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Human nature is as dark as it is dramatic, and nobody expresses this with more power and majesty than Italian symphonic technical death metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse.
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With Veleno, their fifth album, they have produced an ambitious offering of a profound critique of Man, in our first delectable taste of Fleshgod Apocalypse since their membership has regrouped.
“I’ve had the opportunity to come back to my natural place,” reflects vocalist and guitarist Francesco Paoli, “right now I’m super happy to be back to the front line, as singer and guitar player. I like to play drums, and I played drums on the last album.”
Fleshgod Apocalypse’s 2016 album, King, was highly successful, but the altered lineup of the band has brought some important changes to Veleno, as Paoli explains, “… the main difference between Veleno and King, and the newer lineup, is that the band is a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more in-your-face, so we gained a little bit of power, you know, we still get melodic and dramatic and … we try to find a balance with the aggressiveness and epicness in the songs, try to be as economic as possible, but yeah, this is the main difference. Veleno is really more in-your-face than King. This is the first thing that you hear. Then there is a lot more going on in the songwriting, much more going on in the lyrics, also the sound is a little bit more creepy, metaphorical … we are talking about things of real life. That’s the difference with Veleno.”
And we just don’t care about the consequences of the way we act and exploit the possibilities that nature gave us … we have to stop, try to rebuild, find a deeper way to approach and rebuild society.
[ Francesco Paoli ]
Italian for ‘venom’, as Paoli informs us, Veleno is indeed both creepy and metaphorical. “We were trying to make an analogy of the relation between man and nature,” he recounts on the concept that runs through the album. “‘Nature’ is intended as the natural environment or even inner nature, human nature, and how Man deals with what is around him and what is inside. When we were writing the songs, this venom, this venomous thing, was always there, so it’s a metaphor for self-sabotage, self-destruction, of humankind … Sometimes, it’s about the fragility that we have inside, the burden we have to carry, the inner problems … we have to somehow find a way to escape from reality, from the problems, another song is about drug addiction for example. And sometimes, it’s not even metaphorical, it’s very clear, it’s about pollution, this … way of acting of Man, expiring all the natural resources. And we just don’t care about the consequences of the way we act and exploit the possibilities that nature gave us … we have to stop, try to rebuild, find a deeper way to approach and rebuild society. Other stuff like more philosophical, where we—for example—deal with stuff we don’t understand … that we cannot explain, we try to create rules, build some kind of reason in which we can put stuff, and we can feel a little bit more in control, and this is just a restriction of our freedom, of the possibility to live freely. And this is like constructing and building this kind of superstructure, like religion or like philosophy. That’s why we are talking about self-sabotage, self-destruction process. That’s why this metaphor of ‘venom’ infects all this life; it’s a word with lots of metaphorical, and non-metaphorical meanings, multiple meanings, so it was perfect to connect all the songs on the album, with one specific aspect.”
Renowned for their fusion of operatic and symphonic music with technical death metal, Fleshgod Apocalypse has woven a dramatically dark portrayal of human nature on Veleno. Opera, as a revealing, larger-than-life dramatisation of emotion, scaffolds Fleshgod’s complex conceptual vision on multiple levels, and Paoli elaborates: “We use the music as much as possible to underline the meaning of the songs, but in just an artistic way, we use opera singing, and the reason we do symphonic is also because it’s part of our heritage, part of our tradition, and we really like to integrate it in our music. When we try to create this dark, very heavy atmosphere is because the subject is dark and heavy as much as the music. When I talk about superstructures like religion or philosophy, you try to find your answers in something else, you abandon for a second your rationality, and you try to find a way to master what you don’t understand. And every time this happens, you somehow move Man from his position [as master of himself] … you expect someone else will fix your problems, from outside. They are deciding your destiny, and this is what we wanted to underline in the music, with the dramatic atmosphere that is somehow a bigger feeling, you know, … Man is too weak to master himself. It’s hard to explain, it’s very philosophical. In the end the point is this: in the album we tried to make analogies of this relationship that you have with human nature, and when we have to deal with something we don’t understand, or is completely unexpected, we try to put this in a box and control it, and this box is made of laws, made of rules, this kind of superstructure that we create. Obviously this restricts our freedom. We should be careful to relate freely, and respect others, progress as a society, without doing this. This condition in which Man is so poor, he forgets how to think with rationality, he tries to find the easiest solution for himself, its very sad and the nature of evil, after all, that’s we try to recreate and underline this darkness, this … how do you say … terrible feeling, very obscure atmosphere, with this dark and obscure music.”
When I talk about superstructures like religion or philosophy, you try to find your answers in something else, you abandon for a second your rationality, and you try to find a way to master what you don’t understand.
[ Francesco Paoli ]
This obsession with the dark and frightful, and a clear discontent with standard musical formulae suggest some strong influences from specific classical music periods, in particular the Romantic era. “Yes, the most of the influences are from the Romantics,” Paoli notes, “we tried to integrate them as possible, even involuntarily … but technically there’s some stuff that we tried to integrate, there’s a lot of inspiration from the Romantics, and of course as we are Italian, we have the opera. So these would be the most important periods of classical music that inspires us: Romantics and opera. Of course you can find also stuff from Bach, Mozart, especially on the last two albums there’s a lot of Wagner, Mahler. The new one [Veleno], the songs are a bit more dreamy, some are very, very heavy, a little bit comedic, a little bit more like Shostakovich …technically, we took the most from the Romantics.”
Bringing death metal and symphony together is an impressive feat of composition. Nonetheless, Paoli has readily embraced the delicate task that composing across these genres, as he reflects on this process; “Actually, this is the biggest achievement we can reach,” he states, “you know, the hardest part is to mix these two worlds. They have a lot in common, but sound-wise there are some concepts you have to reconcile, we have to find the right balance, try to make room for both of them. Some songs are, yeah, more death metal and some others are more symphonic on this album, so they may be more mixed in the album, not just in the songs, … in the end, its the biggest problem that we have when we compose, we want to come up with something good … with Veleno … maybe it’s experience, we have reached the right balance, it’s a very balanced mix between these two worlds … it’s the hardest thing to do but in the end the most satisfying, when you reach your goal.”