Review Summary: Beyond The Self proves that it is still possible to do good in melodic death metal without breaking any new ground
For all the flack contemporary melodic death metal gets (mostly deservedly so), there are a few groups from the 2000s who are rooted in MDM and who have taken the metal world by storm. In Mourning, Be’lakor, Woe of Tyrants and Insomnium are a couple of names that spring to mind instantly and even if melodic death metal is a genre that has largely ran its course (quality-wise), it doesn’t eliminate the chance of some bands still doing good in it. One such band is a little group from France called Fractal Gates, who wouldn’t be totally out of place when put into the list above. With their sophomore effort, the band has taken a positive leap forward and might just be ready for critical acclaim.
Fractal Gates was only conceived in 2007 and released their debut album Altered State of Consciousness
in 2009 to generally positive reviews. It was not perfect though, because while atmospherically sound and very catchy, the songs sometimes lacked a killer move to pierce the final hook through the listener. Regardless, Fractal Gates exhibited great potential on their debut, and on Beyond The Self
, the band is already capitalizing on it. They haven’t changed much of anything to be fair, but they have worked out the kinks and because of that, Beyond The Self
sounds like a much more complete record that can hang with the big boys of the genre. It might not be a Colony
or The Gallery
, but as far as conventional melodeath goes, it doesn’t get a whole lot better these days.
The thing with Fractal Gates is they aren’t pioneering anything. The minute you start expecting to hear something completely unique your experience will be marred. But when it’s catchy melodic death metal anthems you are after, look no further, as Beyond The Self
is chock-full of addictive melodic riffs that will stay in your head for a good while. It’s true that Fractal Gates play the same cards every time, yet they always manage to win. All the songs on Beyond The Self
are exclusively built on catchy, gliding riffs that are designed to win the crowd over. And Fractal Gates do – with Beyond The Self
they can even get the pompous music snobs in the back to tap their feet. Guitarists Stéphane Peudupin and Arnaud Hoarau then sprinkle some melodic leads and licks over the more chunky main riffs and voila, despite it sounding boringly facile, Fractal Gates have a winning recipe. "Beauty lies in simplicity" is the saying, and Fractal Gates have definitely built their album up on that. In a successful manner, mind you.
It’s more than an array of catchy riffs though that makes Beyond The Self
so good. The attention to detail is never lost and just when you think you’ve had enough of the same melody/riff, a new dynamic is introduced by the way of a slick lead, drum pattern or a change in pace. In addition to that, Beyond The Self
never strays from the lively pace it sets itself with the first full track, titled "Dissonance". Pure energy is often times the deciding factor between an album sinking or swimming, and Fractal Gates have plenty of energy in store.
If there’s anything that can be complained about, it’s that sometimes the compositions on offer do sound too simple for their own good, even if they are outrageously catchy. It isn’t enough to bring down what is an excellent melodic death metal album, though. The melodies are too soaring to say no to and the tone of the album instantly brings to mind Gothenburg greats from the ’90s, albeit this time in a way that makes one proud, not crave for the glory days of old. Fractal Gates have been honing their craft and even though their shtick is the same, Beyond The Self
outperforms its predecessor in every way. It’s more cohesive, the highlights shine brighter, and there is a strong sense of maturity about this record. The band isn’t exactly in line to rock the whole world of metal, but in a done-to-death genre, coming off with something uplifting is already a win in itself. Fractal Gates have found their flame in burnt-out ashes and said flame should only grow with time.