I read somewhere recently that music reviewers who cite to other bands as a means to explain what an album sounds like do a disservice to themselves as writers by taking shortcuts and a greater disservice to the band by depriving them of individual creative identity. Upon reading this, I felt anger, then shame, then finally, acceptance. I pledged my very next review would be entirely devoid of such pathetic comparisons and my writing would thereby ascend to new heights of greatness. Then I listened to my assigned album and that went out the fucking window. Before me I have the debut album Fragments of Form and Function by Colorado’s own Allegaeon. It’s very good and I like it plenty. However, there is no way I get through this review without the crutch of comparison and I apologize to all who read this forevermore.
Firstly, Allegaeon play an extremely Gothenburg influenced version of melodic death metal whilst bringing an assload of technical and songwriting ability to the table. Simply put, these guys can play the hell out of their instruments. This is one of the rare albums that come out of the CD case (or off the web, you pirating bastards!!!!) and just smacks you in the face with quality. From the sound and production to the compositional skills and on to the musicianship, Allegaeon has it all down in spades.
Now to the horrible reviewer’s crutch. Allegeaon sounds a lot like Dark Tranquility’s last 3 albums. They may have them beat in terms of technical chops but Fragments is VERY reminiscent of the latest works of the mighty DT (while at times also including the riffing style of Nevermore). From the overall compositional style, to the mood, to the way the singer handles the melo-death vocal attack, I am again and again reminded of the Dark and Tranquil ones (that is a compliment by the way). While the promo materials being shopped/inflicted upon us poor reviewers hail Allegaeon as an exciting and new style of “extreme melodic metal,” this is actually the good old Gothenburg sound through and through. However, when it’s done this well and with this much conviction, it hardly matters (Angry Metal Guy will inject a tirade about originality right about … here!) [Actually, the only tirade that I want to interject is one about the jackass who somehow claimed that you do a disservice to a band when you point out that they are actively ripping off another band, that takes some serious nuts. – AMG].
The sheer excellence of the musicianship across tracks like “The Renewal,” “Across the Folded Line” and “Atrophy of Hippocrates,” hits the listener hard and there is just no way to avoid being impressed by the tech-fest coming at you. Better yet, Allegaeon always put the song first and make sure the technical wankery is in furtherance of the song, not working against it. There are no weak songs on Fragments and all manage to walk the line between technical showcase and thrashing onslaught.
Extra Angry Metal Guy accolades must go to guitarists Ryan Glisan and Greg Burgess because this album is carved from their fast and furious, yet memorable fretwork. Demonstrating dexterity aplenty but restraint when called for, these guys shred and tear across all ten tracks. Similarly, Jordan Belfast proves himself to be one of the elite drummers in metaldom and even manages to steal the thunder away from the guitar wizardry at times.
From aft to stern, Fragments is a great melodic deathfest with a level of musicianship that has to be experienced. Yes, it’s Gothenburg styled melodic death and yes, it’s been done before but man, this is good stuff and should not be missed by anyone even remotely into the style. These guys have hit the ground running and for a debut, I can’t imagine asking for anything more. Color me impressed!