Fragmentum – Masters of Perplexity Review

Fragmentum want to be famous so bad. By the beard of Johan Hegg, they want to be famous so bad. On top of their own homepage with the hip and cool .zone domain, the promo package includes a list of no less than 9 social media and related pages, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Bandcamp, Bandsintown, Spotify, Soundcloud and Apple freaking Music. The package also has the very stylish modern (and generic) band logo in 4 different formats and no less than 11 pictures of the 3 man band (5 of the band, 2 of each band member individually). The promo text, which is so masturbatory it may as well have been handwritten in man-brine, speaks of “a well known Belgian diverging metal band,” trying to squeeze the formation into the genesis of a new subgenre, whatever the hell ‘diverging metal’ is supposed to be. So the trio has everything it needs for its break into metal stardom, right? Social media, marketing, photos, what am I forgetting?

Oh right, a good album! And looks like I am not the only one who forgot, because Masters of Perplexity is an absolute disaster, right down to the perplexiting title. If the Eurodance synths and nu-metal chugs in the opening track don’t entice you to defenestrate your audio equipment, the vocals will. Since this is modern melodic death metal, not ‘diverging metal,’ there’s cleans and growls. The cleans are so droning and monotone, so bereft of emotion, I have to wonder whether they were recorded at gunpoint, or the vocalist had just undergone a lobotomy. The growls are barely any better; worse yet, they have all the impact of a gently lobbed sponge to the face. When they first started to gently gurgle into my ears, I needed a few moments to notice they were even there at all.

So the vocals are laughable. What of the rest? Well, if you dig down deep like an over-caffeinated paranoid pirate, you might find that not all riffs are garbage on this album. Mostly they are rather bland, but on occasion and in isolation, something that might elicit a subconscious humming along or an involuntary nod of the head may arise, such as on “Clash of the Clans.”1 Sadly, this marginal enjoyability is frequently undercut by over-repetition (“Prophecy of the Infinite”), keyboards that are irritating to the point where you want to gnaw your own ears off (“Screechings of the Sacrifice,” which directly nods to Iron Maiden by including the line ‘please bring your daughter to the slaughter’) or just unwanted and unwarranted busybodying of everything the band could pile together, creating a jumbled and aimless mess.

And still it doesn’t feel like I am able to do justice to everything that aggrieves me about Masters of Perplexity. It’s in so many things. It’s in the way the record feels lifeless even when it’s up-tempo. It’s in the slack-jawed pronunciations,2 in the squandering of a decent drummer on a kit that sounds like shit3, in the length that spans over a fucking hour of torture. It’s in the production too, though not because of brickwalling; the master is quite dynamic and easy on the ears, but the mix is confused and muddled, never knowing where to place the focus, as evidenced by the distant croaky yawn of a growl and all-consuming keyboards. Furthermore, it’s not just the drums that sound like shit: every single instrument and pedal sounds like it was ordered from Wish and left on default settings. It’s practically an identity in and of itself to sound this void of identity in the tones of the guitar, bass, drums and keys all together.

Masters of Perplexity is simply, in a word, embarrassing. I’d honestly be worried about friends or family finding this, akin to the fear of discovery of an extensive furry porn collection. And yet this trio tries to spread their wares across every corner of the internet. I’d say only a self-produced band, who receives no oversight whatsoever, could deliver something this thoroughly, perplexitatingly incompetent, but I’ve heard worse from signed bands and much, much better from other unsigned ones. Still, the kind of cognitive dissonance it takes to create an album like this and promote it as vigorously as Fragmentum have done is commonly saved for televangelists, anti-vaxxers and flat-earthers. Don’t believe the hype: Masters of Perplexity is completely, utterly, pants-poopingly terrible.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 256 VBR kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: April 16th, 2021

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Mobile game copyright lawsuit in 3… 2…
  2. Which gave me a moment of unexpected hilarity when the zombified cleans started chanting ‘visioooon, vision-eh-de-snaaaake.’
  3. It actually sounds like it might be one of those $60 electric drumkits.
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