As 2015 rolled into 2016, most folks were planning their yearly resolutions, getting back into the grind of work and school after the holiday season, and (in parts of the country) preparing for the onslaught of winter weather that ripped through the US almost coast to coast. I was not one of these people. For me, last year ended and this year began with one singular focus. That focus was Fleshgod Apocalypse’s upcoming masterpiece, “King.” I’d been waiting for almost three whole years to jam new music from this band, and my anticipation was at an all time high. I will tell you now, dear reader, I was beyond impressed by what I’ve heard. “King” has been relentlessly blasted from every available speaker/aux cord combination I’ve been privy to for the last month. This could be the best metal release of the entire year, and we haven’t even reached February yet.
Over the last 8+ years, Fleshgod have refined their style and sound into a precision piece of musical engineering, melding the tenets of traditional black/death metal with the pillars of classical orchestral music to breed a sound unique to the band. Their early releases hinted at what was to come, but it wasn’t until they added their main orchestrator and pianist, Francisco Ferrini (in 2009), and delved into 2011’s “Agony” that Fleshgod were able to truly cement what was to become their familiar style of face pounding, earth shattering, and beautifully orchestrated metal. The experimentation did not end there, and as the band evolved toward their 2013 release, “Labyrinth” they began to utilize the operatic talents of Veronica Bordacchini on a more frequent basis, eventually inviting her to tour with them full time, and even giving her an entire track on their new album, the Wagner-esque “Paramour (Die Leidenschaft Bringt Leiden),” with which to display her talents.
These factors were all effectively blended to perfection in order to create the orchestral masterpiece that is “King.” As fiery frontman/guitarist Tommaso Riccardi describes it, “…drums, bass, guitars, and vocals are elements of the orchestra, together with all the other sections, [such as] strings, brass, etc. This means that in the process of composing new songs we always consider all these elements together. Of course, sometimes a guitar riff could be the starting point, while sometimes the song could come to life with the idea of a main orchestral theme or a drum rhythm, but it’s going to be a very organic process in which all these elements are written and arranged together during the evolution of the songwriting.” What he’s saying is that they approach writing an album in a song-by-song manner, with each song having the potential to spring forth from any instrument at any time. For instance, the epic song “Gravity” was clearly inspired by a chunky, metal guitar riff; where as a song like “In Aeternum” came directly from tinkering with orchestral music.
The writing and recording processes themselves seemed to be as relentless and epic as the band’s overall sound, with the group spending a solid 9 months alone with songwriting and perfecting their orchestral arrangements. Riccardi stated, “We are extremely meticulous about everything, especially the songwriting, and I think this is what made us grow up so fast and gave us the chance to play so many great stages over the years. We are hard workers and we never settle on anything.“ Nowhere is this better evidenced than in the bands orchestral arrangements. Unlike other bands in their genre, Fleshgod Apocalypse opted to digitally create their orchestral arrangements through the use of various synthesizers and keyboards. This gave them the ability to utilize the orchestral parts in a more modern, and less traditional, way. Fleshgod has definitely expressed the desire to work with live orchestra musicians in the future, but what they have been able to accomplish with nothing more than some amazing technology and the divine ears of their pianist, Ferrini, is incredible in its own right.
As an added layer of artistic input, Fleshgod also spread the recording process across two different studios. When you factor in the mastering process, all told the band utilized three separate studios in two different countries. Pre-production recording was handled by 16th Cellar Studios (who had handled recording the entire “Labyrinth” album) before moving to Kick Recording Studios and the masterful production of Marco Mastrobuono (Hour of Penance). According to the frontman, Riccardi, the sessions were “really comfortable“ and “an amazing time.“ The group then enlisted the renowned Jens Bogren (Soilwork, Symphony X, Enslaved) at Fascination Street Studios to really ice the cake that the band had meticulously baked during their recording sessions. “We were looking for people who could really interpret our music and put it in a way in, which with all the things going on, where it could be intelligible and still extremely heavy and powerful,” the frontman says. “And we definitely succeeded. We finally obtained what we had in mind since the beginning: a great sounding album.”
This album was written and recorded in a most collaborative way, making the theme of the album both poignant and organic. Whether it’s taking elements of the old and fusing them with aspects of the new, or choosing to stay true to one’s convictions in spite of rising popular conviction, “King” is emblematic of what makes Fleshgod Apocalypse a band worth paying attention to. “King is about an old world that is slowly coming to an end,” Riccardi informs. “The king himself is, in a way, the only positive character of the whole story. He represents justice, integrity, and wisdom that are slowly being corroded by ignorance and mediocrity spreading everywhere. We thought this could be a perfect way to describe our indignation about the unrestrainable downfall of our own society in an era that looks more like the Middle Ages rather than the 21st Century. Obviously, in this story there is a positive message: that the king could be inside every one of us. It’s up to us to recognize the King and find the courage to stand for what we believe in. We should all hail the king we have inside!” Fleshgod Apocalypse is the “King,” or at the very least, they embody those ideals which the album was written to stand for, an impressive feat, to say the least.
This band has continually out done itself with each and every release. They’ve tweaked and tinkered with their sound and style just enough over the years to become a perpetually growing machine. Working as hard as they can muster, this Italian five-piece will have truly cemented their place in the conversation of best modern orchestral metal bands once “King” is released on February 5, 2016 on Nuclear Blast Records. Grab a copy, buy a ticket to their upcoming North American tour with Carach Angren, order a shirt from their webstore, buy some of their wine (yes, they bottle their own wine!). However you want to support this band is fine; just make sure you don’t miss the splendor and majesty that is their new album. Long live the “King!”