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Fleshgod Apocalypse - Agony CD (album) cover


Fleshgod Apocalypse

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Agony' - Fleshgod Apocalypse (9/10)

For me, death metal is a style of music that I can at least respect, but it usually takes an added dimension in the music for me to really enjoy it. Fleshgod Apocalypse are one such band that has managed to take the fury of technical death metal and done something off- center with it, fusing the blistering heaviness with symphonic undertones and neoclassically-derived riffs. 'Oracles' and their subsequent EP 'Mafia' both largely impressed me, and with that, the arrival of 'Agony' was something I was eager to check out. As my intuition may have suggested to me, Fleshgod Apocalypse are continuing to distinguish their sound from the legions of other tech death acts out there, creating an epic suite of music that could be said to be death metal's response to classical music.

'Agony' is a brilliant sophomore in the sense that it not only improves upon what the band was originally doing, but the sound has been tweaked and intensified. As far as technical death metal goes, Fleshgod Apocalypse are at the top of the game. Crushing riffs and some of the most intense drumming I have ever heard have been the core of the band since I first heard them. To steer them away from the sounds of similar acts however is some surprisingly melodic neoclassical guitar solos that soar overtop the brutality, and the vocal duties are shared between the fairly typical growls of Tommaso Riccardi, and the higher register 'power metal' wail of bassist Paolo Rossi, whose highly melodic, quasi-operatic way of singing is always a refreshing change of pace from the rest. There have also been orchestral arrangements in the past, usually twittering around here and there in order to accentuate certain parts and give them that extra dose of class and charm. The symphonic element to Fleshgod Apocalypse has always been appreciated in the past, but at least on the debut, it almost felt more like a gimmick, rather than a full-fledged part of the music.

This is where 'Agony'' comes in.

Not only have the orchestral arrangements been improved greatly, but they are now an integral part of what Fleshgod offers. Virtually the entire course of brutality on 'Agony' is accompanied by gorgeous symphonic arrangements, and here they are far from a gimmick; they easily add a whole new dimension of sound and intensity to the band. Christiano Trionfera's orchestral writing here is on par with that of a neoclassical, or film score writer, and the orchestration manages to capture both an added sense of peril, and beauty to what the band does. Fleshgod Apocalypse would have still contributed a very capable technical death metal album to listeners even were it not for this orchestral angle, but its the brilliant fusion of Italian classical sensibilities that elevates the band to the realm of masters.

The album flows together like a single piece of music; a technical death metal symphony, one might say. The highlights here certainly include most of the parts where the clean vocals are used, as well as the classical orchestrations, as well as where Fleshgod Apocalypse decide to reach their most crushing and heavy. It can certainly be said that the sheer speed and complexity of the music can make it a tough egg to crack for those who are not used to such technical music. Fleshgod Apocalypse's 'Agony' is a stunning masterpiece in virtually every regard however, and even with this only being their second album, I would safely declare that Fleshgod are the new masters of modern death metal.

Report this review (#493096)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Agony's unique blend of brutal technical death metal and symphonic classical music immediately took the metal world by storm with its relentlessly technical compositions and precise orchestrations, and it's also helped give Fleshgod Apocalypse enough attention to be considered one of the most important young extreme metal acts on the scene. The Italian band made some waves with their previous two releases, but Agony is the album that will probably appeal most to the more forward-thinking metal community - after all, what's there not to like about technical death metal matched together with classical orchestrations? Unlike many other reviewers, I haven't been entirely blown away by Agony for a few reasons, but there's no denying the ambition and creativity found on this effort.

The music on Agony can best be described as a cross between the previous Fleshgod Apocalypse album, Septic Flesh, Dimmu Borgir, and Suffocation - that means you should basically expect the same style of brutal technical death metal that was on Oracles, as well as symphonic orchestrations and a more bombastic atmosphere. Mixing technical death metal with orchestral music has rarely (if ever) been done before, so I have a great appreciation for the ambition that Fleshgod Apocalypse shows on Agony. They really are a group of visionaries, and with a bit more improvement in some key areas, their next effort in this style could really be something special. While certainly good, Agony does leave quite a bit of promise and potential unfulfilled.

My biggest issue with Agony is that, even though the arrangements are more complex and intricate than ever, the songwriting feels a bit one-dimensional and monotonous. The frequent (and extremely well played, I might add) blast beats become numbing after a while, and the triggered sound of the drums certainly doesn't help in this area. As a matter of fact, I don't take a liking to most of the traits of the over-compressed and sterile nature of the production - it's professional for sure, but I would've enjoyed Agony much more if it had a more natural sound. The musicianship is among the best you'll ever hear, but it's so poorly mixed that everything feels drowned out by the triggered drums and orchestrations.

Agony has a lot of really cool traits, but the compositions just simply aren't memorable enough for me to label this as the 'essential masterpiece' that many others make it out to be - and, as mentioned earlier, the production also seems to bother me quite a bit. With all of that said, there are some great tracks on Agony ("The Egoism" comes to mind), the musicianship is absolutely stunning, and the ambition of this effort is admirable in every sense of the word. People who enjoy very brutal and technical death metal but are also open to hearing some classical orchestrations will definitely want to give this a listen. 3.5 stars are pretty appropriate here.

Report this review (#562342)
Posted Friday, November 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Symphonic Brutal Death Metal with catchy furious blast beats? Yes it does! A style created by themselves, but that was still being improved. Fleshgod Apocalypse finally found the right balance between symphony and brutality with Agony. You know, I'm always looking for something new. They tried once. They tried twice. And now they reached my total respect. No, they wasn't a bad band. But here they really got what they sought before. There is a dark mood here. Apocalypse atmosphere. And the guitar solos have a great feeling, within the mood. The bad point is: the album needed more breaks. Maybe some slow and atmospheric parts, or songs like the last track, Agony, in the middle of the album.
Report this review (#957237)
Posted Friday, May 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars So you can't decide if you want to go to the opera or have it out at the mosh pit? What to do? Well, luckily there are options and FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE lays it all out as the perfect way to feel like you're getting a little culture while head banging until your eardrums bleed. AGONY is the third overall studio release following in the incremental footsteps of "Oracles" and the "Mafia EP." While on those two releases brutal death metal was the clear winner in the musical version of Predator Vs. Alien with the classical and symphonic aspects that the band incorporates being banished to the underworld where they would only be allowed to come up for air once in a while with only brief smatterings of their underlying importance in the musical structure. On AGONY we get a shift of power and the classical music is vying for dominance as it shares a fairly equally footing with the brutal death metal making this one of the most well balanced symphonic extreme metal albums i have ever heard.

On the very first track "Temptation" we get a dark and sombre taste of a Berlioz sounding "Symphonie Fantastique" with a haunted diva ushering in undulating rhythms that ratchet up the intensity that ultimately summon the metallic beast of the underworld allowing the cacophonous raucousness we call death metal to join the party and bombard us with the monstrous technical drumming of Francesco Ferrini doing his best to rip the classical aspects to shreds. Accordingly he is joined in by the insanely down tuned guitar dual guitar assaults and bass madness, however on AGONY unlike the previous two releases, the classical music has regained its power and now is in full control never letting itself to be diminished to second best. The result is nothing less of outstanding as neither the death metal aspects nor the classical aspects of the music compromise their integral physiognomy in the least bit making this one of the most triumphing releases of this sort of symphonic extreme metal.

I'm serious when i say don't think for one minute that the extremely brutal death metal aspects have been compromised by letting the orchestral elements shine through. Somehow FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE pulls this off with grace. While the majority of the album is highly aggressive on the death metal side with Tommaso Riccardi bantering out the most guttural and growly of death metal vocals alongside some of the best technical drumming skills in the musical world that serves as an anchor to the metal side even at the album's most mellow moments, there are plenty of passages where a more melodic contemplative side are allowed to reign such as on "The Deceit" where Riccardi trades off with bassist Paolo Rossi's clean vocal contributions. In addition there are many more pure symphonic non-metal moments that not only serve as bridges between the ten tracks that seamlessly run together but when the two genre styles are in full swing always is heard as an equal not being subjugated to second class. If that wasn't enough Cristiano Trionfera somehow fits neoclassical power metal guitar solos into the intact death metal sound.

Upon first listen i was a little disappointed as i felt the symphonic aspects dominated a little too much on this one in comparison with the previous two but after a few listens this prejudice literally disintegrated and the beauty of the balancing act between the two styles and the awesomeness of the arrangements and song structures sunk in. Once again, the classical music is the very fabric of the song structures and GODFLESH APOCALYPSE proves here that they are all classically trained musicians who are just a wee bit more caffeinated than the average Yo-Yo Ma's of the world! This is music that you can truly feel so old-worldly cultured in the mosh pit. You can feel like a hoity-toity bigwig for a nanosecond only to be shattered by extremely brutal and frenetic sonic attacks. The album remains really brutal but on "The Forsaking" a classical piano run is the dominant force having wrested control of the death metal and walks it on a leash but on "The Oppression" death chews that leash off and furiously regains its foothold. After all actors in this sonic cockfight are exhausted and call it a day, the finale "Agony" ends the highly energetic fusion affair with a nice Chopin inspired classical piano piece that instills a melancholic dread that leaves the listener feeling like tangled dude on the cover art devoid of hope, light and promise of resolution. Wickedly cool stuff! 4.5 round up!

Report this review (#1525560)
Posted Thursday, February 4, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Agony" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Italian death metal act Fleshgod Apocalypse. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in August 2011. Itīs the successor to "Oracles" from 2009 although the two full-length albums are bridged by the "Mafia" EP from 2010.

Stylistically the material on "Agony" is a continuation of the symphonic technical death metal sound of the two preceding releases. The death metal part of the music is pretty brutal, highly energetic, and technically well played, predominantly featuring deep growling vocals, but also occassional high pitched (semi-operatic) male clean vocal parts performed by bassist Paolo Rossi. Soprano Veronica Bordacchini performs vocals on "Temptation" and "The Egoism". There are strong neo-classical leanings in the lead guitar work, but itīs the dominant classical orchestral parts which define the music. Itīs obvious from the arrangements that at least one of the guys in the band is a classically trained musician/composer.

The high level musicianship is definitely one of the great assets of the music, and itīs hard not to be impressed by the speed and dexterity of the performances. The drumming is fast-paced and blasting and drive the music forward with a great energy, and the guitars/bass follow suit. The orchestral parts provide an epic atmosphere to the death metal basis of the music, and thatīs where the band shine. To my ears the death metal basis is solid, but itīs not extraordinary, and thatīs because there arenīt that many killer riffs in the music. Most riffs on the album are brutal fast-paced tremolo picking and more or less just there to support the orchestral parts and bring brutality, and only few stand out. A couple of more memorable riffs could have elevated the music to a higher level. The growling vocals are also slightly one-dimensional in style, and although neither the guitar riffs nor the vocals are major issues, both parts of the music should be mentioned as features with room for improvement.

When that is said the lead guitar work is on a high level and the orchestral parts are well composed and suit the music well, and as "Agony" also features a powerful and detailed sounding production, itīs ultimately a high quality release. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

(Originally posted on Metal Music Archives)

Report this review (#2579643)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2021 | Review Permalink

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