When sitting down to write this review, I managed to confuse where Fulgora gets their namesake from before looking it up. For reasons that may or may not include an increasingly counterproductive sleep schedule, writer’s block, and somehow still being regularly keelhauled for the Alestorm incidents of 2014 (no, I don’t regret it, and yes, I’m still right) I thought these Missouri misery dealers were named after Killer Instinct’s personification of cyborg murder Fulgore instead of the female Ancient Greek personification of lightning, Fulgora. So while I’m tragically not getting my robot murder musical, I am getting some death-grind, which is something I’m always up for. As they say, you win some, you lose some. Keep that cliché in mind, because it oh-so-conveniently describes Strategem in a single sentence.
Fulgora have got something good going on from a purely stylistic standpoint. They emphasize the silent “core” in death-grind with a focus on bringing the hammer down with slamming riffs that recall Hatebreed and Dying Fetus in equal measure, due in no small part to guitarist/vocalist B.L. LaMew’s similarities to Jamey Jasta. This isn’t to suggest a dearth of death or grind elements here, nor invoke the dreaded “deathcore” label. I will say that the grind here recalls Pig Destroyer’s groovy style as opposed to From Enslavement to Obliteration though, furthering the hardcore influenced nature of Fulgora’s sound.
“Splinter” is the most successful implementation of all of the above, bringing in some traces of modern Decapitated and large helpings of Misery Index and the last two Pig Destroyer records replete with those crunchy Hatebreed/Dying Fetus beatdowns. It’s decent stuff, and the rest of Strategem tends to follow suit. So where does the “lose some” come into play? Well, the songs are consistently intense, but not overly memorable. For instance, I can tell you that the ending of “Artifice” has the closest thing we’ll ever hear to a Hatebreed and Dying Fetus collaboration in its final quarter, but I couldn’t remember the riffs involved more than a minute after hearing it. This is the stuff of okay records, not great ones.
Decent but unmemorable music comprises the entirety of Strategem and gives it a more stylistic than substantial appeal. It’s fine while it’s on if you have a hankering for death-grind, but I’d sooner throw on Misery Index, Circle of Dead Children, or Nausea for my fix if given the choice. Those bands just write more memorable material that begs to be replayed. While Adam Jarvis’ drumming is up to his usual standard of jaw-dropping speed and skill, his performance doesn’t touch his brilliance on The Killing Gods, and the lesser songwriting here further drives that home. There’s also a scant seven tracks present, but two of them are pointless (intro and interlude), leaving five actual songs that are nigh-on interchangeable. The line between “Crutch” and “Meridian” is so blurred that I had to watch my media player to determine where one ended and the other began.
After many spins of Strategem, I’ve come to the conclusion that Fulgora suffers from Opening Band Syndrome. It’s not objectionable stuff and is good enough while it’s playing, but listening to one of the genre’s heavy hitters after Strategem makes Fulgora’s songwriting shortcomings all the more apparent and repeat listens much less desirable. The production isn’t so great either, as John Jarvis’ bass is basically inaudible and Adam Jarvis’ drum sound leaves a lot to be desired. He’s a great drummer, and giving him a weak kick and an off-putting snare don’t do his stellar playing any favors. I’ll keep an eye out for whatever Fulgora does in the future and if you’re into death-grind you should too, but for now they won’t be blowing your mind or making your Top Ten for the year.