19 August 2013
With Fleshgod Apocalypse’s last studio album, The Agony, you had to be prepared to sit down and give it the attention and diligence it demanded; it was a punishing and mesmerising experience as waves of debilitating kick drum and disorientating orchestral barrages churned in your ear canal. In the midst of this maelstrom, bubbles of savage melody would rise to the surface, either in the form of Paulo Rossi’s clean vocals or the breakneck riffs that forced their way above the symphonic chaos below.
Labyrinth, on the surface, follows a very similar path to its predecessor. Momentous orchestral pieces designed to exact as much confusion and destruction on the mind of a human being still reign supreme. Cristiano Trionfera’s growl is a feral accompaniment to the instruments (and is notably savage on ‘Under Black Sails’), however never really stands out for the prominence of his delivery, but instead continues to convey the overall sadism of the record.
And yet listening to Labyrinth straight after The Agony is a bewildering experience. Gone are the moments of glorious fist-pumping clarity, like when the drapery falls away on ‘The Egoism’ to reveal the thunderous chugga-chugga-squeal of the riff underneath. Gone are the huge clean vocals that make you want to roar like you could bring the sky down. Labyrinth is a dogged and exhausting classically-infused epic that refuses to drop its pace; it never, not even for a second, lets you relish in Fleshgod’s unique mastery of their corner of extremity. This isn’t helped by the fact that the guitars sit far too low in the mix, making the album sound like it’s tethered to nothing in particular, being jostled around by vast classical squalls.
Listen to ‘Elegy’ by Fleshgod Apocalypse:
Don’t be mistaken, this is a hugely ambitious album in its attempt to put the Minoan epic to music – it’s a shame then that with such expectation in mind, not one track breaks away from the backdrop and comes close to replacing the seismically unexpected earworm-potential of ‘The Violation’. Even the minute-long soft instrumental caveat of ‘Prologue’ fails to procure much needed breathing space from the relentlessness of Labyrinth, giving emphasis neither to what precedes or follows it. Even after repeated listens, you’re left with the feeling that this could have been so much more.
Sounds Like: Agony
Standout Tracks: Under Black Sails, Elegy