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Album review: Fleshgod Apocalypse - King

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★★★★★

For many of us, it’s hard to imagine classical music and extreme metal having that much in common.

Fleshgod Apocalypse - King

But the fourth album by Italian technical death metal five-piece Fleshgod Apocalypse – King – not only fuses the two vastly different genres, but does so in such a masterful way that it is extraordinary to behold.

Naturally, symphonic metal is not a new phenomenon – bands like Symphony X and Nightwish have been pioneers of the sub-genre for years – but never before has the fusion been so organic, progressive or heavy.

Like its predecessor, 2013’s Labyrinth, King is a concept album, this time centring upon – as vocalist/rhythm guitarist Tommaso Ricardi describes it – “an old world that is slowly coming to an end.” And the nihilism in that sentiment is certainly present throughout the album: King is melancholic, dark and evil. Yet, the record still manages to showcase a great instrumental diversity on the part of the band.

Some tracks are slower, downbeat lamentations (“Healing through War”, “Cold as Perfection”), others are more melodic (“The Fool”, “In Aeternum”) and some even possess a Sylosis-esque thrash aura (“Mitra”, “And the Vulture Beholds”). The record’s interlude, “Paramour”, even adds four minutes of opera to the mix.

Yet the one thing that unites every song on King is that they are all fuelled by powerful guitar-work, a pounding rhythm section and attention-grabbing growls from front-man Ricardi. The sonic range of the album is testament to the musicianship of the five men performing on it.

The entirety of King is accompanied by classical elements, including pianos, choirs, cellos and other orchestral arrangements.

It is these instruments, along with the band’s technical ability, that make King – and Fleshgod Apocalypse as a whole – stand out from the death metal crowd.

As an experience, it is intense and thought-provoking, reminiscent of a soundtrack to an epic tragedy. It is a meditation on the darkness of the world that, as a listener and fan of heavy music, is definitely a cathartic exercise to partake in.

King will be released via Nuclear Blast Records on 5th February.

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