REVIEW: FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE – “Veleno”
Fleshgod Apocalypse ages like fine Italian wine. And though their latest release Veleno is Italian for venom, the technical symphonic death metal juggernauts may have put out their most delicious feast yet.
Veleno is the band’s fifth full length, following the hotly debated King in 2016. Many detractors accused Fleshgod of straying further and further away from guitar-driven death metal favoring mid-paced larger-than-life orchestral pieces backed with the double bass. Listeners will be disabused of that notion as well ny doubts that this trend would continue with Veleno’ opener, the subtly named Fury. First single, the ironically named Sugar also establishes that Veleno is at its core, a death metal record: comically fast-paced drums, brutal low-end riffs, and peppered with just the right amount of grandiosity through the strings and piano arrangements, which adds to the cacophony rather than overtake it. In particular, the slightly off-key piano lines as the guitar riffs build up to its crescendo gives off a vibe of mania in its most visceral form. It is subtle touches like this that makes Fleshgod a veteran in the genre.
That isn’t to say that this record isn’t a one-trick pony. Tempo, tonal, and vibe changes are strewn all over each of the tracks. Monnalisa is a prime example of Fleshgod really pushing against all their creative boundaries. It is full of classical virtuoso-esque guitar noodles, thrash-death stomps, Dimmu Borgir worship keyboard arrangements (debatably done better than Dimmu Borgir themselves), with operatic chants soaring over the insanity which gives the entire song a rounded feel. While tracks like Fury, Sugar, Worship and Forget, and Carnivorous Lamb favor ferocity over majesty, Fleshgod will not be pigeonholed, and slower tracks like Absinthe, Pissing on the Score, and album closer and title track Veleno are the tracks that really shine with their ingenuity. It is the balance of dark and light aspects that will make this record a joy to listen to end-to-end.
There is no doubt in my mind that Fleshgod Apocalypse is Francesco Paoli and Paoli is Fleshgod Apocalypse. Throughout the band’s career and record catalog Paoli has handled almost every instrument, rhythm and lead guitars, vocals, and drums. For many, his return to vocals is a welcome surprise, and his efforts are relentless on Veleno. The guitar riffs are unlike any of their recent albums, throwing back to their early albums Oracles and Mafia EP. which favored the “death metal” angle. The guitar riff break in Carnivorous Lamb sounded like an entirely different ban, before kicking right back into what we know and love, and any band that can throw a curveball at listeners like that shoot straight to the top. The keyboard arrangements and Francesco Ferrini’s performance, with blistering runs, cheesily overdone strings and slower piano segments are all top-notch. The ballad, The Day We’ll Be Gone is a masterpiece and needs no further justification. The addition of sessions operatic vocalist Veronica Bordacchini, is probably the best decisions Fleshgod could have possibly made, and her falsetto and melodramatic range cuts through like a beam of warm sunlight in the chaos of the instrumentals. Paolo Rossi is back at the bass, and his bass tones are massive on Veleno as are his trademark clean vocals. As a personal quibble, his clean vocals do overstay their welcome a tad, especially when they have Veronica on board. Yet, those who are a fan of his vocal stylings will not be disappointed, as there are plenty of his vocal segments on this record.
Apart from the slight overuse of Rossi’s clean vocals, Veleno is nearly flawless. Veleno is a summation of Fleshgod Apocalypse as a band, and n terrifying force to be reckoned with. A monstrous meld of fury and majesty is a perfect description of this album and will serve as a benchmark for their future efforts, as well as the industry standard for any other band bold enough to attempt what Fleshgod Apocalypse have mastered. AOTY contender!