Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno (2019)

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Google told me that “Veleno” means “venom or poison”. Coupled with the album’s cover art, this had me wondering what kind of venomous beast was going to ensnare me. With the 13 tracks weighing in at 1 hour and 2 minutes, this was certainly going to be a behemoth.

Fleshgod Apocalypse hail from Italy. The chemical composition of their death metal is that of  frantically paced drumming, neo-classical guitar riffs, the grand use of choirs and slightly off-key sounding piano. The result is a lush, symphonic tone that surprises and infects you. Francesco Paoili contributes the vocals and plays many of the instruments.

“Fury” stings you immediately and the infection has begun. Frantic guitars and pathogenic piano are woven together and a subtle choir accompaniment floats in and out. The vocals are fast and appropriate to death metal – dirty and growly. The track builds slowly and the guitars wail away.

“Carnivorous Lamb” steps back a bit with a much slower opening tempo. The piano is then again fast and it’s lethal dance with the guitars is evident. The vocals change, with a higher pitched, plaintive style used alongside what you’ve heard so far. I enjoyed the use of balance in this track, with the guitars obvious on one side from time to time.

“Sugar” chills with its opening of demonic whispers. The lethal cocktail of piano and guitars are used to create a staccato effect, enhanced by the vocals and choir. There is an underlying sense of urgency in this track.

“The Praying Mantis’ Strategy” is a short instrumental track that allows for some recovery from the pestilence so far. It serves as a virulent segue into “Mannolisa”, which begins with guitars, but falls away into a groovy bass line. This track has a very different feel, with a cleaner style of piano and opera-like vocals used. What becomes evident though is that the vocals and piano are never what you’re expecting. It’s as if the piano is slightly off key, or an odd key is used. Your attention is drawn to how pleasant it is… but there’s something in there which isn’t quite right… like something malignant just under the surface. Venomous indeed!

“Worship and Forget” returns to the familiar toxic thrash, with vocals to the forefront. It’s fast and infectious, with a syncopated undertone.

“Absinthe” features choir and driving guitars, with the higher pitched vocals used initially, but soon getting down and dirty again. A masterful melodic section is used towards the end of the track, giving it a plaintive air. I had a laugh in one section, as the vocals seemed to be, “Yum, yum, yum, yum.”

“Pissing on the Score” uses maniacal piano and really clever guitar pinches and squeals to create an atmosphere of urgency.

“The Day will be Gone” opens leisurely with the pestilent piano and the majority of the track is sung by a female vocalist, with Francesco joining in from time to time . It’s harmonic and melodic and the tack swells operatically in the middle. Again, it is malignant in its intent, sounding slightly wrong. It ends in a choir and a whisper, as the day is finally gone. I used “finally” intentionally – the track is 6 minutes long.

“Embrace the Oblivion” has a machine-like opening that sweeps you up. The signature fast-paced drumming and guttural vocals grab you. Other components of this cancerous cocktail are a sprinkling of choir and terrific tempo changes. It’s operatic in scale, with so many sections and elements. And, it’s 7 and a half minutes long. However, the ending is inspired, as the track is stripped down slowly to be just a piano. This caught me out, as it seamlessly slides into the next track, “Veleno”, which is just piano done in that intriguingly imperfect signature. It’s achingly beautiful and intoxicating, but also slightly poisonous.

When I saw “Reise, Reise” on the track list I was intrigued. I am a Rammstein fan from a long way back and have heard that track hundreds of times. I am not a fan of covers, as they are rarely done well and to cover Rammstein is a tall order. The drums and bird call-like opening were unmistakeable. It was really close to what I was expecting. This track emphasises the choir more than Rammstein did and gives it the toxic treatment. Francesco’s vocals are like Till’s would be the morning after a night on absinthe. It’s like Rammstein was poisoned and came back from the grave – similar to what they were, just a little broken. The guitar work near the end of the track is terrific and they chose a music-box inspired ending, which was exceptional . It’s a virulent cover indeed – one that I enjoyed.

“The Forsaking – Nocturnal Version” crawls forward, with this poisonous journey almost at its end. It’s an appropriately sad sounding track, with death as it’s central theme. The use of strings is grandiose and the track winds down slowly, signalling a slow release from the grip of the venomous beast.

This album is a masterful monster, combining the maniacal with the majestic. The guitars can be brutal and bombastic one moment, noodling through the melody the next and then sweet and subtle. As I’ve said a few times, the piano and choirs are both uplifting and intriguing, as they are beautiful and slightly grating at the same time – a sweet poison. Tempo and tone changes feature prominently and they enrich the sense of theatre. Francesco’s vocals are genre correct and he seems comfortable in whatever the task demands – clear, clean, dirty or mad.

My one issue is that this album is a little long in parts. However, this shapes how you engage with it. This is an album that you don’t float in and out of – you surrender yourself to its malignant magnificence – it’s long, it’s grand and it’s all encompassing.

7/10

Review by Greg Noble

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