Fleshgod Apocalypse is a relatively young band. They formed in 2007 in Perugia/Italy, you know, the medieval city with the escalators; place of epic murder trials, chocolate and pasta. How very fitting a background for the Machiavellian theme employed in this album. And not yet quite 10 years into the game, they came a hell of a long way in a very short time. And I am saying this now, because their style is really difficult to match in terms of complexity. Their latest full length record King really being the proof of the pudding. And they have this tendency to go the route the last Epica record went, trying to stuff way too many elements into a single record – just because they can. And this did not end well for the latter.
So, how did King fare on that?
Fleshgod Apocalypse just barely dwell on the good side of this thin red line. What renders the record interesting is the inclusion of Venetian-infused neo-classical elements into their tune. Then suddenly going Death Metal on the unsuspecting listener. Then again mixing orchestral parts into the fray.
Now hold on to your seat: Sprinkled into the overall delivery you all of a sudden get djents creeping up on you, giving some of that a neat flavor of the Progressive Metal camp. Not to forget the solos that come up in many of the tracks, kind of out of nowhere. Needless to say that this is nothing for the casual listener, given the friggin’ complexity of King. Whenever I listen to this album, the saying ‘Too Many Cooks Spoil The Soup’ comes to mind. There’s just too many contradicting elements in this mighty cauldron of theirs, threatening to turn this merry soup kitchen into Guy Fawkes night real quick.
The album follows a pretty serious theme around kings, subjects, power, the issues and influences. It will behoove you to check out the lyrics either whilst you listen to the record or before. Carefully casted and thoughtfully executed, I really like them. With the exception of Paramour, which is simply plagiarism in a #metal album, but more to that later. But then again plagiarized victim has been dead for a while and does not care, the writings having passed into the public domain.
Now, it is indeed a good sign that the band saw the light and employed the services of Fascination Street Studios in Sweden, led by Jens Bogren, for mixing and mastering. Jens is known for successfully taking on complex jobs and – by Loki – this is one of them. The compression is still heavy and some elements are (almost) lost at times, but given this whole, weird mixture of tunes, instruments and directions, the job is pretty well executed. Which again saves King from being thrown to the wolves. Big time!
Now, all this negativity out of the way, King churns out a fascinating tune.
It is like Diabulus in Musica on fucking steroids with a Death Metal twist and with the female front sent to cover the role of Lucrezia (sorry, Zuberoa…). Symphonic Death Metal would describe it best, ranging from orchestrated bombast to classical soprano – and all that changing in the blink of an eye.
The way they pack classical and Venetian elements into this #metal risotto of theirs and mix them with Death Metal is quite compelling. And sometimes you have no idea where all this is going, only to be reminded by the ‘fil rouge’ that is sometimes popping up out of nowhere. So, you will think there is some meaning to chaotic song structures and confusing turns that will just make your mind shut down if you don’t pay attention.
You will get a first taste of this in In Aeternum – a thrashy Death Metal piece, all of a sudden going clear voice on you with the chorus line. Then you ask yourself where the fuck the guitars are and indeed, they are indiscernible until the friggin’ solo kicks off, followed by some string passage in clear voice. ‘Tis tough fare! Non #metal fans abstain.
The next track piquing my interest was The Fool, starting with a full harpsichord attack – Venetian style. Only to deepen it with orchestra supported Death Metal; with a pretty stiff guitar solo later on. I found it fascinating how they were able to project kind of a cheeky look and feel into this track (it is the fool after all…), regardless that they mix classical with Death Metal and back. OMG ! My sanity is leaving me. Cold As Perfection will indeed leave you cold until the monologue kicks in followed by the solo and backed up by classical vocals. This saves the beacon of this track for sure.
The video released by Nuclear Blast Records is another story, though – somewhat bland music, but great, baroque drama. And all of a sudden the music has got a totally different taste:
Then Paramour (Die Leidenschaft Bringt Leiden) hits the track list. Woe, by Thor! Should I love it or just cry? Carefully massacred, straight from Goethe – cut and paste. Delivered in some questionable German with a terrible Italian accent by the soprano Veronica Bordacchini and purely classical. Ah, gimme a break! I know it fits the theme, but this is just terrible – but then again it fits the overall concept, which switches between terror and really good so many times it becomes difficult to judge.
The remaining tracks And The Vulture Beholds (containing a superb tremolo part, kind of in the midst of a couple of solos), Gravity and A Million Deaths are of the same vein than the preceding tracks. All good, but not outstanding in this sense.
But then it comes: The low tempo, almost ballad-like Syphilis earned some brownie points from the drama and the disturbing mood and atmosphere to it. The beauty and the beast impersonation – together with the orchestral integration – in this track is priceless with a dialogue with the king to boot. And this time the soprano is getting its full share and IS aligned to the songs overall structure and direction. So, this last one before the outro is actually one of the best tracks King produced so far.
And where does that land us?
I applaud the ideation, song writing skills and the courageous application of all elements present into one big, huge and somewhat messy baroque battle of the bulge they are fighting throughout the record. However, Fleshgod Apocalypse are really walking the plank out over the void that dwells on the other side of the edge of this abyss. That they did not fall to their destruction is to a big extent the result of the mixing and mastering effort. And secondly, the application of a serious theme and this knack to link classical instruments together with modern Death Metal beats and not lose themselves in a mess of their own making.
Does this make King a good album? It indeed does, but the album is for sure not for those looking for the low carb diet drink. This is really heavy Italian Cuisine Borgia style; red meat with heavy sauce and dark, very, VERY red wine. Consumed behind a Venetian mask. And you never know what lurks underneath it. Enjoy!
And congratulations, this record made it onto the 2016 Top 10 Records.
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