First Fragment – Gloire Éternelle Review

In the last decade, a cadre of death metal bands have stretched the limits of evil sound, using their technical skills to explore uncommon harmonic territories and bizarre anti-melody. First Fragment are not one of them. First Fragment are giant show-offs who stretch the limits of shred and use their technical skills to combine neoclassical melody with flamenco and swing, and I love them for it. Under the lead of prolific shredder Phil Tougas, the Québécois five-piece play the world’s most flamboyant and joyful technical death metal. Unencumbered by dour aesthetics, they flagrantly gallop and swing their way through endlessly shredding songs, never hesitant to drop into a little flamenco or break out the gang vocals. The result is something like a Gorod record written and performed during and for Mardi Gras; tipsy, monkey-barrel joy, performed impeccably with flowing hair and a giant grin.

It won’t take much listening for Gloire Éternelle to spread that grin to you. Tougas’ troupe are world-class players and rarely miss a chance to remind you of the fact. Traded-off solos abound while Tougas, Nick Miller and tech-bass legend Dominic Lapointe chase each other through “Pantheum” and “Gloire Éternelle,” and when they’re not speeding through neoclassical shred, the band are dancing through a cut-time “swing-down,” something between a breakdown and a dance number. These asides are played with the same glee as the band’s flashiest fretwork and allow Lapointe to swerve hard into slap bass, peppering the mix with pops and slides. In “Soif Brûlante,” he’s given the reins for the first two and a half minutes, and it’s some of the album’s most enjoyable material, especially notable as one of the few times the band cut the pace for more than a short interval.

Like these swing stops, First Fragment’s flamenco-inspired detours are a brilliant way for the band to avoid shred overload and often become the highlight of songs. “Sonata en Mi Mineur” pairs a particularly lovely one with an Eddie Van Halen-tribute intro and then fades into the buoyant singing of warblers and hammering of woodpeckers in the late-Spring forest. The “Gloire Éternelle” opening, with its sly melody and hand-clap percussion, is one of the record’s most memorable and rewarding passages. Ditto “La Veuve et Le Martyr,” which smacks a flamenco and slap-bass intro together for maximum charm. These asides help the superhuman performances surrounding them project a real magnetism and nonchalance that makes Gloire Éternelle a cheerful and inviting record despite its intensity.

Listeners familiar with First Fragment’s debut record are likely to suspect that the Éternelle in Gloire Éternelle refers to the record’s length. And they’d be correct, because sitting at 71 minutes—that’s more than two Reign in Bloods1Gloire Éternelle is a whopper, and one which doesn’t entirely justify its runtime. “In’el” is a particular drain, nineteen minutes that only serve to recap what came before despite some very strong performances. The closer “Mort Éphémère” does the same but more directly, reprising the record’s opening theme in a move that still fails to really tie a record like this together. There’s simply too much stuffed into Gloire Éternellefor the record to come across as a considered whole, and while it’s perfectly fun as it runs, I usually feel like I’ve had enough of the record long before “In’el” gets a quarter of the way through.

That excess is the reason I can’t love Gloire Éternelle. It’s not the length of the record itself that gets me, but the repetition that the length requires. Gloire Éternelle depends on solos and sheer technical feats to propel itself forward, and after the musicians seemingly give their all so many times, the record loses its shape, sagging under the weight of the players’ muscle memory. Even many listens in, I’m often unable to pinpoint where in the record a certain flurry of triplets comes from, or name a particularly effective solo on the record. Despite being nonstop fun, Gloire Éternelle, like Dasein before it, is too generous with its charms to make them last, cheapening them through so much reproduction. That being said, it still fuckin’ rules. The whole point of the record is to be too much, a feast impossible to finish, with ever more indulgent dishes arriving on the table. That the record is too much to enjoy in a sitting is just more proof that Tougas and the gang know what they’re doing. So shred on, First Fragment; I hope you never change.

Score: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 29th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Or Bleed the Futures
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