Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fleshgod Apocalypse Still 'King's of Technical Death Metal

Fleshgod Apocalypse's fourth full-length album, King, takes them yet another step closer to achieving the level of balance I've been hoping for out of this band since Agony.

All of the basics are still there, with most tracks being driven by the same unrelenting double bass, as if the drummer just needs to prove to the world that he doesn't skip leg day. Guitar work is just as intricate as ever and requires multiple listens to really appreciate fully. And, as often happens on albums in this general genre, the bassist is mostly just left to play with himself in a corner.

But that's par for the course for technical death metal these days. What really sets Fleshgod Apocalypse apart from the rest of the crowd is their use of backing strings and keyboard, which have (at least so far) reached their peak on this album. They add just enough to each song to make an otherwise good to great tech death track into a properly epic one. Best examples of such on this album are probably "In Aeternum" and "Healing Through War."

Not everything is an orchestral epic though. "Syphilis" features an excellent, fairly clean guitar solo (we'll return to this particular track later) while "Mitra" and "The Fool" both project an actual fist from your speakers to slug you repeatedly in your eardrums, which is, oddly enough, a rather enjoyable experience. Meanwhile, "And the Vulture Beholds" and "Gravity" are each an awesome mixture of rip-out-your-throat aggression and melodic sensibility that probably make them my favorite tracks on the album.

That's not to say the whole album is high points, of course. For one, I've never been a fan of Fleshgod's vocals. They've always sounded like a bad Nathan Explosion impression, except with no mind paid to even trying to be intelligible. Then there's the opera singer they seem to have brought on for this album. I don't mind some soaring operatic vocals in backing tracks, but for crying out loud, "Paramour" is so far out of place that I'm pretty sure it found its way onto this album totally by accident. And then there's the smattering of narrative cheese found in "Syphilis" and "Cold as Perfection." I know you guys were going for a concept album and all, but please just let the music tell the story for you. I don't listen to a song to get talked at by the vocalist; that's what audiobooks are for.

But these are mostly nitpicks (and one track for which I will instantly mash the "skip" button anyway). The majority of this album is a brutal, brilliant, vastly improved, exciting journey that just leaves me wanting more.

Oh wait, there's a bonus CD with only the orchestral backing tracks? Fuck yeah!

Final verdict: 4/5 Iron Atoms

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