By Adrien Begrand
It goes without saying that classical music and metal have always complemented each other very well, from Concerto for Group and Orchestra to Death Cult Armageddon, from Malmsteen to Suicmez, so when we see a straight-up death metal band attempt to enhance their music with orchestral pieces, our reaction isn’t so much surprise as, it had to happen sooner or later. And Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse go out of their way to tell us they’re doing something rather bold, from the claim that they’re “inspired by Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation, and influenced by J.S. Bach and L. Van Beethoven”, to the sheet music that adorns the album’s layout, to the photos of the band in tuxes, to the inclusion of orchestral arranger/pianist Francesco Ferrini. So by that alone, the prospect of achieving a marriage of brutality and flamboyance, at least on paper, is awfully enticing.
However, excitement quickly turns to indifference as Oracles merely flirts with the classical side and ultimately settles for a safer, brutal/technical form of death metal, the kind of which we’ve heard dozens of times before. Granted, as a pure death metal band the foursome can be at times formidable, fitting between the precision of Beneath the Massacre and the pulverizing melodicism of Neuraxis (“Retrieving My Carcass” a terrific example), but the fact that the classical influence is purported to play a significant role in the band’s music, yet completely fails to deliver that end of the bargain, makes this album somewhat of a disappointment. The classical pieces that are there simply feel tacked on, and in fact come across as distracting, “As Tyrants Fall” appended with a stately waltz, a choir appearing at the conclusion of “Infection of the White Throne”, a gorgeous solo piano piece appearing at the end of the record. It’s a rare miss for the normally high-class Willowtip label, proof that no matter how garish a silk purse you want to make, sometimes you’re actually better off with the sow’s ear.