While casual melodic death metal is garnering more hate from day to day, progressive melodeath is growing stronger with the same ratio. During the last few years, some real gems have been discovered, like Hacksaw To The Throat, In Vain, In Mourning, Be'lakor and Augury to name a few. Fractal Gates also qualifies for that league. Coming from France, Fractal Gates was formed by two members (Stéphane Peudupin on guitar and Sebastien Pierre on keyboards) of a doom metal band called Inborn Suffering. As much as I've heard from Inborn Suffering - which isn't all that much, I admit - they are a good band, but when giving Fractal Gates' debut album Altered State Of Consciousness a go, one feels right away that this, somewhat of a side-project band has much more potential.
Altered State Of Consciousness is the band's first effort and while Fractal Gates exhibits tons of potential, there are some downsides to this album, most likely due to the young age and lack of experience of the band. During most of its play-time the album is really gripping, but a small problem occurs when one takes a closer look at the riffs displayed. While they are executed with skill, and the constant up-down passages are very well done, then a bit more variation during the whole run-time of the album would be welcomed. That's not to say all the songs sounds the same, but most of the time, the listener is continuously greeted by dark, low end riffing over which plays the lead guitarist. The vocalist doesn't help the cause either as he only exhibits one vocal style throughout this album (if to exclude the small clean vocal part in "Inertia") - the extremely low and powerful growl which is by all means very enjoyable, but may become a bit tiring in the end.
It should come as no surprise now, that it's the lead guitarist, who really makes Fractal Gates stand out. His work is always very tasteful; his higher pitched riffs being placed over the chaotic, low-tuned and muddy electric guitar chords are always very fitting. He adds nice variation to the album and without him, Fractal Gates could very well be just another progressive melodic death metal band.
The work of the solo guitarist isn't the only thing that places Fractal Gates over many of its rivals though. The keyboards, that are rather unnoticeable in the overall sound, do a very good job of perfecting the sci-fi atmosphere Fractal Gates is obviously going for. Also on a great level is the drumming which can turn from a standard medium paced snare-cymbal beat to a furious double bass rampage in a flash. And then there is the songwriting. While I mentioned earlier that the low, amplified riffs are a bit too similar at times, then the songwriting is what saves them from becoming tedious or boring. Just when it seems the song needs a serious kick in the groin, the kick comes. Either in the face of an unexpected time signature or a furious chugging section, things never become boring. At times, Fractal Gates do venture too close to the edge, but never do they completely fall off it.
What we've got here, is a good, rather original progressive melodic death metal album. The overall guitar work, when including the lead guitarist, is great and the science fictional approach the band uses in both the lyrics and atmosphere is uncannily refreshing. There are faults, but they aren't enough to make this release any less enjoyable. Altered State Of Consciousness is already a great album, but when listening to songs like "The Eclipse" or "Skies of Orion", one can't help but to think how Fractal Gates could be huge in the future (like some of their compeers I mentioned in my opening paragraph), as long as they keep perfecting their sound.
Thanks Alex. Imo it is a pretty simple decision - if you like good melodeath then give this a go, but if you're tired of melodic death metal (even if this has a progressive touch to it), then it is unlikely this album will change your mind.
EDIT: bloc - Gates To Nebula is good, but at least in my opninion, no way in hell does it beat The Eclipse. That song is just pure ear sex
thanks broseph, this album is on the edge I was talking about in my review. For me, Fractal Gates never falls off it, but i guess i can see why for some, they do. It's all due to the fact the guitar tone is rather unvaried throughout the album, and it's mainly in the hands of the lead guitarist to pull the whole thing off.
Good review dude but I definitely have to disagree with this being in the same league with In Vain, In Mourning, or Be'Lakor. This grows stale way too quickly to be mentioned in the same sentence with those bands.
yeah album art is badass. Simple, yet dark and alluring. Me likes. And yea, while this ain't quite as mindblowing as the rec's I listed, it is still great, what 3.5 implies to. It's also VERY similar to Be'lakor, which I know you like, so you should definitely dig this. This is like Be'lakor doing sci-fi and reducing their song lenghts a bit.
Zoo, lol, I was just typing a response to Observer, saying that this ain't quite as good as Be'lakor and In Mourning. But this is still great imo. And I more of put Fractal Gates into the same league with the others listed, based on their sound. They are definitely not as good yet, but imo they just might be a diamond in the rough. And I have to disagree with you on Be'lakor's part, as Fractal Gates and Be'lakor are very easily comparable
WhiteWallStargazers - it is a great album, but I wouldn't approach it with the "this is going to blow my mind" attitude. If you go into this expecting a great album, tthen you'll be satisfied, but if you expect too much from this, you may be disappointed