Fleshgod Apocalypse - Mafia
Willowtip Records (2010)
I must admit that, though I'd heard people rave like demented hyenas about this band, I had actually failed to check them out until this release, which is my own shear fucking stupidity and a mistake I quickly remedied by acquiring their previous effort Oracles at the soonest available opportunity.
In the world of death metal, having 'classical influences' can mean a number of things: It could mean that one or two of the tracks feature a piano or some hugely unconvincing synth strings; it could mean that you occasionally have a neoclassical solo comprised of licks memorised from some Malmsteen instructional video; it could mean that you're just one of those delusional fuckwits that thinks the occasional acoustic, instrumental interlude is all you need to elevate you above the 'riff-raff' of brutal bands to stand like the poncey cunt you are, stick firmly positioned in the anus, trying to convince everyone who'll listen that you're the metal Paganini.
Well, fuck you. . . fuck all of you, because Fleshgod Apocalypse truly do have classical influences; while neoclassical leads abound throughout this EP, there's no thoughtless widdling here. There is an originality to both the progressions and the arrangements with songs often being structured in a classical vein and building to a narrative crescendo before repeating key sections just to ensure they're suitably drilled into your brain.
This repetition does, however, get a bit tiresome. After the first few listens, Thru our Scars [sic – another demonstration of death metal's Illiterati elite] while full of brutal riffs, driving blasts and eye opening leads, I keep wanting the song to either end or do something different. The fact that one, initially jarring section featuring bassist Paulo Rossi's high-pitched and almost operatic vocals is repeated unnecessarily means that instead of the listener waiting for the second spin of the disc to sagely nod in understanding of why it was employed and how it fits musically, he's far more likely to want to teach the fucker a lesson in high-pitched, operatic singing with particular reference to castrati! Similar to some sections on Emperor's IX Equilibrium, while Rossi's vocals are hugely impressive, I can't help thinking that by simply dropping them for one of the two sections would actually serve to increase the emotion of the track as well as propelling the incredibly intricate fret-work that sits in the background to the fore.
Again, on Abyssal, we have an incredible track that could only benefit from losing a minute or two. I'm not sure whether Fleshgod and I are on different pages - me being on the one that says "leave the fuckers wanting more and they'll love you for it" - or if the Apocalypse boys are just trying to fill out an EP that only has three original songs on it, either way, these tracks could only benefit from going on a bit of a diet and coming out a little leaner and a little meaner.
Aside from the 3 new songs, the remaining tracks on the disc are a cover of Blinded by fear which, while both competently executed and differing enough from the At the Gates version, was never going to sound as good as the original and - like their previous album - a piano outro.
Criticisms aside, this is an amazing EP and an impressive follow up to Oracles. The malevolent tremolos, the expertly conducted sweeps, plethora of riffs, tight drumming, solid vocals and a composition which both surprises and manages to keep its hooks in for days on end mean that this is a near-faultless release. Those criticisms levelled at this release are minor in the extreme and on most other discs would be niggles compared to far bigger issues. The fact remains that there *are no* bigger issues. Not only is the musical ability on display phenomenal, the song-writing pretty much above reproach but it's all backed up with a superb mix that means that the brutality is accentuated while everything remains balanced and therefore audible.
With Hour of Penance' future looking uncertain to say the least, there are bound to be comparisons with two ex-members in Fleshgod, however we see these Romans not just distancing themselves from HOP but forging their own distinct furrow to an even greater degree. I just can't wait to see what their next full-length holds for us. . .