Fragarak- A Spectral Oblivion Cover Once upon a time, in the smoke-like primordial mists of 2011, I became quite taken with a hallowed album; so taken, in fact, that I decided to make a stab at obtaining said hallowed album and began motions to embark upon a pilgrimage to the hunting grounds where I could, after patiently scanning the wire racks bursting with distractions, bag myself an example of this hallowed LP for which I had pined so long and so intensely. I donned my middlingest trousers and waited, poised on a hair-trigger, ready at any moment to leap at the opportunity to stow myself away in the car at the next occasion that someone in my family wanted to go to Best Buy. One fine Saturday, I awoke without much ado to hear that such an excursion was imminent, so I gathered myself and my funds, tucked them below the onion on my belt (which was the style at the time), and before I knew it, I had in my hand a jewel case which contained my very own copy of The Faceless‘s hallowed Akeldama; but much to the dismay of my teenage mind, I had paid well over eleven dollars for a CD which boasted only 8 songs1. “Curse this lazy band!” I thought, “They dare to have their work valued at more than $1 a song? What conspiracy has made it suddenly acceptable to put less than 12 songs and a bonus track on a compact disc? This LP isn’t that hallowed.”

That conspiracy, I eventually learned, is called editing, and it makes things better2. Everyone should learn it, lest they live their lives in ignorance of its beauty, continuously writing breathless sentences that careen carelessly past the fifty-word mark. But it takes time to learn. Fragarak are in the early stages. In their world, the concept of the edit was never invented and it’s reasonable to cram every riff your band has written since 2013 into a single towering edifice that’s just under an hour and a half long. This makes A Spectral Oblivion the archetypal “shaggy prog story,” an album which continuously rambles through tenuously connected asides that add up to nothing in particular.

I’ll begin with what Fragarak get right. Their music is a hodgepodge of influences from OpethVektor, and Obscura, two of whom are really worth being influenced by. When they channel Vektor they manage it splendidly – the thrashy dual guitar riffs of “In Rumination I – The Void” mix well with a Schuldiner-esque rasp. At seven minutes, it’s a lengthy and ambitious opener, but Fragarak mostly pull it off, though the moaned clean vocals at the end don’t do the band any favors. The next song “In Rumination II – Reflections” doesn’t handle itself so well, and includes even more poorly-handled clean vocals. The riffs keep coming – and coming, and coming, and before the song is half over I’m already sick of this album. And there are 70 minutes still to go.

Did I mention that this album continuously undermines itself by jumping between prog death and acoustic instrumentals? The “Aluncinari” tracks (all four of them) only take up 12 minutes of the A Spectral Oblivion, yet each one is as tedious as the rest of the album combined. “Alucinari IV – The Fall” finally puts the album to death with some whispered vocals and the sound of a man weeping, presumably out of either boredom or joy that his imprisonment in this endless album will soon be over.

The thing that annoys me the most about A Spectral Oblivion is that a lot of it is actually good. When the band just cut the shit and play some Vektor worship or a little bit of Obscura-lite, it’s very enjoyable, and these guitarists have good chops, and more importantly, write fun riffs that feel vital and intelligent. Yet the band continuously crowds out their best features with tedious acoustic passages, watery clean vocals, and cheesy atmospherics.

The fate of A Spectral oblivion is the same as most other shaggy prog stories; it is the often under-recognized “death by the lack of a thousand cuts.” If you cut together every song on the album that doesn’t have Roman numerals in its title, you’d still end up with a 53 minute LP. That itself is no more than a starting point; at least 30 percent of these five songs should be removed, reworked, or edited in some way to achieve a lean, memorable, non-tedious piece of music. More is not only, as Yngwie said, more; more is very often too much. Fragarak would do well to learn what made Akeldama successful; the beauty of brevity and editing3.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 74Format Reviewed320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity
Websites: fragarak.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/fragarak
Releases Worldwide: October 30th, 2017

Show 4 footnotes

  1. And the title track wasn’t even very good.
  2. Less is more, 45-minute rule, yadda, yadda. – Steel
  3. Upon submission to Angry Overlords, this review exactly meets our 800-word limit
  4. 5 for heavy songs, 11-13 for interludes
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  • Grymm

    “Dance your cares away,
    Worry’s for another day.
    Let the music play,
    Down at Fragarak.”

    • Swords, Fraggles, what’s the difference?

      • welyyt

        Speaking of Fraggles, are you reviewing the new Annihilator, Steely?

        • No promo despite our best efforts to obtain it.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            How about the new Samael?
            I need someone to tell me if I like it or not.

          • Brutalist_Receptacle

            YOU DON’T.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Ok cool.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Do I like the new Moonspell?

          • Brutalist_Receptacle

            IS THAT THE ONE ABOUT THE LISBOA EARTHQUAKE FOLLOWED BY A TSUNAMI FOLLOWED BY A FIRESTORM EXCEEDING 1,832 °F THAT BURNED FOR SEVERAL WEEKS KILLING THOUSANDS AND INCINERATING MUCH OF WHUT THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI HAD SPARED?

            .

            NO.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Ok.
            Glad that’s sorted.

          • [not a Dr]

            So it comes to this…
            This time, you are brutalistically wrong.
            Moonspell can only release awesomeness.
            They could release choice cuts of their dentist appointments or of that time their toilet got clogged and they called a plumber and they would get my money for it no questions asked.
            As soon as local floodings and my subsequent rebudgeting permit it, I’m buying and enjoying it.

          • *in a hushed whisper*

            I quite like it. It’s more symphonic, with very little of the gothic diversions they sometimes take.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            The new Samael may not be revolutionary but it’s enjoyable as fuck and epic as workout music.

          • Tofu muncher

            Pretty much what he said. I know I quite enjoy it. If it weren’t for so many new releases, lovebites, Annihilator, Moonspell (CoF lite?), Exoskelett, Weezer (tee hee) and so on and so forth, it may get more spins. Evil Invaders is the only constant spin for me

          • How many of us will it take to drag you out of the hall for discussing journalism with fans? Cuz I’m clearly all about upholding the rules, but I don’t wanna die today yo.

          • At least 5 of you, and I wasn’t even discussing journalism. I was discussing promo management.

          • Simiantics.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      This is the second time, after Fozzy, that a band has reminded me of an old TV show. I guess soon we can expect a review of Magnum Pit’s latest: Satan Knows Best.

    • JeremyZero

      I came here to make a Fraggle Rock joke, and now I can’t. Damn you, Grymm.

  • welyyt

    Finally, Kronos reviews some prog death!

    (ten minutes later)

    fuck.

    • ToddRob64

      I read it as a dig at opeth myself. Possibly more recent opeth in regards to the acoustic noodling

      • Bryan Stroup

        Yep. “Their music is a hodgepodge of influences from Opeth, Vektor, and Obscura, two of whom are really worth being influenced by.” Proceeds to mention and praise Vektor and Obscura, leaving the obviously once most talent band behind (too pretentious!).

  • Unwanted Guest

    I bet you really hate Dostoevsky and Zola, love Hemingway far better than them.

    • Tofu muncher

      Does he? WTF??!! Dostoevsky and Gogol FTW!

      • Ferrous Beuller

        Gogol aside, Hemingway said more about the human condition than Dostoevsky and Tolstoy combined – and in less than thirty thousand words. Word.

        • Unwanted Guest

          It’s difference between US literature’s tendency and French, Russian literature’s one. We can see same difference in theatrical performances, cinemas, and music. However, those are just different horizontally. not vertically.

          Then, you may know, Indian philosophy is vast like cosmos, and Indian movies are fuckin’ long!

  • Septic

    I literally can’t sacrifice nearly 90 minutes to any record nowadays… too many years on Adderall has given me a limited attention span of 30ish minutes.

    • Adderall: the great cold death of patience.

    • Terminate

      Agreed. If you can’t get to the point on an album within 40 minutes, cut the filler…

  • Innit Bartender

    Photoshop for the masses is so wrong.

  • My god. Is that… fraggle rock??

  • John Mosley

    Fragarak: The destruction of Fraggle Rock.

  • Nathan McCain

    I would rather listen to Relentless Mutation three times. Delightful review, props for making an “it’s too long” review exciting to read!

    • The Akerstache

      I mean, I’d rather listen to Relentless Mutation three times over a lot of records. Hell, it’s still in my car’s cd player, and I really have no desire to replace it with anything else.

      • Glad to see I’m not the only one caught in the 10,000 bpm vortex that is Relentless Mutation.

        • The Akerstache

          It’s sitting firmly in my top 5 for this year, it’s absolutely bonkers.

          • Off topic. Judging from your username you enjoy Pale Communion (A Reunion of Love) am I right? (baybuh)

          • The Akerstache

            I enjoy every Opeth album (except Sorceress, can’t enjoy it for whatever reason) but Pale Communion is certainly up there. Faith in Others is in my top five Opeth songs ever. As far as magnum opuses go however, I’m going to have to proclaim Still Life as there best work. But you most absolutely judged correctly. ;)

          • It’s My Arms, Your Hearse for me…

            Did you like Sorceress after doing the alternate track order that’s been suggested online? After changing that in my playlist, the album went from okay to great.

          • The Akerstache

            I’ve actually never heard the alternate track order, gonna check it out.

          • In case you can’t find it:
            1. Persephone
            2. Chrysalis
            3. Will O the Wisp
            4. Era
            5. Persephone (Slight Return)
            6. Sorceress
            7. Sorceress 2
            8. The Wilde Flowers
            9. A Fleeting Glance
            10. Strange Brew
            11. The Seventh Sojourn
            12. Spring MCMLXXIV
            13. The Ward

            I think of it as the Blackwater Park order. It simply makes more sense. Sometimes I feel Mikael messes around with expectations just for the sake of it :-)

          • The Akerstache

            Thank you, I couldn’t find it, so this is very much appreciated.

            I’m only on Chrysalis, but oh my god, this order already feels so much better. Persephone into Chrysalis just feels so right. Sorceress’ beginning always annoyed me after an acoustic introduction.

          • Haha yeah it totally changed the album for me.

          • The Akerstache

            It absolutely feels much better now. I still am not too hot on some of the tracks, but as an overall album it definitely feels more whole.

          • I will absolutely give this a try. Thanks man.

          • Ian van Lierop

            First, I think Sorceress is a fine album, although certainly not in Opeth’s top tier of work.

            Second, I will check out this alternative track order, but at first glance I am extremely skeptical of changing up the order of “The Seventh Sojourn-Strange Brew-A Fleeting Glance” run because they flow together like three movements of one larger song. Will report back. :-D

          • Ian van Lierop

            Report:
            I really like aspects of the revised order! The Persephone-Chrysalis-Will O the Wisp run works amazing, and I like pairing the two Sorceress tracks.

            The three tracks I mentioned as thinking they need to go together were not as linked as I remembered them being. With that being said, I still like their given order better than the revised order. I also still really like the idea of ending with Era/Persephone (slight return). I also really like both “bonus tracks”, but they’re definitely the strongest so I thought well maybe I can work them into the order earlier. This is what I came up with as my alternative to the alternative:

            1. Persephone
            2. Chrysalis
            3. Will O the Wisp
            4. The Ward
            5. Spring MCMLXXIV
            6. Sorceress
            7. Sorceress 2
            8. The Wilde Flowers
            9. The Seventh Sojourn
            10. Strange Brew
            11. A Fleeting Glance
            12. Era
            13. Persephone (Slight Return)

            If anyone sees this and tries it, let me know what you think!

          • Joe Rico

            This works surprisingly well. It almost gives a hint that Mikey Mike could possibly get back to what he was doing before ditching the death. After Sorceress I still think when no one’s petting it we’ll be hit smacked in the face with the most brutal think Opeth has ever done. After the last 3 I doubted that could happen…but after Sorceress…..it’s possible barring any vocal chord damage.

          • It’s possible. Have you actually read about any damage he’s done to his vocal chords? I did wonder if that was the case, as he moved away from the growls, but hadn’t read anything about it…

          • Ian van Lierop

            When “Heritage” was released I think people speculated that the pivot away from harsh vocals was due to vocal chord damage (or a preemptive concern thereof), but afaik that was only speculation and I haven’t heard anything that would confirm that. He still performs harsh vocals live, and sounded fine doing so the 3 times I’ve had the pleasure of being in attendance.

          • Yeah I know at the time he claimed he just “didn’t feel like it”, so saw no point forcing a style he wasn’t into anymore (or for now, at least.)

            I have seen some claims on the net that his growling is rubbish now, and some youtube videos to back it up – but it’s impossible to accurately judge a concert’s sound based on someone’s smartphone footage…

          • Interesting!

            Well, one thing seems certain, based on everyone’s responses: the official track order needed some work, at the very least.

          • Be interested to hear what you think! :-)

          • Ian van Lierop

            Oops, I replied to myself, not you. See below!

          • Haha! Nice. I’m partial to Ghost Reveries followed by Still Life. I thoroughly enjoy all albums, save for Heritage. Sorceress is far superior, even so it’s not amazing, but does have it moments; Will O the Wisp, and The Ward (that bassline) being the best it has to offer imo.

          • The Akerstache

            Ghost Reveries is certainly my second favorite, it’s easily the best of their 2000s output. And I enjoy both of those tracks very much, Will O the Wisp has something special that I feel the rest of Sorceress just lacked. The problem is, those are two very good tracks in a sea of mediocrity, which is just so disappointing.

          • Bryan Stroup

            I’m actually surprised to see someone else mentioning Still Life as their best. Blackwater Park always gets the credit, but I always just saw it as Still Life ver 2.0 anyway. My top three would be Still Life, My Arms, Your Hearse and Ghost Reveries.

          • The Akerstache

            Blackwater Park has always struck me as a little overrated, I love it, it’s a fantastic album, it’s just not their most fantastic. It’s very much so cut from the same vein as Still Life, and honestly it feels like a retread more than anything. It sits behind Still Life, Ghost Reveries, My Arms, You Hears, and Damnation for the title of favorite Opeth album.

            As far as the magic goes, there’s no band in existence that will make me feel the same way as The Moor or The Baying of the Hounds did on first listen, fortunately Opeth’s magic is a special magic, and other bands offer magic, just different kinds. I still have Opeth for that special kind of magic, but now I have Deathspell Omega and Akercocke for whatever other magic I might desire.

            I’m happy with Opeth, and I’m kind of glad that other bands try to recreate the magic they produced (coughneobliviscariscough) they never do it like Opeth did and I’ll always have Still Life if I want to be embraced by that magic again.

          • Bryan Stroup

            Seriously, go listen to Anciients’ Voice of the Void album if you haven’t yet. The growls on it are the richest I’ve ever heard outside of Akerfeldt and Chris Alvestam. I generally cannot stand growling, but these guys just do it so well. Probably because they sound so demonic, full, yet completely understandable too instead of a burping Cookie Monster.

          • The Akerstache

            I own that album, it’s absolutely excellent. However, I wouldn’t say it’s picking up were Opeth left off. It certainly feels the influence of Opeth, but if I were to compare it to a band the first thing that enters my mind is Mastodon. It feels like an old Mastodon album written with the mindset of an old Opeth album. Almost all of the riffs feel much more like something Mastodon would write than something Mikael Akerfeldt would right.

            If I were to label a band as Opeth’s successor, it’d be Nechochwen (or Wilderun, but you already know them). They’re album “Heart of Akamon” is right out of Opeth’s Morningrise/MAyH days. If you haven’t heard it, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

            As far as growls go, I certainly love Mikael’s growls, but he’s not my favorite growler. I’m personal favorite would probably be Karl Willetts of Bolt Thrower. My problem with Mikael’s growls is they’re 9 times out of 10 better when he’s guesting on another bands album than on Opeth’s albums. Katatonia’s Brave Murder Day easily has his best vocal performance on that regard. His growls are still excellent though, very understandable and easy to listen to.

          • Bryan Stroup

            Yeah, the Mastodon comparisons were legitimate on their first album (but mostly Cracke the Skye, which sounded like Mastodon channeling Opeth anyway). I guess my only point was that if Opeth never decided to do another progressive death album, Anciients is enough to scratch that itch for me.

  • AshCinderSmoke

    Cruciamentum has a new one out today one new song and an Absu cover if anyone’s interested

    • Gage

      Still waiting for them to top Engulfed in Desolation someday…

      • AshCinderSmoke

        I’m quite partial to Charnel Passages, one of the few records I own on vinyl

  • Cherd

    Wait, Kronos was a teenager in 2011? Am I taking music advice from someone without a fully developed frontal cortex? *Narrows eyes* Can you rent a car?

  • Name’s Dalton

    I used to love Fraggle Rock

  • Yolo Swaggins

    …but i like this?

    • Kronos

      But do you like 86 minutes of it?

      • Yolo Swaggins

        It has yet to be seen. Perhaps I edit the files into a part 1 and a part 2.

  • Gage

    I tried listening to this a couple days ago on bandcamp, gave up when I saw the album’s runtime. The perfect album runtime is 40-45 minutes in my opinion.

  • AgonMcDuck

    Fragarak… any other TYPE-MOON fans here? :D

  • ElephantsMarching

    Holy unicorn. I was listening, thinking, “hey, I kinda like this, why are they so down on it. Seems like a decent enough album.” Checked my time and track number. I felt like I was toward the end, but I was on track 3/11.

    Wow. This album has some chaff (chafe?).