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Fleshgod Apocalypse - "Labyrinth" (CD)

Fleshgod Apocalypse - "Labyrinth" CD cover image

"Labyrinth" track listing:

1. Kingborn
2. Minotaur (The Wrath Of Poseidon)
3. Elegy
4. Towards The Sun
5. Warpledge
6. Pathfinder
7. The Fall Of Asterion
8. Prologue
9. Epilogue
10. Under Black Sails
11. Labyrinth

Reviewed by on July 30, 2013

"'Labyrinth' wraps up death metal mayhem, symphonic insanity, and technical shredding into a near hour-long package, and all without letting any of those aspects overpower the others."

With no new Septicflesh material due out this year, it falls on the Italian act Fleshgod Apocalypse to fill the symphonic death metal void in 2013, which the band does more than just admirably. "Labyrinth" wraps up death metal mayhem, symphonic insanity, and technical shredding into a near hour-long package, and all without letting any of those aspects overpower the others.

Considering the band's genre tag and how prominent a role the symphonic elements play on "Labyrinth," a direct comparison to the aforementioned Septicflesh seems inevitable, but there's some key differences present. Fleshgod Apocalypse offers a more technical and blistering experience that's less focused on the horror atmosphere and more on grand theatrics in general. Everything is consistently heavy, however, and even the non-metal instruments are presented in a metallic way, like the violins on "Minotaur (The Wrath Of Poseidon)" that somehow manage to sound heavy. The only down time on the entire disc is the minute-long strummed acoustic guitar on the very inappropriately titled "Prologue," along with some piano parts on the closing title track.

These 11 songs have a crazy balancing act between the growls, the death metal guitars and drums, and the constantly present symphonic elements. What's impressive is that this tightrope walking is done at top speed in a maelstrom of metal chaos without skipping a beat. In addition to the death growls, there are some odd backing shrieks that are more abrasive, like a guttural version of a power metal croon. They may not work for everyone, but they aren't the focus of the vocal delivery, so it's not a deal breaker. The only other vocal change-up appears on the also inappropriately titled "Epilogue," with its bout of operatic female vocals coupled with melancholy cello sounds.

The "Labyrinth" promo shots feature the corpse-painted members decked out in full operatic regalia in an amphitheater, and the images really hit the nail on the head in regards to the album's atmosphere and sound. Equal parts crushing and symphonic, the album will likely be among the top tier of 2013 releases for fans of symphonic death metal.

Highs: Devastating death metal gets invaded by symphonic insanity - without either side stepping onto the other's toes.

Lows: The odd backing vocals won't work for everyone.

Bottom line: A must-hear album for fans of symphonic death metal. Prepare to be crushed to death by heaviness and then soothed back to life by operatic wonder, repeatedly, at a breakneck pace.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)