Exhausting. Not in a bad way — Italian metal giants Fleshgod Apocalypse just pack a lot into their symphonic metal. Like, symphonic elements, to start. Operatic vocals. Grunted vocals. Grunted narration. Pianos. Sound effects. Reams of guitar solos. An album-length story full of minotaurs and myth. Perhaps an actual minotaur. Who knows?
It’s all good. As someone who discovered Alice Cooper late, grew up on Savatage’s Gutter Ballet, and still thinks Cradle of Filth should have just right up and quit on a high note with the wildly ambitious Damnation and a Day, I’m all good with bands that think more is more.
Labyrinth, the band’s third full-length, is based off the myth of the Labyrinth of Knossos, and sadly not the 80s Muppet-y fantasy flick starring a vamping David Bowie and an irritating Jennifer Connelly. It’s all apparently a “metaphor,” according to the band. And “the most Fleshgod thing [they’ve] ever thought with the most Fleshgod riffs, lyrics, melodies, drum parts, solos, etc.” Does it matter? In eleven tracks of the same build, it all blends together, a mishmash of speed metal tropes, exaggerated vocals (fine on the lower end, squeaky on the clean side and unnecessarily Mustaine-y on “Towards the Sun”). They could be singing about bacon… it’d still epic/delicious.
But yes, symphonic. And the Wagner-ian parts… they work quite well. The intro to “Warpledge” nearly urged me to toward invading Poland, and “Under Black Sails” would make a fine new Imperial March. As for the pianos: The sparse instrumental title track is rather… pretty. Which makes its outlier status on the album all the more ominous.
If Fleshgod Apocalypse doesn’t quite bring it all together in the end, no worries. Labyrinth is an album of big gestures, high notes and epic tales. Play it loud enough, and you’ll forget about sweating the little details.