Review: The Fragile Art Of Existence
Magazine: Transcending the Mundane / USA
Written by: Ladd Everitt
Published: 1999

Control Denied is the new project of Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner, and the title of this new release is ironic in the most tragic sense. Just after recording The Fragile Art of Existence, Schuldiner discovered he had a life-threatening brain tumor and would need immediate radiotherapy treatment. Doing well and in good spirits at last notice, his condition is still a sad example of how life can imitate art.

Schuldiner, however, has rarely imitated anyone in his artistic pursuits. Widely respected as a pioneer in the extreme metal genre, this guitarist/vocalist/songwriter traces his roots back to 1983 and the band Mantas, which attracted attention in underground circuits by playing a radical new brand of heavy music. Variously described as thrash, gore, and death metal, Chuck seemed to confirm the latter label when the band changed its name to Death and released its legendary first album, Scream Bloody Gore, in 1987. Six more albums would follow, with Schuldiner continuously challenging himself; experimenting with line-up changes, vocal and guitar sounds and techniques (in the days when the "death grunt" was an innovation), and lyrical concepts. The maturation over time was palpable. By the time The Sound of Perseverance was released in 1998, Death was playing music that was distinctly progressive, with abundant meter and tempo changes and structural complexity.

In 1996, however, Schuldiner began envisioning new territory to conquer. Aware of his limitations as a vocalist, he decided to initiate a project in which an established singer would replace him in this role. When Warrel Dane of Nevermore proved unavailable, Chuck turned to Tim Aymar, a member of the Pittsburgh band Psycho Scream. After months of complications in finding a label to support the project under the name Control Denied, things finally came together in 1999.

…And new ground was broke. Control Denied joins bands like Nevermore and In Flames in a novel experiment that is still very much in its embryo stage: the fusion of power metal and extreme genres. But while those two bands have firm roots musically in the power genre, Control Denied approaches things from a different angle. On The Fragile Art Art of Existence, Schuldiner and current and former Death bandmates Shannon Hamm (guitar), Steve DiGiorgio (bass), and Richard Christy (drums) adhere musically to the style of technical death metal perfected on The Sound of Perseverance. It is Aymar, with his expressive, soaring voice, that adds the "mainstream" element that makes this album unique. The results speak for themselves. Tracks like "Consumed," "Expect the Unexpected," and "Cut Down," unveil the terrible power that can be brought to bear when Schuldiner's musical stylings are combined with potent vocals. Tested often by the musical experimentation of his bandmates, Aymar responds with emphasis, layering vocals over their parts in creative and diverse ways and showing strength in just about every range.

Schuldiner is credited with lyrics, and he once again poignantly touches on topics emotional, spiritual and philosophical. It is in words from the album's title track, however that the tragedy of his current condition is fully realized: No time for self-pity, no time for dwelling on what should have been, but is yet to be… The fragile art of existence, is kept alive by sheer persistence. Let us all hope Schuldiner does persist. For in his person lies a genuinely vigorous and creative soul, and there are so many more challenges ahead…


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Edited for Empty©Words 05-13-08