Progressive Metal is a vast, deep ocean of possibility. At least that is how I view it. In a genre so often plagued by formulaic song structures and macho posturing, this inherent sense of choice, compositional freedom and suggested lack of limitation can yield some truly mind-boggling pieces of art. However, just like anything that boasts some degree of success, even a genre that rails against established notions of what constitutes “musical correctness” as it pertains to songwriting, can develop its own styles, forms, and mores. To that end, Fractal Cypher’s “The Human Paradox” is an example of an enormously talented band straddling the line between personal identity and expectation in modern Progressive Metal.
As a listener, I gravitate towards the unique and outlandish. I appreciate chances taken, even if they don’t always pay off. I understand that all music is derivative in some way, and what truly matters is how the artist blends their chosen influences into a cohesive and inspired whole. Fractal Cypher definitely belong to a subset of Progressive Metal bands that worship at the altar of Dream Theater, whilst also injecting a heavy dose of Power Metal’s hyper melodicism (Pagan’s Mind comes to mind). In addition to these more classic influences, the band brings the rhythmic and tonal specter of djent to the fold (thankfully minimally) with low tuned and percussive riffs driving sections of the songs.
The playing is exceptional and extremely tight throughout. Light speed guitar runs and keyboards fly by, and pummeling double bass brings the music into death metal territory at times. The vocals are present and high. There is no denying that these guys can play, but very few riffs, melodies, and sections truly stand out as memorable. The requisite time changes and solos are there, but there really aren’t any chances being taken on “The Human Paradox”, and the record suffers for it.
After the first two tracks had passed, I was pleasantly surprised by “Shining A While”, which is an expansive and melodic track in all of the right ways. Several times during the tracks runtime I was reminded of Circus Maximus’ early work on “The First Chapter”, which is in my opinion a high watermark for this style of Post-Dream Theater Prog Metal. Next up, “Prison Planet” establishes itself as a solid and well done modern Prog Metal song. All of the elements fell into place, and in this case the structure benefits the music for the better. Later on, tracks such as “Awakening” and “Idles Word” flirt with different sounds, with the latter having some really interesting sections and interplay at the beginning and ending of the song. The rest of the record hems closely to the “extended intro/ big 4/4 verse/ big melodic, keyboard driven chorus” formula that is indicative of this school of thought. It’s here that it loses me.
With all of that being said, this type of record may be exactly what the reader is looking for. As a genre exercise, “The Human Paradox” is well played and well produced. The guitars sound big, the drums ring and pop with authority, and the mix lets everything shine where appropriate. I suppose my hope for the future of Fractal Cypher would see this immensely talented band escape the shadow of their influences, and expand upon, and maybe even discover, what makes them truly unique. There is a ton of potential to be found over the hour that “The Human Paradox” plays out, it just needs to coalesce into something greater than the sum of its parts. I think Fractal Cypher is capable of that transition if they want to be, and I await to see where they will go from here.
- Endless Circle
- Shining A While
- Prison Planet
- Imminent Extinction
- Final Abode
- Idles Word
- Ghost Of Myself
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