And so we’ve reached the end of an era with the King’s reign coming to a close, just so with Tommaso Riccardi stepping down from his position as front man in 2017. Rather than letting this defeat them, the ever resilient Fleshgod Apocalypse have refused to even slow down as they return to their roots, with drummer Francesco Paoli rising from his throne behind the kit to reclaim his original mantle as lead vocalist and guitarist. Just under two years later we now bow our banging heads to the successor of ‘King’ – ‘Veleno’ (“venom” in Italian).

I’m really not sure what’s going on in the album cover or how the illustration ties in with the themes explored on the album, but Travis Smith’s prolific catalogue (also seen in the discography of bands like Katatonia, Avenged Sevenfold, Sinsaenum, Black Crown Initiate, and pretty much every Opeth release) should rarely be taken at face value and once again I applaud him for yet another magnificent piece of artwork. Also, I’m quite partial to elephants.

Following up from the resounding success of the intense ‘Agony’, the mysterious ‘Labyrinth’ and the majestic ‘King’, Fleshgod have taken a step back from the realms of a concept album to take a more spontaneous approach on ‘Veleno’, all without straying from their musical traditions and firm constitution.

Intro track Fury made its debut on the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise earlier this year. I’m amazed that the boat didn’t sink under the weight of those riffs.

While not a concept album, the similarities between the themes tying each song together, subtle as they are, are difficult to ignore. The first two singles, Sugar, which explores the deadly and rippling effects of heroin addiction, and Carnivorous Lamb, a more creative spin on the wolf in sheep’s clothing proverb, share a broad common ground on foundations of disease and betrayal. We continue to ponder this connection during the disquieting instrumental track The Praying Mantis’ Strategy, until we are lead into the embrace of the much warmer Monnalisa.

What really separates ‘Veleno’ from its predecessors is the pronounced distinction between each element of the music, be it the guitar overtones or the dramatic orchestral arrangements that are still prominent, but much less grandiose. The intro to aforementioned single Carnivorous Lamb actually made me check twice that I wasn’t in fact listening to something off the new Eluveitie album released a couple of months ago. The powerful bass stands out on tracks like Worship and Forget and Absinthe, the latter’s bass solo being foreshadowed by Paolo Rossi’s crisp clean vocals taking the lead on this delectable track.

True fans of Fleshgod expecting to hear a penultimate power ballad on ‘Veleno’ will initially be puzzled by the pace of aptly titled Embrace the Oblivion, though it does share the same doomsday feel as Epilogue, Syphilis and The Forsaking and acts as the perfect sendoff before the traditional closing instrumental title track.

As the follow-up to one of my favourite albums of the last five years from one of my favourite bands of the last ten years, ‘Veleno’ is full of progressive spontaneity on Fleshgod Apocalypse’s part as they continue to move up in their creativity and musicianship, without a doubt their ambitious full scale orchestra will reach their live performances on international shores in the foreseeable future.