Friday 15 January 2021

Fractal Generator - Macrocosmos (2021)

Country: Canada
Style: Atmospheric Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 15 Jan 2021
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This is going to sound weird, but I found myself sold on this death metal band from Ontario for a very odd reason. Sure, the opening track is fascinating, enough that I repeated it three times before continuing. It combines fast, often black metal drums, with rough death growls for vocals. There are a few symphonic elements, with a choral atmosphere in the chorus. There are some neat textures that I presume are keyboards and electronic effects, though I don't see anyone credited for those. All of this works really well, forging a recognisable identity for the band.

But there's a riff that's so overtly "I'm just a poor boy from a poor family" from Bohemian Rhapsody that it ought to have just killed this song (and probably the album too) for me. It didn't. So I'm sold.

I'm calling this atmospheric death metal because the death metal overshadows all the black elements and the textures behind the songs are always atmospheric, even when they're symphonic, but I'm not happy with the label because there's a lot of diversity to this band. They're progressive at points and downright experimental at others, perhaps epitomised by the fact that the musicians are credited by long numbers.

That's 040114090512 on drums, for instance, even though his name is Dan Favot and he usually goes by Vesper in other bands. I presume bassist and vocalist 040118180514 is a relative of his, given that he's Darren Favot, even if he went by Fraust when they were both members of a melodic black metal outfit called Wolven Ancestry. And, on guitars and vocals, there's 102119200914, who usually goes by his real name of Justin Rienguette. I don't know where these numbers come from, whether they're taken from the cubes they sat in after being abducted by aliens or their passwords to PornHub. I'd love to know.

Looking up what these folk have done suggests that there's quite the busy scene in Sudbury, one that also seems rather incestuous, given that everyone seems to have played in a band with everyone else, each playing a slightly different style. I wonder if that's why Fractal Generator sound so interesting. I should look into who else is playing out of Sudbury nowadays.

The catch to this interesting sound is that, while it's built out of some admirable variety, it keeps the same admirable variety throughout rather than continuing to mix it up in different ways. Maybe the symphonic elements show up less as the album runs on and the electronic sounds show up more. They certainly seem more overt on Chaosphere and there's a neatly weird opening to Shadows of Infinity, a sort of alien grind that leads into guitar and an underlying choral element that's eerie like a György Ligeti piece. The whole piece also breaks completely apart at 1:35 as if it's sucked by some wild energy source through the portal on the cover art into somewhere else, where it kicks back in unabated.

It's innovative enough that I'm not sure who to compare it to. I'm leaning towards a more brutal take on Blood Incantation with a heavy side of Voivod. Certainly, there's a science fiction feel in place of a more typical horror feel for the genre. There's nothing here to suggest that we're listening to demons perform on that popular stage that floats on the lake of fire, even though the vocals aren't unusual in the death metal genre. It's not just the cover art and song titles that make us feel like we're visiting a bleak alien planet or we're stuck on the way somewhere in the endless void. It's inherent in the music, in the textures and electronic elements and a less organic and more artificial taste to the bass.

This is only a second album for Fractal Generator in thirteen years of existence, after 2015's Apotheosynthesis, but I hope to see many more and a lot more frequently. But hey, Sudbury's clearly a busy scene. I ought to see what else these guys and their many current and former colleagues in other bands are doing.

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