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I'll admit, this album takes quite a long time to get used to. At first glance, I thought Skywards was just a repetitive, uninspired melodic death album with too many acoustic fillers. But after countless listens and some deeper analysis, it isn't hard to find an extremely high redeeming value in this album. After a rather poor EP, Framents of Unbecoming comes back with a huge jump in the maturity of their writing. The harmonies, melodies, riffs, and acoustic passages are all higher in originality, and the production is much better on top of that.
The beinning of the album is truly where their unique style shines. Up from the Blackest of Soil, easily the finest acoustic moment on the album thanks to layered harmonies and beautiful melodies, flows directly into The Seventh Sunray Enlights My Pathway. Complete with brutal riffs, deep growling, and an orgy of melodic lead guitar dynamics towards the end, the first seven minutes of the album are more than enough to get one hooked for the entire twelve tracks.
Contained in that brief moment is nearly every aspect that makes this band so great. The riffs of this album of fast and heavy, complemented greatly by a deep dual growling attack. The drums are nearly grinding with their fast double bass and heavy blasting tincture. Every song features some memorable melodic moment, such as Shapes of the Persuers' tremolo-picked madness or the groove riff feel of Fear My Hatred. To offset the brutal/melodic death flow of the album are four instrumentals, four of which are acoustic. While most will likely find these to be annoying filler, I for one think they contribute to the nice theme of the album. While Up from the Blackest of Soil is an incredible acoustic showing, Lour Pulse is is a faster, heavier way to draw the album to a closing moment.
While far from what they are obviously capable of achieving Fragments of Unbecoming have made a significant improvement since their questional Bloodred Tales release. With so many strengths and so much for them to still improve upon, this band has a very enjoyable future ahead of them. It's understandable if vast numbers of metalheads are already impatient for Sterling Black Icon.
The Seventh Sunray Enlights My Pathway
Shapes of the Persuers
Scattered to the Four Winds
Fear My Hatred
The production on this album is an instant sigh of relief. After the closterphobic feel of the EP I was worried about a full-length release. The drumming is produced exactly the same and actually sounds as though the same drum tracks were used as on the EP. The vocals are executed much better. The growls arn't as deep and it sounds like a much more developed voice this time around. The guitars are pretty much like the drumming, more of the same.
The riffs and leads sound much more inspired and close to that exact motion they reach for. Each song is filled with more melody that over all sounds more thoughtout and more experienced. With this in mind, once again, each song sounds identical. You don't know when one ends and the next begins because of the same tempo, riff structure and tones used. Now it wouldn't be a problem if the melodies were so catchy that it wouldn't be a problem listening to different variations of the same riff. But these riffs sound like they arn't quite what they wanted to achieve but it's so close they went with it anyways.
The album opens up with a great acoustic intro track. Another beautiful acoustic part can be heard at the end of 'Shapes of the Pursuers'. These sound excellent and more diverse than the clean tones used before.... And MUCH more diverse than the same riffs over and over that become almost a horrible droning. The interlude 'Mesmerized' introduces a haunting acoustic melody. It sounds completely enchanting. It's work like this that could make this album absolutely amazing but of course it has to lead into that same hammering drumming and half-finished riffs that completely puts me to sleep.
The title track 'Skywards - A Sylphe's Ascension' could possibly be a glimpse of what is suppose to be achieved. The leads are great and there are no awkward shifts between leads. The entire song plays out smoothly and nearly perfect. The drumming does not become an annoying hammering like it does on the other tracks.
Another interlude, 'Lour Pulse', helps steal the show while nearing the end of the album. After listening to three versions of the same song this short instrumental really grooves. The grooving riffs slide along with great leads that once again, (I repeat this often because it's the truth) shows that the greatness these guys want to achieve is JUST out of reach.
But all is not lost! The outro 'Life's Last Embers' (Another acoustic piece) picks up where the last interlude left off. If you take all the interludes, the intro and outro and place them together you could have a hell of a song. But sadly there are so many songs here that don't quite reach what they want and your just left with filler after filler.
Unless your an absolutely huge fan of melodic death and you need everything there is, I would say avoid this. If you happen to accidently get your hands on it for whatever reason, listen to the acoustic pieces. They are GREAT.
Mix and early In Flames with a bit of At the Gates and a little bit of the aggression from Carcass, and you get a good idea of what genre Fragments of Unbecoming could be lumped into. Though they are from Germany, their homage to the sound of early Swedish metal is practicaly inescapable, yet they pull if off rather well with their first-rate musicianship, as well as songwriting.
The guitars. Ahh yes the guitars. Throughout the twelve songs (four instrumentals, three of those acoustic) there is a large amount of aggressiveness in the guitars, being mid to fast paced. Theres the galloping twin guitars of course, and technically excellent riffs, paired with the pummeling drums to create an enormous sound. Aside from the three acoustic songs, the songs remain melodic with enough brutality to keep any listener satisfied. The vocalist goes from a rather low death metal growl, to a mid paced rhaspy roar, depending on what the song calls for. All the vocals here are tasteful, and the vocalist certainly deserves some recognition as one of the better singers for a band playing Swedish melodic death metal, sounding separate from other At the Gates vocalist clones.
Perhaps there are some metal fans out there who pine for the days of old when bands like Dark Tranquillity and In Flames were first emerging. If so then Fragments of Unbecoming is the band you need to check out. Finding bands that sound fresh in this genre can be rather disapointing. This is not the case for Fragments of Unbecoming, who, on this album, truly shine.