FRACTAL GATES – One With Dawn (Album Review)

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Melodies set adrift amid the stars.

Originality is a difficult feat to accomplish, let alone maintain, in the long-running and ever-expanding art of melodic death metal, particularly for those that stick closer to where the sub-genre arguably peaked in the early 2000s. The accomplishments of the original Gothenburg three in At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames respectively present an exhaustive array of potential stylistic avenues explored that have since been widely imitated, but rarely built upon.

Perhaps the most prominent scene to take things a step further was the one that subsequently arose at the turn of the millennium in Finland, with noteworthy acts such as Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium carving out a particularly accessible yet somewhat different take on the atmospheric and infectious road explored by Dark Tranquillity. Though hailing from France, coming to the scene a fair bit later, and dabbling in somewhat more progressive territory, late 2000s Paris upstarts Fractal Gates have continued to explore this niche with a somewhat more nuanced flavor.

With their fourth studio LP “One With Dawn,” this quintet presents their most refined and memorable entry thus far, continuing their penchant for simplicity and brevity in a more dynamic fashion. Though still retaining the generally misty and empyrean sonic quality associated with their Australian contemporaries Be’lakor, they’ve moved further into the highly accessible and streamlined approach to songwriting that has been the staple of Dark Tranquillity since the release of 2007’s “Fiction” (arguably coinciding with when this outfit was founded).

Minimalistic lead guitar lines that move from an orthodox Gothenburg sound to a post-rock vibe litter a heavy-ended succession of mid-length bangers, spearheaded by the keyboard work and low-tone bark of helmsman Sebastien Pierre, culminating in a highly methodical and cohesive opus. One might go so far as dubbing this the fourth chapter of a continuum of contemplative compositions, adorned with a recurring set of ambient instrumentals known as the “Visions” series, which now exists in 15 parts.

As previously noted, Fractal Gates has their own unique take on the art of melodeath, and relative to the bands to which they resemble the most, it largely manifests in terms of pacing rather than atmosphere. One can’t help but notice the comparatively swift quality of otherwise melancholic entries like the opening cruiser “Shining Fall”, as well as pummeling bangers like “Earthbound”, to speak nothing for the overt thrashing tendencies of “Hyperstate” and “Severance”.

“One With Dawn” Album Artwork

And even when things take on a more measured quality, this album’s version of mid-paced as embodied in such super catchy offerings as “Seamless Days”, “Half Alive” and “Serenity” often goes hard on the double kick-happy fury and otherwise rests firmly in an up-tempo stride commonly associated with upbeat gothic metal/rock songs. Some rather auspicious clean vocal slots provided by guest singers Deibys Artigas (Venezuelan vocalist also recently of Project Arcadia) and Egan O’Rourke (of Daylight Dies) further push this album’s slight gothic tendencies, while Enshine guitarist Jari Lindholm brings some added technical flair to the equation with a couple of well-executed guest guitar solos.

It might seem a little counterintuitive, but Fractal Gates’ handiwork is a basic case of what you see is what you get, and it goes double so in the case of this latest entry. Even when things die down to either an ambient reflection as on the recurring “Visions” interludes, or on the ballad segments that occur during the intros of “When The Distance Paints Us” and “Half Alive” or the full-on acoustic balladry that surrounds the more drawn out conclusion of this opus “Echoing Motions”, there is a sense of urgency and drive that makes this a more kinetic affair than that of Insomnium and recent entries out of Omnium Gatherum.

Yet it can’t really be chalked up as an orthodox homage to Dark Tranquillity either given its elaborate nature. It rests in a sort of interesting middle ground between these two stylistic expressions, and certain versions of this album also come with two re-recordings of songs from their 2009 debut “Altered State Of Consciousness” as bonus tracks that accentuate that this is a band that has stuck to their stylistic guns since day one. If melodic death metal is the desired prize, it’s tough to go wrong here.

Released By: Independent
Release Date: April 14th, 2024
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Musicians:

  • Stéphane Peudupin / Lead & rhythm guitar, synths
  • Sébastien Pierre / Vocals, synths
  • Jérémy Briquet / Drums
  • Antoine Verdier / Bass guitar
  • Arnaud Hoarau / Rhythm guitar

One With Dawn” Track List:

  1. Visions XIII
  2. Shining Falls
  3. Seamless Days
  4. Into the Unknown
  5. When the Distance Paints Us
  6. Earthbound
  7. Half Alive
  8. Visions XIV
  9. One with Dawn
  10. Hyperstate
  11. Serenity
  12. Severance
  13. Echoing Motions
  14. Visions XV

Order One With DawnHERE

8.4 Great

Reprising their signature blend of ethereal melodies, frost-tinged aggression, and an eye to the cosmos, Fractal Gates refines their nuanced take on the craft further on their 4th and latest studio excursion "One With Dawn"

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8.5
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