Tech Death Thursday: Fractal Universe- Engram of Decline
Fractal Universe has a new album! Is it as good as their debut? Click here to find out- the answer may shock you! (But probably not, I’m very predictable)
- Dying Fetus continue to insist that we not fuck with them with “Die With Integrity.”
- There’s an extensive teaser up for new Arkaik material. Unsurprisingly, it sounds gnarly as fuck. Look for the full album this fall on Unique Leader.
- Cytotoxin have released the title track for their upcoming Gammageddon, and it crushes and weedlies in equal measure. Pick that up on July 21st.
- Someone decided tech death didn’t have enough fantasy nerdery, so he decided to call himself Ezerath and put out a surprisingly good album. You can check out a full stream of Overture: The Heir Apparent right here.
I’ve been meaning to give Engram of Decline the proper review treatment for some time now; Fractal Universe had quite the debut, and the singles they put out indicated a promising followup. Their songwriting was smart and intricate, not complex for complexity’s sake, but because it’s what the music called for. My expectations were high, but I was confident the band would meet them.
And meet them they did! Engram of Decline displays all the same clever touches as its predecessor with a few new twists as well. I had previously praised the versatility the band had displayed in only a handful of songs on their EP; while that is largely in place here, the album as a whole feels more focused, which works to its advantage given its longer running time. The tone feels darker overall and serpentine in its mannerisms; the guitars in particular give me the impression of a slithering asp, accentuated by Vince Wilquin’s Morean-style vocal delivery. Combined with increased presence of jazz chords, the tech death parts of the album bear close resemblance to Gorod tunes.
Their slower progressive side, on the other hand, takes after Alkaloid. It’s sometimes quirky and strange, as per Alkaloid’s “Dyson Sphere,” but it often takes a moody bent that exudes an unsettling atmosphere. It never reaches full-on skronk, but there’s just enough dissonance and non-standard intervals to produce a subtle discomfort. This effect is compounded by the interplay between the instruments; they rarely follow each other beat-for-beat and note-for-note, and it’s easy for one of them to catch you off guard with something unexpected. For me, this uncertainty is part of what kept me hooked, but it may be daunting for some listeners.
One of the biggest standouts on the album is the saxophone solo on “Backworldsmen.” Metal sax seems to be en vogue these days- seriously, just search for “sax” on the site and see how many articles pop up- and while it’s not something I take issue with, I will admit that a large part of my enjoyment of it stems from how bizarre it is to hear outside of its usual context. The “Backworldsmen” solo is noteworthy for the opposite reason; this is one of the few metal tunes I’ve heard where the saxophone feels completely natural. Part of that is because of the aforementioned jazz chords and progressions, meaning it’s not entirely out of its normal habitat, but it’s more about the way it’s played than anything. This isn’t the gentle crooning that appears over soft clean chords; this is angry and violent, thrashing about and shredding just as hard as (if not harder than) the guitars. It came up and I didn’t even bat an eye at its presence; I wouldn’t say that it was necessary that that part was played by a saxophone, but the change in timbre helped keep things interesting.
My only complaint is that by the end of the album, it starts to feel its length. Most of the songs are in the five- to six-minute range, with the closing track being near 10. It’s not that the album feels bloated- every part has value, serving to move the music forward- but it can be a bit of a slog near the end if you’re not prepared for a longer listen. When you’ve got the time and focus for it though, it’s definitely worth the investment.
Engram of Decline is out now, available through Kolony Records and the band’s own Bandcamp. Be sure to follow Fractal Universe on Facebook for all your prog-death needs. That’s all for this week, and until next time,
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