The first three Fleshgod Apocalypse releases showcased an incredible development in style, as the band has moved from brutal death metal to a much more technical, convoluted symphonic style. While I feel that “Mafia” was and will always be their best release, there was no denying the hilarity of “Agony”. The symphonics were so ridiculous and over-the-top that it was easy to enjoy. The entire album consisted of only blast beats in the drumming, and it never stopped hitting you. And while this meant that the songs themselves were not well-constructed, “Agony” was still fun to listen to because of how insane it was. This brings us to “Labyrinth”, which I expected to be a flop, mainly because bands that get this popular this quickly generally drop the ball. Luckily, however, “Labyrinth” shows the band learning from the mistakes of “Agony” to create a well-orchestrated symphonic brutal death metal record.
As with every Fleshgod Apocalypse album, the highlight here is the drumwork of Francesco Paoli. Unlike those other records, however, he delivers an extremely varied performance on “Labyrinth”, utilizing a variety of different drum beats and fills. In addition, the drums are no longer excessively loud, and give room for other instruments to breathe. There are numerous sections where Paoli lays off the intensity to allow the piano to take centre, and it helps to create a more orchestral atmosphere. This would prove to be a good thing, because the keyboardist is the other musician who has stepped up on “Labyrinth”. No longer do the symphonics seem tacked on, nor do they actively combat what the rest of the band plays. Instead, they complement the rest of the music, and often lead it towards new directions. One of these new directions is the inclusion of opera vocals. These generally replace the clean vocals that used to appear in the band’s music (these cleans are still present on “Labyrinth”, but are far less prevalent), and are well done. Once again, it is more about contributing to the atmosphere and epicness of the music, than actually writing a catchy melody. There have been some complaints about this opera singer, but she is a perfect fit for the sound the band is trying to achieve, and its difficult to see how somebody who enjoyed “Agony” would be against the inclusion of these vocals. Another change to the band’s music is the use of vocals that are somewhat speaking and somewhat shouting. Fans of Roman death metallers Ex Deo will be used to this when it pops up, and, when combined with the backing chanting choirs and orchestras, it enriches the experience.
“Labyrinth” is truly a behemoth of a record. There is so much going on, but unlike on “Agony”, it is all laid out for the listener this time. Once again, the songs themselves are a bit underdeveloped, but the improvement in atmosphere helps to make “Labyrinth” a cohesive, enjoyable listen. While it may not have as much surface value for entertainment as the previous albums, it is easily their second best work behind the brilliant “Mafia” EP.
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“Minotaur (Wrath of Poseidon)”