My first experience with Italian symphonic metal gurus Graveworm came in the form of 2003’s landmark, and for the band, breakthrough album Engraved In Black. I literally could not get enough of this album, and it stayed a staple in my rotation for years. After being thoroughly disappointed with the follow up (N)Utopia, the band did a complete 180 with the stunningly excellent Diabolical Figures, which to this day is my favorite Graveworm release. After setting the bar impossibly high with its predecessor, their newest release Fragments of Death is a noticeably less inspired, though still excellent addition to their ever-maturing catalogue.

The proceedings kick off with “Insomnia,” the typically extreme, pedal to the floor introductory metal album track systematically designed to get the blood pumping. It works. Graveworm generally tend to play a sort of symphonic, mid-to fast tempo brand of blackened death metal, and as a result this track isn’t really representative of their sound over their career, but rather this particular release. The following track reinforces this stylistic change, with a crunchy rhythm punctuated by running double bass and atmospheric keyboards. The album continues in this stride until the third track, one of the standouts “Absence of Faith.” This is a mid-tempo ballad song of sorts, with an easily discernable verse, chorus, verse, chorus structure and gorgeous piano and guitar interplay, and is representative of the Graveworm most listeners are used to.

“Living Nightmare” pushes things along, and has some surprising percussive twists, including some odd time signatures, staccato double bass drum work and some of the catchiest synth work to be found. This is definitely another heavy one, and has great live setting potential. “The World Will Die In Flames” is an eerie, slow affair, with some haunting melodies and gut punching, powerful tone.  There is a truly impressive ambience to this track that makes it another stand out, with particular praise to be heaped on the keyboards. “Anxiety” is an interesting piece, with a strong, forward lead guitar melody that seems more appropriate for an Amorphis release, and sees the band experimenting with female vocals. While decent in concept and even in composition, the female vocalist is just terrible. Sadly, this makes a fine song almost unlistenable. Moving on.

“See No Future” sees the band drawing heavily on their death metal influences for a time, with incredibly guttural, brutal death growls and blast beats galore. The album shifts into mid gear for a brief period, before quickly smashing the listener of the head with a baseball bat of atmospheric melodicness. “The Prophecy” is a skippable instrumental that does more to hinder the flow of the album than it does to create atmosphere. “Remembrance” is another heavy song, this time creating an interesting meld between the band’s signature sound with heavy doses of early black metal and Swedish death metal. Very comparable to the previous album’s introductory track “Vengeance Is Sworn.”

“Old Forgotten Song” will certainly never be an apt way to describe this masterfully crafted piece of music. With blistering percussion coupled with ominous guitar riffing, and moody guitar leads, this is my favorite track on the album. Not content to go out on a low note, the closer “Where Angels Do Not Fly” is an exercise to head banging tolerance, an absolute monster of a song with beautifully melodic lead guitars, again reminiscent of the Scandinavian melodic death metal scene. Production wise, this album is a bit of a mixed bag compared to their previous effort. On one hand there is a lot to like, such as the drum production and the faint, yet definitely present placing of the synthesizers. On the other hand, forget the bass even exists, and the lead guitars lack significant presence. Combine that with the absurdly overloud vocals, and you have a sort of decent, but sadly underwhelming sound. All in all, this a small step back from the game changing Diabolical Figures, yet still a decent, even above average symphonic black metal album, well worth a purchase.