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The fact that this is Chuck's swansong tugs at my heartstrings, but I can't be dishonest. This album is a bit of mess. If you've listened to any number of prog albums, you've heard this kind of album before. It seems like it’s trying so hard to be progressive, that it ends up sounding like a bunch of songs crammed together, losing any coherency, and more importantly, becomes extremely difficult to let it maintain the attention. This type of songwriting faux pas of being uber progressive/technical at expense of cohesive song structures that go together and transition from section to section in a flowing manner as opposed to abruptly stopping one riff and doing another, I call Dream Theater syndrome; because in basically every DT song there is a point where the song is held back from greatness by some random solo or what have you.
And sadly, this album certainly has a strain of DTitus. But it for the most part it isn't the solos I have a problem with. From the start with Death, Chuck has always been great at memorable, melodic leads. In fact the leads here are certainly a highlight. But there are no transitions to be found here at all. The riffs, at best, sound only slightly related, as if they were from the same song, but from opposite ends of it or something, and at worst, sound like to riffs for two different albums were put adjacent to one another to form a prog master headache. There will be (example here from When the Link Becomes Missing) a string of fast chugging, into a more staccato riff, into a sudden stop of everything completely, into a freaking acoustic break, into a face melting solo, into a soulful melodic solo which leads into a new fast chugging riff with electrified vocals. What the hell?
There really isn't a song on here that is completely cohesive. They are all plagued by the piece-together-fragments-of-songs-to-form-one-song style of songwriting. And it can be very frustrating. The only other thing that bothers me is the lyrics. Chuck went a little overboard here, and though the lyrics aren't awful, as someone below said, they are a little off-putting. They're a bit awkward, like he wrote them without the intent that someone would be singing them. There are numerous examples of this. Like the "once I was free, now I am trapped, once I was trapped but now I am free" section of Consumed, or... well most of the song What If... What sucks though, is that despite Tim Aymar's great voice, for quite a large portion, the lyrics are so clunky, the delivery seems a bit off, and soulless.
But there are some points on the album where the vocals are just awesome. When I first put this album on, and Consumed started, I thought this was going to be the greatest album ever. That soaring voice half singing, half screaming "Your face is hiding! Deep inside my mind! Your touch, is on, my TOOOOOONGGGUE!" But the song takes a random turn into program excess, with random slow parts and whatnot.... Throughout the album though, there are numerous fantastic vocal lines. The classic chorus of Expect the Unexpected is a highlight, and the insane shrieks on Breaking the Broken are just goose bump inducing.
I already commented on the ever consistent leads of Chuck, but how do the riffs compare? Well, there really isn't really a riff here that's bad. There are plenty of riffs that are downright brilliant. Like on Cut Down, which is probably the most consistent song on the album, and the AWESOME opening riff of the title track. The interlude riff halfway through Believe is awesome too! However, no matter how great the riffs may be, the arrangements are just too confusing.
You getting the picture yet? Everything's awesome here. The riffs, the vocals, the solos, that bass! But it's all arranged in like the LEAST appealing way. Seriously. This could've been a masterpiece, but it just isn't, and it pisses me off! The drumming and bass are super consistent, varied and impressive, but there are some bass breaks, that just completely break the flow of the songs, and I love bass breaks! The drumming never really breaks flow, and I greatly commend Richard Christy for keeping up with the crazy stuff that goes on. Overall, the rhythm section is extremely tight and well done, just you guessed it, arranged weird.
So in the end, this is a classic example of excellent quality music that just throws too much at you in its effort to be respected. The music is quality enough though, that I can't give it a failing score, and despite how frustrating it is, I do listen to it on occasion. I wish Chuck's career would've ended on a higher note, but the man accomplished much in a short span of time, and we all know, love, and respect the man and his music. R.I.P. Chuck Schuldiner. You are missed every day and will always be missed, by your fans.
For amazing music, just too much of it put together haphazardly, Control Denied's The Fragile Art of Existence gets a 70, or a 3 out of 5.
Expect the Unexpected
Breaking the Broken
When I first got a hold of this record, I didn't like it at all. I'm not a big progressive power metal fan, but over time it just made sense. With Chuck during his final years progressing so far with the the songwriting and lyrics, I was hoping for something closer to sounding like Death, but the thing is I expected the unexpected. The riffs and leads are so Chuck totally. You can feel the vibe from him, it's apparent.
We have really slow-paced songs with bar chords galore, a little bit faster guitars on some songs, and the groove really kicks butt. Such atmosphere...awe-inspiring. This time around Chuck is no longer in the vocal department. Tim Aymar took over as Chuck's goal was to put out something totally progressive like Death was, just with a different voice. Tim really sings with vigor and diversity. There's some screaming, but all of the vocals represent the music precisely.
There are a lot of atmospheric effects on this album that augment the whole of Control Denied's release here. The guitars always change around slow tempos and faster tempos, but are totally Chuck. There are acoustic pieces as well. The tempo changes are all over the place. It's a mild metal album with Chuck's solos dominating. Shannon Hamm puts out some good lead work as well, but you could totally tell what was Chuck's.
The lyrics are mainly focused on humanity and society, perfect topics to fit the music. This album has the most progressive power metal that I've ever heard. Rhythm guitars that just dominate with such variety, but the whole album fits together. Some tempos are faster than others and are pretty much all over the place. It reminds me of old Opeth, just not as heavy. The tempos change much like them, though.
I'd say that the strongest elements here would be the music, the vibe, the vocals, and production's sound and quality. Everything here just lets the metal flow. It's a total chill mood release, something to definitely check out if you're a progressive power metal fan. I haven't heard many bands that reflect this genre. It seems like it's pretty much extinct, but I could be wrong. Just to my knowledge, Chuck put together a perfect record with music that's so original and lyrics that fit so well with the music.
If you like power metal in general, even the progressive type, then I think that you would enjoy this release. I'd say any metal fan could like this record. It's perfectly orchestrated and the music is filled with melodic riffs galore. The vocal department works here, not discounting Chuck's efforts with Death at all, though. He made the right choice in selecting Tim Aymar to fill in in this department. Everything just works here. No complaints and a perfect record to chill to and enjoy.
Towards the end of his legendary musical career and life, Chuck Schuldiner sought to shift gears a bit from the death metal he had been doing since his teens. Granted, his brand of death had changed drastically over the years, but there was only so much the man could do with Death. Clean vocals were something that would not have gone over well with Death's fanbase, so Chuck formed a new band to fulfil this dimension of his music. Control Denied only put out one album before Chuck passed away, but it has stood the test of time, and has even been met with love by the extreme metal crowds. Although Control Denied shows Chuck Schuldiner venturing into progressive power metal territory, there is little difference besides this and prog-era Death barring the fact that clean vocals now lead the music. In other words; this was Chuck beyond Death.
From the very first few seconds of 'The Fragile Art Of Existence', it is clear that this is Chuck Schuldiner's work. The music is incredibly similar to what Death was doing with their final three albums, particularly 'The Sound Of Perseverance'. It could be said that Control Denied is more of a band-centric effort however, with a much heavier bass presence than was heard with Death. The style of composition is definitely by Chuck's own hand and in his distinctive style, with plenty of room for technical riffs, dark hooks, and space for his signature guitar solos. Although Chuck is seen as a death metal guitarist, it is interesting to see how much differently the style he plays can sound with only changing the vocal style. Performed here by Tim Aymar, he has an intensely technical voice that isn't afraid to shriek out. Aymar's vocals are much like Rob Halford of Judas Priest; a band that Chuck was very fond of. Aymar evidently has an impressive range, although he generally sticks to the higher end of the spectrum. Many of the vocal passages he pulls off here are as technical as Chuck's guitar work.
Although there are clean vocals here, they are actually used quite similarly to how Chuck used his own voice in Death. They have great range to them, but they tend to go for power over melody. Aymar's delivery is always impressive, but the vocal melodies are less convincing than the epic riffs Chuck and axemate Shannon Hamm are playing. Although Control Denied is fine evidence that Chuck Schuldiner was a man whose musical vision extended beyond the reaches of death metal, the clean vocals do not work as well as Schuldiner's rasp in his music. All the same, Aymar's vocals are impressive, and the instrumentation and songwriting is as impressive as any Death album. It is well-worth checking out for anyone even slightly invested in Chuck's music. Rest in peace!
Chuck Schuldiner will be forever immortalized as many things in the metal world, be it songwriter, virtuoso, trailblazer, innovator, and co-founder of the death metal sub-genre and a force within the entire extreme metal spectrum. Yet he is also often times misunderstood, usually most so when one of these attributes is taken into account while the others are taken for granted. A good part of it lay in his early association with extreme metal and it's polarized relationship with less extreme versions under the same umbrella. It thus becomes difficult to accept his entire body of work under the Death moniker, let alone the notion of Chuck putting together a power metal band that evokes a different course in metal at the crossroads where the NWOBHM broke off into various sub-categories. But it is important to keep in mind that Schuldiner always had one foot in the time before death metal really gained its own identity, and that part of him became more pronounced the further along Death went.
It could be argued that Control Denied is the logical conclusion of the musical direction that began on "Human", let alone that of "Symbolic" where the melodic tendencies all but begged for a vocalist of a similar persuasion. Speaking from a stylistic standpoint, this band's lone offering is not a huge departure from the last two Death albums before it was put together. A similar smattering of eclectic influences of both a high octane thrashing persuasion and a slower, rhythmic progressive persuasion trade blows within each song. In many ways this album could be likened to a modern reinterpretation of Fates Warning's sound before the stylistic switch that took place on "Perfect Symmetry", complete with an archaic screamer in Tim Aymar, whose mixture of clean high notes and banshee wails are not that far removed from Ray Adler's work on "No Exit". The interplay between riffs gets a bit hectic and the jarring switches in feel that tend to be par for the course for most progressive outfits are much more pronounced here than they were even on "The Sound Of Perseverance", which included a few songs that were meant for this album and was a bit closer to a straight-line approach to songwriting.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this album is processing and remembering everything that happens. Even on shorter songs such as "What If...?" and "Cut Down" it gets a little difficult to discern the chorus from the rest of the material given all the extra instrumental activity that separates the sung sections. Bassist Steve DiGiorgio spends a heavy amount of time challenging the guitars for prominence, and the drum beats cycle through around a dozen different ideas in rabid succession. Then there are the battering epics "Consumed" and "The Fragile Art Of Existence" which exude a plethora of 70s Rock, Jazz, USPM and thrash influences from one section to the next, all the while Hamm and Schuldiner blaze through solos like the world is about to end, yet maintaining a tasteful demeanor that doesn't quite cross into showboating land. Every now and then a really catchy section will sneak in and then bow out, but largely this is an album defined by flux rather than hooks, rolling out the carpet for Chuck the composer rather than Chuck the songwriter.
Ironically, for all the naysayers who point to "The Sound Of Perseverance" as a mere version 0.5 to this album rather than an honest Death effort, the stylistic line between this album and Chuck's 1998 farewell to his former project is very clearly drawn. While familiar harmonic ideas occasionally chime in from latter era albums like "Symbolic", the overall melodic contour has taken on a much more symmetrical and singing nature, though the riff work remains busy and heavy as an anvil. Even if Chuck had decided to take on vocal duties himself and channeled the deeper character of his early 90s self, this would be completely out of character for Death, while "TSOP" could maybe be described as a power metal infused melodeath album that was tailored to fit the songwriting style that Death was better known for. It might prove to be a matter of semantics, but what is heard here definitely crosses into territory previously unexplored by Schuldiner, though it bases itself on an even older style.
The final verdict on this album is one of approval with maybe one little caveat. While Death was a band that moved from a fairly straight-line speed/thrash oriented form of death metal that found itself in more elaborate territory over time, Control Denied is a band where Chuck's real world intellectual lyricism has now been matched by a rabid form of musical eclecticism. While this could be likened to a number of USPM bands, it rivals the unbridled complexity of bands such as Communic and Anubis Gate. This isn't the sort of music that one taps his foot to, nor that lends itself to being sung in the shower, but is more of a contemplative experience with a good amount of attitude and aggression. It comes off as a little bit overblown, yet always sounds like a new set of songs each time it plays. It's a fitting conclusion to a career of constant evolution by a prominent figure in metal history who refused to simply discover a niche and then stick to it, and a final testament to a past conscious yet forward-looking musician that played a huge role in expanding the definition of metal.
Chuck Schuldiner's untimely passing in 2001 from brain cancer is widely and correctly regarded as having robbed metal of one of its truly legendary bands, Death, but little mention is ever given to Control Denied, the act with whom he released one album in 1999 and thus was never able to develop into a widely recognised name of its own. Despite the unparalleled influence Death had in the creation of the band's namesake genre Schuldiner's love of more classically orientated metal was never far from the surface and the band's final album, 1998's "The Sound of Perseverance" hinted most strongly at this. Yet it was the snarling, rasping vocal style of Death that always remained a barrier prohibiting the great man from realising his ambition of creating a heavy metal band: so enter screamer Tim Aymar and 3 of the numerous past and present Death musicians to record "The Fragile Art of Existence". A virtual 'superband' in composition, Control Denied tore up the rulebook on progressive, aggressive power metal with the creation of this album and it is now deservedly reissued with a bonus disc of demo tracks charting the formative stage of this collection of sublime, artistically untouchable metal.
To someone knowing of only Death's back-catalogue, "The Fragile Art..." is not far off from being the successor to "The Sound..." as by that stage Chuck and crew were militarily skilled in their instruments, creating songs of unnatural complexity and astute melodic awareness over-flowing from the confines of the death metal genre the band had been so pivotal in forming in the late 80s. And so as "Consumed" welcomes you in its opening gambit feels akin to taking an entrance exam to Oxford University, a passage so beyond the abilities of all but the very few you may find yourself considering a U-turn to heading off to your local college instead (or settle for spinning the latest Hammerfall LP).
Following through onto "Expect The Unexpected", "What If...?" and "When the Link Becomes Missing" and every moment of this brilliant album each member shows why debatably the greatest guitarist at the time in all of metal had deemed them worthy of their participation in the band. Aymar, realising his role as 'Schuldiner's clean voice' screams himself hoarse in "Breaking the Broken" and "Believe", his destructively powerful vocal chords being the antithesis to the technically accomplished yet passionless vocalists that floods the heavy/power metal world to this day. In Steve DiGiorgio, Richard Christy and Shannon Hamm the collection is complete of musicians at the top of their game, perhaps best realised in "What If...?" as the strong rhythm guitars that are the hallmark of Iced Earth meld with Schuldiner's virtuoso soloing and the rhythm section to guide the song through numerouse tempo changes.
Closing the album proper is the title track, by far the most progressive on the album, one which fills a 10 minute void with a crisper guitar tone and much more prominent usage of amplified feedback to give the song an end of album feel. The following demo tracks are, like always in reissues, more relevant to fans of the band as they show the songs in states of near completion (mostly without vocals), but their rawer live recording vibe makes even more obvious the totality, serving as testament to the professionalism of Schuldiner and co.
Fortunately in anticipation of this review I've had years of listening to "The Fragile Art of Existence" to get my head around the untypical song structures and riffing; trust me you don't need that long to, but given time and a passion for expertly performed progressive/heavy/power metal noone could fail to love Control Denied's only album. Only for now perhaps, as rumour continues to persist of a sophomore locked in the vaults. I keep my fingers crossed to have the pleasure of hearing that one some day. RIP Chuck.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
Jesus fucking Christ! Where the fuck has this album been all this time and why wasn't it part of my collection 9 years ago? I swear to god, I think I came when I started listening to this. I don't know where to even start. I told myself I was going to stop reviewing until I started doing some lower ratings because up until now, almost every one of my small collection of reviews on this site have pretty much been in the 80% and above range, but holy shit this is too amazing to not talk about. Death meets Atheist meets Jag Panzer, with a hint of Chuck Norris.
I'm just going to start somewhere random, like the bass. Holy shit, is that a bass? Yes! It's a bass. It's not just audible, but it's mixed so god damned perfectly it's audible at all times while NEVER distracting from anything. It really gives the album that progressive, jazzy feel. Especially on tracks like "Consumed", "What If...?", and the title track, "The Fragile Art of Existence". I don't think I've ever mentioned more than "The bass doesn't suck" in a review before. But this album (and band in general) has one of the most orgasm-inducing bassists I've heard since Necrophagist and Atheist. I want to make love to you, Steve DiGiorgio.
Oh, where to next...how about the vocals? I know, right? A Chuck Shuldiner album WITHOUT him on vocals. Instead they've got this guy, Tim Aymar. I've never heard of him before now, but he reminds me a lot of Harry Conklin, hence my earlier reference to Jag Panzer. He's got a raspier voice (which I dig) and I'm not sure that his range is quite as high as, say, Hansi Kursch, but he's still fucking great. I was worried about this being power metal. I love it, but power metal Death is not, so finding that Control Denied would be a completely new genre for Chuck, I wasn't sure how it'd turn out. It turned out awesome, obviously.
For the sake of saving the best for last, I'll move on to Richard Christy on drums. I don't know what to really say. He's really fast, really tight, and technical to boot. I'm not sure he's up there in skill with the likes of Inferno (Behemoth), George Kollias (Nile), or Darek Brzozowski (Vader), but his endurance and ability to change things up enough to both follow the progressive nature of the band while not sounding confused is admirable. Sort of in the same calibur as Gene Hoglan.
And the guitars. Guys, having trouble with your lady friend? Always having problems nailing that one “special spot” and just can't seem to give her what she wants. Let her listen to this. She'll come back screaming for more. The guitars are literally fucking orgasmic. The solid rhythm section is always changing, always moving, and always sharp as fuck. Those are the kinds of riffs they use to castrate little boys with. And even though they have that signature Chuck Shuldiner, progressive-death style, the hints of jazz influence still sneak out every now and again (possibly thanks to the prominent bass accompaniment). The solos. Words. Cannot. Describe. Between straight up in-your-fucking-face shredding and slow, melodic leads, the guitar lead work is on par with Jesus, except more divine in nature. I don't know if I can honestly continue without just shouting FUCK to describe my feelings towards the guitar work. I want to cry.
Enough praise (no, not really). What about the songs? I won't waste time focusing on them all, but there are some definite stand outs (as if every other track wasn't worthy of having an album named after it). The first track, “Consumed”, has a nice, jazzy feel mixed with that progressive-death style. I really dig it and it sets the mood for the rest of the album. Plenty of tempo changes and amazingly emotional lead work, this song grabs you and doesn't fucking let go. Even when it's over and you're listening to the next song, you're still thinking about this one. The next is “What If...?”. It probably has the most interesting and memorable openings of all the songs. Then the song slows down a bit before completely raping your ears with one of the most impressive and intense solos this side of shred metal. It's fucking relentless. After the solo, though, there's this thing...I don't know what it is. It's...a breakdown? I don't fucking know! Don't crucify me! All I know is that it sounds fucking sweet and if Chuck Shuldiner wants a breakdown, he's gonna have a goddamned breakdown! The last really standout-ish track is the title track. Clocking in an over 9 minutes long, this thing is a monster. This song is mostly slow, but does have quite a few tempo changes. Not too mention probably one of the best solos on the entire album both because it's fast as fuck at some points and extremely melodic at others. A PERFECT closer for a perfect album.
So you're probably wondering why I didn't give this 100% (actually, I doubt you really give a shit). I won't give it a 100% simply on principle. Nothing is perfect. Nothing. But I'll be damned if you can find a piece of musical genius that comes closer than this. Get this album NOW or just rip your balls off. You're clearly not deserving of them.
Death. Chuck Schuldeiner. A metal legend that has become infamous as it is famous. Chuck founded the death metal movement, and went from a lame shrieking young man who could hardly play a pentatonic scale to one of metal's most virtuosic and visionary frontmen ever to exist. Sadly, Chuck was a victim to cancer and met his own death in 2001. But Chuck's memory lives on, and it lives on in not only countless Death album reissues, but also in Control Denied.
Control Denied is Chuck probably at his most creative peak. This is what Chuck had in his mind but could never put out with Death due to the band's rooting in extreme metal (most fans of death metal would have viewed Death doing this as selling out or would have criticized it for not being death metal enough). So what do you do if you are in a situation like that and you have these ambitions? Well, you go and form another band as a side project! Control Denied music is definitely from Death's mastermind, but it has other flairs in the music that make it far from anything Death ever crafted. This music is probably some of the best progressive metal ever to exist, and it call came from the mind of Chuck. So I as a I reflect as I write this review on the vision of Chuck, I want you (the reader) to read this and buy this album later to experience Chuck's legacy.
First off, let me just state that this is not all Chuck. I know, I have been glorifying Chuck in the past few paragraphs, but this hardly all Chuck. The band that Chuck got together has some of the best musicians ever to play any metal band. They are all musical virtuosos at their respected roles with the band, and they all mold together with Chuck while standing out on their own to craft amazingly powerful, complex, and great music that has never been parralelled since (or before when it comes to that matter). Not even Wachtower, the band many a metalhead has said is the greatest progressive metal band ever to exist could have done this. It is not possible that this can be topped. It just will not be.
The album's only really not incredbile department is the vocals. Here they are not handled by Chuck (I would have liked to see him try), they are handled instead by a power metal vocalist Tim Aymar. This is the only thing this album has in common with power metal. Aymar has a very wide range of highly audible vocals, as he can shriek just as well as Chuck could but has a better mid range and harmonizes incredibly well. Chuck did provide some backing vocals, and those sound really really great as well, especially when he harmonizes with Tim. The only downside is that it seems like somewhat, at a few points, Tim's voice seems to sort of crack. But this does not happen in a really huge crack, just in a tiny little sort of cracking. However, I could not have picked a better singer for this band. No power metal or progressive metal vocalist could havve pulled off what Tim had to do on The Fragile Art Of Existence. Not Matt Barlow, not Hansi Kursch, not James Labrie, not Russell Allen, not anyone but Tim Aymar
Alright, the guitar work. Does it really need to be discussed? We all know Chuck Schuldeiner and Shannon Hamm are absolute guitar virtuosos. Their leads are loaded with high speed shred in styles that contrast each other but come together like a negative and positive magnet. Chuck's style is very choppy and allows you to hear every note, even in the most flowing of legato runs. Shannon's style is more flowing then Chuck's and is less choppy (due to the heavy use of sweep picking) and also utilizes a whammy bar in his solos to add accents and crescendos to an incredible effect. Shannon's solos seem to be also a tad more melodic and use less shred (but still there is a lot of shred in them). Chuck just jumps right into the shred and makes it highly melodic and flowing. Just truly virtuosic in the solo department. Rhythmically though, these two are also highly accomplished. The riffs these guys craft and positively catchy and great, and they complement each other rhythmically with incredible tightness and precision. All the songs have some incredibly catchy guitar riff part(s) that will make you want to keep listening. Probably the best example of Chuck and Shannon's rhythmic prowess is on the song When The Link Becomes Missing, because this is really them probably at their best together. But the whole album they are always outdoing their contemporaries and positively destroying all the competition.
Another member that doesn't really need a ton of introduction is Steve DiGorgio. The mastermind behind the Antioch California based technical death/thrash outfit Sadus does not need much introduction. His lines are incredibly technical and complex, and they sound unique and full due to the fretless bass playing. The album is mixed so well that Steve can be heard all the time, and there are plenty of parts where his bass really stands out. His intro to What If... showcases his talent best, and his lines never, and I mean never, follow along with the guitar at all. All his lines use pizzicato, all of them are complex, all are fast, all of them are played on a fretless bass, and show Steve's mastery of the bass guitar.
Finally, there is Richard Christy. Our fat little drummer who would end up on the Howard Stern show. Christy's skill is shown to an amazing degree on The Fragile Art Of Existence, as he has numerous snare and tom drum rolls, awesome fills, and loads of highly rapid and omniprescent double bass drumming. He complements Chuck, Shannon, and Steve amazingly, and is always at the top of his game on every single song. Sure he may not be the fastest drummer in the world, but he is certainly one of the most technical drummers that will ever drum for any metal band.
Songwriting here is absolutely amazing. All of the songs are highly complex and loaded with all the good stuff that you would expect from progressive metal. Surprisingly, the vocal element of the music is surprisingly prevalent, as there is loads of singing on most of the songs and not all just about the crazy technicallity of the musicians. Still, the trap of all the crazy technicallity and virtuosity of the musicians does get in the way, and there are too many slow spots in some of the songs. There are also several songs which do not have a lot of singing (What If... has the least amount of singing of all the songs). But the music is so good that you often ignore the lack of vocal parts and the slow spots never really last very long and something awesome always happens after them.
Lyrically this album is like amazing. Obviously there is some kind of greater message here about society and humanity, for the lyrics are simply too good to just not have something to do with that. Surprisingly, you can relate to them so well without having to think very hard. Kids who are bullied in school can relate to Cut Down and Consumed. People who are betrayed can relate to Breaking The Broken, and those who have been in a relationship can relate to Expect The Unexpected. The only ones I cannot seem to relate to well are When The Link Becomes Missing, What If..., and the title track. Just a greater showing of Chuck's genious.
The mixing and production job is stellar, as all the sound is incredibly organic and powerful. It is all full and rich with tone, and it just sounds great. Nothing it out of balance, but the only downside that it is hard to tell during rhythms when it is Chuck or Shannon playing. But hey, this is fine. No big issue at all. Their leads make the two become easy to tell apart anyway.
All in all, if you like progressive metal and you want absolute virtuosity, and everything that is metal with a brain, take a crack at The Fragile Art Of Existence. No patience is required to listen to it, it is amazingly technical, and it is just a great album. This is truly Chuck's greatest creative ambition.
This album has pretty much anything you could really think could go into a progressive metal album, yet still it sounds unfinished. In his final effort, Chuck Schuldiner has tried to make a very ambitious album. On paper they're "Technical progressive Power Metal" or something, but the resulting music is even more confusing than the name. There's a lot of stuff going on in the album, and most of it is good, but the problem is that the writing is all over the place.
Control Denied have three real sounds, you have slow, plodding stuff, which is more a breather between the other two sounds, or used to sound moody. Then you get jazzy, progressive as hell stuff, this kind of comes out of nowhere when it happens, but it sounds pretty cool, although it does tend to break the flow of songs. But with that said, The Fragile Art of Existence doesn't usually rely on flow to build it's songs, it's more of a bunch of stuff that happens. Finally, we have fast, speed metal tinged stuff. It reminds me of Anarions 1999 album (I know, shitty comparison, but helpful if you know your Australian bands), the vocals tend to sound more Halford then than during other sections.
Listen to Consumed, there's a bunch of cool stuff in there, but the way everything mixes just sounds off, and there's repetition at strange times, of random parts. I mean the "You thought I couldn't..." section is a little bit unnecessary the first time round, but then they repeat it again near the end of the song, for no real reason, it's even more out of place then, and the song already has a couple of other repeated sections. It's almost like the band thought that they had written a song that was too simple to get into, so they had to randomly throw in an earlier section, and they'd already repeated all the other ones. This, "We need to repeat every part of our song at some stage" approach gets tiring. Particularly when there's no real purpose or reason for it, it just kinds of happens.
Now I tend to rate my guitarists on two things, they can either simply crush my mind with technicality or just write stuff that is too catchy, or rhythmic and generally enjoyable to not get caught up in. The guitar work here fulfils both of my tastes, as Chuck Schuldiner and Shannon Hemm both manage to move from quite catchy sections, to just plain weird and strange parts. Also, the soloing is great, although not as frequent as in his work with Death.
For once, I've actually been more thrilled by bass work than drum work in the low end of an album. The work of Steve DiGiorgio is godly, absolutely perfect through all the jazzy sections, actually, everything is jazzy on the bass, but it works, really audible and sounds completely different to the guitars, fantastic stuff.
The drums are cool, and far removed from basically anything else you're used to hearing, like everything else on the album. Richard Christly correctly changes his approach according to however the rest of the band is playing, and generally is at a high quality.
On vocals we have Tim Aymar, instead of Mr Schuldiner, and I cannot thank him enough. Don't get me wrong, Death had some great songs, but I was never a fan of the vocals. Aymar's not perfect, pretty standard heavy metal voice, bad scream, bad high notes when used, stupid sounding 'under-water' effects on occasion, you know, All very average... but still better than I suspect Chuck would be. the only problem I find is the fact the lyrics are written by Chuck, now, he's a good lyricist, and he has a way with words, but, I always find his vocal lines just to be a little bit off, and always are just that little bit off putting. And I can't say I was searching for more off putting things to find on this album.
The album is produced well, with a pretty good guitar tone, nothing is mixed too high, it's not exactly a snarling, brutally heavy production, but it's not really that kind of album, still, the guitars don't exactly bite, and the drums are a little flat.
So musically, this album is amazing, as there is talent everywhere, but the transitions are non-existent. Now, I like my songs to have tempo changes and all those things happening, but they also need to move from idea to idea in a logical manner. There's just no middle ground between each of the style changes, everything is just too sudden.
All the music here is of high quality, sometimes to vocal patterns are a little off but other than that I have no complaints. It's varied, just a little too varied and structureless, to me it just feels like the band wrote 80 different pieces of music, and then randomly threw them together, put a pause in every 6 minutes, and called it a song. The Fragile Art of Existence is worth a listen, but simply is too annoying to listen to often.
Chuck Schuldiner was a man of many faces. Before his unfortunate death in 2001, the Death leader had slowly altered the music and lyrics of his main project into a semi-progressive death metal outfit during their last string of albums. The musical evolution throughout Chuck's career is simply astonishing to witness, but the ideas and concepts made in the second stage of Death carried on with Chuck when he formed Control Denied. Featuring fellow members of Death and Psycho Scream, Control Denied embarked on a metallic journey that showed the other side of these fine musicians. The band's first and only record, "The Fragile Art Of Existence," piles the magical talent and poetic ideas of Control Denied into a great mold of majestic wonder.
To swallow the nature of this album, one must get a clear understanding of its sound. Control Denied can be labeled a technical power metal band, meaning they follow the standards of power metal while playing on a higher level of complexity. Tim Aymar's vocal style reflects the singing norms of power metal due to his high-flying voice and fantastic notes. With the exception of Aymer, each member demonstrates the technical chemistry of Control Denied. The bass, guitar, and drums are always swaying into multiple patterns revolving around slow sections and fast pulses of speed. In comparison to other power metal bands, this album contains more complex attributes while sounding like a traditional group in the genre.
A shredding duo of Death partners Chuck Schuldiner and Shannon Hamm is just asking for a bucket of ownage. The axemen unceasingly weave into a tornado of technical riffs and perform the cluster of complex guitar work with precise excellence. The slower parts of this record are focused on deep, twisting melodies whilst the thrash and semi-melodic influences appear when speed becomes relevant, and swift chops begin to drive the musical enjoyment. The riffs are heavy, epic, and catchy; basically all the mandatory stuff that defines power metal. The soloing endeavor delivered by Schuldiner and Hamm is reasonably one of the best efforts I've ever heard. The whole block of solos in this album is incredibly technical and slides perfectly into the wonderful rhythm sections without any flaws. There are no bad shredding moments, but rather a dilated whooper of guitar supremacy worth hearing again and again.
Steve DiGiorgio's role as the band's bass player is certainly one of the album's best qualities due to his abnormal style and technical fills. DiGiorgio's bass performance is totally crazy and spastic, yet it matches the complex musicianship of Control Denied magnificently. When DiGiorgio isn't matching the riffs, he's wallowing in his own world of flamboyant voodoo that supports its life with nimble flicks and semi-soloing technicality; whenever DiGiorgio gets the chance to go crazy on his bass, he does. My favorite part of this record appears during "Expect The Unexpected" when DiGiorgio slides a quick triple-note dash underneath Hamm's solo; it practically diverts the attention to the bass rather than the solo itself!
Overall, Control Denied deals an epic stash of technical metal that delivers the goods from start to finish. "The Fragile Art Of Existence" remains a mind-blowing relic from my perspective because it's such an angelic example of Schuldiner's raw talent and his universal love for metal. Though the musical experience is simply divine, the fact remains Control Denied's debut was the last offering by Schuldiner before his untimely death in 2001. Though Chuck has passed on, his final monument truly proves he isn't just one of metal's most legendary figures, but an individual who rightfully earns to be declared one of the greatest musicians of all time.
Let's not perpetuate the image of progressive/power metal being "wussy" by complaining about the "emotion" an album makes you feel. Besides, last time I checked, anger was an emotion. That being said - let's talk about the greatness that's found in Control Denied's The Fragile Art of Existence.
First off, the production here reeks of old school heavy metal. The drums sound crisp, and raw. The guitar just sounds ballsy as Hell. The bass sticks out in the mix, thankfully, because Steve DiGiorgio how some awesome parts here.
It is true, that this is not your typical progressive metal. It's heavier, bolder, and darker. But, I don't know that something not being typical was bad ... hm ... normally people who shun originality are known as close-minded. I personally, love this combo of power, progressive, and raw heavy metal.
Let's talk about Tim Aymar ... this guy must have balls the size of his head. He vaguely reminds me of Rob Halford, but with the Balls Meter on 14. (Sorry Preist fans, but I'd prefer Tim) He can scream, he can sing, his vocals soar. His vocals fit so keenly in this music, which is an amorphous kind music, adapting and merging a good deal of sounds, and different levels of heaviness. His voice is the same ... and can change appropriatly.
Steve DiGiorgio, what a bassist. He can throw at you some crazy fills, while still managing to uphold the kick of the music. That is something that is hard to pull off, and he does it well. His fills are awkward and jazzy, but never venture too far from the music.
Richard Christy, another superb musician. Again, his drumming could fit in with any metal band. Here, he plays the role of the classic heavy metal drummer, with a bit of crazy bastard in the mix. Any metal drummer should hear this guy. (If not adore him, too)
Of course, we have good ol' Chuck. A perfect proformance on his part. His guitar parts are SO heavy, especially for this style. He brings a little of his style over from Death, and adds a bit more progressive. His leads come at you at 1000mph, and they tear apart everyone that hears them. A performance that must be heard.
Yeah ... so I did a member by member, rather than a track by track, but ... you get the idea. This is music that needs to be heard. I am equally disappointed that this band is no more, as the legendary Death.
Hmm, what do we have here? A death metal front man doing a power metal side project? Wait, its not just power metal, but it’s progressive and technical as well? It sounds almost too good to be true...right? It’s definitely not too good to be true if Chuck Schuldiner is to lead it.
Take the pushy, stick out bass fills along with the highly technical and aggressive guitar sounds of Individual Thought Patterns and combine it with non torpid and speedy trem picking, glabrous melody, and progressive qualities of The Sound of Perseverance and you’re about half way there. Chuck decides to repose from the duty of delivering the vocal performance, and picks up Tim Aymar to relay Chuck’s lyrics. Tim takes on the “classic” heavy metal singing style for Control Denied and gives it more edge with his precise high pitched shrieks and screams when appropriate. Tim’s screams are suitable for the name of his own band; “Psycho Scream“. The lyrics on this album are probably the most personal out of all of Chuck’s past lyrical work.
The lyrics keep their unique comparisons between emotions and actions among other things, but Chuck has the tendency to compare things like soul and voice, tears and pain, eyes and soul, and other themes from his more recent work with Death repeatedly. There are times that I get the sense that he was running short of ideas for good lyrics without changing his style too much, but at the same time trying his best not to sound repetitive in phraseology. Never the less, the lyrics speak fluently to just about anyone and never erodes once you begin to ponder the meaning behind the message. What this album gives is the erosion of the idea that all power metal sounds the same, which seems to be a problem with most power metal these days. The fast and stand out melody is evidencing the ability of the musicians.
Essentially, this album is impossible to be classified as lackluster; the vitality of the teeth gritting tremlo riffs and change up crashing drumbeats packs a ten-fist punch. The compositional limitations seem to not exist at all. Sure, there are a few minor recursive rhythm riffs, but the fervent nature of this music completely erases any concern of the listener and is almost unnoticeable once you get into it. Album highlights are the songs “Consumed”, “Cut Down”, “What If..?”, and “When The Link Becomes Missing”. If you’re a fan of Death and can endure at least a minimal dosage of power metal then this album will most likely please you.