In Praise of “Gloire Éternelle” by First Fragment (#9 in 2021’s Top Ten)

Have you ever played a scale on the guitar before? There are all sorts of scales and all sorts of ways to play them. With enough practice and patience, you might be able to memorize some, and the longer you play, the more creative you can get with them. The exception, of course, are the guitarists of First Fragment, who must’ve been practicing the major scale by the time their fingers formed in their mother’s wombs and were born able to play all the modes up and down the neck of their little My Newborn’s First Guitar; it’s the only possible explanation for the band’s newest release, “Gloire Eternelle”.

High speed scale runs are simultaneously the backbone of many subgenres of metal and, if you’re technical enough, one of the easiest ways to phone-in creativity. For Canadian extreme neoclassical metal outlet First Fragment (their words, not mine), high speed scale runs are both the backbone of their sound and some of the strongest expressions of their creativity in an album with more gratuitous ridiculousness than it knows what to do with. When the band isn’t serenading you with Oldpeth-esq acoustic passages, popping off swing-driven breakdowns (of which they call “swingdowns”), or reminding you that flamenco and shred metal are cousins to each other, First Fragment is solo’ing you into submission with cheerfully flamboyant displays of guitar noodling wizardry. Paired with a warm mix paying homage to the best of 80s metal, and ‘Gloire Eternelle” has everything you could possibly want…

…until you have too much of it. The album’s length notwithstanding (71 minutes is a tough ask no matter who you are), it’s density almost becomes white noise as the album progresses. Its hard to speak of a solo or section of a particular song as a standout when everything is a standout, all of the time. By the time the closing track bookends back into the opening track, you’d be hard pressed to name your favorite moment on the album, it’s excess becoming it’s biggest obstacle to greater success. But, when one craves that insane excess, “Gloire Eternelle” more than delivers.

“Gloire Eternelle” by First Fragment is available wherever you get your albums. #8 tomorrow.

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