First Fragment
Gloire éternelle

Stop me if you’ve heard this before – the best technical death metal album of the year is Ominous Ruin, no wait! it’s Hannes Grossman, oh no, shit it’s Ophidian I.  That’s it! PHEW.  I hope nothing else comes out that will change that….

Obscura , Archspire, and First Fragment “Oh, Hai!”

Shit.

Listen, there’s a very good chance that Archspire’s impending Bleed The Future ( which comes out the same day as Gloire éternelle) and Obscura’s A Valediction are going to be a really fucking good albums, and end up on my year-end list. But even when combined with all the great releases above, which will more than likely also end up on my year-end list, it’s going to take something truly genre-defining to topple Gloire éternelle from my top spot in the year’s tech-death, if not the top spot for all of 2021.

First Fragment‘s debut Dasein was my top album for 2016, so I was expecting a great album. I just wasn’t ready for how fucking good the second effort from Phillip Tougas (VoidCeremony, Serocs, Chthe’ilist ) and his slightly tweaked lineup would be. Bringing in guitarist Nick Miller (Killitorous), fretless bass whizz Dominic Lapointe (Augury, ex Beyond Creation) and drummer Nicholas Wells (ex Solium Fatalis) has given an already talented core a serious boost and on Gloire éternelle, it takes everything from Dasein, and amplifies it tenfold. It’s also kinda nuts that Tougas can flip from cavernous murk like Chthe’ilist or twisty mindfuckery like VoidCeremony, to this with such ease.

That means more complexity, oodles (‘oodles seems like a fitting word for fretless bass does it not?) more fretless wizardry, and more, lots more, flamenco-styled grooves and flourishes. So you get the same sort of playful, catchy, take on tech death but with heaps of stuttering flamenco sways and jaunts that make it lively, funky, and somehow fun. As I said in my review of Dasein, these guys come across as the love child of Gorod, Dragonforce, Origin, Obscura but now this particular offspring has way more of flamenco maestro Paco de Lucia.

Whereas Ophidian I‘s Desolate (now shamefully relegated to the year’s number 2 tech death release…) has a surgical, clinical melodicism to its obtuse complexity, Gloire éternelle is more organic and whimsical, almost being one continual solo at times, but what is amazing is how Tougas and co can up the ante with each song as the album goes along. Just when you think the stunning, opening, 8 plus minute title track delivers an overwhelming array of riffs and leads to start things off, the band unleashes the funky Infectious Grooves struts in “La veuve et le martyr”, or the magnificently noodly harmonies of personal favorite, “Pantheum” or absolutely debilitating shreddage of “De chair et de haine”, that makes your jaw hit the ground, with “did they just do that?????” awe. Those of you that like to play air guitar, prepare for serious cramping.

There’s a small mid-album respite for the 6-minute instrumental “Sonata en mi mineur”, but it’s back to it with another standout, “Ataraxie” where Lapointe just annihilates it with the album’s most direct and harsh, but still dizzyingly complex track. It’s almost exhausting to listen to. “Soif brûlante” starts with a more restrained, subtle delivery, with a stammering, stop/start pace, and a deft, sexy little swaying injection that I wish they revisited in the rest of the tracks, by now familiar tech death/classical/ flamenco vortex.

You’d think at At over 70 minutes, Gloire éternelle would wear on, but the 18-minute closing track (not counting instrumental,”Mort éphémère”) , “In’el”, somehow insures it does not. First Fragment actually fills the full 18 minutes, starting with a dramatic piano and lead solo that could be an 80s power ballad. From there it delivers an epic, melodic bass run\solo, then a crazy flamenco blast. And that’s just the first 4 minutes of what is arguably the most enthralling 20-minute song I’ve ever heard, being the album’s most arpeggio, sweep, and groove-filled number overall. I mean just listen to the section from about 14 minutes to 16 minutes. It’s fucking glorious.

I didn’t think First Fragment could top Desain, let alone deliver not only another album of the year contender but also an album of the decade type album that absolutely destroys the bar for tech death.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 25th, 2021

Comments

  1. Commented by: katulu

    I think the new Archspire is better, but this slays.


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