Engram Of Decline
14th April 2017 – Kolony Records
01. Premiss to Reality
02. Sons of Ignorance
03. Scar Legacy of Hatred
04. Parricidal Ghosts
05. Venomous Coils of a Holy Fallacy
07. A Name to Deny
08. Narcissistic Loop
10. Collective Engram
After just over two years since their inception, French technical death metal act Fractal Universe have released their debut full length Engram Of Decline. A 10-track concept album based on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathoustra, exploring the history of human thought, the band draw huge influences from recent French tech-death trailblazers such as Gojira, Betraying The Martyrs and Novelists.
Opening track “Premiss To Reality” combines spectrum-bending guitar tones with a distinctly groovy main guitar riff. The tempo fluctuates at random intervals and almost gives the track a slightly jazzy feel to it – such is the level of catchiness on show. Guitar solos are a key aspect of Fractal Universe’s music, and while some clearly overstep the mark in the showmanship stakes, the solo on this track, as well as on “Sons of Ignorance“, is a beautifully composed affair, set against some intricate thrash metal drumming.
Fractal Universe show a tremendous amount of depth and progression throughout the record, and there’s a tangible mixture of several genres which makes for a varied listen despite the overwhelmingly abrasive death metal vocals. The doom-laden style of “Scar Legacy Of Hatred“, with blast beats courtesy of Clément Denys and Gojira-style guitar pick scraping from Hugo Florimond, is set against “Backworldsmen“, which is mainly instrument-driven and includes a guest appearance from Shining frontman and saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby. Vince Wilquin’s vocals also diversify slightly on “Venomous Coils Of A Holy Fallacy” with slower, softly worded spoken passages building into a more mainstream, up-tempo track that wouldn’t look out of place on a Megadeth record.
But it’s this level of experimentalism that makes it extremely hard to listen to the album casually. Sure, repeated listens ease you into its layers steadily, but in a sea of artists competing with each other for album sales, downloads and streams, an album of this magnitude (running at just shy of an hour) is a heavy, difficult body of work to access.
The band go all Black Sabbath on penultimate track “Decline” with one of the heaviest introductions you’re likely to hear this year, while closing number “Collective Engram” is a near ten-minute epic which throws everything into the mix for their last hurrah. Justifying their status as a progressive and heavily technical band this most certainly does, although the mind does start to wonder two thirds of the way through.
With a little more attention to detail, Fractal Universe could really make an impact on the technical metal scene with some of the finer, more mainstream elements to their music. As it is however, they struggle to focus at several times on the record and this keeps them from peeping their head over the crowded parapet with hundreds of other like-minded bands. Hopefully the maturity of their song writing will improve as time goes on to enable them to produce more cohesive songs, rather than what is at times a collection of riffs, solos and harsh vocals.