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Review : First Fragment - The Afterthought Ecstasy by Heavyblogisheavy

For me, there are two kinds of tech death; The bands that do something extremely technical, and the bands that craft music, and that music ends up being technical. Think Decapitated and Gorguts as opposed to Obscura and Gorod. Both are valid, but the second style strikes closer to my heart. This EP proves that Montreal’s First Fragment are probably one of the best bands of the second category. Trust me when I say your you’re going to be blown away.

The EP opens with “Ordnance,” and straight away you know what’s in store for you. The guitars play their neoclassic lines, the drums blast away, but their drummer knows how to restrain himself and play it slow when the section demands for it. The bass isn’t really audible, but at the rare times you can hear mirroring the guitars, which usually play extreme yet tasteful melodies. The songs get better as you progress further into the EP, with the last 4 songs being an explosion of melodic virtuosity. The composition is thoughtful and intentional, progressive yet aggressive, and always catchy. “Ordnance” has a tasteful solo followed by a clean outro reminiscent of the instrumental tracks of Wretched on their album Beyond the Gate. There are heavier tracks like “Fake Repentance” and “Paradoxical Subjugation“, but they somehow remain melodic and catchy. There’s everything one could ask for in this release, if you want heavy, extreme, shred, atmosphere, neoclassical… it’s all here.

The instrumentation is top notch everywhere, slowing down when necessary to emphasize the heavy parts, all the while remaining both technical and beautiful. There’s even a piano intro on “Obsolete Ascendancy”, which is followed by another onslaught of riffs. It’s pretty clear that The Faceless are a huge influence for this band, closely followed by Gorod and a hint of Necrophagist. Even though the overall style is neoclassical, it never gets old because of their skillful balance of heaviness and tame riffs. For example, the title track opens with an excellent clean guitar that borders on Latin music, followed by a crushing section that suddenly turns into a supremely catchy riff backed by gravity blasts. By the time you reach the end of the album, your jaw will be on the floor and your brain will be on the wall, in pieces. I’m extremely excited with what these guys will do on their upcoming full length album.

There’s no end to my praise of the composition skills of this band, so I’ll force myself to stop and talk about the production. It’s not the best, but for an unsigned band, it’s pretty good. The guitar tone is clear, but lacks some punch. The drums aren’t grating but they could sound slightly natural. And the vocals, which are usually in the form of midrange growls, sound a little dry. But I prefer a slightly lacking production to an over the top loud production, so even in that sense the band delivers.

This EP is a rare gem in my eyes, an excellent example of technical death metal, with solos and riffs that can both impress the grumpiest music nerd while wrenching your heart out with classical melodies. While the guitars are clearly the highlight, the drumming is also up there with the bests of the genre, and the bass doesn’t let down either. The vocals could use some work, but they always compliment the music and never hinder it. This was my favorite EP of 2010, and I hope the band can get the recognition they deserve. Tech death fans, this album is phenomenal. You owe it to the music fan in you to check this out.

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