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FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE King

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Tuesday, February 16, 2016 @ 12:33 AM


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FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE
King

Nuclear Blast Records




Italian symphonic death metallers FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE have grown steadily more “symphonic” and ostentatious with each release, with the classical orchestration and operatic vocal accompaniments contrasting – and at times cluttering – the band’s technically dazzling, conceptually involved pummel. FLESHGOD's fourth album, King, however, stands fittingly as its crowning achievement, as it were, as the quintet incorporate the diverging elements in such a way that they complement one another and work in tandem, or at least manage a peaceful coexistence.

There is an overall balance here that the band couldn’t quite attain when expanding its frenetic, HOUR OF PENANCE-like tech-death into something more opulent and Wagnerian on 2011’s Agony or 2013’s Labyrinth. The orchestral swells are woven quite seamlessly into the arrangements on King, adding drama or calm as needed, and the intermittent clean sung passages and session singer Veronica Bordacchini’s soaring soprano seem, for the most part, far less jarring. Working with Jens Bogren here was a wise choice as well, given his track record of sleek, crisp — though occasionally sterile — recordings, as his even-handed production brings a welcome clarity to the mix after the relatively muddled Labyrinth.

King tells the story of a heroic monarch and his court of “crooks and prostitutes” who represent something akin to the seven deadly sins — greed, lust, envy, wrath, pride, etc. — and chip away at his reign, or something along those lines. And in true “rock opera” fashion, it plays out over an arc that begins with the resounding martial percussion, horns and choirs of “Marche Royale” and ends with the melancholy, even defeated piano strains of the title track after said “king” is forsaken by his queen in the preceding epic “Syphilis”.

From the “March Royale” intro, the album roars to life with FLESHGOD’s typical bombast flair as “In Aeternum” opens in a fusillade of Francesco Paoli’s drums and a cascade of furious riffs. But from the get-go you can hear that the band has worked out how to make its technical brutality truly mesh with its symphonic finesse. The keyboards and strings/horns – or their synthesized equivalents, as the case may be – dart deftly in and out of the death metal turbulence instead of merely being lathered on top, while Paolo Rossi’s clean vocals provide for rousing, anthemic choruses.

There’s almost certainly more orchestration on King than there was on the either Labyrinth or Agony, but it’s not as obvious or seemingly intrusive. Instead, it helps fill in the spaces. The horns bursts on “Healing Through War” add another layer of menace to the crunching guitars, whereas the flighty harpsichord and strings on “The Fool” build on its sense of mania.

When things grow more grandiose, as on “Cold As Perfection” where choirs and narration also factor in, it all combines to make for something genuinely monumental. Yet on the ultra-brutal “Mitra” you barely even notice the accoutrements under the churning wall of guitar and Tommaso Riccardi’s commanding bellow.

“Paramour (Die Leidenschaft Bringt Leiden)” is the one real “sore thumb” here, per se. Sandwiched between “Mitra” and the somewhat clunky but equally ferocious “And The Vulture Beholds” it serves as King’s Mozart-like midpoint, with Bordacchini singing in German over a plaintive piano accompaniment. It’s certainly a dramatic contrast. Yet, as such, it’s a well-timed opportunity for one to catch their breath before “Vulture” sends the album hurtling toward its denouement.

As constructed, King is the kind of album that almost needs to be heard start to finish. Sure, the prospect of dedicating an hour to an album might seem rather daunting in these attention-deficit times. But the pieces fit here with such grace, the narrative moves at such a thrilling clip and the metallic/symphonic elements create such a magnificent thunder that King is well worth the effort.

4.5 Out Of 5.0

Grab your copy of King now in the KNAC.COM More tore right HERE.


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