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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.