FRACTAL GENERATOR – Macrocosmos (2021)REVIEW

Any given “world within a world” theorem setting a microcosm as a reduced scale analog for the shape and expression of the universe (the macrocosm) for the sake of a readily prescribed visual representation ultimately relies upon the prevalent issuance of natural and simulated fractal geometric images. These offer a simple analogy for a still-developing mind in preparation for indoctrination into applications of systemic theory yet these grow less satisfying as the need for study of fully functional, “breathing” chaotic systems (or, “non-linear dynamical systems”.) Neatly arranged simulations of chaotic Euclidean space, flattened and modulated for the sake of providing vague symbolism of the infinite doesn’t require any sense of difficult-to-perceive scale and/or emergence. This will undoubtedly serve as a small roadblock for anyone studying infinitesimally small structures, where the basal understanding of universal arrangement (and well, life) cannot be so neatly predeterministic, even if visually presented as chaotic in arrangement. That said, one cannot argue with fractal patternation as an life-affirming tripsis to gawk at, especially when scale is modulated to moderate complexity and well-lit. Examination of human interaction with fractal imagery has deeper applications concerning art, wherein scaling complexity to moderately challenging, pleasing and easily read levels of detail has a measurably pronounced therapeutic effect upon the human brain. Sudbury, Ontario technical death metal trio Fractal Generator naturally opt for this moderate, readable complexity of forms in presentation of their second full-length album, ‘Macrocosmos‘, modulating the anxietous and cold density of post-millennium death metal intensity towards atmospheric flourish so that its greater structures are knowable (and even enjoyable) with some light study.

Formed as a technical death metal side project in 2007 as a space presented itself between the original line-up’s tasks in melodic black metal act Wolven Ancestry, the original duo consisted of vocalist Mark Howitt (Amaranth, Fleshcraft, Archaic North Entertainment) and prolific musician Darren Favot (Finnr’s Cane, As Autumn Calls) handling all of the instrumentation. The result of this early experiment would produce a single demo (‘The Cannibalism of Objects‘, 2008) which served as a neatly readable sketch of their intentions. Fractal Generator appears to have been dormant until roughly 2013 when members of Fleshcraft and Symbiotic Growth would join Favot (or, 040118180514 as he is designated here) and eventually piece together a full-length (‘Apotheosynthesis‘, 2015) that erred to a somewhat too complex set of ideas, pulling influences from technical black metal, grindcore, brutal death, and beyond while still attempting to contain and represent it all. For those seeking high impact needling works, such as those from Artificial Brain and Gigan, no doubt that first album has the sci-fi essence and some of the cold-steeled performative value of those sort. Here six years later Fractal Generator are still a dense and often rigidly textured technical death metal experience but they’ve put some solid work into groove and flourish that settles down into stronger tunefulness, something closer to Abysmal Dawn, Decapitated‘s ‘The Negation’ or earlier Desecravity where the breathing room allowed helps ‘Macrocosmos’ thrive within more a more repeatable listening experience without losing their brutal mid-to-late 2000’s sci-fi tech death metal edge.

Although scaling back on performative value slightly does push the “timeliness” of ‘Macrocosmos’ about a decade in the past at face value this concession proves itself virtuous for a sub-genre entry sort of release for those of use who’ve spent several decades following technical death metal whilst growing ever-tired of gimmick’d techniques and flash for the sake of being noticed rather than musical. If that sounds conservative in stance, sure, fair enough depending what you want from limit-breaking death metal values but my intent is to lead with the suggestion that ‘Macrocosmos’ will last on your shelf as a product of passionate interest in complex death metal movements rather than “attention seeking behavior”-core — Its value extends beyond guitar heroics even if Fractal Generator expresses a high skill level. The catch is that that value does breach into the realm of early 2000’s nostalgia where I’d personally thrived between Polish brutal death metal, the earlier waves of post-‘Conquerors of Armageddon’ Brazilian bands, and the brilliant technical death metal landscape out of Canada after bands like Cryptopsy and Gorguts hit upon their breaking points. If you’re unsure where I’m hearing this it all boils down to rhythmic phrasing via bludgeoning grooves written for two guitars with the primal example being ‘King of All Kings’-era Hate Eternal. This isn’t to suggest Rutan and co. had a stranglehold on this style of rhythm guitar over rolling blasts but that this would be the way forward until a point of exhaustion around the mid-2000’s, and it serves as fluidic differentiation from the influence of albums like ‘Path of the Weakening’. I’d suggest this general arena is the basis of what “riff pocket” had likely fired up these guitarist’s compositional ear either in formative years or recent study.

Opener and title track “Macrocosmos” finds its wriggling machined hits with some immediacy but quickly squeezes in whistling and sustained science fiction apropos synth, initially wrinkling my nose at its late 90’s Fear Factory-esque warbling ’til the song itself breaks into full keyboard runs that accompany and shape the main rhythm of the song. Here we can figure why they’ve chosen producer Stefano Morabito, not only for the polished clarity of the release but for the clear influence from his decade-long relationship with Hour of Penance as these keys ring of their earlier, most brutal era. As Side A plugs on these smaller atmospheric details become more important, one could argue that the vibe of a songs like “Aeon” and especially “Serpentine” could be reduced to Tucker-era Morbid Angel-isms to some degree but this only speaks to the skeletal features of ‘Macrocosmos’ being sound and doesn’t account for the enlightened technical/brutal death metal voicing of these ideas. Slowing into these molten grooves becomes a key feature that allows for the rhythm guitars to reach for more than riffs but phrasal movements that frame the deeply growled narrative, hitting a nigh theatrical narrative peak with “Chaosphere” as we fold into Side B. For my own taste this is where the album becomes especially gratifying in terms of these texturally rabid guitar motions and some of the more standout keyboard/synth adornment.

The dissonant shatter and crawling reverberation of “Pendulum” is more or less the point of breaking (in a good way) for me as a listener, where I’d start to take serious ear to ‘Macrocosmos’ and appreciate its fineries. I particularly love how the conclusion of this piece hammers right into “Primordial”, a very simple song that serves as the static chaotic force to slow the momentum of ‘Macrocosmos’ as we near the end of the full listen with “Ethereal”. Fractal Generator stop just shy of too much as they do their best to find a satisfying conclusion to said momentum: A spoken roar, a trilling hammer-on riff and a simple piano progression simply fade out as if there were more to come if this rift’d open again. This was both a relief as a stopping point and a frustrating teleport away before the core intensity of the album had neatly resolved itself. In reflection of this thread of duality in expression I’d eventually find the album equal parts merciful and hyper-focused, a tunnel-envisioned quest that allows just enough slowed and panoramic moments that it doesn’t spike the ear with egoistic fiddling or break its intense immersive quality. Consider it an experience personified by a mathematician who enjoys hallucinogenic drugs, sure they can show their work on paper to meet a genius standard but, they’re ultimately most concerned with their own ornate perspective of the universe. I’d found it endearing, convincing, and ultimately a very tasteful take on technical death metal complexity with readable musical value in hand and palpably dynamic intensity in practice. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (70/100)

Rating: 7 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:FRACTAL GENERATOR
TITLE:Macrocosmos
TYPE:LP
LABEL(S):Everlasting Spew Records
RELEASE DATE:January 15th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Technical Death Metal

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