Released 16th August 2013
Symphonic Death Metal
Release via Nuclear Blast
Labyrinth is an album of epic proportions that seems out of place in everyday life. It belongs to a more grandiose era that would suit its enormous and complicated depictions of the ancient Greek mythology, but I am grateful that it exists to prove that this brand of death metal mixed with classical elements that they have executed so beautifully does not have to be filled with cliché. It can be a weapon in its own right, and when used correctly and in keeping with the rest of the music, classical embellishments can add great depth and contrast to a musical genre that was all too quickly growing stale.
The first track Kingborn serves to set the scene of Theseus’s descent into the labyrinth. Away from the sea, chirping insects and sunlight, he descends into the bowels of the earth where the thundering riffs and astonishing blast beats knock the breath out of you. Complete with a choir and a flurry of keyboard parts, the musical image is unleashed and you are transported into the myth and all of its mysteries. As an album opener, it is a very strong showcase of the band’s collective and individual talents but you also get the impression that they have found their feet and now have the confidence to do as they please. The problem with mixing elements of musical genres is that it always attracts comparisons to other bands that got there first, but Fleshgod Apocalypse have carved a niche for themselves. The classical elements are not there to disguise something that may be lacking in the band’s sound or ability, as they are a foreboding musical force on their own, so they extend the reach of the death metal beyond what is expected of it and aid in the storytelling of what is one of the most widely known myths in world history.
Minotaur (The Wrath of Poseidon) starts with a piano solo, accompanied later by a chanting choir. Then comes the eternally impressive death metal. The drumming especially is of an extremely high standard. Vocals are now added into the mix and blend seamlessly with the chugging guitar riffs and chanting of the choir to create a musical cacophony that attacks you on all levels.
Elegy again incorporates more classical elements, this time with the guitars and bass imitating the actions of violins; paving the way again for the choir to burst forth. Death metal elements are more obvious this time around complete again with blast beats, rasped vocals and technical breakdowns with the choir labouring away in the background, adding a sinister edge to the music as the song progresses to its climax and leads into Towards The Sun. The choir carry it through and trumpets and blast beats maintain the sordid and claustrophobic atmosphere the album is developing. Guitar solos add another stunning depth, complete with some female operatic vocals that sing out over the dark song scape beneath them.
The real surprise however from this album aside from its sheer scale and audacity is the use of not one, but two solely classical instrument tracks. Prologue and Labyrinth; the former a classical guitar duet and the latter a piano solo are a startling contrast, but in some ways a welcome reprieve. Prologue explodes into Epilogue and the change makes you jump as it is a death metal stampede with female operatic vocals flowing out over the top. The instrumental tracks add something different to the formula of the album, as otherwise Labyrinth as impressive as it is, would become its own worst enemy for using the same aspects of its formula over and over again in very similar ways.
Ultimately the album is something of a soundscape that flows seamlessly. You would be forgiven for thinking it was just one illustrious track that tells an epic legend in a fashion that it deserves; that is as relentlessly and innovatively as possible. The best way to appreciate this album is to look at it not as a sum of its separate parts, but as a whole piece of art that incorporates contrasting music styles in order to do justice to a famous legend.
Due to their recent UK tour being cancelled, we will have to wait a little longer to see this epic performance played out upon the stage and I will be curious to see how they recreate some of the more technical classical elements live, but nevertheless, I’m sure it will be something to behold.
Fleshgod Apocalypse online: