REVIEW: Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth

Genre: Symphonic/Technical Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: August 16, 2013


Fleshgod Apocalypse formed in 2007 from Roma, Italy. Up to this point, the quintet has had two full-length records ("Oracles" and "Agony") and an EP entitled "Mafia" under their belts. These releases have already rose the band to high fame in the metal community for their destructive blend of fast-paced death metal and orchestral music. Naturally, because of this, the band's third full-length release "Labyrinth" would be heavily swarmed upon release in 2013. 

The musicianship is not only as potent as ever, but it's also very well-utilized this time around. The vocalist's screams let out the same level of aggression as in previous records, and the operatic choirs in the background actually do pile onto the album's sense of eerie. Sadly, the clean singing is also as distracting as ever, and because of how silly and forced it tends to sound, it does get in the way of the album's enjoyment whenever it shows. Thankfully, it isn't to the point where it becomes a total nuisance. The guitars do not have much to show for themselves, but that is possibly what the band was aiming for; it blends in quite nicely with the orchestra, and it is a bit of an interesting way of going about guitar work in this album. 

Two of the greatest points where the band has improved are the drums and orchestra. While the drums continue with their incredibly speedy blast-beats, they actually have developed more substance; They have steadier paces and more true complexity to be an intriguing and very well done part of the band's musicianship. On top of that, the orchestral elements are placed much more strategically than before. As opposed to being just there, the violins, piano, and other aspects are used in a manner that generates a truly cinematic and grand atmosphere. Instead of sounding like an orchestra trying to keep up with rapid-fire death metal, they actually add to the music's violent drama, and that is certainly another area of vast improvement for this band. 

Eyeconoclast guitarist Stefano Morabito (Also known as Saul) was the one in charge of the album's sound production, and his work certainly paid off. The mixing made the vocals and instruments sound very massive and resonant. Alongside the orchestra, it reinforces the dark, theatrical aura that the record intended to pull off. The production is definitely another plus to this album.

As expected from this renowned group, "Labyrinth" stays true to the band's staple fusion of symphonic and technical death metal. Unlike before, however, this album takes a somewhat different, if not better, approach to the formula. Instead of focusing on sheer velocity, the album leans more towards atmosphere, dynamic, and complexity, which is the album's greatest strength overall. In fact, "Minotaur: the Wrath of Poseidon" is definitely the record's largest highlight, and the ending title track is a slow piano outro that's just as ominous. On the other hand, though, the faster segments of the album do hold up as well. "Kingborn" is a powerful opener, and "Elegy" is particularly enjoyably chaotic. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the record is that the music does get a little too repetitive and monotonous in the midst of its dramatic violence. Nonetheless, the songs are very decent overall.

As the follow-up to "Agony," this album is quite a strong improvement. As a stand-alone release, however, it's a very solid death metal specimen. It does get repetitive at times, and the clean vocals can be slightly grating, but those flaws are nicely outweighed. The musicianship is great, the production is quite phenomenal, and the songs are generally well-built. Fans of the older releases will want to get their hands on this, and symphonic death metal fans could probably take a liking to it as well. "Labyrinth" may not exactly be A-grade material, but it's certainly great to see the band taking a step in the right direction.

Score: 7.5/10 (Solid+)