Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth

Italian technical death band Fleshgod Apocalypse exploded into the scene when they signed a deal and released their second album through the one and only Nuclear Blast Records in 2011. This album, entitled Agony, for me, was the 2nd best album of that year behind Born of Osiris’ The Discovery, although to be honest, they’re almost just as good as each other. Anyways, now we have the highly awaited follow-up record to Agony, titled Labyrinth. I’ve been listening to Fleshgod since before they had even released Oracles, so I’ve always seen them as a very underground band. But I never realized how big they’ve actually gotten until I saw them for the third time this last August when they opened for Wintersun along with Arsis and Starkill. With all of the albums and popularity that Arsis has accumulated since they released their legendary first album in 2004, it was not only surprising to see Fleshgod play AFTER Arsis, but also to watch Fleshgod have a much bigger response from the crowd than Arsis. So obviously, Agony got everyone’s attention, which means that Labyrinth is the record that needs to solidify the band’s place and status in the metal community.

With a style as unique and creative as Fleshgod Apocalypse, it’s crucial that they don’t overdo themselves. They really need to make sure that their albums don’t blend together and become too similar. But on the other hand, there needs to be a certain amount of consistency throughout every record that they put out. One of the things that all three of their albums and the one EP have in common is the title track. The last track on every album these guys have put out is a solo piano instrumental that is also the title track. Part of why they’re doing this is to make sure that they never lose connection with their roots and where they began.

The title track on Labyrinth still stays true to that tradition, but the keyboardist decided to add on some background choirs for….I’m assuming to increase intensity? I’m not sure, but although that’s pushing it a little, it does fit the rest of the track very well, and as long as he doesn’t do anything MORE on the next record, then it’s alright. If they decide to make that last track something more next time, it means that they’re breaking that one tradition that maintains the connection between where the band started and where they are now (musically, of course).

Obviously, the biggest musical progression that the band made with Agony isn’t a temporary one; they’re going to keep the symphonics throughout every song. But the progression that they’ve made in Labyrinth is one that is actually pretty damn subtle because it still sounds EXACTLY like Fleshgod Apocalypse! This band is known for blasting through just about every song at full speed. Don’t get me wrong, there are very, very few bands that can do this as well as Fleshgod Apocalypse, but in order to keep everybody’s attention, they needed to add in a lot more tempo changes in Labyrinth than they did in Oracles, Mafia, and Agony. Their drummer is one of the best blast beat drummers EVER, and he knows it too because he does it A LOT. But something that you’ll notice in Labyrinth is that he’s doing a lot more than blast beats with a few random fills and other shit. In fact, there are several places that would be perfect for his signature blast beats where he instead chooses to play a simpler (and even sometimes) slower pattern.

I was a bit worried that the band would decide to structure the new album the same way as Agony, where every song blended into the next one…therefore making it difficult to listen to just one song. Although this was never an issue for me because the entire album is just plain fucking fantastic, they pulled it off so well that they could’ve easily done the exact same thing with Labyrinth. But instead, they didn’t go down that path again and gave each song some separation and extra individuality. But being the way that they are, they did craft every song in a way where if the album was played from start to finish, everything would still flow together just like Agony. Only this time, they also made it so that each song could ALSO be played by themselves and feel 100%. Because if you do that with a song from Agony, it sort of feels more like you’re listening to part of a song rather than the entire thing. It’s hard to put into words but I’m pretty sure you know what I’m talking about.

The presence of that female operatic singer in the background is there in almost every song this time. So that only intensifies the whole baroque/classical vibe that these guys have always been about. The song Warpledge is one of my favorite examples of how her voice really adds a hell of a fucking lot to their sound. But other than that, Labyrinth brings everything that you could expect from this (so far) flawless band. The entire band blasts through everything like a fucking stampede while still maintaining excellent precision with literally EVERYTHING that they do. Their drummer shows no signs of EVER slowing down, the set of guitarists and their bassist don’t follow the drummer’s bombarding speed, they move along beside the drummer! Their keyboardist is the one responsible for creating the classic orchestral atmosphere that surrounds the intensity of the rest of the band. With nothing being the primary driving force and with no such thing as there being a bunch of musicians, Fleshgod Apocalypse work as one single solid force that PERFECTLY rips through the speakers and tears you to pieces. Every album that these guys have put out has landed on my personal “best albums of the year” list and you can expect to see Labyrinth on this year’s list as well along with a perfect 20/20 score.