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The death of melodic death - 44%

gasmask_colostomy, December 21st, 2018

You've always got to approach melodic death metal with caution, especially when bands claim to be doing something new with the sound. Fractal Gates have a minor variety of such claims, which is that their keyboards make the music atmospheric, as well as themes of cosmic scope (take a look at the album covers) enlarging the scale of their compositions. I'd like to reliably inform you that nothing new happens on The Light That Shines, right down to the uninspiring title. I mean, aren't there cooler space-themed names for songs? Even Muse thought of 'Supermassive Black Hole'. The influences seem pretty clear as well, the Finnish sense of melody having found its way to this French quintet, as well as the specific vocals of Omnium Gatherum. Be'lakor comes close to the overall feeling too, so at least it's not all Gothenburg stuff, but it's been done to death anyway.

Despite sounding like they had a good studio budget to record this third album, Fractal Gates don't make the most of their resources. The rhythm guitar tone feels considerably thicker than the melodies that shower around every introduction and chorus, while the keyboards are airy and drifting more than actually invasive, making everything seem ephemeral and slightly mysterious if you've never heard anyone play melodeath before. Drums add more in the way of punch, an excellent snare crash keeping everything on track despite an odd, triggered kick sound that stands out during the faster moments. That sounds like a reasonable basis to form exciting music, however Fractal Gates have a very different definition of exciting to me. Apart from three regularly-spaced interludes, everything dances and scampers at a similar pace, inevitably getting the job done in under five minutes, barring a marginally longer closer in 'Seas of Flames'.

The structuring of many of the songs makes me want to cry, since nothing memorable happens in the choruses to lead me back to them, while any songs that deviate from typical verse and chorus structure leave me equally cold, since they sound no different. When you consider it, that's a serious problem for The Light That Shines: you may leave the listening experience humming a melody but you probably won't remember which song it was from, owing to the extreme homogeneity of them all. I can pick out a couple of riffs in 'Arise' that hover above the mush, while the title track does well with abrupt chord changes and songs like 'Dreams Apart' offer a sense of shimmering wonder that feels interesting but doesn't actually lead to anything of note, the backing keys proving their worth yet remaining just backing keys.

I don't know if I've missed the point with Fractal Gates or if I'm more discerning about my melodeath than those reviewers of Beyond the Self. Why I would listen to this when there are already better versions of the same thing is a question I'm not able to answer: I'd rather turn back to The Redshift for some atmosphere in similar songs (and a better space-themed title), or give up entirely on the genre if this passes for new ideas. I'm afraid to say it, but my door is firmly closed to Fractal Gates.