Fleshgod Apocalypse: Agony
19/09/11 || Judge Edo
I believe the character Shooter McGavin said it best in Happy Gilmore with his classic line “You know what else could draw a crowd? A golfer with an arm growing out of his ass.” We’re not here to talk about golf I hear you say smugly while sitting in front of your computer…Well give me a minute to explain myself you fucken pole smoker! Where was I? Ah, yes – replace golfer with drummer and… okay, that’s pretty much my analogy. I guess my point is, having a drummer who blasts fuck all out of his kit does not a great album make.
It seems every year I pick up at least one album based solely on how loud, fast and/or technical it is and somehow I think it will hold up perfectly over repeated listens. Enter 2011 and Fleshgod Apocalypse. The first big description of this album is symphonic extreme metal, which is a descriptor that I’ve heard (and been disappointed by) more times then I care to count. Still, I kept telling myself how this could be an album of epic proportions that would make me forget all about those terrible Dimmu releases. “Agony” starts with (surprise, surprise) an instrumental. But wait! It’s an instrumental that actually leads somewhere instead of meandering around like a drunken hobo who shit his pants, and like that shit this song flows onto the leg of the second track “The hypocrisy”. With blasting drums and overlaid growls and screams, I had a good minute of pure ass kicking enjoyment until my first fucken problem with the album came to light. Yes, apparently to pull off an “epic” record now you need a quasi-ICS Vortex-impersonator, but not just any shitty vocals will do, oh no. These clean vocals come in either a largely incoherent mumbling, or a range so high you’d swear the mans’ nuts must be turning purple in a vice about to explode all over the studio. The plus side of this is, at least the scrot-splosion would be epic enough to write another song about.
There‘s more than just the thought of testicles in this album to really really like, though. The orchestration is top notch, it’s as if you’re sitting at a grand, evil opera just waiting for demons to come through the floor and rape everyone to death in a blood orgy. Couple this feeling with some ridiculously fast footwork and blast beats from Francesco Paoli and things are looking damn fine for this album. Unfortunately this leads me to my second problem with the album.
The production on any symphonic album has to be clear, but stay brutal enough to fuck the goddamn eyes out of your skull. By the time Fleshgod Apocalypse has the orchestration, growls and insane amount of drumming in the mix, there’s not a ton of room for the guitars. The symphonic elements are mixed so high and follow the guitar parts so closely so often that I often find myself searching for what the fuck the guitars are actually doing, and according to the booklet three band members tracked guitars! The orchestration is not really used as an accent to the music, instead it’s the music itself, relentless and almost always at the forefront.
Even with the final mix “Agony” got, it can still work, just not for an entire album. Songs like “The betrayal” are just pure unadulterated awesomeness, like if Superman smoked a ton of crack and started slicing people in half with his laser vision while jizzing into the sky. “The egoism” finds the band with an operatic female guest, hell, they should have just used her for all clean vocals on the album. My favorite moment comes in more of a black metal form in “The forsaking”, and although it slightly reminds me of the outro to “Stormblåst” (okay, last Dimmu reference), it allows the music to breathe and provides an interesting vocal shift. Enter the rasps and whispers in addition to growls, and thankfully it also pushes those ball popping, out-of-tune clean vocals to a distance.
So what have we learned here? That Fleshgod Apocalypse has a taint-blisteringly fast drummer? That they have a keyboardist who knows how to write movie-score epicness on a regular basis? That on at least one occasion I’ve been caught masturbating to all the excesses of this album? All of the above. “Agony” is an album that had huge potential, and does indeed deliver often, but for all of its strengths, its weaknesses really hold it back. This is an album that could have benefited from a slightly different mix, and a lot less awkward high pitched male clean vocals. Couple in a weak instrumental closer which ends the album on a low note and you start thinking of what could have been. Also, I see the track titles and can’t help think where I’ve seen that pattern before. Oh, “In sorte diaboli”. Fuck!
- Released: 2011
- Label: Nuclear Blast Records
- Website: Fleshgod Apocalypse MySpace
- Tommaso Riccardi: vocals, guitar
- Christiano Trionfera: guitar, vocals
- Francesco Paoli: drums, guitar, vocals
- Francesco Ferrini: piano, keyboard
- Paolo Rossi: bass, clean vocals
- 01. Temptation
- 02. The Hypocrisy
- 03. The Imposition
- 04. The Deceit
- 05. The Violation
- 06. The Egoism
- 07. The Betrayal
- 08. The Forsaking
- 09. The Oppression
- 10. Agony