Review Summary: Playing all of the musical notes, simultaneously, forever.
Perhaps the most notably novel thing about First Fragment's second LP is, oddly, not
the peculiar mix of sounds they blend into their brand of technical death metal - featuring funked-up slap-bass excursions, staccato flamenco acoustics and neoclassical lead melodies in abundance - but, rather, just how snuggly each of these disparate components slot together on Gloire Éternelle
. Far from collapsing under the weight of its influences into a gimmick-laden slop, the band's sophomore effort is somehow elegant, graceful and, believe it or not, really quite brilliant
It's all relative, of course. Gloire Éternelle
is still a hulking 71-minute demonstration of just how fast one can play all of the musical notes, simultaneously, forever
, as is clearly the want of the palpably mad Canadian blokes at the helm. It's dizzying and it's obtuse, to be sure, but that's half the fun. Unfortunately I'm woefully ill-equipped to pick apart and describe the various nuances on display, musical theory having never been my strong suit, nor in my own personal deck of cards to begin with. Luckily, it's not what's going on under the hood that makes Gloire Éternelle
such a charming joyride but, instead, the swooping skylines and lush landscapes that the smattering of 16th, 32nd and 64th notes (idk, probs not) manage to piece together.
"De Chair et De Haine" opens with a roaring sunset, all oaken rays of acoustic guitar and warbling fretless bass, only for the sky to be blown up shortly thereafter by landmine drum fills and haywire noodling. The resultant explosion is rather tame, however, compared to the bombastic grooves adorning the disheveled "Soif Brûlante" and ungainly "La Veuve et Le Martyr", both seismic and reverberating and raucous and - erm - big
. These slick cuts gush with the kind of primal aggression that is so often lacking from compositions this structured and precise, adding violent vibrancy to the record's otherwise clinical, shiny facade. A refreshingly old-school flair for drama and bombast ties it all together, the LP sporting power metal whammy bar leads and tasteful wank-free solos aplenty, making for unexpectedly close companions to the frequent flamenco freakouts and slap-bass swingdowns.
It's near impossible to pick a favourite track or moment, such is the consistency of Gloire Éternelle
, but the exemplary 19-minute epic "In'El" is an easy highlight. As the band bring the record to a close they set the sky ablaze one last time, layering lavish piano keys beneath some of the most unapologetically theatrical guitar work you'll hear all year, amplified yet further by frontman David AB's gnashing, guttural vocals. The clouds are seared with the purple, scarlet smoke trails of m/ incarnate as the truth shifts sharply into focus: First Fragment deserve a place at the head of the table of extreme metal, and they're willing to take it by force. Almost peerless in ambition and execution, they're one to watch in the decade to come, eyes wide and basking in the spectacle of it all. Honestly, I can't wait to see what they do next.