Control Denied – The Fragile Art of Existence

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Reviewed: December 1999
Released: 1999, Nuclear Blast Records
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Joe

As a rather big fan of Chuck Schuldiner’s work with Death, I was immediately intrigued when I read in some guitar magazine way back in 1996 (See… I used a 4 digit year…I’m Y2K compliant!) that Chuck wanted to form a new band where he could just concentrate on playing guitar and have someone who could actually “sing” handle the vocals. A new band that would have a “more traditional” metal sound. “Sounds cool”, I thought. “Can’t wait to hear that!” Well, waiting was something that I, and everyone else who wanted to hear this CD had to do quite a bit of. But after three and a half years, the wait is finally over.

Plagued from the beginning, this CD could’ve been called “The Album That Almost Never Happened”. According to the information I’ve read on the subject of Control Denied, apparently Chuck had quite a bit of difficulty getting record labels interested in the project. So much so, that it ended up being temporarily scrapped in order to produce a new Death album, The Sound of Perseverance. (Even the mightiest of metal gods require food and rent money.) Fortunately though, after Nuclear Blast signed Death to their roster of bands, the label also gave Chuck the necessary green light to once again pursue Control Denied.

After fulfilling all Death-related obligations, the Control Denied line-up, which consists of guitarist Shannon Hamm, drummer Richard Christy (who both appeared on Death’s TSOP), ex-Psycho Scream vocalist Tim Aymar, renowned metal bassist Steve DiGiorgio (ex-Death / Sadus / Testament), and of course, Chuck S., entered Morrisound Studios to record what was probably to be the most anticipated album of Chuck’s career. The actual recording was possibly the smoothest part of the whole project. Originally, this CD was slated for release sometime in August. Then it was pushed back to September. Then October 19th, the 26th, November 23rd, then the 30th,… Then, on top of all the artwork/printing problems which kept causing the delays, Chuck announced his illness to the metal press. One would be tempted to believe that the album was cursed.

I was fortunate enough to receive my copy of TFAOE on December 3rd. At first, I was a little disappointed. Not because I thought that the music was bad, but because I was expecting Control Denied to be somewhat farther removed from Death. Anyway, to make a long story short, I gave it a few listens and now I love it. (It’s definitely a “grower”.) Some of the CD’s highlights include “Expect the Unexpected”, “When the Link Becomes Missing”, and the opening track “Consumed”. All of the musicians involved turn in exceptional performances, which isn’t surprising given the level of quality of Chuck’s past work with Death. Basically, The Fragile Art of Existence is a shining example of the excellence North American metal musicians are capable of when they don’t allow the desire for fame and fortune to cloud their musical vision.

So if you’re a fan of bands like Death, Nevermore, or progressive / technical metal in general, then check out Control Denied. At the very least, it should help restore your belief in the integrity of North American musicians.


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