Italy's Fleshgod Apocalypse first came into the technical death metal scene with 2009's "Oracles" but didn't receive the massive amount of popularity they have now until 2011 with "Agony" an album that was a huge sounding release with blend of visceral and epic classical music and blistering and unrelenting death metal. Hearing that album for the first time three years ago, I did enjoy the record, but only on a superficial level. And once the novelty of "Agony" wore off after only a few short weeks, it slipped back into my CD collection. Skip ahead two years later, "Labyrinth" sprouts up pretty under the radar for me. I didn't have a whole lot of expectations for it, considering that my liking for the band had wore off quite a bit, so I didn't rush out to buy the album like I did with "Agony" but still borrowed a copy from a friend to check it out and see what was new. And unfortunately for "Labyrinth", it lacks a great deal of what made "Agony" enjoyable and any improvements are far and few between.
Like before, the main focus of the sound here is speed and brutality. The whole sound is just one massive wall of near incomprehensibly fast instrumentation coupled with massive orchestration to supply the music with a bit of melody. This mixture made everybody *** their pants back with "Agony" but has since become dry. Today the style, because its so focused on being a massive wall of complex instrumentation and just as massive orchestra arrangements, the music rips itself apart completely, trying way too hard to do way too much. The result is that alot of the album feels senseless and directionless without much focus at all. Making each song, while grand and powerful, also nigh impossible to remember due to their lack of focus. Something along the lines of a train wreck; violent and unrelenting but just a complete, utter mess.
This isn't the case with the whole album though. A few (very few) tracks on here actually have proper song structure and (*drumroll*) melody! More specifically songs like "Minatour (The Wrath of Poseidon)", "Towards the Sun" and the fantastic piano instrumental "Labyrinth" all are executed greatly. However the rest of the tracks surrounding them feel more like filler than anything else. There are moments on a few tracks that do invoke some positive feedback. There is more use of choir and female soprano vocals and less of those annoying clean male vocals. The orchestra as a whole is much more ambitious and well put together, and the more use of choir and female vocals I mentioned makes the album sound a bit more varied. But these are very small aspects in relation to the rest of the sound which, as stated, lacks proper structure.
One other problem that "Labyrinth" shares with "Agony" is the production which still sucks. It has definitely been improved since "Agony" but that isn't saying a whole lot. The problem with said last album is that the mixing was completely uneven. The orchestration was a bit all over the place, the guitars were near inaudible, the vocals had a tendency to bleed into the rest of the sound, lacking any real presence, and the drums just overpowered the living hell out of everything. Making the whole album sound like a symphony being preformed in the midst of machine gun fire that never ended. The problem is pretty much the same here. Sometimes the riffs are a bit more audible and the vocals have a bit more presence. Other than that, the production is still muddy, with everything sounding cluttered and sloppy.
The album is not an utter failure. It improves on "Agony" but on just a few aspects. The music is a bit more structured (not much) than the previous said album, but still is messy and all over the place. It tries to leave an impact with its utter ferocity, but does little to make it memorable in any way. What could have been a fairly unique take on tech death ends up being just another pointless "Look how fast we can play!". I am disappointed.
(Originally posted on the Metal Archives under username "EschatonOmega")