First Fragment – Gloire Éternelle (Review)

First Fragment - Gloire ÉternelleThis is the second album from Canadian technical death metallers First Fragment.

2016’s Dasein was a notable album, one that I have kept returning to over time, much more than I initially thought I would. The band’s jaw-dropping skill and impressive delivery stuck with me, so I viewed their new release Gloire Éternelle with some excitement before it finally reached me.

Gloire Éternelle is a monster of an album, in more ways than one. Clocking in at a massive 75 minutes, (20 minutes of which is taken up by a single song), the follow up to Dasein is certainly not short of ambition.

The album is chock full of virtuoso performances and next level technical workouts, from every instrument. Like previously, the complex songs have a strong neoclassical component complemented by flamenco, swing, and power metal-inspired influences. These latter elements have been expanded further on Gloire Éternelle, to great effect. This is all then wrapped up in the sort of surgically precise technical death metal that will make your head spin.

Of course, despite still existing in the tech death realm, First Fragment have actually moved beyond such a simple appellation at this point; Gloire Éternelle is a wonderfully complex and expressive neoclassical extreme metal album, with a wider range than that of your average tech death release. We quibble over terms though; tech death will certainly suffice to describe them, but just know that First Fragment have a broader remit than most.

All of the songs are well-written and flawlessly performed. Very noticeable is the bass contribution, which seems to be everywhere. The bass solos are extremely satisfying, and the bass playing in general adds so much to the band’s musical personality. The album is essentially one giant shred-fest for the most part. If you’re after music that’s heavy or dark, then this is not for you; this is a collection of mostly lightning-fast tunes that are bright and effervescent, with an upbeat aggressive demeanour and harsh vocals layered over the top.

Due to the length and intricate complexity of this album, it takes time to reveal its gifts and to truly get to know its charms. I know I’ve barely scratched the surface; I’m still discovering new facets to Dasein five years on, and Gloire Éternelle is even more complex and involved than that. Suffice to say, this album is a grower. It has presence, power, and character enough to grab you instantly as soon as you hear it, but so dazzling and bright does it burn that you’ll certainly need to spend some proper time learning its labyrinthine ways.

Once you get past all of the over-the-top ostentation and technical wizardry, Gloire Éternelle is ultimately just a fun album to listen to. It mostly blurs past in a whirlwind of colour and brightness, and as technically impressive as that is, at the end of the day the album is massively entertaining and compelling. If you’re looking for an in-depth album to keep returning to and exploring time and time again then this is one such album. And, if you’re a fan of tech death, then this is utterly essential.

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