Release DetailsLABEL Metal Blade Records
RELEASED ON 4/11/2006
Fragments of Unbecoming
Sterling Black Icon - Chapter III - Black But Shining
posted on 4/2006 By:
Here we have Fragments of Unbecoming with not only a new logo but the third part to their ongoing saga to boot. I honestly would have expected a band like this to come from American shores, but after repeated listening, a distinctive European flair begins to emerge in their sound besides the more common feigned facade that comes with the territory of worshiping Swedish death metal. Anyways, this band is by far worthy of notice in their own respect.
On the one hand, Fragments of Unbecoming have fixed some of their starkly dull and flat production issue of their previous effort, yet despite the improvements of a more richer guitar tone and a sharper sound, the overall production of Sterling Black Icon sounds surprisingly flat. Most of these problems are due to the low end of the frequency seeming ghastly misplaced from the mastering and the drums sounding muffled and slightly absent from the mix gut a lot of the pummeling rhythmic intensity that the music may have been able to muster under different circumstances. No it doesn’t really ruin the listening experience, but I had to manually up the bass levels on whatever audio medium I was listening to this on to get what I’d expect the intended full experience to be.
Their heavy use of melody has always landed them mainly in the territory of Dark Tranquillity, but it seems Fragments of Unbecoming have started backing down from as much of a reliance on their previous At the Gates tendencies exhibited earlier in their career. To put it bluntly, if you’ve ever heard any band that remotely consider themselves a part of the Gothenburg style of death metal there’s not much left to the imagination of what’s to be found on Sterling Black Icon, especially if you’re in any way familiar with the band.
To their credit, Fragments of Unbecoming make a habit of keeping their delivery rhythmically varied though there isn’t much in the way of dynamic variety or contrast between the riffs themselves. I greatly enjoyed the inclusion of death metal barks due to the switch of vocalist and the guitars offer some interesting moments like those on “Live for This Moment Stay Till the End” and “Stand the Tempest” that exhibit some poignant use of melody while songs like “Sterling Black Icon” and “Weave Their Barren Path” are impressive in their scope of commanding ability in both style and execution. Granted much of the material is quality midpaced to fast death, when the slower tracks like “Dear Floating Water”, “Breath in the Black to See”, or the instrumental “Onward to the Finger of God” kick in, I can’t help but notice how severely they suffer from a noticeable decrease in the level of intensity albeit I’m certain they were meant to be brooding and somber.
Hopefully I’m not the only one to notice this, but Fragments of Unbecoming start off Sterling Black Icon with the same style of melodic acoustic passage they chose to open Skywards – A Sylphe’s Ascension along with similar outros albeit they opted for a soft piano interlude on “Chambre Notre (Departure)" to end this time. Perhaps it's continuity of vision since their albums are, after all, a part of a series; perhaps it's stagnation and an inability to derivate from their own conventional structure. I leave it to you to decide, but I tend not to like the feeling of déjà vu when listening to an album.
But Fragments of Unbecoming just doesn’t pack the same appeal for me as the punch of bands like Centinex or even the heavy melodic ting of a band like Callenish Circle. Hell, some of the riffs seem like they wouldn’t be out of place juxtaposed with The Black Dahlia Murder or any other band with their own take on the Swedish death sound but my issue is that I can’t help but feel it’s all been done before in different contexts.
I know the new American metal and NWSDM community are going to descend upon this release and devour it like a flock of carrion birds stalking a dying animal, but for the veteran fans of the melodic death genre I think they’re going to be looking for something with a bit more substance and ability to stand out from the crowd. I’ve probably come across harsher than intended with my critique (In all honesty I like the band and was more than happy to review this release) but my issue is that with the technical capacity and musical chops of a band like Fragments of Unbecoming it’s extremely disconcerting to see it displayed in such a mundane fashion. I’m not exactly certain they've outdone their last effort, but I am willing to admit they have developed themselves in many areas. However, I still feel that there’s a gratuitous lack of something, be it identity or inspiration that runs rampant throughout Sterling Black Icon.
Register to post comments.