FRACTAL UNIVERSE - Engram Of Decline

Fractal Universe - Engram Of Decline

10 songs
59:45 minutes
***** ****


Two years ago, out of nowhere, French progressive death metal band Fractal Universe surprised the world with their debut EP Boundaries Of Reality, presenting four playful tracks that had all the trademarks of the genre. While they were working busily on their first longplayer, they even found the time to release two bonus tracks, to shorten the time between the two records. They have also been signed to Kolony Records, a record label that has released already quite some great albums these last years.

Fractal Universe decided to write a concept album, and even hired a lyricist to bring Nietzscheís Thus Spoke Zarathustra into song form. The ten songs make it to one hour of brainy death metal, and apart from the first two tracks, the songs are all over five minutes long, with the concluding Collective Engram even making it to nearly ten minutes. The band is musically still inspired by progressive death metal bands Obscura, Gorguts and Cynic, but of course are more than mere clones. Instead you get a heady mix that adds elements of progressive, technical and melodic death metal, more or less in equal measures. The progressive part can be found in the songsí structures that are truly daring and never let you know what will happen next. The technical component is most obvious in the many ultra-fast parts that would give lesser musicians a once in a lifetime headache. The melodic moments help give the music an accessible flair that will make you come back to the album again and again. Itís really hard to pick out highlights, because the songs are all great, and you will have to look hard to find any weaker moments, and I can reveal already now: you wonít find any!

Take for instance the opener Premiss To Reality whose blastbeat drums early on will leave you speechless. The interwoven guitar lines feel as if the musicians are trying to loom together the most complex tapestry ever, and then all of a sudden the song turns into a melodic slower part, and then we are not even one minute into the album. Some groove part says shortly hello, and we are back into the melodic part, with a busy guitar dropping strange arpeggios. And so it goes on. It is obvious that the quartet has spent a lot of time to finetune their music to perfection. The following Sons Of Ignorance is at a little over four minutes the albumís shortest track, and the band also made a video clip for this piece. Despite its shorter length, this is no less progressive. Maybe a little more on the groovy djent side, but possibly a good way to achieve fans of modern extreme metal. Other highlights include the nearly seven-minute-long Venomous Coils Of A Holy Fallacy, a song that feels structurally more like classic progressive metal, with a catchy chorus where the vocals are more thrash than death influences. The quasi-instrumental Backworldsmen comes with a German spoken word part of Nietzscheís text, and a saxophone courtesy of Shiningís JÝrgen Munkeby. Often instrumental tracks lack suspense, but Fractal Universe are such accomplished musicians that they even excel at this. The concluding Collective Engram features a guitar solo of The Facelessí Michael Keene, and an another saxophone solo, this time played by one of the bandís musiciansí dad.

You canít create progressive death metal much better than this. My only small complaint are the vocals that switch between death growls and melodic thrash singing, but are just not as incredibly amazing as the music. But that is just a very small and hardly even noticeable dent in the otherwise perfect Engram Of Decline. Death metal fans with a sophisticated taste will have something to savour!

Back to Reviews