Fleshgod Apocalypse isn’t a band I’m intimately familiar with. This is my first actual exposure beyond the usual “one track on the cover-mounted compilation CD from Terrorizer magazine.” I’ve heard mixed things about them, ranging from good to crap and just about everywhere in between. This is a band people either love or hate. The folks that like more Technical Brutal Death Metal (Origin, Necrophagist, etc.) seem to enjoy this more than the people who are more into Symphonic Metal (bands like Stratovarius or even Therion and Dimmu Borgir). The thing about this group is that they fall into a strange gray area between Classically-inspired Symphonic Metal and Brutal Death Metal. Some people have described this LP as a chaotic and overwrought ball of noise. That is pretty accurate for the bulk of what’s on display. The vast majority of Labyrinth is wild and crazy. There is so much going on that figuring out what Fleshgod Apocalypse is trying to do is next to impossible. It doesn’t help that the guitars are nearly inaudible most of the time and the drums are so loud that it drowns out almost everything else. When drummer Francesco Paoli isn’t blasting away like a human tornado, things are a little bit clearer, but that isn’t very often. And then there’s the orchestral stuff… If you played an old Opera record while listening to Technical Brutal Death Metal, the resulting mess would sound a lot like what Fleshgod Apocalypse is doing here. The lyrics seem to be based on the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur (a half-man/half-bull creature that lived in a giant maze called a Labyrinth, hence the title of this LP). Of course, if you just had the music to go by, you’d never know that. If this is a concept album, I obviously missed the story amidst the blasting drums and absolute musical chaos. I may be letting my prejudices get in the way here, but I’m not a huge fan of overly technical music. My impression of this band’s playing on Labyrinth is that they’re doing this on purpose to bludgeon you into a state of mental numbness. If that is the case, mission accomplished! About ten minutes in, I was sitting there in a transfixed stupor, trying desperately to make sense of a cacophony of drums, growling vocals and shrill operatics that was hitting me from all angles. This may appeal to some, but it was a bit too much for me to handle. Maybe a more guitar-focused production would have helped, but I kind of doubt it. Given the band’s tendencies towards hyper-technicality, this would have still been a chaotic ball of noise but with more of a Death Metal sound. Labyrinth is a case of too much at one time. It might look good on paper, but in execution, this style just doesn’t work for me. It’s like getting shot in the head with a .45 caliber handgun (pick your favorite). After the first round kills me, shooting me fifty more times doesn’t make me any deader.
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