“Axiom of Choice” is Fragment Soul’s debut full-length, released independently in early May this year. I happened upon it by accident, after receiving an email that mentioned Heike Langhans (Draconian) in the subject heading. Upon further investigation, the description of the album immediately grabbed my attention: “Progressive Metal from a sorrowful world. A sweet melancholy with a glimpse of hope inside a horror reality.” I was sold. I purchased the album right away.
A couple things made me think the record was a good candidate for a joint review with Serena. First of all, because of Heike’s appearance, in addition to the fact that “Axiom of Choice” is a concept album, I had a feeling she would be interested. And I was certainly interested in her take on both the concept and the music. Secondly, upon hearing the first couple songs, I believed the world it created was a place magical enough to deserve to be written about from multiple points of view. The entire album is excellent, which you can hear for yourself. While you’re doing that, please enjoy this track by track discussion.
A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
VUK: This song opens like a dream, with that electronic ambience and sporadic guitar arpeggios and piano, almost as if the music needs to catch up with the thoughts of the protagonist. In this case, a man lost within the valleys of loss and regret. Fireflies and fairies dance in the sky around jazzy chords. Nick Argyriou’s vocals whisper a familiar longing.
“As we head for all the signs.
As we wonder aimlessly.
A piece within you take from me, walking
Backwards all alone.
Your shadow waiting.”
Heike’s vocals come in low in the mix towards the middle of the second verse, singing along with Nick…
“breathe, I want you to leave the light
in this barren world you’ll live in vain…”
Six minutes into this song, and the music just keeps swaying naturally. The listener doesn’t expect or desire a resolution. What conflict is present keeps us attentive, as the perfectly balanced atmosphere cradles our eardrums within a cocoon of seemingly immaterial nostalgia. We may be on a new road with Fragment Soul, but we’ve been been on roads similar enough to recognize a great story when we’re hearing one.
Serena: Lead singer Nick Argyriou’s voice pools over the instruments like slow-moving honey. Heike Langhan’s voice enters the mix with a softness that smoothes out the rougher-edged tones of the track. The piano notes are haunting, with a sound that calls to mind what stumbling across an old, tucked away memory feels like. Wiping the layer of dust off the stagnation, the guitars waver back in, and everything produces a pretty echo.
VUK: The song is over thirteen minutes long but it doesn’t seem like more than five. And this harkens back to something I wrote about the second track where time flows differently with this music.
“But time has a mind, of its own…
To think, I’d feel so alone…”
A Choice Between Two Evils
Serena: Perhaps I am projecting a bit here, but after listening to the lyrics of the other tracks and reading the album’s description once more (“Progressive Metal from a sorrowful world. A sweet melancholy with a glimpse of hope inside a horror reality”), I am under the impression that this is about a tumultuous relationship with parental figures that perhaps translated itself into a rough romantic relationship with a partner later on? The first set of lyrics here mention feeling sorrow in the veins, so I read that as either feeling shame for where you came from/who you came from, or it is possibly alluding to struggling through an addiction.
VUK: That’s a really interesting thought. My first impression of the album was that it seemed to function a bit like a love song. With the lovers perhaps split up by death. Suicide, or maybe a sickness. But my first impression of the entire album was kind of based on my experience with this song as a single (and the accompanying video, which you can find my review for here below.) And while some of this idea of the relationship may be accurate to a degree, I think you’re absolutely right. These characters’ connection is far more complicated than what’s visible on the surface… or through first impressions. Reviewing the lyrics from the first song, there is a line that didn’t hit me until now:
“You won’t sleep, this you should just realize,
orphaned freak, how you have
your mother’s eyes.”
What is interesting is that both Heike and Nick sing these words together. That’s when the female perspective starts making itself known musically. Then on this song, the male vocals are doubled (Egan O’Rourke of Daylight Dies.) It’s subtle, but extremely beautiful. Haunting, indeed, especially when doubled with the pipe organ lying just under the surface. All three voices come together with the words “Finally, we are alone… It lies ahead, Oh…Sweet unknown.” An absolutely stunning triple vocal harmony.
By the time this song is over, the story gets lost within the music, which is just perfection to my ears. So very powerful, layered like sheets struggling to settle under artful gusts of wind.
Every Heart Sings A Song
Serena: Regardless of the actual meaning beneath the words, the feeling here is clear – turmoil breeds sadness, and sadness breeds depression:
“I feel the dark like an endless sea.”
VUK: This song alone is quite the journey. The sadness and feelings of isolation and confusion are evident, yes. But there’s a hope underlying all of this. Musically, it seems to come in the form of stringed instruments. A cello here and there. A violin trio. Sparse but intentional piano notes. And now is as good a time as any to mention how incredible Spiros Georgiou’s bass playing is. There are moments throughout the album where the bass almost takes you by the hand and says “this way through the labyrinth.” All of these elements are present in “Every Heart Sings A Song.”
VUK: This title seemingly changes everything. Does this guy miss his mom? It doesn’t quite feel like an ending.
Serena: I can speak on this one! The Oedipus Complex, though a somewhat outdated theory now, is essentially a complex where a child feels attraction toward a parent of the opposite sex. This could also be tacked on to someone who seeks out their parent in a partner. Going back to that line in the first song, “Orphaned freak, how you have your mother’s eyes,” this could either be read as someone observing how they have taken on the unwanted and undesirable traits of a parent, or perhaps this is someone seeing their parent’s actions played out in a partner. An orphan, of course, is someone lacking a parent, but this could also be referring to someone who grew up without the warmth and affection of their parents, despite them being very much alive. It’s an interesting theory, to say the least, so I would recommend reading a bit about it because there is much more to it than simple attraction!
I do feel as though this particular track acts as more of an interlude, rather than a closing piece. It’s beautiful, yes, but it leaves you wanting more out of the album instead of leaving you with a sense of closure – upon writing this, it made me think that could potentially (emphasis on potentially) be what they’re going for? Maybe the singer never got closure for the pain he has been made to feel? I am absolutely reading far too deep into it, but hey, someone’s gotta do that from time to time.
VUK: Haha! Reading into things is what we do! Your theory is as good as any, and Fragment Soul clearly spent a great deal of time putting the pieces of this record together. I don’t think any of it is accidental. While the way “Oedipus Complex” leaves us with an almost open-ended feeling, there is truth there that can’t be denied. After all, what is it he calls his life at the end of “Every Heart…”
A martyrdom of pain.”
There absolutely seems to be more to the story, as there almost always is. Perhaps this is where we’re supposed to think for ourselves. Or perhaps the tale will continue on album number two. Either way, I’m sold.
VUK: “Axiom of Choice” is a brilliant record, and in ways it takes multiple listens to appreciate… while at the same time satisfying for anyone who only listens once. Masterful songwriting from start to finish.
Serena: This album is certainly solid in standing. I’d be interested to see what direction they choose to go in the future.