The Fallen Divine – The Binding Cycle Review

The Fallen Divine // The Binding Cycle
3.0/5.0 —Loosely bound aggregate of excellent fragments.
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Release Dates
: Is it out? I could only find a couple tracks available online.
By: A Prospective Overseer of Unsigned Bands

The Binding Cycle is the first full-length album by Norwegian quintet, The Fallen Divine. Founded in 2009, and with one EP under their belt, the band worked with King Diamond guitarist Andy La Rocque at his studio, Sonic Train, to produce the album. And he produced the fuck out of them. The sound on this album is so clean it sparkles. Which is as it should be, because there is a lot going on and The Fallen Divine don’t want you to miss any of it. A self-described progressive metal band, they have a lot of influences and only one shot at showing you that they’ve mastered them all. Fortunately, they pretty much have.

They come out swinging on “Dissension,” throwing everything they’ve got into these seven and a half minutes. The resulting aggregation of technical riffery, proggy keyboards and a jazz interlude comes off a little like a snowboard movie, not so much a continuous composition as a series of really cool tricks strung together. Depending on your outlook, this balls out eclecticism is either off-putting or impressive. “Dissension” is only a slight exaggeration of the rest of the album’s almost fifty minutes (which in this case is only a few minutes longer than you want it to be).

While you’ll find bits and pieces of just about everything on here and all of it is well done, tempo and rhythm changes are pretty much the point (think Dream Theater on crack, or more precisely, John Zorn’s Naked City). The whole album is chock-full of hooks, great riffs, and melodic lead lines but they never dwell on a single theme long enough to really develop the idea. The keyboards provide some atmosphere but are kept firmly in check and never come to the front. For the most part, vocals take the form of screams in the style of Dark Tranquility, and, you know, everyone else. But some whispers and an occasional pleasing slide into deeper growls hint at the potential for more versatility there in the future. When I remembered to notice, the lyrics seemed hold to a general theme of outsider angstyness – which is good. Occasionally, a little bubble of Les Claypool-worthy bass rises to the surface of the mathematical stew; midway through “Shades of Oppression,” some lead bass steps forward. These flashes of bass brilliance are always unexpected, but never incongruous. I kept wishing they’d let the bass player loose more often.

After Dissension,” the rest of the tracks are uniformly strong, with consistently catchy lead lines. “Northern Lights” stands out as a little more cohesive. It feels like the ideas here have more room to stretch and breathe before diving into something else.  Just past the five minute mark there’s a jazz interlude that’s less disjointed than others scattered throughout the album because they manage to pull the flute (probably actually keyboards) through into the anthemic metal riff that follows.

They close with the title track, which has the most overtly progressive sound on the album. Where “Dissension” tended to showboat, “The Binding Cycle┝ showcases some of the best elements from the other tracks, offering up a piano intro paired with an acoustic guitar break reminiscent of Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates.” There’s also more bass in here and some jazz piano followed by chugging guitars that introduce the closest thing to guitar solo on the album. After some of the lower-range screaming on the album, The Binding Cycle ends – not with a bang but a whisper. And a piano. And some acoustic guitar.

The Fallen Divine have put together a respectable and enjoyable first album that is absolutely worth a listen. Despite some compositional weakness, all of the pieces are strong enough to stand up by themselves, and the album never completely falls apart.  They clearly love playing with different techniques and linking a wide variety of sounds. As they mature, and their focus shifts from proving what they can do towards creating something whole out of the pieces, their music will only get more engaging. I’m already more interested in listening to their next album than this one – especially if they let the bass player off his chain.

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