first album was a fairly interesting one, it contained some really good material and despite not being anything particularly special it was a good first album from a young band that showed a lot of promise. Looking to capitalize upon that potential, Fractal Gates
second album Beyond the Self
shows the band carrying on with their progressive melodeath sound yet whilst fixing several of the flaws that were present on Altered States of Consciousness.
The main difference between Beyond the Self
and the first is that the songs have a much stronger sense of purpose. None of the songs ever feel overstretched, there’s no sense of incongruity and the overall album comes off as more consistent and has a much better flow as a result. There’s a greater example of stellar musicianship and overall the melodies are more sublime. Take the track Reverse Dawn
for example, it opens up with an Insomnium
inspired lead before quickly moving into atmospheric and soothing melodeath. Fractal Gates
is excellent at creating soothing melodeath, and yet despite being somewhat derivative of Finnish melodeath bands such as Insomnium
and especially Omnium Gatherum
, Fractal Gates
have their own sound. The spacey leads are really what sets this apart from a dozen other atmospheric based melodeath bands. Some of the leads have a definite post rock influence to them, and yet whilst this never goes beyond being a mere influence the presence is definitely felt.
have a tendency to mix elements from all over the melodeath spectrum, whether that’s from the progressive and atmospheric variety of bands like Be’lakor and Omnium Gatherum
to the Gothenburg scene and even to the power metal influenced bands such as Raintime
. It’s a good mixture and one that certainly pays off for this style. Whilst Fractal Gates
are referred to as a progressive band, there’s not much in the way of standard progressive traits such as guitar acrobatics and awkward time signatures. It all feels very comfortable and grounded when compared to what such a label would typically entail. Much of the progressive aspect comes through as the band tinkers with small aspects of the sound, whether that’s from the lead work to the use of keyboards, the band makes minor adjustments to several small aspects of their sound and whilst not altering the sound on any grand scale, it’s enough to give the band their own unique identity.
The vocal work is certainly worthy of note, far removed from the high pitched style used by the Gothenburg scene, the vocals here take the form of a very powerful guttural bark bringing to mind a vocalist such as Mikael Akerfeldt. There’s also the occasional use of clean vocals, however they don’t add anything to the music coming off as quite childish and emotionally flat. Thankfully the clean vocals are seldom used, leaving the powerful growling to take center stage.
the slightly derivative nature of these compositions, Fractal Gates
have a created an emotionally engaging and entertaining listen. The guitar work is certainly better than much of what I’ve heard in recent times and the vocals are some of the best in the genre. Beyond the Self
is not an album for those looking for something ground breaking but for those looking for something entertaining and that is good for a number of listens. Fans of Be’lakor, Insomnium
and Omnium Gatherum
should definitely give this a chance.