Fleshgod Apocalypse // Agony
Rating: 4.0/5.0 3.0/5.0 — A Step Backwards
Label: Nuclear Blast [US | EU]
Website: myspace.com/fleshgodapocalypse
Release Dates: US: 08.09.2011 | EU: 19.08.2011

Fleshgod Apocalypse - AgonyIn 2009 a record came sort of out of nowhere that really took me by surprise, and frankly, kicked my ass something fierce. It was from Italian technical death metallers Fleshgod Apocalypse and the record was called Oracles. What I loved about the album, and the thing that made it so addicting, was that it was beautifully melodic and unabashedly technical at the same time. It blended these two things into what was easily the most unique technical death metal or melodic death metal record that had been released in a very, very long time. I was blown away (and still am). I didn’t review it at the time, but it made the #3 spot on my Top 10(ish) of 2009 and I have been waiting for the follow up ever since. Agony, the band’s first record on Nuclear Blast records, is that follow up and it’s a great album that bugs me. 

Agony is functionally not the same band as the one that performed on Oracles. Well, the core is the same, but the band has added keyboards and orchestrations after the Mafia EP [Also, why change the logo? Christophe’s logo was fantastic! AMG]. Adding the pianos and orchestrations gives the band a feel much more similar to Dimmu Borgir, Septicflesh or Behemoth and adds them to the lump of the pile that is orchestrated death metal. The keys and orchestrations add a pompous, bombastic character to the music that works pretty well for what they’re doing, it certainly is fun to listen to at times and adds a dynamic to technical death metal that makes it easier to stomach and adds more ups and downs. It also creates a bed, of sorts, on which the music lays. There are 8 tracks on this album, plus an orchestral intro and an piano outro that are truly beautiful. It’s worth noting, as well, that the orchestrations aren’t cheesy or poorly done, they’re similar to Mustis’s work in Dimmu Borgir in sound quality and composition. They’re quite good.

But adding orchestrations to Fleshgod Apocalypse took away the thing that made them the most interesting, in my opinion. In my discussions with other metal heads I’ve noticed that I’m one of the few people who has noticed this, but Oracles is such a beautifully melodic record and all the neo-baroque and neoclassical goodness was being carried on the guitars. This created a face raping heaviness to the world’s most melodically pleasing music. Agony hits you in the face with it (as do the faux tuxedos that they’re wearing in the promo pictures now). It’s like the musical equivalent of the “rebirth” scene in V for Vendetta, you know, where Natalie Portman’s character comes out with her arms stretched into the rain. Her character remade, like V’s had been of fire. But the directors don’t trust you to be smart enough to figure that shit out on your own, so instead they splice the two together just in case you’re too fucking stupid to notice that it’s happening.

Fleshgod Apocalypse 2011So while everyone is going on about how this record is “technical perfection,” I ask: where? Yeah, it’s heavy. But the technicality on the guitars has taken a step back because everything interesting that was happening on the guitars has been moved to the keyboards. Is there a melody? Well hell yes there is: you’re being smashed in the face with it over and over and over and over. “HEY LOOK! WE’RE ITALIANS REFERENCING OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE!!” And that’s fine, I guess. But it leaves something to be desired by lumping the band into a growing trend (orchestral death metal), while taking away what the band was initially so damned good at.

Of course, now that I’ve got that off my chest, it should be stated that this record is cool. This is better than the new Septicflesh and anything Behemoth has done since Demigod. The clean vocals that they’ve added worked well on “Thru Our Scars” and they work well here on “The Hypocrisy” but it becomes quickly obvious that this guy is a one trick pony who is singing outside of his comfort zone. But the record flows fantastically, using the orchestral bed to segue between tracks in a way that holds the album together. This is probably Agony‘s strength compared with the previous material: it is a very cohesive and excellently written record that seems to be thematically linked. Every track is well-composed and the orchestrations and vocal variations work to separate the band from its Hour of Penance past.

I suggest that fans of the band check out this record. They’ll find some improvements (certainly the drums are less bad than they were previously) and some great song-writing that is similar to Oracles even if its substantively different. New fans interested in checking out an orchestral band in the vein of a tech death Dimmu or Septicflesh should not hesitate to check this record out. But given my expectations this album is still a bit disappointing for me. I think it’s going to take some time to get used to. And who knows, then maybe I’ll join in the ass kissing festivities. But until then: this is a great record, but it could’ve been better.

  • the first song i ever heard from this band was “the violation” and i literally cried of joy. i had never done that before. i’m a great wintersun and dimmu borgir fan so I really loved it. then i listened to the previous albums and was slightly disappointed. i love tech death, but i had been expecting orchestral stuff. so i guess it’s a matter of taste. i’ve preordered agony and looking forward to it.


  • “The Violation” makes me soo happy…..I feel like a child that got his first lollipop……It is true brilliance……the drummer is demonic!

  • OzanCan

    The vocals work is a bit different, eerie even for my taste. I think I should listen to it a few more times in order to acquire the taste and appreciation :) and in addition is it me or nearly all songs sound so similar to each other in this album? Oh well, I guess I gotta listen to it more

    Oh by the way, listening to Fleshgod Apocalypse’s, Byfrost’s, Macabre’s latest albums and lastly Alice Cooper in that order is not very healthy. My neck hurts :) and I am at work right now in blissful pain :D

  • Caleb McMahen

    They said in one of their Fan Q&A videos that they changed the logo because they wanted something that was more readable, primarily because they were doing the Summer Slaughter tour and their old logo was small and difficult to read, plus it was already at the bottom of the posters/fliers. And I agree with this article completely. They put all their melodic energy into the keyboards; it took me a few listens to like The Violation, but it’s still a superb record. I wouldn’t compare it to Mafia or Oracles, though.

  • Tim Larsen

    I would have never bothered listening to these guys had it not been for Steel Druhm’s entertaining review.  I’ve heard the band mentioned elsewhere and I thought Fleshgod Apocalypse was one of the dumbest sounding band names I had ever heard.  I can’t think of many Italian bands I like so that was another deterrent.  Sure, Italy has a rich musical past,… but don’t forget they introduced castrati to European audiences in the 16th century.  Ouch! 

    I picked up “Oracles” and I really like it.  The drumming’s crazy!  I like what you said about the neo-baroque thing being done on the guitars.  It’s very cool.  I ordered “Agony.”  I’m looking forward to comparing the two.  Thanks Steel!

    • Hey there Tim,

      Glad you liked the album! Sadly, I cannot take the credit for the review as it was written by the one..the only..Angry Metal Guy himself!!

      • Tim Larsen

        Sorry… I thought Steel Druhm and the Angry Metal Guy were one and the same person.

        • No worries. Angry Metal Guy is the page owner/founder and I’m the contributing writer/sidekick/comedy relief.

  • Ryan Keeler

    I totally agree with you about what made Oracles so great–that it carried its classical elements with its guitar parts. The first song I ever heard by them was Requiem in 57 Minore, and I’ll never forget the shock it gave me. One of the things it reaffirmed for me is that instrumentation has a lot to do with how “metal” or “ugly” music can sound (pitch intervals and structure have less to do with it than I may have originally thought, in other words).

    I don’t agree that Agony is better than The Great Mass, though. The entirety of Agony (excepting the intro and outro) is structured so that orchestral melody is always layered atop conventional brutality. I’m hearing a uniform tone throughout, as a result. What’s great about The Great Mass is that they use the orchestra to shift the album’s tone repeatedly (the orchestral break in “Mad Architect,” for example, changes the tone from brutally threatening to chaotically terrifying).

    Just wanted to add another opinion below your insightful review for people who might naturally want to compare this release to either of SepticFlesh’s most recent two releases.

  • yeah, i am with u on this. A good album, but not that mindblowing or new. Has been done before by other bands, but better. 

  • Excentric_1307

    I’ve tried to get into this album several times, but I the flaws just stand out too much for me: The guy singing the clean vocals needs to come down to a key he can actually sing at. It also feels like the orchestra and the band are on two different planets entirely; the music collides with itself but never merges or works with either of the two halves. The exception to this might be “The Forsaking”, where it feels much more as if the orchestra and the band are actually trying to play together, instead of holding individual concerts recorded at the same time. I think what upsets me the most is that this followed Oracles, which is undeniably brilliant.