Aug 102011

No one sounds like Fleshgod Apocalypse. No one. Not even close. In a remarkably short time, over a span of only two albums and an intervening EP, the band have established a unique and immediately recognizable style. The second of those albums, Agony, fully and brilliantly achieves what the band have been moving toward since their inception — a remarkable union of classical music and blistering death metal, heated to a full boil. The album is a bombastic whirlwind that leaves you breathless and wide-eyed in wonder.

On Agony, all of Fleshgod Apocalypse’s signature ingredients are now firmly in place. The extravagant symphonic keyboards and piano instrumentals of Francesco Ferrini are now woven completely through the magic carpet of every song, a completely co-equal partner with the thunderous performances of the other band members. Although even the timing and power of the guitar riffing and bass rhythms give off the favor of orchestral composition, Ferrini’s musical creations, more than anything else, put an indelible stamp on the music, invoking the ornate classical masters of the band’s Italian homeland in their most extravagantly fiery moments — Vivaldi, Paganini, and Rossini.

Of course, other metal bands use symphonic keyboards in their music, though more often in an effort to add background ambience and atmosphere than as a co-starring role in the performance. But, as Fleshgod Apocalypse have explained, they view the classical music of the 17th and 18th centuries as the death metal of that era —  as music that was (and is) powerful, dramatic, and heavy — and so their goal, now fully realized, has been to unite music from two very different worlds that nevertheless have in common the ability to produce (in my words, not theirs) complete emotional catharsis. And that brings us to the drumming.  (after the jump . . .)

If Ferrini’s contributions invoke the baroque grandeur of one world, Francesco Paoli opens the door to the blast-furnace of the other. His drumming isn’t particularly intricate or varied; the vast majority of the time, it’s an unceasing barrage of blast-beats and double-kicks. But executing intricate patterns and tempo shifts isn’t the point, and frankly, I’m not sure there would be room for it anyway, given the blistering speed of the compositions.

The point is to capture the vaulting extremity of modern death metal, as both a complement to, and a contrast with, the tropes of classical music, and Paoli does that. His drumming is machinelike in its precision, and simply jaw-dropping in its speed. It’s a dominant presence in each song, and hearing what he does is like walking into the leading edge of a hurricane.

His performance is all the more remarkable given that he only began studying the drums before the recording of the Mafia EP (having been the vocalist and guitarist on the band’s debut album, Oracles), when the band’s former drummer left and they were unable to find a replacement who could contribute what they wanted. Apparently what they wanted was a drummer who would show no mercy.

In keeping with the furious pacing of the songs, guitarists Tommaso Riccardi and Cristiano Trionfera and bassist Paolo Rossi are fast as blazes in their riffing, executing technically demanding bursts of propulsion, and somehow designing the rhythmic starts and stops and melodic flourishes in a way that integrates beautifully with Ferrini’s symphonic compositions. The initial experience of listening to the album is a bit overwhelming, it’s such an onslaught of sonic power and fury. But the more you concentrate on the songs, the more complex and challenging you realize they are, and the more appreciation you’ll have for the skills of these three.

The guitar solos, principally by Riccardi, are another important ingredient in the band’s unique sound. Against the backdrop of all other instruments ramped up to jet-fueled speed, the spiraling solos unfold at a contrastingly slower pace, and with a soulful, emotional aspect that also contrasts with the machinelike brutality of the drums. Like every other ingredient in the music, the soloing integrates seamlessly with the rest of the instrumental and vocal performances, perhaps nowhere more evident than in “The Egoism”, when it blends and segues into the clean vocals so smoothly that the two sounds become one.

And that brings us to the final key ingredient of the music captured on Agony: the vocals. In keeping with the band’s goal of combining the music of two worlds, almost every song features both Riccardi’s vicious death-metal roars and barks and also the climbing, over-the-top, near-operatic clean vocals of Paolo Rossi. At times, his falsetto climbs so high that his voice comes close to breaking apart, but even then, it serves the band’s goals of achieving cathartic emotional power in an extreme union of divergently extreme forms of music.

Three songs step back (or sideways) from the explosive, house-on-fire pacing of all the rest. The dramatic, melancholy sweep of “The Forsaking” creates a change of mood and pacing, underscored by the unusually ambient-style synths, by piano instrumentals, and by the vocal sounds of a choir. Riccardi’s harsh vocals also change, lending a blackened feel to the song through icy rasps but also dropping even lower than usual in the register of death-metal roars.

The other departures are the album’s bookends — the opening track, “Temptation”, and the title track, “Agony”. “Temptation” is a symphonic overture that builds in intensity and power and then flows without pause directly into “The Hypocrisy”, as if to prove the point, without doubt, that classical music (at least some forms of it) and death metal belong together.

“Agony” draws the album to a close, much as the title track of the Mafia EP ushered us to the end of that record, with a moving, solitary piano instrumental. It is just as emotionally affecting as the rest of the music, but it allows the listener to recover from the onslaught of what has come before, while maintaining a connection to it as well.

The iTunes version of Agony includes a bonus track. By delaying this review until after the official U.S. release date, I was able to check out that song, which isn’t available on the CD. It’s a cover of “Heartwork” by Carcass. The FA version is still recognizably “Heartwork”, with the riffing and solo work much closer to the Carcass brand than to FA’s signature style. Yet, FA have put their own stamp on the song with Ferrini’s symphonic keys and Paoli’s full-auto machine-gunning. It’s a great rendition of the song and worth getting.

You knew I couldn’t close this lengthy piece without offering up some music. I have no favorites on the album — because they have all become favorites. I picked “The Hypocrisy” simply because it’s the way the onslaught begins. I only wish I were technically adept enough to blend together “Temptation” and “The Hypocrisy” into a single track, to give you the full feeling of how the album starts, and a true sense of the message the band are sending through their music — that the two worlds of music from which Fleshgod Apocalypse have drawn their inspiration belong together.

[audio:|titles=Fleshgod Apocalypse – The Hypocrisy]

Nuclear Blast released Agony in the U.S. yesterday, but are making European metalheads wait until August 19. If you get as interested in this unusual band as we are here at NCS, I’d recommend listening to the 3 videos (so far) that they’ve recently made, answering fan questions. I linked to the first one earlier in this review. The others are here and here.

I had the pleasure of seeing FA perform on the still-ongoing SUMMER SLAUGHTER tour. That tour is exposing them for the first time to thousands of fans across the U.S. I expect/hope that it will do for them what the first nationwide tour of Gojira did for that band — vault them into the upper reaches of metaldom where they belong. When I heard Gojira on their first US tour, I had the same sense then that I have now about FA — that Europe has brought to our shores (yet again) something different and unforgettable, and we are witnessing a star that is about to rise rapidly.

UPDATE: The band have just posted the lyrics to all the songs on Agony.  You can find them via this link.

  36 Responses to “FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE: “AGONY” (Take 2)”

  1. The “breaking” of the cleans has grown on me a lot more. It just sounds like he’s going for it as much as the death vocals are, which appeals to me.

    • Exactly. It was a bit jarring to me when I first heard it happening (or nearly happening), but then it grew on me, and I do think it fits and makes sense for just the reason you identify.

      • I’ve thus decided I want to see a tour with Dimmu Borgir / Septic Flesh / Fleshgod Apocalypse happen.

        Truly redefining epic.

        Oh, and as long as Septic Flesh tour with a full-line up, rather than needing sampled clean vocals.

        • In one of those video Fan Q&A’s to which I linked in the review (the second one I think), they mention bands they would like to “share the stage with”. I couldn’t quite hear the whole answer, but Septic Flesh was one name I did hear.

        • That kinda tour would be a sure highlight of anyone’s life, but then again, if for some reason such tour ouwld be organized, it would be in NA for sure, or the furthest point in the world from Finland. Damn you yanks!

          • OT:
            Also, now that i came to think about Septicflesh, i realised i’ve never seen a music video from them. So i did some research and couldn’t find any, mostly because, apparently, they haven’t got any. Now, am i the only one that thinks that given the creative, grandiloquent, dark and atmospheric art provided by their music, could possibly result into something truly wonderful, in the form of a music video? Of course, the outcome could also be horrendous and bland at worst. Anyways, just thinking, carry on gentlemen!

          • You’re not the only one who’d miss out. They’d skip over my hometown for some place a quarter the size with an eighth the culture.

      • I didn’t really think about the vocals “breaking”, but now that y’all are talking about it….
        Yah, totally spot on!

  2. By the Cube, I must get this album. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until next week after my next paycheck to do so. There are some other must get upcoming/recent albums on this list, but Agony is currently the top entry.

  3. Not sure when I can get this, I need to get new clothes for the upcoming school year (college… booooooo), and band shirts aren’t exactly the cheapest things in the world… also need new jeans and some cargo shorts… not to mention Woolite Dark to keep the shirts and jeans the color they are supposed to be.

    • The album was only about $7.99 on Amazon MP3.

      I realize that can still be a lot of money, but it’s less than a CD. But I think maybe you prefer the CD?

      • I’ve never really used Amazon MP3. Do you have to pay for the service and the album or just for the album?

        • Just the album.

          Though they give a choice between downloading it to your harddrive or keeping it in the cloud….I always download everything to my HD, but I think the cloud is free….

          • Cloud? The thing that all those commercials rave about? What exactly is it?

            • I’m not sure about the commercials, but it certainly has been raved about.

              As far as I understand it, the “cloud” is basically just storage space on remote servers. The idea being that by storing everything remotely, you can access it from anywhere on pretty much any device. The obvious downside being that you can’t access it at all without an internet connection and your dependent on someone keeping their fucking servers running correctly and consistently and not getting hacked.

              Maybe someone with more cloud experience should chime in here?

              • It varies depending on the service, but you’ve pretty much got the idea. Amazon Cloud gives you 5 GB of space, plus there are options to upgrade. You can upload your stuff to your Cloud storage and access it from any computer, plus Android based phones (you can’t upload from one though). For your music, there’s also a Cloud Player to stream your purchases and uploads. With Amazon MP3, you also have the option of saving your purchase to your Cloud account (but not retroactively).

                Other Cloud services work in similar ways, depending of what kinds of things they do, but I tend to prefer having control over my stuff, so I am wary of cloud only stuff – thus, Chrome OS has absolutely no appeal to me. Google Docs does make collaborative projects easier and you can create documents online with MSN’s SkyDrive. Great for working together or working on something solo if you’re on a computer that doesn’t have the same software another computer you use has on it.

                Whether cloud based services become the de facto way of doing things remains to be seen. The concept’s been around for at least a decade or so (I remember using xDrive for a bit), but with broadband being more widespread and more and more ISP’s offering unlimited usage, it’s become quite popular in some circles as of late. Still, I am reluctant to put a whole lot of faith into cloud based storage or cloud computing for most tasks. Maybe it’s a bit of paranoia creeping in, but I like having control over my computer, my files and the software I run. Doesn’t mean I won’t run something like Folding@Home or maybe even SETI, which use the concept of cloud computing (in a way).

                • Okay, so I’m glad I had the right idea.

                  And while I don’t really think Amazon or someone is going to intentionally fuck me over, it’s not that hard for a server to go down. So I, too, prefer having that stuff on my own computer.

                  Of course, right now, Amazon’s servers are probably a hell of a lot more stable than this piece of shit.

                  • Agreed about being fucked over, just as I wouldn’t expect Amazon, Apple, Google or MSN to suddenly pull the plug and leave you hanging without any way to get your data – if it still existed (which, in all honesty, probably would). I’d expect nothing less from the major names, except maybe Facebook. It’s the smaller companies that I’d worry about – just as I’d be careful about off-site storage in the coventional meaning.

                    Either way, this is one area of tech where it is probably more important to pay attention to the TOS and/or EULA than it is in other circumstances. While I may not read every word of every TOS or EULA I encounter, I don’t just blindly hit “I Agree” and move on. You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at some of the stuff that’s out there, disguised in double-talk and legalese. That doesn’t mean it all applies in every situation, but it doesn’t hurt to know what the company/provider/whatever says they will and will not do.

    • A word of advice: don’t drink the Woolite Dark. It may be tempting, but it’s a slippery slope from there to bleach an dishwashing liquid. Stick with the regular Woolite.

      • Don’t listen to islander….you don’t get the same wacky “OMG TENTACLES ARE MASSAGING MY SCROTUM FROM INSIDE MY HERNIA HOLE!!” with the regular Woolite.

        Also, when trying to pick up freshmen girls/boys, be sure you’ve bathed in vodka and pig’s blood. It smells great at 8 am calculus.

        • Well, Utmu, Phro is right that you don’t get the “OMG TENTACLES ARE MASSAGING MY SCROTUM FROM INSIDE MY HERNIA HOLE!!” from the regular Woolite, but at least you’ll keep your eyesight and your dick won’t fall off. So, unless the idea of becoming a blind, dickless person appeals to you, listen to your Uncle Islander and avoid drinking the Woolite Dark.


            HEAD MEATS!!!!!!
            HEAAAAAAAAAAD MEEEEEEEAAAAAAATSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! H̶̢̘͚̥͍͎͍͈̤̺̙̠ͬͣ̉ͦ̌ͣ̌̓̇̀̚͡E̻̠͎̲͇̳͉͔̯͉͉̒̂̎̃̉̾ͫ͑̇ͣ̎̇ͯͮ͐͘̕͡Ą̯͇̭͉̹͓͙͚̹̹̥̰͙͑̓̇͐͌̄̍̅͂̈̊̿͋̋́̒̚̚̕͠͡͡D̨̧͇̥̖̞̣̳͔̳ͫ͑̽͗͛̑̓̓̽ ̫̳͉̟̱̰͓͇̘̠͕̗ͧ͐̔̃ͩͬ̔̆ͮͧ̀͒́͌ͣ͝Ṃ̷͙̰̘̞͈͓̝̹̝̻̰̻̩͓̣̒̓̿̐͆ͩ͋̍̓̆̾́̃ͫͬͤͯ́̚͘͜Ę̢̞̝̞͔̪̓ͣ͛̋̒̉́͢A̴̢̡̢̰̖̟͖̿ͨ̏ͧ̋̄ͧ́̈́͒͆̌̀Tͥ̑̏̑̄̎͂́̏̅ͦ͑͞҉̘̤͕̙͔̪̘S̢̱̥̲̯̤͍͙̤͖̠̖̞̯̻̍ͤͬ̈͑͊͋̅̎̒̓͌̄̋̓͘͜!̹̹̜̗͖̹̠͇͚̰̗̙̖͙̘̪̖̟͍ͤ̅̐̆̅̔̅͂͘!̧̰̠̲̪͉̰͍͔͖̜̩̙̱̩̮ͩ̆̈́̔̍͟!̧̛̍̇ͤ̽ͪ̉̐͏̜̘͇͚͓̟͔̞͍͙͇̩̝̫ͅ!̶̢̛̗̟͖̥̭͚͔͙̬̻̍̇ͭͭ͒̏ͥ̏͑͒̚͝!̴̽̊ͫͤͣ̽̉͂͂̇̽͒ͧ͏̵̢̟͖̰̖̙̦͖̲̬͍̟̳̰̹̳̹!̬͖̳̜̫̝̫͎̺̘̖̿̂ͥ̆̿̃̐ͧ͌͞͞ͅ

            • FUCK! What have you done to my beautiful Comments section?!? You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?

              I tried to get Head Meats for the Pancake tour, but they don’t work for money. They require . . . things . . . that I’m not willing to give them.

            • For some reason, looking at this, Lovecraft sprung into my mind. The parts where people yell random stuff about ctulhu & r´lyeh and afterwards can’t remember a thing. But then again, he’s not being possessed, just being good ‘ol Phro!

      • You do realize that bleach is actually fit for human consumption, right?

        Granted, it’s not something you’re supposed to drink (and I am NOT suggesting you try to), but if clorine bleach is supposed to be used for sanitizing food surfaces and can be used to treat water if you can’t boil it (think disaster area without electricity or working gas lines), it needs to be something that isn’t going to kill you. Hell, eventually food code may even require the use of bleach that passes certain tests – which will like raise the price and limit what we can and can’t use in a licensed kitchen.

        Then again, we’re talking trace and small amounts here. Doing a shot of bleach is a very, very bad idea.

        • Isn’t it less fit for human consumption and more small amounts won’t kill you, then?

          I mean, you can drink X amount of gasoline before it’ll actually do bad shit to you, but I wouldn’t say it’s fit for human consumption. Then again, the same could be said for alcohol so…wait…

          Really??? Now I’m just confused.

          • Okay, maybe I’m not wording it quite right. I’d have to dig out the food code to look up the exact figures, and right now, I have a headache wandering towards migraine levels, so I’m not gonna bother. They read about as well as auto-tuned pop/dance/hip-hop sounds.

            What the instructor told us at the heatlth department is that because bleach (or any other product used for sanitzing) is meant to remain on a food contact surface, it needs to be something that will both reduce the amounts of bacteria, yet remain at a concentration that will not be harmful if/when transferred to food – in particular something that’s ready to eat (and more so when it’s also a PHF). Most anything that’s used in a licensed kitchen is subject to regulation and there are limits to what can and can’t bs used on certain equipment, surfaces or other areas of interest. Since any chemical used on a food surface can be transferred to food – and thus, a customer – therein lies the need for it to be something that’s safe for human consumption, even at trace amounts. And it does work in water when you have no other (read: better) way; it may give the water a bit of a taste, though, even if you don’t exceed the “recommended” amount.

            The possible change in food law I mentioned is in regards to this and for any brand of bleach to be used in a licensed food establishment; it must pass certification in order to not be in violation of the FDA Food Code. While each state can choose to adopt the FDA’s Food Code in full or not, I would imagine that this is something that would probably make it into state food law without much hesitation.

            Again, I’m not saying or suggesting that bleach is safe to drink or anything like that. Just came to mind when islander mentioned Woolite Dark being a gateway to other hazardous liquids. What can I say… headaches make the brain cells not think quite like they’re supposed to and there was no need for me to derail the discussion (such as it was) in this direction. Usually – when you’re around – tentacles get involved. Instead, I’ve brought in food code. The fuck?

            • Actually, that’s really fucking fascinating!!!

              I never thought about it before, but that totally makes sense. Very good to know!

              I used to work in a cafeteria kitchen, and we had like three different “mixes” to be used for cleaning–one for the floor, one for deep clean and then one one for a rinse. (I think. Maybe the last one was for knives and we just used water for rinse?) Anyway, I always wondered what was different about each one.

              And now that I’ve thought about it, I have heard that you could use small amount of bleach for water purification. I just thought that meant that it wouldn’t kill you, even if it might make your gut a bit unhappy.

              Thanks for the information! Hope you headache gets better….

              • Well, I’d say it’s probably a bit of both. As I said, sometimes there isn’t a better way (boiling, filtering). It gets the job done, even if the results aren’t quite the same. Small amounts won’t kill you and they’ve determined what concentration is safe for everyone and still effective, plus they have test strips to make sure you’re between the recommended range (in parts per million).

                Food code does have something to say about cleaning floors, cleaning carpet (and where you can and can’t have carpet), rinsing and so much more – if it’s in the kitchen, there’s probably some rule or subrule governing it and what you can use on it. Code used to focus on the establishment itself, wheras now it’s more risk-based system, looking for how the CPFM (Certified Profession Food Manager) and the staff run things and what procedures are in place. Doesn’t mean the place itself doesn’t matter, just that certain aspects of where you’re at have been reorganized and may be part of what’s called “Good/Bad Business Practices” – and of course, a place that’s in terrible shape is still a place that’s in terrible shape, not matter how competent the staff is.

                A lot of it is common sense, but that apparently isn’t a pre-requisite for running a business. Other stuff is a lot of busywork, redundancy and anal-retentiveness. Unfortunately, there is still some inconsistency with food code and what you can and can’t do. For example, a restaurant can sell something made in anyone kitchen, so long as you give notice that it was made in an unlicensed kitchen. Or you can serve something made elsewhere (or maybe at the same place) without any notice, so long as nothing’s charged for it.

                My current headache may be messing with my memory on this, but I’m pretty sure these are some of the stupid things that code does allow for, as told to us by the instructor (who is also an inspector). Also keep in mind that this is Michigan’s Food Law; other states may not have these bits that seem counter to why the Food Code was written in the first place.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.