Fragment Soul – Axiom of Choice


Corfu quintet, Fragment Soul, are an unusual proposition. Draconian vocalist, Heike Langhans, is a part-time member of the band, and they pivot their sound towards the darker side of the rock spectrum while claiming to be a prog metal outfit. Let’s be clear: there is nothing on this record that would qualify as metal, but that’s not a problem. We cover everything from the death metal of Cannibal Corpse to the dark alternative music of The Cure at Scream Blast Repeat. Fragment Soul should fit in with our tastes, and they share some of the same records as we do, yet Axiom of Choice never reaches it full potential on their debut offering.

It starts well enough. The thirteen minutes and thirty seconds of ‘A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies’ showcases a remarkable vocal performance from Nick Argyriou, who flitters between Sade and Thom Yorke in a low tenor voice. It retains distance from the listener yet remains intimate at the same time. The sludgy bass notes and angelic female harmonies near the end will keep you captivated throughout, even if the simple guitar picking seldom escapes the dull reverberations of major chord choices. You know any signs of optimism will be short lived, but the sombre shades of Anathema and Katatonia work well in this arrangement. Fragment of Soul are a band that can get lost in the emotion of their own song.

With four tracks spanning over forty-minutes, you’ll find it difficult to approach each new composition when you see the long running times. ‘A Choice Between Two Evils’ wastes the first two minutes fretting slow chord formations that will remind you of the most boring acoustic parts of Depeche Mode’s Exciter album from 2001. A succession of crash cymbal accents and light organ change the mood and work well with the semi-distorted guitar work, but no chorus or structure appears at any point. We know this is progressive rock, but this is what Radiohead would sound like if they returned to a stripped-down sound of bass, guitar and drums and tried to emulate the middle-age slumber of REM. Only the splendour of Heike Langhan’s aching harmonies keeps the song alive.

At times, the music threatens to go off on a dark tangent but saunters in an alt-rock mindset that tames the mood and fails to make the most of the composition. The same happens on ‘Every Heart Sings a Song’, which relies too much on Heike Langhan’s harmonies and the naked beauty of Argyriou’s eloquent phonation. Nothing can justify this track stretching beyond eleven minutes, certainly not the lethargic arpeggios or uninspired guitar chords. Here’s where you want Fragment of Soul to make good on their identification with prog metal by stepping on the distortion pedal. Tesseract lead the way in juxtaposing the emotions of sorrow and anger and can offer the Corfu quintet a glimpse of how to combine the two on their next record.

Final track, ‘Oedipus Complex’, shows that Fragment of Soul have the talent for instrumental arrangement. Why they can’t write more songs like this is a mystery. Listen to those delicate drips of piano over the top of latent gothic keyboards and sliding bass guitar notes. This is how you translate the sorrows of life into the language of music. No vocals are needed here to enhance the tearful smiles and regrets of yesterday.

As a debut album, Axiom of Choice shows glimpses of greatness, but all too often lapses into a directionless introspection mired in lyrical stanzas that crumble under the weight of existential dilemmas. Sometimes these are poignant, but occasional clichés sprout through like weeds. Yet it’s worth multiple listens and the opening and closing tracks are strong.

In the end, you get what you put in with this record.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 07/05/2021

Record Label: Sleaszy Rider Records

Standout tracks: A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies, Oedipus Complex

Suggested Further Listening: Katatonia – City Burials (2020), Anathema – A Fine Day to Exit (2001), Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea (2020)