|Progressive Power Metal
Nuclear Blast Records, Relapse Records (2010)
May 13th, 1999
Release length: 50:48
Of course, this recording is actually a blend of Progressive concepts, with the straight forward Power Metal attitude one would expect from a band of this caliber. This supergroup put together a furious thrill ride from the start to finish, and every aspect of the music is strong. The guitars vary greatly in each song, leaving not one track feeling repetitive in that sense, and the drumming keeps up with the various timing changes nicely. The vocals have a great range to them too, able to sound crazed and sadistic when necessary, but at the same time able to belt out some fantastic Metal wails when necessary against an ever increasing-in-speed backdrop, or just a generally intense moment in the song. However, what really shines through for this album is the bass lines. This instrument really stands out here, though much of the time it generally follows the guitar’s composition. Of course, the bass volume is much louder in the mix, being clearly audible during many parts, such as during the slower track “What If…?”. The bass also does some random chords here and there that the guitar doesn’t do, such as a sudden slide from one fret to another, or a combination of notes played together to sound that way, as well as showcasing another impressive aspect of the Progressive sound to this release by having a slight solo, sometimes sounding like a kind of freeform Jazz solo, against much slower music, or a spot where the guitars die down so the bass can do this nicely.
There’s actually a decent amount of slower paced material on this release, such as the aforementioned “What If…?”. “Believe” makes for another good slower track, going along at a chugging pace that is pushed along nicely with the drumming, acting as just a typical Progressive track with a little Power Metal influence and some nice guitar work thrown in here and there, especially during the bridges, as well as with the fast paced, and extremely short, guitar solo. “Cut Down” follows the formulas laid out by both of these tracks, but really shows off a haunting atmosphere thanks to the Progressive elements utilized. But, the songs that really stand out on here are the faster paced tracks, as some of them really show off the more Progressive bass aspects of the album, as well as really seem to push the band further, giving off a highly energetic performance. “Consumed” is a fantastic heavy track that comes at you full force with a powerful vocal performance, as well as some impressive technicality in the chords throughout the song. The same goes for “Expect the Unexpected”, but what really stands out on this song is the harsh, almost crazed vocal performance, which can also be found on “Consumed”, but the range is far greater on this track, going from sadistic to clean singing to the chorus, which sounds rather simple in the long run, but it one of the catchiest of the entire relerase. Of course, the album starts up with this intensity, but seems to slowly progress towards this calmer, more soothing slower pace.
This is where things on The Fragile Art of Existence‘s latest reissue start to become a little confusing. In 2008, Metal Mind Productions picked this album up for reissue, and had it fully remastered on a golden disc, released as a digipack, and limited to 2000 copies. Two years later, Relapse picks the album up for two 2010 reissues. Both of these editions come with the same kind of packaging, liner notes, a fantastic remastering job that makes this album sound better then ever, and a bonus disc that contains various demo recordings prior to the release of this full-length. The five “1999 Demos” on the bonus disc are simply the music, no vocals, with exception to the fifth track “Breaking the Bones (1999 Demo w/ Chuck Schuldiner on Vocals)” of course. On top of that, the entire 1997 demo A Moment of Clarity is included, which consists of the three tracks “Spirit Crusher”, “Believe”, and “What If…?”. All but “Spirit Crusher” made it onto the final production of The Fragile Art of Existence. There is also a “comedy” demo track called “Tune of Evil”, which was never released, and obviously for good reason, as it clearly was recorded by Chuck to for the fun of it, but if it weren’t for the intentionally funny aspects, the music would have made for a fantastic Death track.
This bonus disc definitely makes for a nice companion piece to such a classic record, as these demos are just great to hear in the long run, and get a feel of what direction the group planned to go to, though they don’t really differ much from the tracks on the album. And yes, these demo tracks appear to also be remastered as well. The “1997 Demo” tracks include Chuck on vocals, and honestly, he’s got a fantastic singing voice. Sadly, he sings on the “Breaking The Broken (1999 Demo)” as well, the second one on the disc, and it just is not as enjoyable due to the way he performs, and the vocal effects utilized, but when force is put behind them at certain spots on the song, it’s clear he does have some great talent, leaving it hard for the listener to believe it’s the same man who did all the vocals on every Death album.
The 3 disc 2010 reissue is the same as the 2 disc version, except, obviously, it comes with a bonus disc with more demo material, and is limited to 1,000 copies pressed, and only sold through the Relapse Record’s store. This edition collects the five pre-The Fragile Art of Existence demo recordings, as well as the A Moment of Clarity demo, and features the same kind of packaging, just expanded to fit the third disc. However, this disc also collects much of the remaining demo material that never really saw the light of day outside of promotion to record this band’s album, being taken from the 1999 Chuck Schuldiner Guitar Demo, which is simply Chuck playing guitar with a drum machine, as well as off the official 1996 Demo. The “A Moment of Clarity” recording from the Chuck Schuldiner Guitar Demo, however, is not included. [Of course, this is all just looking at the previous acknowledge demo releases, and assuming. The material may very well not be off these recordings, as there is no indication about it at the time of this review.]
What else is there to say about The Fragile Art of Existence that hasn’t already been said repeatedly? This album is a fascinating change of pace from Chuck Schuldiner, given his pioneering days in Death, but Control Denied had enough potential to really offer something great to the Power Metal, as well as Progressive Metal worlds. While not genuinely a conceptual album, the solid flow from high speed to a more mellow approach really makes this album transition well track by track, and nicely shows off the band’s more Progressive side through fantastic performances that show great range by everyone, and just solid Metal, though the closing tracks “Believe” and “Cut Down” don’t quite have the same strengths, coming off a bit bland and as if they are relying heavily on the overall atmosphere that the music is making, which is nice and haunting, but just not solid enough to really carry the tracks along. If you haven’t picked up this piece of history, then now is the time to do it.
01. Disc 1
02. Consumed – 7:24
03. Breaking the Broken – 5:41
04. Expect the Unexpected – 7:18
05. What If…? – 4:30
06. When the Link Becomes Missing – 5:17
07. Believe – 6:10
08. Cut Down – 4:50
09. The Fragile Art of Existence – 9:38
Disc 2 (2 & 3 Disc 2010 Reissue)
Disc 3 (3 Disc 2010 Reissue)
|Initial Pressing Score: 7.5/10
Initial Pressing Score: 8.5/10
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10
All versions provided by review by personal funds except two-disc edition digital review material provided by Relapse Records.