Fragile Vastness - Excerpts
Sleaszy Rider Records
Progressive Metal
9 songs (45:00)
Release year: 2003
Sleaszy Rider Records
Reviewed by Keegan
Surprise of the month

Every once in a while a band comes around with the originality and creative energy to redefine a genre. Greek progressive metal newcomers Fragile Vastness have done just that on their debut, Excerpts. With a multitude of guest musicians playing a variety of instruments rarely heard in any genre of metal, such as the djembe, and a low-pitch Peruvian wind instrument: the quenacho, the band successfully blend world music sounds with fusion, electronica, and frenzied progressive metal. The band draws so many influences that it is impossible to understand the music without hearing it.

The first track, Little Red Riding Hood, introduces us to the band’s sound quite well. The song weaves through a crowd of parts ranging from heavy double bass filled choruses to atmospheric keyboard grooves and funk-influenced bass lines. Guitarist Alex Flouros shows his versatility and ingenuity in a spectacularly written guitar solo. The band takes a completely different direction with the less frantic Weep no More. Though the song begins mellow, with and excellent rim shot pattern from drummer Babis Tsolakis, it rises to a section who’s grandiose could stand up next to anything Rhapsody could offer. The track goes on a jazz based offshoot spearheaded by keyboardist Evi Katsamtsa, who is quite capable of playing both electronic sounding parts and jazz piano. The track then returns to its more majestic state. While the song is awesome, Zacharias Tsoumos’ vocals tend to get a bit overdramatic, especially during quieter parts.

Once again, the third track, Obliged to Suffer takes yet another completely path. The fastest and heaviest song thus far, Tsolakis gets a chance to show what he’s capable of once again and doesn’t fail to impress, displaying speedy double bass, which never loses an unmistakable groove. As is expected now, the song changes dynamically and alters tempo throughout, but for the most part remains fast and heavy. Obliged to Suffer makes good use of guest musician Themis Nikoloudis, who plays a violin solo. What a Shame follows, with a Yes meets ‘80s Miles Davis nylon stringed guitar intro that turn into the most straightforward song on the album. For one of the few times on the album, Fragile Vastness begins to sound like other prog metal bands like Symphony X. However, the band once again creates original sounds in the genre, with the use of heavy percussion.

The next song is the nearly instrumental Flying over Nazca, which is basically a drum and bass solo. Bassist Vangelis Yalamas is an absolutely stellar player. Throughout the album, and this song in particular he shows of his blazing fast slap speed and melodically infused upright bass lines. Parasite trails next. Definitely one of the most interesting, and frankly best songs on the album, it begins with a good amount of Tool influence, but eventually breaks into an electronic keyboard and heavy guitar breakdown that is one of the catchiest moments of Excerpts. Flouros pulls off another beautiful melodic solo toward the middle of the song, which then continues where it started, as if the chaotic heaviness that preceded it had not been there at all. After nearly a minute of false starts, the song returns to the spectacular heavy keyboard laden part before fading out.

The next song is the ultra-progressive Formula, introduced with a Meshuggah styled odd time riff. The song successfully overtakes Obliged to Suffer as the album’s heaviest. Much like Megadeth’s Victory, the lyrics quote titles of several previous songs from the album. In the most unexpected twist, Formula goes off on a flamenco-tinged breakdown, complete with a horn section! Tsoumos gets more aggressive vocally toward the end, straying from his more operatic style in favor of a near death metal growl. The main riff of Blank proves quite confusing to listen to, as its first half sounds very southern-rock, but becomes dark and heavy the second time around. The song builds with the guitar riff and atmospheric keyboards for three minutes before exploding and coming back down to a calm bass solo, and rises yet again to a ‘70s prog style keyboard solo. The song, mostly ungrounded for five minutes, gets extremely heavy as it concludes. The final track, Eye to Eye (Obliged to Suffer) is strictly a jazz song. It opens with a laid back piano and bass solo. The jazz theme is continued when Tanya Nikoloudi sings an altered version of Obliged to Suffer. The relaxing track provides the final twist the band throws out before the album’s close.

The production, like the song content is first rate. Every instrument comes through loud and clear, and the album never loses its strong sense of power and grandeur, even during mellow parts. The band produced this album, and succeed in creating an intriguing sonic canvas, where nothing, not even heavy distorted guitars sound usual or expected.

Fragile Vastness has come from nowhere to produce one of the most interesting and diverse albums I’ve heard in a long time. These excellent musicians seamlessly blend a myriad of genres and instruments to create a style that is unique in every way in this excellent debut. This is not only an album for fans of progressive metal, but also a must have for any open-minded listener. Expect a progressive metal masterpiece from Fragile Vastness in the very near future.

Killing Songs :
Weep no More, Obliged to Suffer, Flying Over Nazca, Parasite, Formula
Keegan quoted 89 / 100
0 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are no replies yet to this review
Be the first one to post a reply!