First Fragment - Desain
Unique Leader Records
Neoclassical Technical Death Metal
11 songs (56' 29")
Release year: 2016
Unique Leader Records
Reviewed by Andy

Composed 5-10 years ago and finally recorded for our listening pleasure, First Fragment's debut is impressive to say the least, and for those of us who love neoclassical composition in their metal (such as myself), it's easily a top contender for this month. The guitar work on this one, in particular, has to be listened to for its speed and tightness to be believed.

English-only listeners might find the lyrics baffling, and not for the usual reason tech death can't be understood, but because they are all in French (First Fragment is from Quebec). Forget about that for a moment, because despite having a dedicated lead vocalist who can deliver them with a tightly controlled roar, the real stars here are the instrumentalists. Guitarists Gabriel Brault-Pilon and Pat Tougas are a devastating pair, riffing up and down minor-key classical scales in symbiotic harmony, sometimes picking the melody so fast that it sounds like tremolo picking. When Tougas breaks away, it's into a razor-wire shredfest that his partner supports with enough arpeggios to power a Bach piece -- palm-muted to let the solo get full attention, and when he's not shredding, a whole team of guest soloists jump in to help. Underneath the main production, Vincent Savary's bass is just as active, playing an even lower section of the harmony.

Though the centerpiece of the album focuses on the insanely tight choreography of the three stringed musicians, the band gets some decent variety in, moving between the speed-picking of the title track to the Spanish-style acoustic work of L’Entité's intro or the classical guitar instrumental on Prélude en sol dièse mineur. This intricacy doesn't usually come at the cost of sheer aggression, but even with all the double-kick drumming on Gula, a longer track that is one of the best examples of their minor-key melody-making, it is far less aggressive than, say, Archétype, one that approaches Nile in sheer ferocity. Evhron finishes out with a fairly indulgent, drawn-out solo over piano before it makes it into a more straightforward track. Blastbeats and some of the roughest vocals on the album hold up a pair of guitars that outdo themselves in their elaborate complexity.

Those who find neoclassical guitar boring should probably stay away -- far away, given how much of that is on here -- but if you're interested in what would happen if somebody like Yngwe Malmsteen got into tech death, give this a try. Desain turns out to be a beautiful and complicated listen.


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