01. Visions VII
04. On Your Own
05. The Sign
06. Visions VIII
08. We Are All Leaders
09. Reverse Dawn
10. Mighty Wings (Cheap Trick cover)
11. The Experiment
12. Beyond the Self
13. Glooms of Cyan
14. Visions IX
Some six years after joining up as a band, Fractal Gates of Paris, France punch out their second studio album Beyond the Self. The band’s name is no doubt more than a coincidental resemblance to At The Gates, one of the few bands listed as a musical influence on the group’s official Facebook page. Though other such influences include Amorphis, Satyricon, In Flames and Septic Flesh, and these can clearly be heard on Beyond the Self, the Frenchmen’s style perhaps reflects that of Sweden’s Scar Symmetry the most.
This isn’t just in terms of melody-laden guitar riffs and leads, but also a lyrical or topical similarity. Focusing on extra-terrestrial life, science fiction and anything outside of this globe – also clearly depicted on both albums’ cover artwork – the band offer a pleasant step away from extreme metal’s usual death and gore, despite being a bit of a copy job from Scar Symmetry.
I care little; as little as I care about the fact that Fractal Gates serves up a type of music that is an undeniable mix and match of most of their credited influences. Why? Because Fractal Gates is the first Swedish-style melodeath outfit to get me totally hooked to their medicine since a very long time. A clear drive for quality has been put into to this, reinforced by the helpings of well-known producer Dan Swanö, who is also himself heard on the record.
Somewhat bigger issues I’m having with Sébastien Pierre’s lyrical compositions. Content-wise I’m fine with his word, but unless I’m a complete retard – or just a non-native incapable of grasping the language’s full concept – the English on display isn’t quite grammatically correct. That or it’s just a whole lot more esoterically complicated than a Dutchman wearing wooden shoes and smoking a pipe is able to comprehend. Thankfully his vocals do more towards serving up an incredibly tasty roar than bringing across the words that form his texts. In other words: if I hadn’t had the lyrics video below I wouldn’t have known what he was on about.
But back to the things that matter, on all other accounts Fractal Gates do everything right. With Swanö delivering an ace production and lovely contrasting compositions of melody and crunch – often with a good bass ‘under-thunder’ – Beyond the Self rolls out one long and never-boring stream of variation. To that end, the musical contributions of Sotiris Vayenas, guitarist and keyboardist in Greece’s Septic Flesh, as well as Swanö also serve to diversify the pallet – as does the cover of Cheap Trick’s “Mighty Wings” – imagine an eighties/Topgun-styled piece of death metal with a mix of clean and harsh vocals sharing the stage. Cheesy as fuck right? But surprisingly enjoyable!
With Beyond the Self Fractal Gates have understood what they’re doing and they execute it well: quality melodic death metal that makes a listener experience more than a bodge-job performance of tried-and-proven blueprints, despite that really what they’re doing is just that; taking the strong parts of a bunch of well-established melodeath bands – and the brilliant part is you’ll hardly notice.
Check out the incredibly catchy “Timeless” – also featuring Sotiris – for your listening enjoyment and, while you’re at it, try to determine if Pierre’s English actually does leave something to be desired.