Review Summary: "Holy shit, that is fast."
I think that we can now call "symphonic death metal" a true subgenre. The releases of Septic Flesh's "The Great Mass" and MaYaN's "Quarterpast" were perfect indicators of what was to come. In a year that has been extremely good for extreme metal (new albums by Obscura, Autopsy, Origin, Aurora Borealis, and Deicide), and for heavy metal in general (a new album from Anthrax, the emergence of NWOBHM legends Hell, the reunions of Slipknot, System of a Down, and At the Gates) Fleshgod Apocalypse's new album, Agony, rises above all as being the best album of 2011 thus far.
Agony is 10 tracks of total, unrelenting fury. The five men that comprise this group obviously have more than enough skill with their instruments, as one can tell from every track reaching as high as 300 beats per minute. I'm more than likely sure that the initial reaction one will have upon listening to the first proper track, "The Hypocrisy", will be "Holy ***, that is fast." Then again, they'll probably have that same reaction for every other track on the album. The only track that does not follow the "fast as ***" formula is the closing title track, which is a soft piano piece. Another thing that many will be quick to pick up on while listening is that every track is loaded to the brim with orchestra and symphonic backing. It's as if the band listened to Dimmu Borgir's "Abrahadabra" and decided to go even further orchestra wise than that album did. There is almost not one moment on this album that doesn't contain orchestra.
But what makes an album other than the people in it? If you answered "Drumagog", I pity you. The five members of Fleshgod Apocalypse have crafted this album meticulously and to as fine detail as possible. Special mentions have to be given to bassist/clean vocalist Paolo Rossi and drummer Francesco Paoli. Paolo is one of the best clean singers in extreme metal this side of ICS Vortex. In fact, he's this band's answer to Vortex. Paolo sings in a very high register, his voice is incredibly powerful, and he reminds me of an opera singer. Francesco Paoli has apparently only been playing drums for 2 or 3 years (about the same time as me). I suck compared to Francesco. Mr. Paoli has partaken in one of the best drumming albums since Nick Barker's performance on Purtanical Euphoric Misanthropia. 50 straight minutes of 300 BPM double bass and blast beats. Guitarists Tommaso Riccardi (also vocalist) and Cristiano Trionfera take the standard guitar techniques of death metal (LOTS of tremolo picking on the high strings) and morph them into devices to create a masterpiece with. Riccardi's growls also speak clearly and loudly of his talent as a vocalist; they are more gutteral and powerful than most of the death metal bands going today. Francesco Ferrini handles the orchestra here, along with the rest of the band, and as a whole they create some of the best orchestral backing in a symphonic metal album ever.
Agony is the best album of 2011. Hands down, no contest, back of the line. It had some mighty big accomplishments to go over (the new albums of Obscura, Autopsy, Origin, Aurora Borealis, and Deicide as mentioned earlier), but it prevails as being not just a cut above the rest, but being the entire cow (I'm not entirely sure if anyone else will get that joke, but *** it, it's my review). The spectacular arrangements, the amazingly talented band members, and the simply scintillating orchestral backings prove to make Fleshgod Apocalypse the best, most original, and downright most ass kicking band in extreme metal today.