posted on 8/2011 By:
Hailed as Fleshgod Apocalypse’s masterpiece, one thing is certain: Agony is undeniably epic, incredibly well-written, and a brilliant sophomore effort. There are a few aspects of the album that, for me, keep it from attaining “magnum opus” status, but as mentioned previously, this is only the Italian band’s second attempt. Oracles laid the framework for what would become Fleshgod’s signature style (stunning technical ability coupled with intricate neo-classical guitar structures), and Agony takes this to a blistering new level of virtuosity.
Combining such elaborate sonic palettes is a mighty undertaking (brutal tech death is already so dense, and the orchestral arrangements on Agony are far from sparse), though it has admittedly been done before. Septicflesh’s most recent work, The Great Mass has similar orchestral elements, but they were used in a far more restrained manner. Agony is bursting at the seams with symphonic splendor, but fans should keep in mind that Septicflesh took the organic approach to recording these arrangements, whereas Agony took the computerized route. However, this also granted Fleshgod a great deal of freedom, of which they take full advantage while crafting highly complex and thick blankets of sound. However, just as too many heavy blankets may prove suffocating to those trapped beneath them, listeners may find themselves struggling under the weight of the two warring genres of symphonic and technical death metal.
While Agony is undoubtedly worthy of praise, it is not a flawless album. Throughout the record, the band utilizes piercing and often irritating high-pitched vocals similar to the ones used in Dimmu Borgir’s “Gateways”, which are at times effective (“The Hypocrisy” and “The Egoism”), but occasionally border on hysterical (treading into chipmunk territory on “Deceit"; an impressive feat considering they are performed by Fleshgod's male bassist). Dimmu Borgir’s use of soaring soprano lines achieved something I’d describe as demonic, but Fleshgod’s employment of a similar element is mostly distracting. Although this was my biggest qualm with the Agony, I’m sure many listeners will completely enjoy the aforementioned vocals, or at the very least be able to look past them. The transition from “The Deceit” to “The Violation” nearly makes up for the irksome screeching on the former track, and the entire album flows together like one cohesively sinister composition.
The piano rhythm at the end of “The Forsaking” begs Beethoven comparisons (it's either an intentional homage to Moonlight Sonata or an accidental mimicry), and beautifully recalls the melodic theme used at the beginning of the track. While listening to the album, Classical terminology springs to mind as often as metal vocabulary. Francesco Ferrini, the pianist and orchestrator for the band since its inception, is now a permanent member of the group, and his contribution to the album is absolutely massive. His themes create fantastic interplay between the arrangements, but at times grow a bit stale. Repetition is a key element of Classical composition, but when placed in such a deeply metal context, it proves a somewhat stagnant device. Nevertheless, Fleshgod Apocalypse is pushing some major boundaries with this album, and Agony is one of the must-have albums of 2011.
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