Since they burst onto the stage in the late 2000s, Italian death metal force Fleshgod Apocalypse supplied the scene with a steady flow of symphonic and technical releases.
The band has been very comfortable with their sound ever since they started and mostly focussed on polishing and exploring their style of music as they went on to release their first concept album titled Labyrinth in 2013.
Fleshgod’s latest record King is no different as it takes a core topic and builds its content around that. This time around the band decided to put a heavier focus on choirs in the orchestral parts and tends to add a few contemporary instruments to the mix such as the cembelo in the intro to The Fool.
I have to say that, after my first listen, I was kind of underwhelmed by this album, but consecutive listens revealed just how much fun some of the songs on this album can be.
I like that this album has a sort of a cinematic feeling to it, with soaring and grand passages above as well as mid-paced, lurking melodies below.
Songs like Mitra, In Aeternum, A Million Deaths and the promotional track The Fool, really make the album for me. They have character and moments, like Mitra’s intense guitar solo and In Aeternum’s acoustic interlude, and even though they’re not the most technical compositions, the band is aware of what those songs need and composed them accordingly.
However, I do feel like some of the slower cuts on this album, especially those with prominent spoken word parts or female guest vocals, like Syphilis and Cold as Perfection, do lack a bit of impact. Songs like Paramour (Die Leidenschaft bring Leiden) played a leading role in why I thought that this album was underwhelming at first.
Fleshgod Apocalypse usually excel at creating vigorous compositions with lots of momentum and I do think that that’s the case on a number of songs on this album. They showed that they can also go slow and do it really well, like they did on Agony with songs like The Forsaking, but I simply feel like, this time around, it didn’t work out quite as well.
As always the band finishes the album with a somber piano solo. Francesco Ferrini‘s signature sound is still present, with some bright and loud keys towards the climax of the piece and frequent slow shifts of pace. I like how he adapted his playstyle to fit the historical theme of the album with slight baroque influences throughout the piece.
I do have to commend the band when it comes to the production on this album though. Past albums often suffered from being too loud and everything kind of mashing up, with elements of their music fighting each other for the spotlight in the mix, whereas on King, while still not perfect, the band found a better balance between the orchestral parts, instruments and vocals.
If you wanted to be really picky about the production you could probably still detect a number of small shortcomings, but I see it as a definite improvement. Mitra would be the only song that I’d immediately criticize for its mix, since it feels like the drums are too low and lack punch and the guitars could be a bit more upfront as well. In the end though, I think Fleshgod Apocalypse delivered a worthy follow up to Labyrinth and a solid album, with slight improvements to their sound.