Fleshgod Apocalypse, the symphonic death metal band from Italy recently released their fifth full-length album under the label Nuclear Blast, titled Veleno and it’s pretty damn heavy. The music has a powerful production quality. I am fond of the brutal texture of the guitars and drums that aurally assault you throughout the album’s entirety. As is common of most symphonic bands, this album features extensive choirs and strings as well as elaborate keyboard parts and, for the most part, I can put up with this style though it does wear on me over time. In my earlier years, I was a huge fan of Children of Bodom which possibly stoked my enjoyment of this style of metal. I went on to be quite partial to Septic Flesh and Rotting Christ who also have something similar in their style. I would venture to say that only Septic Flesh get nearly as heavy as Fleshgod and I feel that heaviness is one of the most redeeming elements of Veleno… well, that and the ridiculously high pitched shrieked/falsetto vocals that rear their head occasionally (not as much as I would like though).
Veleno could pass for a brutal death metal album at times but the recurring symphonic elements lessen the overall heaviness of the album; the two musical feelings almost serve to balance each other out and that is partially why this band has such a wide appeal. Although Veleno is not wholly original, the band have refined a formula that has been brewing for two decades or more. Though the album hits me hard at the start it slowly melds into every single melodic death metal act I have ever heard and at times I’m not sure if I’m listening to Dark Tranquility or Fleshgod. Ok, I know that was a low blow but on a serious note, occasionally while working and listening to this album I have to keep checking that it hasn’t switched to another melodeath album that I haven’t heard before. I also have to point out that I don’t love the industrial/nu-metal sounds I hear rearing their heads in the track “Monnalisa”. At one time Fear Factory and Slipknot would have been part of my playlist but now they are reserved for blind-drunk, nostalgic, sing/scream alongs at house parties (that are shamefully forgotten the next day) and I generally find industrial and nu-metal quite off-putting nowadays.
Not only do I find that this style of metal wears on me after extended listening, but I also find the production of the album to be tiring on the ears. The keyboards and choirs are quite invasive and persistent and hurt my head after a while. When the band breaks into some great death metal riffing my ears breathe a sigh of relief but also emit a quiet and imminent dread at the return of the “symphony”. I much prefer the death metal parts of this album over the symphonic elements and generally, I feel this band is using these elements to give the album a more commercial appeal, which has always been the case with the more symphonic and orchestral metal bands. I also feel the parts are almost token-esque and not truly a symbiotic part of the music as if all the metal parts were written first and the orchestral stuff slapped on at the end (I could be totally wrong here but at least entertain my conjecture). Some of the keyboard parts just feel annoying and give the death metal a quirky and dinky element and are not always entirely complementary. As much as I have been shitting on the symphonic elements of the music I do love the neo-classical lead-work on this release. I have always been a sucker for virtuosic guitar so call me biased, but it is one of the more redeeming aspects of Veleno for me.
Overall I would not call this album unique. It’s an enjoyable listen the first time around and it isn’t completely boring by the second listen, but I am not inclined to give it a third. What starts off sounding unique ends up melding into a memory of every melodic death metal album I’ve ever heard and I can’t say this is a genre that appeals to me much anymore. I have seen these guys live a couple of times and they always put on a good show and the musicianship of the album is beyond excellent, but I find recorded, the music becomes drab all too quickly. If melodeath is your thing then no doubt this will be a very enjoyable release if not one of the best melodeath releases out there right now; however, that’s all it is to me: another symphonic metal album that I will forget all too quickly.