Album Review: The Fallen Divine – The Binding Cycle
Band: The Fallen Divine (Norway)
Album: The Binding Cycle (2011)
Genre: Progressive / Blackened Death Metal
My naïve self always held Norway responsible for the world’s main supply of Black Metal. The same brain responsible for that belief thought up that then also pretty much every Norwegian Metal band would be a Black Metal band. But lately I’ve been proven wrong in my generalization quite a few times. Like by Aspherium and Okular rather recently.
But I have noticed that Progressive Death Metal outfits like these two often do add in a thick and acid splash of Black Metal darkness here and there. The same is the case for The Fallen Divine as Toreignimmortal has already commented when he pointed you towards the free streaming album these guys have released in late November. Following in his footsteps, I’ve been listening to this highly promising debut release a bit as well.
The opener, Dissension, immediately kicks off with some proggy tunes in the intro. There’s even a brief moment of folky flute work that reminds me of an old Dutch Prog Rock formation from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s called Focus. World famous bunch of guys that was. But obviously the song can’t ignore the ‘Death Metal’ part in ‘Progressive Death Metal’ and so it isn’t long before grinding riffs come into the scene on which vocalist / keyboardist Magnus Kvist spits out his deep, bellowing grunt. A grunt that isn’t just brutal and harsh as a Norwegian winter storm, but also perfectly understandable. Definitely a pre!
Progressive elements pop up all over the song, in the form of hooky turns, bouncing grooves and almost neo-classically sounding melody lines. It’s almost like the song’s a schizophrenic bastard, in which the Death Metal side and the progressive side are constantly battling for the stage. And I like this. Rather than cooking the different elements up to an indistinctive goo of boring homogeneity, The Fallen Divine has worked them into a song in which stuff happens. Lots of stuff!
Keyboards have a seemingly minor but actually quite important role in the whole. They don’t generally demand explicit attention, but they do set scenes and atmospheres, sometimes dark, sometimes enlightening and sometimes that very specific Prog Rock with church organs type of atmos. Emulated church organs, yes, but that isn’t actually too obvious.
This make-up isn’t just what the opening song is made up of, but applies to the whole record. But rather than sounding all the same, there’s plenty of unique identity for most of the songs. The variation is in the moods, the speeds and the actual riffs. Or in some cases in the addition of an acoustic bridge, acting as a cementing factor between solos, riffs and choruses, like in the title song. Or in just how growling versus acid the vocals actually are. There isn’t a huge span on display, but the careful listener may hear some subtle differences between songs or song sections.
The Binding Cycle is eight songs and 48 minutes long, giving songs a solid average duration of six minutes. In each single case enough to pack in a host of different moods and settings, though the focus is most definitely on the negative spectrum. Meaning negative emotions take the lead; darkness, despair, sadness are key elements and are only briefly relieved by bursts of vividness or joy. Sometimes a kick-ass solo will break the mood, sometimes it’s one of those already mentioned acoustic bits, but darkness is never far away. And yeah, church organs work well in such occasions. Shame there actually quite scarcely used.
If I had to highlight a critical note, it’s that the production is a wee bit flat. Whereas the composition have clearly received a lot of attention, the mixing and mastering could’ve received a bit more. Whether that’s a matter of negligence, so to say, or limited funds I don’t know and in the end doesn’t really matter either. It just could’ve been more dynamic, more layered, more three-dimensional. Just to throw in an example, there are these really good, almost funky bass lines sometimes. But rather than demand the listener’s attention they’re pretty much flat and lack the full-bodied richness that they should have had. When I hear bass work like that I literally want to feel it and I’m not right now.
But in all honesty, this is quite evidently a very good release, even if it hadn’t been a debut effort. With a start like this, The Fallen Divine can only grow and completely blow me away for their next release. By then I hope they will focus as much of their attention and effort on their mixing / mastering as they have now on their compositions.
My Grade: 8.0/10
Buy this when:
- you’re up for something new, original and really quite ‘good’
- you’re not as ridiculously spoiled when it comes to production as I am