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(57:29; Nuclear Blast)
When I first came across Fleshgod Apocalypse at the time of their third album, 2013’s ‘Labyrinth’, I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here was a death metal band attempting to move the genre into Wagnerian epics and allowing an orchestra to do some of the heavy lifting. Could they possibly follow this up? The answer came in 2016 with ‘King’. The quintet of Tommaso Riccardi (harsh vocals, guitars), Cristiano Trionfera (guitars, backing vocals, orchestral arrangements), Paolo Rossi (bass, clean vocals), Francesco Ferrini (piano, orchestration) and Francesco Paoli (drums) have yet again shown that there is no-one else quite like this. The metal is brutal, there should be no room whatsoever for an orchestra and choir, but somehow there is. And when Ferrini starts “The Fool” on harpsichord then of course it makes sense and is a pleasant interlude before the band and orchestra all puts their heads down and go for broke. How they change time in the manner they do is beyond me, but this feels like a total unit, not just a hairy sweaty metal act plus a high brow orchestra in evening attire. One can imagine Beethoven rising up and shouting “This is what I wanted the 9th to be like!”. But while the music is always incredibly heavy, massively over the top, there are also plenty of nuances which both lift the overall sound and also make the metal sound even more brutal. The use of two singers is incredibly important, as while Riccardi is often the main lead, Rossi’s more clean approach reminds one of classic Dimmu Borgir. In many ways that is the band they have most in common with, although both are approaching their versions of metal in different ways. Over the top, intense, majestic this is insanity yet within the maelstrom there is control which allows it all to make sense, somehow. In many ways this is a full-blown progressive album, pushing musical boundaries and refusing to accept any given norms. I am not sure what a pure classicist would think of this, probably wouldn’t be repeatable, but for someone coming into this from the progressive and metal side I can only say this is superb.
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