Originally written by Jordan Campbell
Last year, Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s Oracles threatened to make some significant waves. A close cousin of the acclaimed Hour of Penance,Fleshgod crafted a claustrophic blend of ridicu-blast brutality and classical embellishments. The combo raised a unibrow or two, but, ironically, their formula worked against them. Their death metal attack was familiarly Teflon’d (it did, after all, sound a lot like Hour of Penance), and the classical elements came across as tacked-on and awkward. Oracles‘ tide waned severely before it reached shore.
But, as bands like Beneath the Massacre have previously proved, sometimes amped-up devastation is best served in bite-sized bursts of violence. Mafia, a five-song EP, showcases Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s best material yet, and in an ideally sized portion.
The first track, “Thru Our Scars,” runs the band’s stylistic gamut. In short, it’s a mission statement. Opening with a two-second orchestral snippet, the song quickly dives into insane blasting and lightning-fucked riffing, before topping itself off with rapid-fire verses that bludgeon and bounce with fervor. The mad sweeps and operatic vocals that comprise the chorus are cool as hell, too, but when taken as a whole…it’s a little much. And that was the problem with Oracles—restraint was in short supply. These guys like to beat you over the skull with the kitchen sink before shoving the plumbing down your throat.
Thankfully, they let the next two tracks breathe a bit, and the results are impressive. “Abyssal” is a fast-but-focused cutter that has a shoutalong hook reminiscent of Aeon (circa Bleeding the False); the wildly triggered double bass work tries to launch the song into hyperspace, but emotive and stout guitar work keeps it grounded. A brief orchestral segue (a fucking fluid one, at that) leads into “Conspiracy of Silence,” which succeeds in spite of some recycled noodling–mostly because the pseudo-operatic vocals add some tasteful depth to an otherwise merciless attack.
So, yeah, sorry for getting a little long-winded about a decidedly second-tier death metal EP, but it’s an impressive piece of work. Time will tell ifFleshgod Apocalypse will use “Abyssal” as a stepping stone to more laconic (and therefore more engaging) full-length exhibition, or simply become one of those bands that fares better in the shorter format (Vader and Jesu, we’re looking at you). If the latter scenario proceeds to unfold, well, keep these nuggets coming, Fleshgods. Mafia is an essential listen for modern DM freaks–if not for its powerful original material, certainly for its absurdly destructive cover of “Blinded By Fear.” Take note.