Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony Review

Fleshgod Apocalypse are one of those bands that are so idiosyncratic and formidable that they’re at times hard to define.  Their masterful blend of insanely brutal death metal and classical music is stunning in its ferocity and execution.  Frankly, I have been obsessed with these guys since the instant I heard their first album, Oracles, back in 2009.  Now, 2 years and 1 EP later, the Gods of symphonic death are back with by far their best album yet, Agony.

From the opening seconds of the unbelievably epic orchestral intro “Temptation” to the last withering moments of the closing piano sonata, “Agony”, the album grabs you by the throat and never lets go.  It’s got everything that make Fleshgod Apocalypse one of the most fascinating bands working today: faster than fast drumming, blistering guitar work, unrelenting guttural vocals, heavy-as-a-thousand-hammers grooves, and (the stand out of the record) brilliantly performed orchestral overtones.

Fleshgod have become the archetype of relentlessly fast musicianship, and while there’s certainly no shortage of that on Agony, they’ve actually tamed themselves a bit on certain tracks.  Songs like “The Egosim” and “The Forsaking” bring down the tempo a notch and add a nice dynamic to the album.  As a whole the songwriting on the album is their best yet.  The band have matured and expanded on the sound they set out to create, becoming a vicious and unstoppable entity to be reckoned with.  Now more than ever Fleshgod sound like an 18th century orchestra playing under the veil of brutal death metal and it truly is breathtaking.

While Fleshgod have always been known for their illustrious use of symphonic elements in their music, Agony has brought them to the forefront of the album’s overall composition.  Many of the songs are driven almost entirely by the string section, breaking away only long enough to shove a callously groovy hook down your throat or throw in a tasty guitar solo.  Also more prevalent on this album are bassist Paolo Rossi‘s operatic vocals, adding a whole ‘nother dimension to the already multi-layered vision of Fleshgod’s music.  I personally love it and feel like this is the direction the band should be going in.  While 2009’s Oracles felt a bit too much like founding member/main songwriter Francesco Paoli‘s former band Hour of Penance, and 2010’s Mafia EP was too short (only 4 new songs, one of which was a piano etude), Agony sees the band finally hitting their stride.  It is brilliantly composed, arranged and orchestrated and flows with a cohesiveness that is usually lacking from (technical?) death metal albums.

As is to be expected, the musicianship is prodigious in its flawless presentation, though I have to say no one member stands out above the rest.  I think that’s what makes the album work so well; all of the parts have come together perfectly and created a beautifully cohesive piece of death metal art.  I’m also really enjoying the strengthened presence of pianist Francesco Ferrini; whereas before you almost never heard his playing outside of intros, outros or interludes, he has become an integral component in the fabric of their insanely complex compositions.

Agony is easily one of the best records of the year so far.  Even with bands like Hate Eternal, Origin and Decapitated all releasing stellar death metal albums, none of them come close to what Fleshgod Apocalypse have achieved with this magnum opus.  The production is top notch; highly polished yet still organic; the musicianship is flawless, the arrangements are unparalleled, and most of all it’s just fucking heavy.  Fleshgod have cultivated an awesomely unique sound over the years and I definitely expect to be seeing a lot more of them in the future.  I can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Agony – 9.5/10

Track Listing:
1. Temptation
2. The Hypocrisy
3. The Imposition
4. The Deceit
5. The Violation
6. The Egoism
7. The Betrayal
8. The Forsaking
9. The Oppression
10. Agony

Favorite Song: The Egoism

Agony hits shelves on August 9th via Nuclear Blast Records.

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