Full Strength

Grade: 3½/5

I did a bit of a double take when I first wrapped my ears around this debut release from Compos Mentis. Awash with a stunning combination of classic melodic metal straight out of the NWOSDM handbook and a symphonic keyboard accompaniment, it appeared that Compos Mentis were the next big thing to come out of Sweden. However, upon further research it turns out that CM are DANISH! Not that such a revelation should be held against them (their scene is extremely healthy - check the latest Koldborn disc), it's juts not that obvious.
Compos Mentis is a five-piece unit, and is one of the newer acts looking to find their place with this whole Scandinavian melodic metal genre. Of course, they've made a rather stiff rod for their back considering the overabundance of such bands churning out this stuff. Fortunately for CM's material, their take on this style is not the worst you could hear. Obviously, it isn't the most original either, and you can name your glut of Swedish influences (Dark Tranquillity, In Flames etc) influences that are all over this disc. Add a touch of Finnish Children of Bodom, particularly their earlier black/thrash material and you start to see a pattern forming here.
The production of 'Fragments...' is clean and concise with just the right mix between guitars and the sweeping epic like keyboard passages that add color and atmosphere to the majority of the eight tracks within.
Speed wise, 'Fragments...' is a typically paced melodic death metal album - lots of mid paced/mid tempo sections that allow for some killer riffs to shine through. The double bass quota is also quite prominent, particularly when the band step up the pace via the introduction of well-placed blast beats here and there. Overall, 'Fragments..' is content to envelope the listener in it's classic mid paced tempo while also giving their melodic elements to take center stage throughout the entire disc. Their riffing and melodic variations are all 'classic' Swedish style - if you worship this sound, then CM will provide you with countless memorable moments. The thing is, and this is where my negative comments lie, you've actually heard these riffs and melodic refrains before. They may not be note for note, but damn it, there is a distinct element of déjà vu on 'Frgaments..' I like the individual twists that CM have applied to this style, yet it may need a little more refinement for their next album. Perhaps they could throw in a bit of their own 'Danish' groove into the mix. Now that would be a good thing.
'Fragments of a Withered Dream' is a solid, if not entirely original melodic metal album. Blessed with a crisp production and vocalist who sticks to the harsh, aggressive tones (no In Flames/Soilwork path here folks) of yesteryear, 'Fragments..' works well within its rather tired and simplistic melodic metal approach. I look forward to their next installment...