Review: Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno

Fleshgod Apocalypse is a band many people nowadays will have heard of. The roots of the band lie in Perugia, Italy, where the first step on the path of orchestral death metal, Fleshgod Apocalypse’s favored genre, was taken with the formation of the band in 2007. Having had a steady line-up for the first ten years, in which they delivered four full-lengths, a promo, an EP, a split and a single, their fame was growing and they were well on their way to becoming a considerable force in their genre despite hitting a few (production) bumps on the way, culminating in the release of King in 2016. That progress seemed to grind to a halt when frontman Tommaso Riccardi as well as guitarist Cristiano Trionfera decided to leave the band in 2017. The remaining trio, consisting of Francesco Paoli as vocalist, guitarist and drummer, Paolo Rossi as clean vocalist and bassist and Francesco Ferrini as pianist/orchestrator, refused to throw in the towel. Their live line-up, already strengthened with the addition of a soprano a couple of years earlier, was expanded with a drummer and a guitarist to be able to keep on playing live. Offstage this trio persistently kept on composing, resulting in the release of their fifth full-length album Veleno, which is venom in Italian, a few days back.

Rather than wasting time on a more or less pointless intro, Veleno simply blasts into action with the first tones of appropriately titled opener Fury, immediately setting the tone for the rest of the album. The guitars, keys and rhythm section combine forces into an explosion of sound and before long Fransesco’s rough, angry growl joins in the fun as Fleshgod Apocalypse’s technical death metal with a subtle brutal edge takes its natural course. The addition of the keys and a couple of arrangements more or less validate the use of the term orchestral and, combined with a few breakdowns, prevent the unsuspecting listener from being crushed completely. The second song, Carnivorous Lamb, offers a bit of time to recuperate with its relatively peaceful (all in perspective of course) intro before also exploding into a full-blown death metal song. Paolo Rossi gives us a first taste of his clean vocals, or rather screams, which took a second to get used to, giving this song a different vibe. And then there’s Sugar… The intro, with its mysterious, haunting whispers, kind of warns you to get ready for whatever is coming your way. And you better do just that, because this song seriously rocks. The keys replace the whispers with a frolicking, equally haunting rhythm, the rhythm section blasts down the walls, the guitars match the keys where it comes to frolicking and Francesco seems even more angry. And all that at an even higher pace than the earlier songs. I have no doubt this song will make a crowd go completely nuts when played live. The absolute highlight of this release if you ask me.

After this crushing violence The Praying Mantis’ Strategy and Monnalisa, the next two songs of which the first seems to serve as an intro to the latter, are much more relaxed and not even remotely as heavy. A genre-defying excursion that certainly shifts your focus, showing you there’s more to Fleshgod Apocalypse than ‘just’ raging metal, something that is also reflected later in this release with the beautiful ballad The Day We’ll Be Gone. An emotionally supercharged song with a compelling vocal duet between Fransesco’s growls and soprano Veronica Bordaccini’s enchanting voice guided by a tasteful melody with the keys in the leading role. There’s three songs separating these two more or less delicate outings, Worship and Forget, Absinthe and Pissing on the Score, in which the guys kick things back into gear. Filled with speed, rage and also some subtlety, this trio of songs, where all instruments and the vocals equally shine, certainly showcases what Fleshgod Apocalypse is capable of. And that is quite a lot. After the aforementioned ballad it’s time for Embrace the Oblivion, a bombastic, heavy song set at a slower speed, despite the double bass drums. With its piano outro it flawlessly flows into album closer Veleno, which basically is an opus for piano. Not exactly the song I had expected considering its meaning, but nevertheless strangely right and thus most certainly fitting. Plus, it works great with Fury when you have set your player to repeat.

Fleshgod Apocalypse pretty much delivers the complete package with Veleno, offering songs that vary from bone crushing to  emotional and everything in between. Despite being decimated to a trio, the high quality of both the compositions and the production has not in the least bit been influenced as far as I’m concerned. The same can be said from the execution, there’s no doubt the guys know what they are doing. Great release, there’s really no room for any discussion, this is a must-hear.

Here you can read our live review of Amsterdam Metalfest 2018 when Fleshgod Apocalypse was headliner.

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