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Fractured Spine : The Price Of Retribution (EP)

An EP packed with diverse and hoarsely snarling Gothic bitterness showcases Fractured Spine's latest works.

OK, this is a personal thing, but I tend to look askance at bands named after unpleasant diseases and injuries. It's like taking an unimaginative pick from an 'approved edgy subjects' list, just so teenage fans can be certain their mums won't approve. Plus, as names, most of them just sound crap. Which is really about as far as my criticism of Fractured Spine begins and ends: ordinarily, I'd have looked at the monicker and skipped on by in search of something more meaningful-sounding. Like Stubbed Toe, or Wheezy Chest Cold, maybe (I hope to God those aren't actual band names...). And that would have been a pity, because in fact there's nothing cheap or unimaginative about what Fractured Spine've been doing with their music over the past decade, culminating in this latest EP.

'The Price Of Retribution' is part of a busy 2017 for cousins Antti and Timo Kirjavainen, which also included 'Anniversary Edition' re-releases of their two full-length albums, along with this all-new material. In some respects, they remind me a lot of the sadly-missed fellow Finnish duo Yearning: not least in the impressive way they produce full and intricate soundscapes that would put many a larger band line-up to shame. But actually, there are other similarities, in the many and varied elements mixed into their music - from the delicate to the sinister, the symphonic to the crushing, and the whole darkly epic atmosphere that infuses their work.

If anything, Fractured Spine might be considered too imaginative by some. Their willingness to weave across genre boundaries sometimes makes it difficult to pin them down with any particular tag, though Gothic Doom comes closest. 'Vision Of Tartarus' kicks off with a pacy and lilting melodic riff reminiscent of Forest Stream's 'Tears Of Mortal Solitude'; 'Pale Face From The Past' mixes up The Awakening's 'We Are the Dark Romantics' Goth-Rock stomp with some madly off-kilter dissonant guitar work; 'As I Bring Death To My Enemies' veers into the aforementioned Yearning's 'Frore Meadow' territory of combining orchestral bombast, quiet melody and Death/Doom attack. Quite the melting-point, thus far. Ignore the cheesy pretend-scratched-vinyl filter somewhat pointlessly (but fortunately briefly) overlaying the intro to 'I Have Earned My Despair', and you're into sinister growled-whispered-snarled territory that's part cinematic horror-movie score, part Nebular Moon Black/Death Metal; final track 'Still Beating' descends into new and claustrophic depths, an early Cemetery Of Scream-like mix of eerie melodies with coffin-heavy guitars signalling the last gasps of a failing life.

Fitting that much diversity into a brief thirty-minute outing might sound like a recipe for chaos, but one of Fractured Spine's strengths is in carrying through a consistency of mood regardless of the musical vehicle. In that, 'The Price Of Retribution' is a bit like a short shared-anthology of nightmarish tales, all set in the same sort of milieu, but authored by slightly different, equally poisoned, hands. That works for me, and since they're exploring the boundaries of one of my more-favoured genres, I've got no complaints whatsoever. It may not be the continuous showcase that preceding full-length 'Memoirs Of A Shattered Mind' represents, but it's just as packed full of hoarsely snarling bitterness and cruelty, and maybe even has the edge on putting different ideas into practice. Highly recommended.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Vision Of Tartarus
2. Pale Face From The Past
3. As I Bring Death To My Enemies
4. I Have Earned My Despair
5. Still Beating (Bonus Track)

Duration : Approx. 30 minutes

Visit the Fractured Spine bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-11-21 by Mike Liassides
Vanha - Black Lion
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