Fleshgod Apocalypse - King
Nuclear Blast
Orchestral Death Metal
12 songs (57:25)
Release year: 2016
Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

Classical music and extreme metal mix less well than you'd think given the compositional similarities, yet there are a few bands who manage it well, and following a string of successful concept albums Italian five-piece Fleshgod Apocalypse are well on their way to becoming elder statesmen of the subgenre. They’ve definitely taken the idea far further here than on their previous albums, tinkering with their sound well; focusing more on the interplay of the metal and orchestral elements than before. Where previously I’ve called them brutal or technical death metal primarily, I wouldn’t now. Although King is fairly heavy and is very well played death metal, it’s all about the orchestral elements to the point of being nearly operatic at moments, perhaps fittingly given the album theme. King uses the members of a royal court, from highest to lowest, as metaphors for human morality, and although vague it's interesting enough to give the already interesting music added intellectual heft. Not that you'll require much, as this is a vibrant, intelligent album that weaves the classical elements with the base death metal to suitably dramatic results.

After the expected and suitably portentous classical intro Marche Royale, first song proper In Aeternum kicks off with a burst of epic riffage backed up well by the orchestral elements. There are clean vocals in the (very) catchy chorus only, which doesn’t at all overstay its welcome as the surrounding death metal is prog-tinged and complex enough to keep your attention well. It’s easy to miss the seamless track transition into the following Healing Through War, a darker, more ominous feeling track thanks to the change in tone of the orchestral backing and the Italian spoken word vocals – effective here. The orchestration takes the lead a little more in the following The Fool, epic and infectious, soon all but dropping the backing altogether for a speedy death metal blast that uses its speed to make it stand out from surrounding tracks like the slower Cold as Perfection with its piano and female vocals or the heavier and relatively brutal Mitra, sounding quite like Dutch epic death metallers The Monolith Deathcult.

Where King stumbles a little is in some of its indulges. Going full opera for interlude Paramour (Die Leidenschaft Bringt Leiden) with female soprano Veronica Bordacchini backed by piano may have sounded like a good idea on paper, but in practise it goes on just a little too long and is too jarring to be enjoyable as anything but a novelty. You went full opera, man. Never go full opera. Fortunately the backing choirs of the likes of And The Vulture Beholds fit in far better, leading into the grooving Gravity and what might be the best tracks present, A Million Deaths, using the epic elements particularly well with its warlike theme, and Syphilis, moving between female spoken words and grandiose but melancholic death metal. It probably should have closed the album; instead, in another misstep, Fleshgod Apocalypse chose a four-minute piano piece titled King. A suitable way to end a classical death metal album, perhaps, and thematically fitting for the whole concept of the album, but in execution it’s a little dull compared to the epic bombast of before. All credit to the band for going increasingly in the orchestral direction, however, and for retaining their character while doing so – the special edition of the album contains an entire second disc of orchestral versions of the songs, which will be of interest to some more knowledgeable about classical music than myself. A very good album, despite its missteps.

Killing Songs :
In Aeternum, The Fool, And The Vulture Beholds, A Million Deaths, Syphilis
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Fleshgod Apocalypse that we have reviewed:
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Agony reviewed by Bar and quoted 84 / 100
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Mafia reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Oracles reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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