For all the badass posery and just fucking musical chops it takes to play death metal at anything approaching a competent level, I’m continually surprised at just how insecure and defensive its practitioners can be. Way back in the alphabet of album titles Morbid Angel was giving liner notes shout outs to classical composures and just about every tech death band of the ’90s felt compelled to name drop some obscure jazz performer as though acceding to what the musical snobbery classes considered the apex of composition somehow elevated their art.
Featuring members of Hour of Penance, Fleshgod Apocalypse are otherwise skilled musicians who squander a killer band name and Marco Hasmann’s neo-Dan Seagrave cover art by awkwardly shoe-horning classical music samples into what is otherwise enjoyable, excellently produced b-grade death metal.
Sure, the popular perception of metal is it’s music made by Neanderthals for troglodytes, but dropping a completely unrelated string section at the close of “As Tyrants Fall” with no real connection to the preceding bludgeon fest does not make your case for elevating metal’s musical merit. Each time Fleshgod Apocalypse try to cram in a piano run or misplaced bit of classical noodling it pulls you out of album, reminding you that this is not meant to be an enjoyable half an hour of music but rather a manifesto extolling death metal’s virtues.
The band comes closest to incorporating classical arrangements into their repertoire on “Sophistic Demise” with its trilling, continuously spiraling central guitar line, but the band plays to its strengths as a lumbering mountain of death metal on “At the Guillotine” or “Requiem in St. Minore” without all the faux classic froo fraw.
Guys, take a deep breath, think this through and heed your mom’s advice and just be yourself.
[Full disclosure: Willowtip provided me with a promotional review copy.]