Speedy moose crashing through the Garden of Eden - A review of First Fragment's ''Dasein''
First Fragment is another impressive progressive death metal band from Quebec. The group's musicianship on its conceptual full-length debut ''Dasein'' is astonishing. Despite being recorded by session musician Troy Fullerton, the sophisticated drum patterns are executed perfectly. The rhythms change every few seconds and the performance is technically impressive from start to finish. It's no surprise that it took the band a very long time to find a suitable drummer because the drum parts are really challenging. The bass guitar play is more than just supporting the drums and adding quite a few interesting solo parts and complex rhythms. This instrument could have been a little bit more present in the production but Vincent Savary has enough occasions to showcase his tremendous talent. Guitar duties are mostly handled by Gabriel Brault-Pilon and Philippe Tougas who offer a multitude of fast and brutal riffs yet manage to shine in wonderfully melodic solo parts in almost each song that recall the brilliance of heavy and progressive metal legends of the eighties and nineties. In addition to this, four other invited musicians perform lead guitars on different tracks throughout the album and add even more diversified melodic soundscapes to what might be one of the most promising technical death metal bands in recent memory. As if these elements weren't enough, the band offers an intellectual but not overtly challenging lyrical concept that deserves further attention.
Despite all these highly positive elements, ''Dasein'' has a few obvious flaws that really drag it down. What happens if you take a bunch of highly talented musicians with great expertise on their respective instruments and progressively speed up their skillful performances? The different sounds merge into one another, get harder to distinguish, create cacophonous passages, lose their creativity, efficiency and talent and ultimately become nothing at all. That is happening way too many times on this album. While the slightly slower guitar solos are spot on and the few acoustic interludes offer much-needed breaks, First Fragment mainly focuses on its brutal side instead of exploiting its incredible musicianship that even most melodic progressive metal bands can't achieve. The band wastes a lot of potential and many songs end up sounding quite repetitive and are often very hard to digest. Don't get me wrong, occasional high-speed passages are very welcome in progressive extreme metal territories but it's a shame that such a talented band mostly focuses on speed instead of skills or atmosphere. An extreme metal band like Black Crown Initiate might be less talented from a technical point of view but this group's outstanding songwriting employs perfectly placed high-speed passages among many slower parts that become much more efficient that way. First Fragment needs to learn to offer a more balanced songwriting and to use its skills in a more precise way.
The vocals have pretty much the same issue. A lot of thought was put into the lyrical concept of this release. The fact that the band members express themselves in their mother tongue makes the lyrics even more interesting. But what's the use to work out a truly interesting lyrical concept if you can't understand one single sentence because the singer is monotonously and repetitively roaring like an angry moose throughout the entire album? I never understood why numerous bands with skilled musicians and promising progressive concepts opt for the simplest of vocal styles that simply doesn't do the lyrics and music justice. Once again, I'm aware that we're talking about an extreme metal band and that harsh vocals are an important part of this sub-genre but it's a shame that the vocals are so one-dimensional and almost impossible to understand. Once again, an extreme metal band like Black Crown Initiate offers slower but still intense growls that are much easier to understand and garnish their music with efficient clean vocals here and there that only add to their lyrical concepts. First Fragment wastes a lot of potential in the vocal department. If you want to sound like Cannibal Corpse or Six Feet Under, you can hire a mad moose instead of a vocalist but if you actually have something else to talk about than rotten corpses in your lyrics, you should chose a different approach.
To keep it short, First Fragment is one of the most talented extreme metal bands out there with astonishing musicianship and interesting lyrical concepts. The band's excessive need for speed and its dumb vocals restrain the group from fully exploiting its incredible talent. Let's hope that the band learns to slow things down in the future and to work on better vocal efforts or hire a new vocalist if the group wants to have a significant impact.
Final rating: 60%« Perfect fusion of old and new elements - A review of B.A.R.F.'s ''Brûle consume torture''Improved sound and song writing - A review of Grave Digger's ''Healed by Metal'' »
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