posted on 8/2009 By:
Once upon a time—in 2004, to be precise—Augury were frequently described as the next big up-and-comer from Montreal’s burgeoning death metal scene. With Concealed, a debut album that fused precision-strike DM with orchestral black metal and bizarre theatrics, these young metallers drew some very flattering comparisons to countrymates like Cryptopsy and Gorguts. Augury, it seemed, was destined for success.
Then they stalled out.
Sure, the band put out an unsigned—and scarcely-promoted—demo EP in 2006. But for the most part, the Augury camp has been emitting only a stream of lineup-shift announcements, member-sharing arrangements with other bands (Negativa and Quo Vadis especially), and unresolved hints at new material. Now that five years have gone by and Augury has emerged sans female vocal slot and all-star drummer Etienne Gallo, Fragmentary Evidence has genuinely achieved that holy grail of PR copywriters: “much-awaited” status. Unfortunately, for all its strengths, this disc marks a definite retrenchment in Augury’s sound.
That said, if your interest in Augury stems purely from their progressive death chops, there’s a good chance that you’ll find Fragmentary Evidence highly satisfying. The bulk of this album consists of tangled, thicker-than-tar riffing—Canadian heft shot through with the esoteric melodies of a Death or Cynic. Blasts are still abundant, but the whacko time signature quotient has been upped significantly this time around, as demonstrated by the slippery mid-tempo churn of opener “Aetheral.”
So, too, has superstar bassist Dominic “Forest” Lapointe been given more room to shine. His fluid runs punch through Patrick Loisel and Mathieu Marcotte’s massive guitars remarkably well, and his melodic sensibility helps to drive Fragmentary Evidence’s abundant quiet interludes, especially on the album’s two epics (“Jupiter to Ignite” and “Oversee the Rebirth”). His rhythm-section mate Antoine Barille fills the departed Gallo’s shoes more than adequately, tackling Augury’s intricate structures and dynamic shifts with confidence and a sharp sense of groove. The Hugues Deslauriers/Jean-Francois Dagenais/James Murphy production, mix and mastering job allows all four musicians plenty of space and weight—this is definitely a headphones album.
These elements, taken together, make Fragmentary Evidence a dense, challenging, and well-played progressive death metal album…but a slightly standard one, and frankly, I expect more from a band like Augury after a five-year wait. Though Augury accomplish their goals admirably here, those goals have been scaled back considerably since the Concealed days. Stripped of their oddball female vocals and much of their black metal influence, these guys have largely ceased to be the interdisciplinary metal act of five years ago, and have thus lost some of their distinctiveness.
In fact, the only holdover stylistic quirk from Augury’s past is Patrick Loisel’s proclivity for gruff melodic vocals. The sung interjections serve two important functions: they provide a respite from Loisel’s often oppressively-layered death vox, and tellingly, they provide Fragmentary Evidence with some much-needed hooks (see “Simian Cattle” and especially “Sovereigns Unknown”). Further, the only one of the album’s seven (!) guest vocal appearances to make any impact whatsoever is that of uneXpect’s Leilindel, whose operatic chirp catalyzes “Brimstone Landscape” into a stunning blastbeaten ending.
Unfortunately, such moments are few and far between, and the bulk of Fragmentary Evidence consists of interesting but dry prog-death…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Augury is certainly capable of more. Concealed was no masterpiece, but it suggested that these Canucks might be capable of producing a truly genre-transcendent album in the future. Though Fragmentary Evidence excels in many ways, it is not that album.
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