By Dr. Abner Mality

"Agony" is indeed a very good description of what you'll feel after wallowing through this pompous tripe. Fleshgod Apocalypse is the latest in the long line of bands trying to integrate classical symphonic elements with brutal heavy metal and if you swallow the hype, they are the best and most ambitious at it. I didn't swallow that...I spit it out.

This was a very rough slog. Even metalheads into the half-baked orchestrations of Dimmu Borgir might be daunted by the thick coat of cliched soundtrack like strings and horns ladelled over Fleshgod Apocalypse's tunes like a bucket of paint. Immediately the cry from their supporters will go out: "You're just an oldschool metalhead! You don't understand classical music!". Au contraire, mes ami...I couldn't claim to be a devotee, but I know a Bach from a Beethoven and a Liszt from a Handel when I hear one. And I am a keen follower of film soundtracks from the likes of Poledouris, Rosza, Goldsmith and the immortal Bernard Hermann. So that dog ain't gonna hunt. With a few minor exceptions, the classical instruments here swarm and engulf the metal riffs and the orchestral motifs sound trite and pat. It doesn't help that the guitar sound is flat and allows itself to be overtaken. And that should NEVER happen to death metal!

What makes the album so unbearable is the brain-numbing virtually non-stop assault of digitally assisted machine gun beats that clatter on through every song without an ounce of variation. It is triggered, monotonous crud, to be blunt, and it shoots just about every song in the head, songs that are already struggling. Blessed relief comes with the closing title track, a very nice solo piano work-out where the absence of the pitiless percussion brought a smile to my face. Few fans are going to buy an album from a band called Fleshgod Apocalypse for a nice piano etude, though.

There are some very nice neo-classical guitar solos popping up throughout...the record's saving grace...and there are a few occasions where the metal and the classical seem to call a truce and work together, such as "The Forsaking", which I would say is the one song outside of the title track that is really memorable. Although the stock-standard death growls do not help...another area that needs improvement.

Nope, Fleshgod Apocalypse are not revolutionizing much of anything here. In America particularly, this will fall flatter than the chest of an 8 year old Winona Ryder. Mergers between classical and brutal can be done...see Septic Flesh's "Communion" for proof...but not by these guys.