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Allegaeon - "Fragments of Form and Function" (CD)

Allegaeon - "Fragments of Form and Function" CD cover image

"Fragments of Form and Function" track listing:

1. The Cleansing (4:29)
2. The Renewal (4:19)
3. Across the Folded Line (4:25)
4. The God Particle (5:24)
5. Biomech - Vals No.666 (7:27)
6. From Seed to Throne (5:16)
7. Atrophy of Hippocrates (4:37)
8. Point of Disfigurement (4:03)
9. A Cosmic Question... (5:32)
10. Accelerated Evolution (8:09)

Reviewed by on July 14, 2010

"Apparently musicality, raw technical ability and death metal brutality can coexist, and Allegaeon has figured out that formula. "

Ahhhh, technical death metal. This is where the guys that liked Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine went after they were made fun of by the Carcass crowd. After a run-up the last few years, technical death metal has swerved toward the technical side recently. Often it is practically unlistenable due to the brutal navel gazing of unnaturally progressive passages and the unrelenting singular focus on technical showcases (looking right at you, Brain Drill). But Allegaeon - pronounced “uh-lee-juhn” - is here to jerk technical death metal back to the land of hook n’ groove.

The first thing that smacked me right in the face was the extended jam on album closer “Accelerated Evolution.” Spanning the middle four minutes of the song, guitarists Ryan Glisan and Greg Burgess make like Maiden and Priest, banging out layered fist-pumping and fret-melting solos, even playing with volume and whammy bars like Eddie Van Halen on “Cathedral.” This segment is closer to Dream Theater and Nevermore than it is to any death metal – still heavy, but also melodic. But the thing that makes it a wild ride isn’t the technicality, it is the musicality. The solo grows and shrinks, teases and dominates, and by the end our frazzled ears lay prostrate at the altar of exhilaration.

Allegaeon takes this musicality and applies it across the entirety of “Fragments of Form and Function,” which is where the consistent quality comes from. Not content to just layer 32nd note solos over unending blast beats, Allegaeon has crafted complete musical pieces. From the slowly morphing machine march of “The God Particle” to the desolate speed-freak abandon of “Atrophy of Hippocrates,” every song is a story – a complete set of ideas that has a beginning, middle, climax and end. This is where so many technical death metal bands go awry; they see an opportunity to play the most technically difficult passages possible, regardless of the final outcome. But Allegaeon has a different perspective of using their technicality to play any and all of the musical passages that they want.

But let’s not oversell it. There are plenty of blast beats (courtesy of machine precise skinsman Jordan Belfast) and face-scraping vocals (courtesy of marble gargler Ezra Haynes) to keep the brootal set at least content, although Burzum-o-philes won’t be satisfied. Guitar virtuoso melody moments that would fit better on a Satriani album than anything remotely related to Scandinavian music also frequently appear. But these parts are fit together with one always making way for the other and back again; the yin and yang struggling for top billing.

Allegaeon have realized that it isn’t enough to play your instrument really precisely or yell really loud. The real challenge is translating that skill into listenable music. As the extended groove in “A Cosmic Question…” gives way to another blast beat avalanche, and our approvingly easy head bob gives way to more emphatic banging, the cherry on top comes as the two musical modes combine during the fadeout. Apparently musicality, raw technical ability and death metal brutality can coexist, and Allegaeon has figured out that formula. Yngwie could learn something from these guys.

Highs: “Accelerated Evolution” combines wicked melodies and death metal brutality for a fantastic journey.

Lows: Allegaeon could benefit from a bit more heaviness in both production and songwriting.

Bottom line: Technical death metal that uses technicality to support top-notch musicality.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)