Quite an unusual lineup for this recently constituted 5-piece: the singer Jim Johnsonis from the USA, as well as renowned skinbeater Mark Zonder, who's recorded his tracks in his own studio in California, while the rest of the members hail from Russia and Ukraine. If we consider that the keys and synth tracks were recorded in the USA, that almost every instrument was recorded in a different studio (big or small), the mixing was performed at a different studio than the one used for the mastering, it's comprehensible that this collage by a project band isn't 100% tuned and a few things could be improved with a leader managing all the inputs; still, we can't complain too much being the first offering from this multinational act.
"Welcome" opens the hostilities and the special form of Power/Thrash unveils all its beauty: great riffs, tight granitic drumming with perfect timing, and the irritated vocals of JJ supported by the backing vocals by Johan Aremyr, Pontus Norgren and Hammerfall's Joacim Cans. Not everybody can be at ease with the lead vocals, often similar to Violence's, a sort of vocals you either love or hate.
The long "Deceitful Heart" starts with an arpeggio reminding of Pantera's "Cemetery Gates", even if soon the vocals and the fashion the composition develops make us think of a lullaby alternated with a Heavy metal mid-tempo. Here the vocals vary from angelic to angry and adrenalinic, and even effected, showing all the combo's souls, completed by the acceleration in the last two minutes.
Closer to the German and Scandinavian Power metal scene, "Oblivion" has actually given me some assimilation problems, partly due to the vocalist's scarce vocal expressivity and his not charming enough timbre. The good news comes from the axe solo and the top-notch entwining between guitars and drums.
The closer "Epilogue" is the song where the keys are more present; an active, crushing track able to involve, where the man behind the mike seems to deliver his full potential, the keys are dark and drilling and the arrangement achieves the record's peak. Steve S. surpasses himself in his blitzkrieg solo and the climax brings to the end of this EP which needs to be considered by all those in love with progressive Thrash, Power and even some Heavy metal fans.
"Fragments" works on many levels, and still it leaves plain evidence that stellar quality levels can be achieved in the US/Russian outfit's debut album in terms of better vocals and smoother songs. At the same time it's already possible to enjoy this appetizer which isn't going to spoil your appetite for the main meal, so put your hands on this mini-CD if you can and make acquaintance with the several facades the quintet displays.
MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - June 30, 2012
Line-up on this record
Jim Johnson - v., k.
Roman Guryev - lead g.
Steve S. - rhythm g.
Lena H. - b.
Mark Zonder - d. (also in Slavior, Jim Matheos, Warlord, ex-Fates Warning, ex-Under Radio, ex-Cans); now replaced by Andrej Ischenko (Ashen Light, Divizion S-187, Grace Disgraced, Melissa, RD, Salantina, Scartown, Stigmatic Chorus, Viper Inc, Изморозь, Рогатые Трупоеды, Arcana Imperia (live), ex-Dreaming Soul, ex-End Zone, ex-Mortem, ex-X-Rated 6ex6ex6ex, ex-Symbol, ex-Catharsis, ex-Crystal Abyss, ex-Esgharioth, ex-Hatecraft, ex-Kartikeya, ex-Scrambled Defuncts, ex-Scream in Darkness, ex-Shadow Host, ex-Калевала, ex-Sinful (live), ex-Вал'кирия (live), ex-Hieronymus Bosch
Jim Johnson, 2073 Central Pkwy, Florissant, MO 63031 - USA
-Fragments (mini-CD - 2012)