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
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
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