Montréal Quintet Fractal Cypher aren’t one of those bands you can easily categorise. Mixing a blend of Power Metal in the vain of Sonata Arctica and Avantasia, but with an aggressive, progressive and technical edge that would sit comfortably along-side the likes of Devin Townsend or Scar Symmetry. Much like the title of their album ‘The Human Paradox’, the mixing of these styles would seem somewhat paradoxical, however they are successfully and seamlessly blended to work cohesively with one another, thanks to keyboardist Ludovick Daoust’s superb songwriting ability.
Both ’Lost’ and ‘Endless Circle’ kick off the album with a clear, progressive narrative, transitioning dynamically and in tempo throughout, immersing the listener into their musical journey, whilst ‘Prison Planet’ features exotic synth melodies, Vincent Bruneau’s lead guitar passages and strong rhythmic complexity of Tommy Fradette’s Bass playing off against Steven Cope’s Drumming. I particularly like the brief departure of clean vocals, making way for a darker musical backdrop and harsh vocals.
The Human Paradox includes a couple of powerful ballad tracks, ‘Shining A While’ and ‘Awakening’, both featuring clean vocals, plenty of guitar solos and an important shift in emotional dialogue, emphasising not only an obvious tempo change but signifying a switch of direction in the story’s narrative.
My personal favourite on the album comes in the form of a switch of direction towards darker, harder-edged territory. Aside from the clean vocals, ’Imminent Extinction’ has very little of the Power Metal characteristics and delves full-on into Modern Technical Death Metal territory, even introducing the odd peppering of Djent into the mix. Extreme vocal parts are more prominent and there is a distinctly bleaker tone both musically and lyrically. It’s a fascinating, well-crafted blend of genres – I’m liking this a lot!
Much like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the aforementioned ballad track ’Awakening’ offers a moment of respite as it kicks off the closing third of the album with its optimistic tone and reflective, hopeful lyrics. From here on in the hopefulness is refreshing and completes a well-rounded narrative and the expanse of musical influence keeps me coming back to this album time and time again.
Having been provided a digital copy of the album’s booklet, I’ve taken the time to read through the lyrics. Much like the musical journey, there is a strong element of storytelling here, provided by the band’s lyricist / vocalist Simon Lavoie. These are not merely a selection of songs shoved together simply to keep the musical ebb and flow balanced, the lyrics themselves are an intricate part of the album-long journey. Early on, Fractal Cypher’s world is portrayed as a desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with disillusionment, desperation and fear. As the album plays out, the mood switches to reflection, with a growing sense of hope through strength and resistance against subjection. Without spoiling the finale, I will say the lyrics portray self-awareness, a sense of knowing and acceptance for what is to come. It leaves me intrigued for what can follow ‘The Human Paradox’ and I only hope that the band produces something as absorbing and compelling on their next venture as they have with this debut – they’re definitely one to keep an eye on, that’s for sure.
Video: Fractal Cypher – ‘Idle Words’ (Official Playthrough)