Fractal Universe - Rhizomes of Insanity - (9/10)
Published on April 24, 2019
I remember when I heard this band’s debut, “Engram of Decline”, that although the technicality was through the roof, it came a little short on enjoyability for me because it felt too mathematical and seemed a bit lacking in musicality. But the French progressive death metallers were creative and skilled enough to have me coming back for their second release. With “Rhizomes of Insanity”, Fractal Universe have definitely evolved a lot in the musicality department, putting a higher emphasis on atmosphere and melody that brings a better balance to their overall sound.
The band’s style is progressive death metal pushed towards the border of technical death. They are seriously professional with their instruments and the technique makes an impression not only through the incredible speed of some passages, but also through the high level of precision in playing difficult, odd patterns with an incredible amount of detail. They often alternate between raw, aggressive death metal sound and moments of clean guitar that add a strong jazzy influence, also bringing the bass forward a lot. There’s even some brief use of saxophone at some point. And on the drums, the blast beats may be what draws most attention (See “Masterpiece’s Parallelism”) but it’s the level of intricacy and groove that I find most impressive, displaying fantastic creativity and flexibility in fiddling with weirds rhythm patterns. The vocals also vary quite a lot going from whispers to clean singing and a very gritty, dry sounding harsh vocal.
But where this album really scores big is in the unpredictable style of composition, always keeping you on alert because you never know what direction the song is going to take. The alternation between clean, jazzy stuff and death metal often comes out of the blue, with no warning whatsoever and at the most unexpected times, as do the occasional ruptures in pace and rhythm. But it doesn’t sound over the top and it seems incredibly mathematical and controlled. The album is also more expressive than the previous one, creating a very dark and menacing vibe on the clean parts and also feeling a bit disturbing when they decide to go dissonant. But although they have refined and balanced their style from so many directions, they remain quite difficult to get into. With the music being so intricate, professional and not at all catchy, they clearly want to stay focused on their niche and keep it more rewarding on an intellectual level than make it “fun”. It basically has the personality that you find in the song titles, sounding a bit like a science lesson. But they have given it a stronger musical purpose.
Maintaining the same attitude, the production is top-notch quality, sounding very clean and slightly mechanical. It doesn’t give that much power or volume to the sound but instead, it is focused on very clear definition, separating all the elements and allowing you to hear every instrument individually. A great addition to wrap up this album was the bonus track, an acoustic remake of “Collective Engram”, the album closer from their debut. It best displays their atmospheric side and also mixes things up a bit, giving the album some extra flavor. Overall, “Rhizomes of Insanity” is certainly a step up for the band but it remains quite challenging and not very appealing. However, if you’re one who likes math in his metal I am certain that you will eat this up and if you’re not, well you should give it a shot anyway.