cries soon join the heaving and footsteps, getting louder and louder and finally at the 1:20 mark, the guitar joins in with a bone chilling chug. As the choir’s voices increase in volume, the remarkable double kick bass drum joins in, building up behind the bass and electric guitars, turning this into a familiar death metal sound. The demonic low growls of the vocalist chime in as the bass drum increases and speed and , thanks to a heavy amount of production, we’re given high shrieks from a woman in the background as the guitar continues to sweep, filling the listener with suspense as the vocal takes us through these twists and turns of the Labyrinth leading to the trademark of tech death; the guitar solo. Lasting roughly a minute, the guitarist makes use of his capabilities and sweeps away. A repeat of the chorus which is a duet between the main vocalist and a woman Opera singer takes place right after this solo and allows the audience to calm down only for a split second as the second solo of the song infiltrates the rhythm. As titled, “Kingborn ,” shows us Fleshgod’s new birth as kings of their genre.
Next is the album, “Minotaur (Wrath of Poseidon) “which takes no break to bring in the audience, but instead hops directly into the sound that Fleshgod promised in their first track. More symphonic than the last, bringing in violins alongside the keyboard and high opera vocals alongside the growls of Tommaso Riccardi who is holds a voice only a god of metal could ever hope to obtain. Fleshgod’s evolution is apparent in this track as we’re strung along by continuous blasting of the bass drum and Trionfera’s lightning sweeping. The track is still part of the beginning of the album and acts as a suspense builder itself alongside “Kingborn” in order to build an overall suspense for the inevitable climax of the album. At this point of the album, the wait for the climax is becoming more and more unbearable, especially as “Elegy” sweeps in with a string collection that was followed by a blood curdling bass drop, only in the beginning of the song. For those not aware, a bass drop is most commonly when a single note of the bass drum is strung out and distorted, but only for a second. Imagine a the noise of a nuclear bomb exploding, and that is what Fleshgod has created. Elegy brings back the high skreiks heard in “ Kingborn” alongside Riccardi’s vocals, and out of the previous tracks, the best guitar solo so far is found in “Elegy” when Trionfera follows the second repeat of the chorus with a riff, easily mimicked and not on a stellar level, however, alongside the beautiful production of this album, the solo fits right in, nice and snug. Snug? I meant brutal. And that’s precisely what this album is. Brutal. Beautifully brutal. While writing this review, I believe this is my fifth play through of the album and incidentally, out of the beginning of this 11 track list, Elegy’s chorus sticks out the most to me.
Nonetheless, the album’s concept is easily seen in the next track “Towards the Sun” which could only be lyrically themed around the loss of Icarus to the blaze of the sun, however, in a metaphorically manner, I am forced to take this as a saying by Fleshgod. Honestly, this album can only be viewed as amazing, and since their first demo, Mafia, and first album Oracles, Fleshgod has been an above average death metal band, however, falling in the shadows to the likes of Decrepit Birth, Hour of Penance, and even some prominent names in the deathcore genre, Infant Annihilator and Signal the Firing Squad to name a few, have won over many death metal fans for its dormancy. “Towards the Sun” is the track title that shows that Tech Death is the best Death and that the only other direction for it is up, and mates… It’s as blazing path their taking. Due to Technical Death Metal’s unrivalled complexity, many fans of Death Metal find it hard to relate to and heavy on the ears, however, those , like myself, that have listened to tech death even during early years know that Technical Death Metal is supposed to be that way. The more complex, the more we like it. The more of the double bass that pounds away, the better the mosh pit, the more of the sweeping and riffing of the likes of Muhammed Suicmez ( Necrophagist ) and in this case, Trionfera, the better the head banging and the more bass guitar, the better the rhythm. Fleshgod capitalizes on the things that their fans ask for and then throws in a violin. Of course, to the unaccustomed ear, this may sound like a headache. Constant smashing of drums, kicking away at the bass, stroking of the guitars, and low guttural vocals that sound like demons have taken flesh… Perhaps to some, but these guys just make it beautiful. I say all of this to emphasize Fleshgod’s jump in the right direction. I can’t say this was a leap because, after this, I doubt that there’s a trump car over it. I’d call it a leap if Fleshgod had just eased their way into this playing field, however, Fleshgod has been here since 2008, and they’ve been on this path for five years. Labyrinth was a landmark and still is, never to be moved. It’s not simply a transitional album that many bands have to go through to ease their way into a genre * cough cough * Decapitated * cough *.And don’t get me wrong. Transitional albums are needed in many cases but Nuclear Blast just gave way to an entirely different breed with Fleshgod’s signing. I’ve gotten off track but “ Towards the Sun’s “ metaphorical meaning is clearly relevant and for a single track to say all of this, I find it highly impressive which is why Fleshgod will always be a favorite of mine ( Until Necrophagist releases their new album. For those of you not clear, Necrophagist is a Technical Death Metal band from Germany, and are deemed by most listeners of this genre as one of the greatest bands to exist, however, the band hasn’t released an album since 2004 and fans constantly joke about their next album, yet to be announced. ) The track begins with the normal rapid blasting of the kick drums , however, the rhythm shifts a couple of times, unseen by modern technical death metal bands. Instead of leading with low gutturals as usual, we’re given low vocals likely from guitarist Rossi or drummer Paoli. After the first verse, another bass drop fills the air and low growls are brought back to our hearts to lift us out of our seats again. No other strings are heard in this song besides the rapid riffing of the guitar, which is even trampled over by Paoli’s ability with his feet, smashing away at the double bass. The keyboard in the background is simultaneously increasing in pace beside the drums and guitars up until a solo which plays unlike a technical death metal solo, showing Fleshgod’s abilities to stretch this genre. The solo matches one that you would expect from the likes of Dreamshade or Amon Amarth more that Fleshgod, but its beauty annihilates normal thinking and one is forced to agree with its placement. This concludes the track and leads into “Warpledge” which begins with high shrieking riffs and the fasts double bass I’ve heard out of the entire album… So far. The track starts off seeming as if it will be a discombobulated mess until the vocals spill in, and the speed tones down, and by tone down I mean, goes from 500 bpm to 499 bpm. The chorus comes in, yet again, with the opera voice that seems to be prominent throughout this album and fits so very well alongside the main vocalist and here, Fleshgod lies out a double bass at mind boggling speeds. After the chorus lets out and a quick guitar solo, the bass guitar FINALLY makes a solo appearance and boy… did my knees cripple. I couldn’t help but cower in a corner once the next track “Pathfinder” came in.
“Pathfinder” strums into the ears of the listener as Technical Death Metal should and due to my love of classical tech death such as, Decrepit Birth, this track is definitely my favorite, or at least, my favorite so far in this album. Pathfinder is the loudest and most abrasive song on this album. A blast beat fills the rhythm and fuels Fleshgod’s undeniable power. A chanting choir joins in occasionally and sometimes clearer high vocals join in but overall, the vocals are over taken by low growls and a familiar guitar plays in the background against the never ending blasting of the double bass drum. This track does one thing, and that one thing is, it shows that F;eshgod has mastered the art of complexity and that they are masters and pioneers of their genre. The track ends by giving the listener a break in order to brace ourselves for the eargasm coming from the next song. It’s as if Fleshgod is laughing at us with this song. After a few yearsof thinking that Fleshgod had lost it, they burst out the masterpiece of “Pathfinder” and shave off a minute littering the track with strings. I must say, I’ve never cried better tears of joy. Upon listening to the following track “The Fall of Asterion” it’s clear that Fleshgod has returned to the roots of tech death. The guitar becomes entirely too technical to remain in the genre of symphonic tech death, but the keyboard that is added into this track holds on to that name. Even though, crippled by a piano, Fleshgod bares its fangs and runs through your ears with the lowest vocals so far in this album and the most complex guitar work yet. With four more songs, I’m cringing in agony. * Wink *( Agony is the title of Fleshgod’s second album. ) Fleshgod has shown us that they are pioneers and shown us that they are a force to be feared, no longer just a memory. The next two tracks are entitled “Prologue” and “Epilogue”. At first, these two tracks grabbed my attention and I have been waiting patiently to talk about them. First, because of their placement and second because of their genius. This takes care of four of the remaining songs, however… Why was “Prologue” not at the beginning of the album and why is “Epilogue” not at the beginning? Well, because these two songs are the prologue and epilogue of their own song. “Prologue” is the intro to this song. A guitar and piano instrumental that ends after only a minute and nine seconds, spilling into “Epilogue” which explodes in musical talent. The song is not an average technical death metal song, and that’s not we expect from this inhuman band. The song mixes together melodies so beautifully that I don’t think they’ll ever lose their place in symphonic. The song begins with this female singer, singing her heart out in a high voice and is later joined by the growls of Fleshgod. The song slows for a moment and low vocals are heard in the background opening the song up to yet another explosion of sound. Epilogue is not a song that can be explained. The song is capable of twisting emotions by mixing together complex riffs, extreme blast drumming of which, the double bass does not stop… I had to take a break from the album at this point because of how easily the song manipulated my emotions. This song takes best song of this album. Hands down. Just when you think the song has ended, Fleshgod draws you back in with riffs unmatchable. I couldn’t help but cry and head bang at the same time. “Epilogue” finally comes to an end with a quick chant from the opera vocals and doesn’t quit attacking with the other instruments.
I’m regretting nearing the end of this review, for I am listening to the album as we speak and at this point I don’t ever want it to end. Number 10 on the track list is “Under Black Sails”. The song comes in at 7 minutes long, the longest song on the album the most interesting. The song begins with a heavy drumming, full of snares, and bass, typical of a band outside of this genre. However, seconds into the song, a guitar strums in and removes the thought of this track being anything close to mediocre. The guitar is anything but forgiving in this track and shreds with more notes and complexity than any other track on this album. The instrument is the heaviest and most notable in the song up until the drums get faster and their volume increased a fourth of the way through. With this album, there is an expectancy of repetitiveness; however, Fleshgod’s writing is just so complex that they were completely able to avoid repeating riffs or style all throughout this album, unlike many other death metal bands who attempt conceptual albums. This track shouldn’t have followed the pairing of “Prologue” and “Epilogue” because in comparison to these two songs, this one looks brutal but is darkened by the light of “Epilogue”. It’s still a very good song, and perhaps the most unforgiving song on the album, meaning the listener will need to take a deep breath after hearing this song, especially once the end comes and the orchestra and guitar join each other harmoniously alongside low talking. The track ends with the sound of waves crashing against a mountain face, heavily, which gives us a moment to take a deep breath before the album titled track comes in.
“Labyrinth” is a Symphonic Technical Death Metal track in the purest form and is a song that I could never get tired of listening to. The track begins with a piano that sounds reminiscent of Beethoven and gets louder as the track continues. No other instruments join this piano which is the epitome of beautiful. After two minutes, the choir joins in with low humming and is followed by the strings we’ve become accustomed to. At this point, the track seems to be seen as Fleshgod’s ascension track. It’s the end of their glorious triumph and they deserve their payment and we, their sheep, will give it to them. Labyrinth shows us that technical death metal fans that brutality can be beautiful and when it is, it’s the greatest thing we could hope for in death metal. If listened to by the outside world, the first thing they’ll learn is that his genre of music is extreme and it will not be suppressed. Ultimately, I cannot put this album down and I do not want to. Total, I give this album a 9.8, falling only to Decrepit Birth in its complexity, and for the reason of the high choir vocals that chime in sometimes at the wrong moment, taking away from the overall suspense that the album tries to obtain but not enough to nullify this album’s aggressiveness.