For many years, Italy has been of questionable metal cred. Though they produce big-name goth-rock acts (Lacuna Coil), baroque power-metal wizards (Rhapsody), and the occasional filthy underdweller (Necrodeath), Italy has never yielded a truly brilliant extreme-metal band—until now. Fleshgod Apocalypse create crushing brutal death metal laced with sweeping orchestrals and pained wailing vocals, and Agony, their new full-length and the follow-up to their critically-acclaimed Mafia EP, is a total triumph for this young band.
Most notable is Fleshgod Apocalypse’s ability to weave chuggy riffage and tireless blast beats with epic orchestral passages, resulting in a tapestry of romantic brutality. Opener “Temptation” creeps into an eerie crescendo before crashing straight into “The Hypocrisy,” a whirlwind of death-metal technicality and free-wheeling piano straight out of the Behemoth-based opera of your nightmares (it should be noted that amongst the band’s roster is pianist Francesco Ferrini). Tracks like “The Imposition” and “The Violation” juxtapose the band’s throttling aggression with its larger-than-life symphonics, while “The Egoism” and “The Betrayal” conjoin sorrowful solos with cinematic string-work to paint emotional landscapes that rival most sunsets.
The only issue throughout is the clear vocals—at times the wild cries on many of the songs sound strained beyond their reach, and tech-death fans may find it hard to swallow the operatic vibrato on “The Egoism”—but even these hearken back to ICS Vortex-era Dimmu Borgir in a way that will charm many listeners. Overall, the album is far more engaging and fierce than almost anything to come out of the underground this year, making the Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Italy’s metal scene, a force to be reckoned with. Ah, sweet Agony. CHRIS KROVATIN
Check out "The Volation" off Agony below: