Back in 2011, Italian bruisers Fleshgod Apocalypse released an album that all of a sudden thrust them into the spotlight of extreme metal circles with an album that saw their vision really come to fruition. Combining technical and relentless death metal with full on grandiose symphonic orchestration, rather than a watered down aspect; saw “Agony” prove as menacing and epic as pompous and ridiculous, and saw it as one of the must have extreme albums of that year. “Labyrinth”, its follow up this year, sadly doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of previous.
One of the notable departures from “Agony” is the piercing, wailing high pitched clean vocals that rose above many of it’s epics. In their place are a softer, clearer operatic voice which seems a lot more toned down and less thrilling; unaided by their poor mixing which finds them grappling for space rather than dominating. Elsewhere the guitars also find themselves thrown to far in to the back of the mix, diluting the force of which “Agony” proved them capable.
It’s not as if “Labyrinth” is a poor follow up, because in actual fact it is still a strong, and massively bold and ambitious effort which continues to fully implement the ferocity of death metal with the intricacy and extravagance of classical and orchestral music . Against its predecessor however, “Labyrinth” does feel tamer and less determined. Aside from the instrumental (and in practise rather needless) ‘Prologue’”, the pace throughout proves more one dimensional and (ironic considering the title) less sprawling; and simultaneously it lacks a true stand out anthem like ‘The Violation’.
Were it not for the great weight of expectation “Labyrinth” could have been a very daring and rewarding listen, but with such a monumental album towering above, instead it feels just a little disappointing.