Review: The Fragile Art Of Existence
Webzine: Metal Judgment
Written by: Abyss, Death, Hel

Published: 1999


Abyss's review

And here it is, the much anticipated and rumored about "side project" of Death's Chuck Schuldiner. Early rumors of no label support for the band began to circulate after Chuck put it on hiatus to make the last Death album, The Sound of Perseverance. That album, as most of you should know, was highly acclaimed by fans and critics alike, which begs the question, "Can Control Denied possibly measure up?" It is hard enough to follow up a masterpiece with the same band, but to change musical styles as well is downright foolhardy. Can a legion of Death followers get behind a power metal band? Only time will tell. I must admit that I am one of those thick-headed metalheads that has a really hard time getting into anything sung too high, and what I mean by high is anything prettier than a growl or scream. (As you might have guessed Judas Priest wasn't one of my favorite bands, and no I'm not homophobic.) Recently, however, I've made a real effort to expand my horizons, helped by the world's best power metal band, Iced Earth. This album has little in common with that band. In all honesty, the only thing "power metal" about Control Denied is Tim Aymar's vocals. The music itself is almost devoid of the Maiden inspired twin lead attack that is present in almost all power metal. In many ways the guitar work is very similar to the more progressive aspects of Death. The musicianship is quite impressive in many places, mostly in the more experimental parts. A quality back up band complement's Chuck's genius well. Shannon Hamm, guitar, Richard Christy, drums, and Steve DiGiorgio on bass are all Death alumni and deliver well. Talent is not this band's problem. The biggest problem I have with this band is the lack of an enticing melody or groove that pulls you in. My point is, if you're going to have melodic vocals there should be enough of a melody to carry the song. My favorite track, "Breaking the Broken" does a pretty good job of this, but the album as a whole doesn't. The progressive/technical/experimental aspect to the music does make each track more interesting with extended listening, but I still have to categorize this disc as having a lot of good ideas, but put together they are just a little too disjointed. If you are a fan of high-pitched vocals, you might want to add another point.

3 out of 5


Death's review

The Sound of Perserverence was one of my favorite albums of 1998. Although 3/4 of that Death lineup perform on Control Denied's 1999 "debut," this long-rumored Chuck Schuldiner side-project was more than likely written a few years back. Nevertheless, the newly relased Fragile now stands as a deserving successor to the glory of the Perserverence standard and will soon command its own place within the hallowed Shuldiner/Death legacy. Yes, this album is a masterpiece. The Fragile Art of Existence is Evil Chuck's crowning achievement. "Fragile represents the pinnacle of death metal's most pronounced and storied evolution." Fragile represents the pinnacle of death metal's most pronounced and storied evolution. Never has a death metal band traveled as far as Death has, gradually morphing into its current elite blend of technical, jazz-influenced power-metal. Scream Bloody Gore this is not.

There is almost no death on Fragile, yet Death appear on every track. The easy explanation is thus: it's a Death album with a power metal vocalist replacing Chuck's well-traveled growl. That statement misses the album's subtleties like the concessions in the arrangements made to better-complement the power-metal approach. The melodic lines, guitar fills and Perserverence-style guitar sound all remain trademark Schuldiner. But the presence of Steve DiGiorgio on bass, who is given an incredible amount of room to breathe and serves as a lead instrument on several passages, adds an entirely new dimension to the sound. Comparisons to recent Death classics do capture the precision of the Control Denied delivery. And sure, they suggest the musicality and progressiveness of the new Schuldiner attack. But the shift in vocal-stylings is downright radical.

Tim Aymar's vocals are pure power-metal. Part Manowar, part Nevermore, part Iced Earth, maybe a little Halford thrown in for good measure. He really does smoke. Aymar posesses multiple vocal styles and a varied range. "The shift in vocal-stylings is downright radical." At one point, this project was rumored to include the great Warrel Dane, of Nevermore fame, on vocals. Unfortunately, imagining Warrel Dane singing over these tracks invariably forces me to the conclusion that, as admirable a job as Mr. Aymar does here, he ain't no Warrel Dane. Nevertheless, Fragile is a great record. Whether your interest stems from your love of power-metal or from the high quality found in the recent Death offerings, you will be psyched to hear Control Denied. Congratulations Mr. Schuldiner, your "you got power-metal in my progessive-death" experiment is a smashing success.

Four points or five? The courage, ambition and love of true metal displayed throughout the album certainly counsel strongly in favor of the latter. Add in the excellent songwriting, the killer soloing, the top-notch Richard Christy drumming, and the utter METALNESS of it all, and the choice is easy. Five glorious points for veteran metal warrior Mr. Charles Schuldiner and his love of true metal.

5 out of 5


Hel's review

How do you listen to the first, brand-new Control Denied Album and not compare it to any or all of the previous Death albums? The lastest brainchild of Chuck Schuldiner has me in a quandry - is it possible to review this album/band as independently from Death as it should be? And how do you avoid dwelling on Chuck's health crisis while listening, in light of the sadly appropriate title of this new effort? Obviously, I can't- inevitably all of the above must in some way be brought up. This is Chuck Schuldiner we're talking about! "The vocals. Since all the other pieces of the puzzle are pretty much intact, this is the deciding factor in Control Denied." The music itself is solid. Same balls-out, double-bass, mad drumming. Same cool guitar solos and shredding riffs. Same solid bass lines. There has certainly been some adaptation to accomodate the vocals. Melodic singing needs more space, so to speak, and therefore there is less of the solid wall of sound that death metal vocals can so easily scream over.

The vocals. Since all the other pieces of the puzzle are pretty much intact, including the members, this is the deciding factor in Control Denied. Better or worse than Death? I prefer Evil Chuck. It's not that I dislike power metal singing. It's that he lacks the soul in his delivery that someone like a Warrel Dane would have. Sometimes it sounds like he's just singing along. The best efforts in the vocal arena are "Expect the Unexpected" and "Believe" The others are just not as compelling.

Musically, a 5. Overall, sorry to say, not quite as good.

4 out of 5


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EmptyWords-Published on February 8 2002