Fleshgod Apocalypse
King

Since transforming into a fully orchestral, symphonic death  metal band with 2011 Agony (my very top album of that year), the band has been pretty divisive with an either love them or hate them approach. Some claim the band is soulless, forgetful tech death with no riffs, simply window dressed with symphonics. Others, myself included thinks it’s a down right perfect marriage or epic orchestration and tech death metal. Granted, 2013s Labyrinth seemed a bit rushed and lacked killer tunes and cement the prior of the two options but with King, have finally and absolutely found the balance between raging, memorable death metal and sweeping epic symphonic movie score.

Admittedly, new producer/mixer/masterer Jens Bogren ( Amorphis, Amon Amarth, At The Gates, Kreator, Katatonia and too many others to mention ) has to take some of the credit as he has removed much of the clinical, sterile aura that has plagued the band. Everything sounds much bigger, fuller and organic, and Fleshgod perhaps learning from what he did with the last Ne Oblivscaris album, sounds far better because of it. The drums have more oomph, the guitars have more depth and breath more and the orchestration and ample choirs are far more majestic and balanced.

That said, the band themselves have also seemed to have found a balance. While certainly a large part of the album is the expected Hour Of Penance type death metal drenched with full on Carmina Burana (O fortuna) styled orchestration, there’s a much larger sense of control, actual riffage and on King there is at least 3-4 what I would even term ‘slow’ songs. Also, like Agony which had “The Violation” and ‘The Betrayal”  and a couple of other solid tracks to carry it, King has a number of just killer, standout tracks, which Labyrinth lacked.

The album follows the rise and fall of Henry the VIII-ish said King as he ascends to the throne and eventually watches court and kingdom crumble around him amid madness treachery and greed. Opener “March Royale” signals the start of his king ship with ample pomp before “In Aeternum” delivers what I would call a typical Fleshgod track; bombastic, majestic and blisteringly fast, but there is a sense of regal control and pacing. Then you get the first of the ‘slow’ tracks as “Healing Through War” thunders with a deliberate chug and discordant underlying orchestral throb, and Bogren’s magic really allows the material to carry some weight.

The you get this albums equivalent of “The Violation with “The Fool”, a haughty, Renaissance -y, chamber music on crack  number that’s down right rambunctious. The fast/slow structure continues with the moody, dare I even say somber, “Cold as Perfection”, clearly a turning point in the name sake’s story and album concept. Then there is a couple of solid filler tracks in “Mithra”, a full on bombastic blaster and “Paramour (Die Leidenschaft Bringt Leiden)” a traditional, tragic German song sung with gusto by Veronica Bordacchini.

“An The Vulture Beholds” get back on track with arguably one of the most complete songs that band has written with a orchestral and choral refrain to die for, and some really nice lead work. Then, another slow burner “Gravity”, almost brings the album to a screeching halt, but it’s again, a engaging moment in the overarching album concept. “A Million Deaths” does a little of everything, with pounding war drums, furious blasts and a really nice solo as it sort of signals the peak and crescendo of the King’s madness and glory before it all falls apart.

The album closes with “Syphilis” a twisty, discordant track that matches the diseases insanity and slow, painful death adding the widow/Queen’s somber mourning, before “King” adds the album epilogue with a simple instrumental number and a fittingly austere eulogy.

I’m seeing more and more symphonics and orchestration in death metal (Lost Soul, Against the Plagues, Sarpanitum etc), but on King, Fleshgod Apocalypse, shown they are the absolute master of the style, having finally found the perfect blend of the two and a production that lets them both breath. King is a sure fire contender for one of my favorite albums of the year.

On a side note, if you still think the band’s style of death metal is soulless and forgetful, spring the extra 5 dollars and pick up the limited edition digipack version of the album and get a bonus CD of the just the orchestration and symphonic  versions of the albums tracks.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
February 5th, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: Zach

    Yep, Album is fantastic!


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