Consisting of a single 24-minute track, Fleshvessel’s introductory EP (2020’s Bile of Man Reborn) was—to reference our own review—an admirably challenging and sundry evocation of Demilich, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes, Kayo Dot, and Shostakovich. In other words, it pinpointed just how multidimensional and skillful the Chicago experimental death metal quartet were right out of the gate.
Gratefully, they double down on those qualities with their first full-length collection, the curiously titled Yearning: Promethean Fates Sealed. Clocking in at just under an hour in length, it’s a tour-de-force of extreme tonal and stylistic shifts that—miraculously enough—blend seamlessly into an experience that’s both gratifyingly vicious and sophisticatedly eloquent. Only a handful of their contemporaries ever manage such profoundly motivated and gratifying concoctions (let alone on their first LP), making Yearning: Promethean Fates Sealed a bold declaration of purpose and potential.
Once again, Fleshvessel is comprised of multi-instrumentalists Alexander Torres, Amos “Troll” Hart, Gwyn Hoetzer, and Sakda Srikoetkhruen (with Hart also providing vocals). Cumulatively, they incorporate the standard metal instruments alongside less typical tools such as Puerto Rican cuatro, flute, piccolo, ocarina, viola, harp, piano, and Thai phin. Throw in a few guest musicians playing Glockenspiel, sleigh bells, finger cymbals, trumpet, clarinet, and darbuka and you have quite the eclectic and worldly arsenal of timbres with which to work (which Fleshvessel do in wonderful ways).
As the press release notes, the songs—as well as Carlos Agraz’s arresting cover art—center on “humanity's struggle against itself in seeking out the betterment of our world.” Furthermore, the band explains:
"We all know Prometheus as the Titan who stole the gods' fire and brought it to humanity and was thus punished for his betrayal. The album title uses this well-known myth as an allegory for humanity's seeking of enlightenment, creating a better, more accepting world, and the fight against itself to reach that goal. Ultimately, there is no Titan that will come to save us, [and] lift us up from the grime and dirt. It has to come from within ourselves to unseal our fates, and open our hearts and minds to goodness."
Fleshvessel waste no time conjuring up contemplative musical whirlwinds, as expansive opener “Winter Came Early” firmly establishes what listeners can expect going forward. Following its evocatively classical prelude, it bursts into a tirade of baroque black metal desperation not unlike a classically embellished revision of Agalloch’s superb Ashes Against the Grain. From there, it emphasizes traditional vehemence amidst further exploring prog rock flights of fancy, calming folk passages, jubilant jazz basslines, avant-garde nightmarishness, and other wide-ranging detours. It’s incredible.
Luckily, the remaining half-dozen compositions build upon that idiosyncratic excellence in a multitude of striving ways.
For instance, “A Stain” mostly sticks to a progressive death metal path while sneaking in all kinds of fascinatingly gothic instrumental intersections—as well as Frank Zappa-esque rhythmic breakdowns—beneath the surface. Later, “The Void Chamber” adds multicultural and orchestral flair thanks to its horns and miscellaneous other textures, whereas epic closer “Eyes Yet to Open” is often delicately atmospheric and haunting. There are even three subtly tasteful “Vignette[s]” to tie everything together.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Yearning: Promethean Fates Sealed is a remarkable accomplishment from a truly brilliant band. By expanding their range and vision from the already stellar Bile of Man Reborn, Fleshvessel have reached a new level of madcap malevolence. At times playful, philosophical, and downright pulverizing (sometimes in immediate succession), it’s a nearly flawless creation full of genre-splicing adventurousness and emotional zigzags.
Seek it out ASAP.