Review Summary: Fleshgod Apocalypse's second full-length will relieve worried fans and possibly entice more praise (and moshing) than their debut.
After a jaw-dropping debut and an EP that drew enough mixed opinions to bring grounds for questioning the future of the band, Fleshgod Apocalypse
had something to prove with their second full-length release, entitled Agony
is a step in a new direction in many aspects for the band. The trademark "who can move their arms the fastest" sound is still there, with the guitarists and drummer going hand-in-hand to create a blasting, intense sound, but a new take on the vocals is perhaps the most apparent. Tomasso Riccardi and Christiano Trionfera bring us the brutal growls present in this album, and are joined by bassist Paolo Rossi's clean vocals that, surprisingly enough, lend well to the mix. While they don't often join together in the same space, the primarily one-after-the-other method works well with the BPM of the overall album (which, as far as I can tell, is about 8,000). Speaking of BPM, a more in-depth listen reveals minor but essential changes in the drumwork and guitarwork. The distortion has been lowered somewhat, and the increase in clean space allows for much more prominent solos and sweeps. This is paramount in giving the guitarists the credit they deserve for executing such feats of fingerwork, and is a refreshing improvement to the previous mixing that left solos and key guitar parts buried under rhythm and drumming. The drumming itself seems both more chaotic and controlled at the same time, which also lends to a generally cleaner mix and a more enjoyable listen without sacrificing that traditional Fleshgod drumming. Francesco's feet are almost always moving, and often at that 8,000 BPM I mentioned earlier, but he keeps a lid on his handwork this time around and let's us focus to the other instruments from time to time.
The other Francesco mans the piano, and his role, although admittedly overshadowed by the rest of the band at times, is crucial in setting Fleshgod Apocalypse apart and stopping them from digressing into a disorientating mess. The one thing I noticed about Francesco's pianowork is that if the drummer acts as the rest of the band's metronome, he finds his own metronome in the pianowork. I can only imagine that blasting at that drum kit for five or six minutes per song makes it difficult to always be well-paced, but the Francescos really compliment each other here. The only thing physically missing from the band is an entire synth and string orchestra backing up their technical death metal onslaught, which brings me to the topic of Fleshgod's synth aspect. Contrary to past speculation and prediction, the synth of this album is not present the entire time, nor is it sparse. While it may border on overkill for some, I believe it compliments each and every track extremely well, and the band's sound benefits from it. The orchestral aspect of Fleshgod has always been an interesting and pleasant digression from the main body of the song in the past, but all aspects of the band, synth included, meld together to form the bulk of Agony
. As opposed to only appearing when it was convenient to change up the pace, the synth backs key portions of each song and leads from one track to the next in a manner that's more refreshing than the more breakneck approach of the band's past efforts.
All in all, Fleshgod has really pulled through with Agony
, crafting a masterpiece of technical death metal that showcases serious talent and rivals the replayability of Oracles
(let's face it; you only ever listened to the first track before zoning out anyways). My only complaints are that the bass often gets buried behind the rest of the band (or is too unrecognisable, one of the two), and that Agony
really feels like one great big song as opposed to an album with individual tracks. This approach seems similar to the one the band took with the Mafia
EP. While there are pros and cons to that approach, Agony
is a more-than-solid release, regardless of track-to-track individuality. For the techdeath compatriots who have been hailing Born of Osiris
' The Discovery
as the best release if 2011.... This album is my challenge to your wild claim.
2.) "The Hypocrisy"
4.) "The Deceit"
5.) "The Violation"
7.) "The Betrayal"
8.) "The Oppression"