There are times when an album doesn’t click right away. So, upper echelon management at RMR lets it sit there in the review pipe for a while to see if – somehow – it matures. As in, improves with age. Or else, rots and worsens to the point of no return. It’s pretty much these two possibilities that are on the menu. For those who wonder, it didn’t improve. This ain’t no wine that somehow changes. So, let’s call it reviewer’s delusion for all it’s worth.
This so happened with the folks of Fragmentum and their sophomore album Masters of Perplexity. But now that we got the promo, let’s act on it anyway and see where this all leads us.
First off, the band set the stage correctly. A pretty sturdy theme involving the Mayans, no less. A marketing strategy and social media production straight out of the playbook of true rockstars and most hated bands.1) They even have a paying section for fans to get different perks for an annual fee. And why the hell not? After all, music is a business, and we all need to eat, right?
And I’m sure, if I delve into the innards of their snazzy website, I’m gonna find everything perfectly lined up for the gods of Google and SEO. But hey, nothing wrong with being a marketing nerd and business-oriented to boot. Many a band could learn a thing or two from these boys from Belgium. Even if the vile metal underground will balk at that, no doubt about it.
But Fragmentum here also sport a pretty hefty swagger. “No fillers, only killers!” is their credo. Wow. So, let’s find out where that particular rabbit hole may lead us.
Masters of Perplexity markets itself as Diverging Metal, whatever this may be. Yet in the end, their wares hit the airwaves as some sort of Melodic Death Metal with loads of electronica, acoustics, and a host of heavier elements. There are some muted whiffs of Insomnium in there, true. And there even seems to be the ghost of Amon Amarth haunting the props in the back of the studio at times. Together with that weird use of the keys and acoustics that some folks around the hardened metal multiverse like to use to their advantage. And often successfully so.
But for the battle-hardened and metal-damaged ears of the RMR deckhands, the record often sounded like tepid tea. All of that modern-metal goodness mostly sails on a flat ocean of simple song structures and often simplistic melodies that tend to lose themselves in repetitions. That is unfortunate and indeed failed to incite much of an outburst of emotions over here.
And that, when some of the solos – keys or guitar – are sometimes pretty remarkable. Also, there is no lack of variation, the band isn’t shy to throw in an abundance of elements and style directions. Yet again, this gluttony of musical bits and pieces often almost drove us into sensory overload.
Most unfortunately, the growls and clears often kinda disappear into the mix. So far back that one often has trouble discerning if they’re there at all. And that, when those vocals should be front-center. Or in other words, it’s never a good thing when the drumkit bubbles to the forefront and pretty much becomes the main feature.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you won’t find any reasonable tracks on Masters of Perplexity. Mountains of the Dead starts with a smart acoustic groove entry, for instance. Which then leads into a track with pretty decent growls and impressive riffing reminiscent of what Heavy Metal did before, some light galloping sound included. Or – again – take Feast of the Flesh. A track that indeed conveys this atmosphere of terror and human sacrifice pretty well. And the doomy and somewhat hypnotic atmosphere of that track really mesmerized this crew here.
In the end, however, Master of Perplexity lives up to its name. The metal ingredients to craft a good, mystifying, powerful, and darkly entertaining record would be there. Yet, the outcome is a somewhat bland cocktail of Surface Metal. A concoction that lacks the depth and – indeed – the aggression to transform background music into a thundering behemoth worth its theme. And that means one that also lives up to the band’s vocation, and – yes – the cocksure bravado these folks display.
No fillers, only killers? Not quite. For such a mission, Fragmentum would have to power up their oomph machine and move in for the – kill. But they clearly didn’t do that.
In a way, their wares sound like something I would expect to hear in a Mayan-themed amusement park. Dark metal that ominously gurgles its tale yet isn’t scary enough to frighten the kids. And that even though the evil priest threatens to gut the victim. Now thinking about it, that would be a value proposition for a thundering business franchise.
Maybe Disney would be interested?
Record Rating: 4/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 16 April 2021
|1.||Ooops, that an omen?|