Review: “A Divine Comedy” by Apollo
“This EP has been in the works for a long time, and I could not be happier with the result. This EP is for those who have ever doubted themselves, have fallen apart to the demons in their head, felt like giving up, and needed guidance. Don’t give up. Keep fighting. Keep climbing. Trust the ones who stick by your side. Eventually, you’ll find your path. Every single choice, every note, and vocal take was absolutely deliberate and meant to evoke a specific response. Throughout the journey, the listener will be presented with soaring melodic solos, somber but beautiful keys that guide the self to introspection, crushingly heavy 8-string guitars, pounding drums, and vocals that dance with the music like a soliloquy to an audience of one.” ~ Kyle Prusky
While Apollo is a solo side project of guitarist and bassist Kyle Prusky, for this record he is joined by an interesting cast of seasoned musicians. Adrian Parcioaga provides vocals throughout, also contributing the cover art before aiding and abetting with production, mixing and mastering the pair also working together on other projects including Our Last Crusade. Session drummer extraordinaire Alex Rudinger, a man known for this work with Whitechapel and Intronaut as well as the recent album from Jared Dines provides programmed drums. As if that wasn’t enough, Layne Murdoch and Lucas de la Rosa also play parts, adding guitar solos and keys respectively to the first four cuts of this burnt offering.
A concept that has been re-imagined several times before most notably perhaps by Sepultura and Eighteen Visions, each cut on “A Divine Comedy” follows Dante’s gradual descent into Hell as depicted in the Italian’s original work. In itself that is divided into a trio of major sections – Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso – which are covered off by Apollo across five cuts. Parcioaga plays the role of Dante himself, narrating the journey from the dark wood of error to the revelation of the divine light, culminating in the Beatific Vision of God in finale “Ascendance“. Despite the description of their work as a “Progressive Death Metal Opera” nothing really prepares you for the contrasting play on light and shade or the sheer weight of emotion contained within the cataclysmic opening cut “Dark Woods” alone. The roots of despair grown and intertwine to become one with the tree of life itself in parasitic fashion as melancholic orchestration creates a spellbinding and almost cinematic feel that keeps you on the edge of your seat in the same was as recent works by Shadow Of Intent. The crushing, anvil heavy eight string guitars flow in and out adding depth and texture but the vocals are nothing short of unhinged. Parcioaga is at times the demonic beast unleashing a Deathcore roar while at other points the man lost to mental illness, muttering to himself as he sits rocking back and forth in the corner of the room. His range is incredible and the emotive nature he is able to convey here is nothing short awe inspiring.
“Abandon All Hope” then changes direction offering a circle pit inducing sound that blends Progressive Metalcore and Deathcore elements in perfect harmony to make for a powerhouse offering. A plethora of bounce with some pre-DJent moments in the riff department give it flare before Murdoch’s flamboyant solo turns up the heat a couple of notches and Parcioaga delivers an anthemic chorus to complete the picture. An off kilter piano moment with another solo from Murdoch in “Interlude” echoes ideas floated by Rivers Of Nihil but ends all too soon as if incomplete before the bowel clenching dirge riffs of “Deeper, Darker” open up the floor once more. Creepy to the point of being unnerving during the quieter sections, the cut packs a serious punch when the guitars return to the forefront, their surging power providing a dark energy that is unrivalled. Transported into the realm of the psychopath, knowing that the knife will strike but not knowing when keeps you on the edge of the seat even beyond the first few spins. Add to that a majestic solo and a spoken word akin to a poetry reading in the final moments and you have have an absolute monster on your hands. Saving the best until last “Ascendance” is the equivalent to throwing fuel on an already raging inferno. Frontloaded with Groove Death riffs of the finest order the cut rattles the bones with an unstoppable surge of energy as Parcioaga roars his way through the lyrics in his savage element, dispensing with the need for any atmospheric electronics until the final moments to give a haunting fade. It may only be 25 minutes long but this record is quality over quantity [8.5/10]
I: Dark Woods
II: Abandon All Hope
IV: Deeper, Darker
“A Divine Comedy” by Apollo is out now everywhere you’d expect it to be and a few you wouldn’t