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Control Denied: The Fragile Art of Existence

The Fragile Art of Existence is renowned Death guitarist/singer Chuck Schuldiner's swan song to his fans before he lost his two-year battle against cancer in the end of 2001. Control Denied was his side project which he had put together in order to concentrate more on his guitar playing and unique songwriting. Chuck does not do his trademarked death vocals on this one. Enter Tim Aymar (Psycho Scream, Pharaoh) with traditional Heavy Metal-like vocals that are often compared to the likes of Rob Halford, Warrel Dane and Bruce Dickinson. While I don't hear the Dickinson influence, I tend to agree with the Halford/Dane comparisons to an extent, as Tim Aymar belts out some scary high screams like Halford and possesses a similar delivery to Dane. You need to check out his band Pharaoh if you want to hear more of that. This album was originally intended to have Nevermore singer Warrel Dane on vocals, but things didn't work out and Tim Aymar got the gig. I love Warrel Dane's vocals to no end, but Tim Aymar really gives this album its final touch as a killer frontman.

Shannon Hamm shares the guitar duties with Chuck, often playing cutting thrash-based riffs that sharply contrast Chuck's ethereal and textural playing which often spiral into crushing metal riffage during the solos and mid-sections of the tunes. Both guitarists interlock thrashy riffs alongside some curious tremelo picking and even add some plucked acoustic guitars ("When the Link Becomes Missing") which are later embraced by a forceful, melodic metal drive. The solo in this song is possibly my favorite on the album together with Chuck's textural playing in the closing track. It's a solo that builds up very slowly and becomes this intense, passionate expression towards the end -- it simply sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. Steve DiGiorgio and Richard Christy continue to be an unmatchable duo in thrash/death metal driven music as DiGiorgio plays fat bass figures as well as interesting funky melodies, as in the intro of "What If ...?", and works his bass as an independent instrument throughout the whole album. Richard Christy is a great fit for this type of music, though I feel his snare sound gets a little muffled in some parts because of the mix, but he proves to be the perfect drummer for Control Denied in the way he exhibits powerful synchopated rhythms and technically impossible drum fills.

What makes The Fragile Art of Existence so great, in my opinion, is that it consists of only eight tracks and has a total running time of 50 minutes. There are no fillers here; each song is compositionally-strong, graced by brilliant musicianship and a fitting production (by Chuck and Jim Morris). The progressive side explored on Death's last album, The Sound of Perseverance, is even more boldly carried over to this album, particularly in the multi-textured "Expect the Unexpected", which not only has a great vocal melody, but also features various harmony changes. The centrepieces of the album, "What If ....?" and "When the Link Becomes Missing" are both thrash-rooted progressive songs in a way that allow Chuck to play textural guitars that fiercely contrast the otherwise heavy music, mainly driven by Hamm and DiGiorgio. This is further explored in the almost 10-minute epic, "The Fragile Art of Existence", which is Chuck's testament to stylistic cohesion and passionate songwriting. Three minutes into the song, Aymar coldly utters the words "NO TIME FOR SELF-PITY" and the textured guitar riffs are suddenly replaced by tasty guitar shred before giving way to the initial atmospheric guitar themes.

Chuck's lyrics on this one are perhaps his most introspective and personal lyrics (hence he chose a different project that would separate his musical vision from Death) and Travis Smith comes up with a very fitting artwork. The album is mixed, engineered and mastered by Jim Morris and co-produced by Chuck himself. If you're a metal fan, be it thrash, heavy or prog, and don't own this, then your collection is incomplete.

Track Listing
1. Consumed
2. Breaking the Broken
3. Expect the Unexpected
4. What If....?
5. When the Link Becomes Missing
6. Believe
7. Cut Down
8. Fragile Art of Existence

Added: February 16th 2008
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Related Link: Empty Words-The Official Chuck Schuldiner Website
Hits: 2902
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Control Denied: The Fragile Art of Existence
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-02-16 07:18:04
My Score:

****The Roundtable review refers to the 2008 remastered edition of The Fragile Art of Existence****

Control Denied's one and only musical statement, The Fragile Art of Existence, also happened to the be last official release from former Death guitarist/vocalist/mastermind Chuck Schuldiner before he died of brain cancer. Not only was it tragic that the metal world lost one of it's most visionary members, but the fact that this talented band was not allowed more time to show us what they could do is a real shame. This album will long do down in metal history as being one of the great debuts, a release that took the technical aspects of the final three Death albums but funneled that characteristic through a more classic and melodic metal approach. Schuldiner even decided for this band that his trademark growls would have to be replaced to further distance this band from Death, so enter vocalist Tim Aymar (Psycho Scream/Pharoah), whose high pitched screams and wails resemble Rob Halford and Warrel Dane, adding a new dimension to Chuck's songs. Also along for the ride were Death members Shannon Hamm (guitar), Richard Christy (drums), and bass virtuoso Steve Di Giorgio, who spent time with Death in an earlier incarnation, but also cut his teeth with bands such as Testament, Sadus, Iced Earth, and currently plays with Sebastian Bach.

Metal Mind Productions has given this reissue a sparkling remaster treatment-the sound here is powerful, bright, and punchy. The remastered gold CD comes housed in a wonderful digipack, complete with a nice booklet containing all the original Travis Smith artwork, lyrics, and even a lengthy essay about the history of the band that includes interview snippets with Chuck.

The music is quite remarkable throughout, continuing what Death started on The Sound of Perseverance but taking it to an even more melodic path. Schuldiner & Hamm's guitar work is technical & highly progressive here as far as the riffs go, and their solos are extremely tasty and melodic, opting for shred when necessary, but never overdoing it. Christy's drum work is amazing as always, but it's the gymnastic bass skills of DiGiorgio that is the secret weapon here. During each song you can hear his elastic, almost jazz- like fretless bass lines lurching about the mix, almost like a heavy metal version of Jaco Pastorius, adding an extra helping of melodic virtuosity to these challenging tracks. Hard to pick favorites among a list of strong ass kickers like this, but songs you should not miss are the crushing "When the Link Becomes Missing", the raging thrash of "Believe", and the complex progressive metal of "Breaking the Broken" and "Expect the Unexpected". Aymar proved to be the perfect singer for this band, giving these songs a dark menace with his mix of lower registered mysticism and high pitched screams. His chameleon- like performance on the closing title track, supported by some intricate & spirited guitar layers, makes for a chilling listen.

Apparently the band prepared and recorded a good amount of material for the follow-up to The Fragile Art of Existence before Schuldiner passed away, but it remains locked away in the vaults. Hopefully someday this material will get officially released, as Chuck's fans have long been waiting for the missing Control Denied album, which will finally close the book on this metal icon's career.

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