REVIEW: FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE – “King”
In the recent past, the symphonic death metal bands Fleshgod Apocalypse and Septicflesh, and some others, have spearheaded the genre by pushing boundaries with their music. They have fused traditional death metal elements like blast beats, fast riffs and growled vocals with classically-inspired orchestral sounds. Such orchestral music, filled with violins, brass sections, choirs and percussion, seems to be the opposite of the fairly-straightforward death metal approach, but these bands, especially Italian symphonic death metal act Fleshgod Apocalypse, have proved that the two can flow seamlessly into each other.
Fleshgod Apocalypse is not a newbie to the genre by any stretch of imagination, but according to them, they are still innovating and finding new approaches to writing their albums. Their 2016 album ‘King’, successor to 2013’s stellar album ‘Labyrinth’, is no exception to this. In this album, the band sounds like it has found the perfect balance between the various elements used in their compositions. Before going into this, however, it makes sense to look at the standard approaches to composing music that transcends genres.
In Greek band Septicflesh’s case, they compose a purely orchestral piece which is performed by a full-man orchestra, and then they proceed to add death metal elements to it. This allows the symphonic elements in their sound to carry the songs forward. Most other bands don’t do this, due to logistic or financial reasons, and they use virtual instruments to compose orchestral music which they layer on top of their death metal compositions. Fleshgod Apocalypse seemed to be focusing on the classical elements in ‘Labyrinth’, but in 2016’s ‘King’, they have successfully allowed the guitars and orchestra to work harmoniously and balance each other out.
Francesco Paoli’s super-human drumming, saturated with extreme double bass and blast beat grooves, seems to break down the orchestral patterns into chunks that smoothly ooze the song forward. These classical melodies, courtesy of Francesco Ferrini, who also plays piano throughout the album, allow guitarists Tommaso Riccardi and Cristiano Trionfera enough space to lay down crushing riffs. In such moments, the piano and orchestra immediately turn subtle and amplify the imposing presence of the riffs and double-time drumming. Bassist Paolo Rossi, who dominates over the guitars in some instances, engages in several high-pitched cleans that lend an extremely classical vibe to Fleshgod Apocalypse.
In the same vein, Riccardi’s growled vocals add intensity to the sound and makes the music sound brutal enough to fall into the death metal category. The roles of these members, and how they allow each other to flourish in moments, is what defines‘King’. Some of the songs that exemplify this harmony, which is brought out by large doses of chaotic drums, guitar riffs, piano melodies and ringing symphonies, are “The Fool”, “Gravity” and “Mitra”. Several other tracks incorporate slower timing and contrast them with faster songs. Overall, the band manages an excellent balance of brute force and beauty, and in keeping with Fleshgod Apocalypse tradition, the title track “King” is a memorable, piano-only song that concludes the album.
There is also an orchestral version of the entire album that the band will release, and fans who pick this up will be able to identify and understand the voice of the orchestra in the main album better.
Fusing classical music and death metal, which seem like opposites, is no easy task but Fleshgod Apocalypse ensures that they gel together, and ‘King’ is proof of that. Several contrasting elements, which somehow complement each other by maintaining a distance in order to have voices of their own, make the album already one of the most innovative and entertaining releases of 2016.