Written by Kep
Fleshvessel – Yearning: Promethean Fates Sealed
> Experimental death metal
> Illinois, US
> Releasing July 28
> I, Voidhanger Records
There are few albums I’ve anticipated as eagerly as Yearning: Promethean Fates Sealed. In fact, I’ve been hanging on every meager scrap of information from Fleshvessel since the day I first heard their 2020 EP Bile of Man Reborn. It captured my undivided attention with its imaginative soundscape of raging brutality tempered with progressive beauty, like a smoldering lava rapids with swooping flower petals dancing atop columns of the heated air. Many bands play death metal, and many bands play progressive metal, but Fleshvessel took both concepts several steps further than most, and did it with impressive depth and maturity.
And so I waited for three long years, and after two advance singles in 2022 tantalized me now the day is finally here, and I am NOT disappointed. Yearning: Promethean Fates Sealed is a record that begins painting in vivid colors and strange shapes from its first delicate moments, and it doesn’t stop until you’ve left the earth entirely and found terror, ardor, and respite in a new alien world. It’s cinematic, but not in the “music for a movie” sense; this is an album that tells its own story and needs no visual medium attached to make it come to life. I found myself exhilarated, meditative, and bewildered in equal measure, crushed by dark abysses of churning death, charmed by butterflies of winds, and mindboggled by avant-garde mayhem.
The 55 minutes of Yearning are divided into seven tracks: four long, sweeping progressive songs divided by intervening instrumental “vignettes”. It makes for a nice symmetry and a balanced listening experience from the outset, with each instrumental providing a poignant, eerie resting point between the gargantuan works around them. The vignettes aren’t just throw-away filler, either; they use melodic themes from other parts of the album, revisiting those motifs in contemplation and introspection. They, like some of the more exploratory solos in the longer tracks, feel rather improvisatory even though they’re largely not improvised; they’ve just got that sort of wandering thoughtfulness to them.
Fleshvessel’s core instrumentation is quite progressive itself, comprising vocals (both harsh and clean), guitar, fretless bass, programmed drums, electronic keyboard and acoustic piano, and flute. Flautist Gwyn Hoetzer is the surprise star of this record, the size of their role noticeably increased from Bile of Man Reborn, the flute serving as much closer to an equal partner with the guitars and keys. Any band can include a solo break for a wind instrument (we’ve seen it about 100 times in the last ten years), but Fleshvessel allows Hoetzer’s instruments to float hauntingly above slower moments and to reel and race maddeningly amidst heavy churn. Likewise, Troll Hart’s work on keyboards is front and center with the guitars, far from just a simple textural element. I’m fact, some of the most memorable passages on the album feature manic staccato piano as a prominent part of the riff, like around 1:15 in “A Stain”. All the main instruments take impressive solos, but it’s impossible to overlook the brilliance that happens when they’re all working together.
It’s nothing short of incredible how many instruments and elements pop vividly on this record. Sakda Srikoetkhruen’s fretless bass is a warm, propelling force throughout and he and Alexander Torres deliver a plethora of death- and prog-influenced riffs that range widely from brutal pummeling to piercing melodies and groovy syncopated rhythmic fun. Srikoetkhruen also contributes the Thai instrument phin to the record, a metallic tremoloed acoustic sound that’s like a brighter mandolin. Torres’ viola also adds a lush timbre to the mix, including a solo in “The Void Chamber” that brings shades of Ne Obliviscaris. Hart’s vocals range from reverberant death growls to animalistic blackened screams, and his ventures into a semi-operatic cleans in the record’s back half are an appreciated additional dimension. Most impressive perhaps are two of his keyboard solos: one head-spinning riot of notes midway through “A Stain” and a downright jaunty Jordan Rudessian spot in “The Void Chamber”. As previously mentioned, Hoetzer’s flute and ocarina are delightfully prominent, adding gravitas at times and whimsy at others. On top of all this the band brings guests in to highlight certain moments, including performers on muted trumpet, glockenspiel, and several types of additional percussion, while Gleb Kanasevich’s wild clarinet solo on “Eyes Yet to Open” is the highlight for me.
Because of the huge, multi-section nature of the four main tracks and the number of non-standard instruments, the range of sounds and styles on Yearning is particularly massive. Each song is an aural moving picture, focus changing constantly from brutal warlike conflict, to intimate moments of compilation, to frantic searching, to triumphant power. Fleshvessel does a LOT, all of the time. In fact, the weakest part of the album to my ears is the extended ambient passage in the final track, because when you’re used to them doing a ton, that span of time where they’re doing far less doesn’t hold the attention as well.
There is danger in doing so much, of course, risking overwhelming the listener or feeling like a pastiche rather than a cohesive whole. But the band smartly ties their ideas together with reused themes and motifs: for example, the melody first heard at the beginning of “Winter Came Early” is heard several times in that song and then in the following “Promethean: Vignette I”, and it’s hinted at in “Eyes Yet to Open”. It’s remarkable to feel connections from track to track across an album of this size and scope, but the connections are absolutely noticeable and the whole package holds together in one striking picture like a jigsaw puzzle.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are multitudes of details to hear and appreciate in Yearning: Promethean Fates Sealed, and the album deserves every bit of the listening time it takes to absorb them. This is arresting, memorable metal that you won’t hear the likes of from anyone but Fleshvessel. If you like your music challenging yet relatable, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything this year that hits those notes quite like this.