Home > Music > Control Denied – The Fragile Art Of Existence (1999)

Control Denied – The Fragile Art Of Existence (1999)

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Here’s an album I’m kind of conflicted about upon deciding to review. Let’s see how long that lasts.

You see, Control Denied is basically Chuck Schuldiner of Death admitting that he wants to do a traditional/power metal album and hiring a vocalist trained in the style he wants (Tim Aymar) to finish an aesthetic shift that had begun years ago. As a result, it often feels more authentic and passionate than the final Death album (The Sound of Perseverance), which ironically enough was intended to come out under this name and with vocals similar to the ones here. On the other hand, it doesn’t bother to fix the biggest issue in the band’s songwriting.  Almost every song Death has written hews to a very specific formula – verse/chorus/extended bridge/verse/chorus, and it gets quite grating once you notice it. On the simpler, earlier material, it doesn’t really matter, but it’s a serious problem when you’re trying to convince everyone you’re a “progressive metal” act.

Another problem with Death is that they’re usually pretty monophonic; the writers in the band began to alleviate this over time, but on The Fragile Art of Existence, the sung vocals of Tim Aymar pretty much fix this, and you won’t get any objections about his presence from me. On some of the demos that lead to this album’s existence, Chuck Schuldiner tried his hand at clean vocals, creating a sort of low, constrained sound that’s difficult to explain. Aymar is similar, but he pulls the style off more effectively, with greater range, stronger projection, and occasional multitracked harmonies. This is really the most drastic change in the band’s formula, since the rest of this album showcases the somewhat technical, somewhat melodic, but otherwise relatively sparse speed/thrash style Death had moved towards at the end of its existence. Chuck Schuldiner’s ability to find skilled musicians dates back at least to 1990’s Spiritual Healing, when he conscripted James Murphy of Obituary, and it definitely leads to the occasional pleasant surprise, like the aforementioned’s skilled guitar leads, or Steve Digiorgio’s active basslines.

Basically, I have no choice but to declare The Fragile Art of Existence an improvement over its predecessor. I don’t know if I’d put it over what I feel are the high points of Death’s career (Spiritual Healing and Symbolic, in case you wonder), but that’s primarily because those are rather different in their execution and style. Because the songwriting on this album shows off the legacy of decades of metal (with hints of Death’s extreme past leaking into less intense and more basic stuff, with power metal vox on top), it’s very likely that anyone who’s even remotely interested in metal will find something to enjoy in the work of Control Denied. However, I still think some more focus and sophisticated songwriting would’ve come in handy…

Highlights: “Consumed”, “Expect the Unexpected”, “Believe”

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