Fleshgod Apocalypse - Agony (Nuclear Blast/Riot)

The Italians with a penchant for visceral virtuosity as much as vigorous Verdi produce a disc overrun with flesh ripping symphonic torment.

If you mention “Therion” and “death metal” in the same sentence, you’ll probably be flashed chanced eyebrows and views askance. “What?”a long haired brute would exclaim in incredulity, “Therion? Death metal? Are you insane?” In the last century, Therion played exactly that and nothing but. Only after finding the mystical and arcane left hand path came their resplendent transition into the regal, symphonic metal that we know today.

Fleshgod Apocalypse have fast-tracked their evolution and produced a blistering and colorful mutation in the form of Agony, a shotgun marriage of Dimmu Borgir-like heaven and Rhapsody of Fire style hell.

Yes, you read that right.

Jack-hammer blast-beats streak through magisterial swathes of orchestral strings – on every single track. It isn’t so much a formula as the fundamental bonds between the atoms of every single note on the record.

We’re routinely pummeled by drumming and a wall of strings before a caged guitar, hungry for egoistic grandstanding is let loose to drop some fret-igniting knowledge on us all. Guttural snarls take counterpoint with herniated vocals we’ve all come to know and pillory. Despite more martial and imposing tracks such as The Egoism or allowing the piano to drive instead of the hulking death metal juggernaut (The Forsaking) the scalding from their explosive brand of symphonic death metal virtually never ceases until your flesh has turned very much into ash. By the end of the disc we’re allowed a cool, solemn and overwrought piano ballad (Agony) even though eight bars or so in, it’s very much the end of the album.

Praise is merited for the Italian quartet, resurrecting the style seemingly forgotten in the twilight of the last century – that of extreme metal with exquisite Mozart. Though bands such as the aforementioned Therion or Dimmu Borgir have trended toward a moderate direction, Fleshgod have either foot firmly rooted in both noble traditions. If one can withstand 50 minutes of raucous thunder tempered only by Wagnerian symphonic wrath then you’ll be in ecstasy listening to Agony.