'Mafia' - Fleshgod Apocalypse (8/10)
When it comes to death metal, there's no denying that some of the world's most technically proficient and inhuman acts play within the abrasive and heavy style. Freed of many typical songwriting conventions, death metal musicians are given a wider playing field with which to sport their skills, and give a feeling of brutality and aggression scarcely seen in other styles. While all of this may certainly benefit death metal, many of the genre's adherents either fall into a technical, brutal sound with poor recording production, or a polished production that focuses on more melodic, conventional tendencies. With that being said, it's always a pleasure to be introduced to a death metal band that manages to record their sound beautifully, while all the while remaining viciously technical and heavy. Fleshgod Apocalypse is one such band, and on top of great production and unrelenting skill, their 2010 EP 'Mafia' showcases a few very unexpected twists that add to the EP being one of the most impressive I've heard in the past year.
'Thru Our Scars' opens 'Mafia' with full-force, immediately introducing the listener to Fleshgod's tightness as an act. To make what would otherwise be above-average tech metal better, symphonic influences (such as a violin breakdown, orchestral section) and even an operatic clean vocalist are thrown in, to never let the listen get too one-tracked in death metal. The second track 'Abyssal' flows in almost seamlessly, following the same heavy, yet beautiful sound of the band. To make things even more unique for death metal, the title track 'Mafia' is a classical piano piece, which- true to it's title- could easily fit as a musical theme for any mob movie. The only track here that isn't incredible is Fleshgod Apocalypse's cover of the At The Gates song 'Blinded By Fear,' which while staying true to the band's very technical approach, lacks all of the surprising nuances that makes the band so special.
A joke that is passed around a bit within the local death metal scene is that 'Mafia's album cover is actually a painting of the drummer. Humour aside, the intense percussion of Francesco Paoli is absolutely stunning. No stranger to the double-kick pedal, Paoli destroys his kit, and takes advantage of every possible drum fill to the max. Also of note are the great guitarists at work here, who effortlessly switch between crunchy, heavy riffs and neoclassical shredding.
While only still a relatively new band, Fleshgod Apocalypse shows some remarkable talent and promise, and if 'Mafia' is any sign, the band is well on it's way to going somewhere fantastic.