Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth (Nuclear Blast, 2013)
Occasionally we face some bands that, although been active for a while, they suddenly conquer the music world with one album. This is the case of the Italian symphonic extreme metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse. Their breaktrough album “Agony“, released on 2011, shook the metal world with their ALMOST perfect combination of symphony and extreme metal, creating what could be described as the perfect chaos. And I said ALMOST, because even that “Agony” was one of the best releases from 2011, there was room for improvement, and the band recognized it. This led us to their new album titled “Labyrinth” where we can safely say that the guys reached that perfection they were aiming for.
“Labyrinth” presents a metaphoric story inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus is a hero who recognizing his roots, takes the responsability of doing a crazy journey to kill the Minotaur, the half man-half bull, who symbolize our deepest fears. The Minotaur is trapped into the Labyrinth of Knossos, which perfectly represents the complexity of our inner world. Each song has a well crafted lyrics selection worked around the aforementioned concept and they are filled with many metaphors, making this concept the best one that Fleshgod Apocalypse have worked in their career. With such a rich and complex music like the one showed on this album, it’s basically a must to have some kind of deep lyrics and the band did not fail to deliver.
Musically, “Labyrinth” is an extension of the sound they developed for “Agony” where the symphonic elements are the main stars through the whole album. On “Agony“, one of my main complains were the guitars being buried in the mix and that they were not given a predominant role. This is not the case on “Labyrinth” as the guitars take a leading sound once again making this album heavier than “Agony” and getting a more “metal” sound. But don’t even think that they diminished the symphonic elements, as they are just as dominant as on “Agony“, it’s simply that they properly created a balance between the symphony and the guitars.
“Labyrinth” opens with “Kingborn“, a track which after a minute-plus intro blast off at full speed. Two minutes into this track and it is pretty evident that Fleshgod Apocalypse is about to unleash on us a masterpiece. The drums attack is really vicious on this one (and on plenty of other tracks), making them to sound quite even faster than on their previous efforts. “Kingborn” is pure symphonic onslaught and simply, one of the highlights of the album. Tracks like “Minotaur (Wrath of Poseidon), “Elegy” (the album’s first single) and “Warpledge” continue the merciless musical punishment featuring some of the best vocals by Tommaso thorugh his career, with the usual clean vocals interventions from bassist Paolo, and a better use of the female vocals handled again by Veronica Bordacchini.
Just in the middle of “Labyrinth“, we got one of the most interesting and unique tracks on the album. “Pathfinder” hits on us with a semi-industrial sound, not too far from the likes of Fear Factory or even Septicflesh, something the band didn’t try before. Obviously it sounds like Fleshgod Apocalypse but the riffing and atmosphere of the song is quite a novelty for the band, making “Pathfinder” one of the album’s highlights. On the second part of “Labyrinth“, we face an additional full speed assault with “The Fall of Asterion“, just before getting an acoustic guitars relief with “Prologue“. After 9 tracks, the guys felt that they have not given enough, delivering on us “Under Black Sails“, the longest track on the album. Clocking at 7 minutes and 26 seconds, “Under Black Sails” works like a summary of the whole album with their full speed approach trading parts with some of the best mid-tempo and heavy riffing that they have graced our ears. “Under Black Sails” is simply Fleshgod Apocalypse at the top of their game, and it’s not just the best track on “Labyrinth“, but perhaps the best song of their outstanding career.
“Labyrinth” closes up with the title track, a 4 plus minutes piano-based song, wrapping up over 50 minutes of a truly rewarding experience. With “Agony“, Fleshgod Apocalypse raised plenty of eyebrows and many praised the band as one of the finest acts from the last couple of years. “Labyrinth” shows them at the peak of their creativity and without a doubt, it is the best album of their career. With “Agony” they pushed the boundaries of symphonic extreme metal to a point where it seemed almost impossible to be reached. “Labyrinth“, with its flawless musical execution alongside the phenomenal lyrical concept pushed those boundaries even farther, up to a point which makes me wonder what will be Fleshgod Apocalypse able to achieve in future releases. “Labyrinth” is perfect in every possible sense; we simply don’t face musical gems like this one quite often.
HMT Rating: 10/10
“Labyrinth” will be released in Europe on August 16th and in North America on August 20th through Nuclear Blast Records. The track listing is as follows:
1. Kingborn 06:06
2. Minotaur (Wrath of Poseidon) 04:47
3. Elegy 04:18
4. Towards the Sun 05:42
5. Warpledge 04:32
6. Pathfinder 05:12
7. The Fall of Asterion 04:39
8. Prologue 01:07
9. Epilogue 05:44
10. Under Black Sails 07:26
11. Labyrinth 04:25
The album’s first single “Elegy” can be streamed below.