posted on 5/2009 By:
I signed up to review Oracles with a mixture of anticipation and skepticism. On one hand, Italy-based Fleshgod Apocalypse is signed to Willowtip and features a member from Hour of Penance, which suggested that at the very least the album would be an exercise in skull-popping brutality (it is). On the other hand, the band claims to draw on late-baroque/early-classical European composers for influence. While I found the prospect of classically-tinged brutal death metal intriguing, I wasn’t sure how it would sound.
As I see it, one can approach Oracles in one of two ways. The first involves taking their whole classical-influence claim at face value. From this angle, Oracles is unquestionably a disappointment, albeit not a surprising one. There’s a reason that very few bands have blended brutal death metal and European classical composition with any degree of success, and Fleshgod Apocalypse show you why: the two styles are, for the most part, as compatible as oil and water. The band wisely elects not to layer synth instrumentation over their ripping riffage—any attempt to do so would inevitably be over-the-top cheesy or buried by the weight of the metal instrumentation. Instead, the band occasionally drops into abrupt, brief classical interludes that have little to do with the songs. Therein lies the problem, though; aside from the interludes, Fleshgod Apocalypse’s classical influence functionally doesn’t exist. Sure, the musicianship is great, the riffs are pretty lengthy, and the band has a more developed (and, yes, slightly ‘classical’-sounding) melodic sensibility than most brutal death acts. But they still miss out on what makes classical music so compelling: mood, tension, and most of all, dynamics. No, randomly inserting synthesized classical breaks once every other song does not constitute dynamics.
Alternately, if one chooses to look at Oracles as a fairly straightforward death metal album, it fares decidedly better. The band’s performances are as precise and relentless as you’d expect from a Willowtip act, and their use of melody helps distinguish them from the blast’n’squeal hordes. Though Fleshgod Apocalypse aren’t as tricksy and catchy as peers like Anata, Gorod or Arsis, their winding baroque-flavored riffs work well with their endlessly brutal rhythms (definitely more blasting than not-blasting going on here). While their limited playbook of tremolo riffs and harmonies work well a few songs at a time, Fleshgod Apocalypse run into a lot of common br00tal-band issues over the long run. Specifically, this shit gets redundant pretty fast. The only real changes in pace on Oracles come from those distracting synth-orchestra injections and on mid-album groover “Requiem in FJ Minor,” but otherwise this is pure face-numbing shredfest. Paolo Rossi’s competent but one-dimensional growl doesn’t help matters much. Further, Oracles sports one of those insanely digital, oppressively-triggered productions; drummer Francesco Paoli could be a machine and you’d never know the difference. I know some folks love the super-ProTools’d sound, but I can do without.
In the end, Oracles is an entertaining, very aggressive death metal album that I don’t expect to have a lot of shelf life. The ‘classical’ thing may be something of a red herring, but modern-oriented death metal fans will probably enjoy Fleshgod Apocalypse. Even so, these guys are still definitely second-tier, and would do well to reign in their assault a little for memorability’s sake.
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