] Paranoid Zine [ February 2004
// Matjaz vs. Sascha Ehrich
Hello! First of all, congratulations for a great record. "Skywards - A Sylphe's Ascension" reminds us on great early days of Swedish (Göthenburg) Death Metal. What are the first press reactions on this record, I suppose not bad?
Thank you for the compliments. So far, the press reactions are very satisfying and in parts overwhelming. Naturally, there are a few negative responses, but in whole I really could not have honestly believed it if everybody who´s listening to metal music would be also fascinated by our compositions. Additionaly, this is our first full length album ever and much more listeners are involved in the material. In any case, the responses cause a flood of interviews and a general upgrowing interest in Fragments Of Unbecoming. As this fact definitely was one of our aims so far, we are very happy with "Skywards".
So, this reactions are one good reason more to celebrate this days around new year? Were parties now maybe more intense than in the past because of this?
Actually not. Perhaps because of the album yet was not released these days and we could not await the fixed release date by the end of January. Around New Year, the entire band was divided or scattered to the four winds :-) that is to say every one of us celebrated the turn of the year at different locations.
Well, Fragments Of Unbecoming is a new name in a death metal scene, still pretty unknown not only here in Slovenia, but on the international scene in general. So, could you introduce your band to metal fans here (a brief history, some key facts of the band etc.)?
In August 2000, Stefan (also guitarist in “VENERAL DISEASE”) and me (at that time also guitarist in “MORTIFIED”) decided to establish some kind of project dedicated to beloved Swedish Death Metal besides our more US-Death Metal orientated bands. I remember that we just rehearsed some dusty melodic riffs and tested song structures in order to finish any kind of song. At that time Ingo (also drummer in “VENERAL DISEASE”) took part in the fragmented band and we started to practise with upgrowing enthusiasm. After some month we replaced our session bass player with Wolle (at that time bassist in “TOMBTHROAT”) and it became more and more obvious to us to embody a stable band. Consistent, I left my band “MORTIFED” because of upcoming musical differences and concentrated more on the new challenge, some time later denominated “FRAGMENTS OF UNBECOMING”. Thus, in spring 2002 we had created enough songs to enter the studio for the first time to record our debut demonstration silverling called “Bloodred Tales - Chapter I The Crimson Season”, which found its way to Metal Blade who signed us in May 2003 for a number of five albums, exactly one year after the release of our demo.
You managed to achieve a very important thing, that some bands don't in many years - that is getting a big, important label. What was the key factor that Metal Blade signed you? Was it hard to convince them, that you're good?
Difficult to answer if we had to convince them of our some might call it talent or potential. Certainly you are right - there are thousands of underground acts that are fighting for years and are releasing one album or demo after the other to get paid attention. Thus, I can imagine that there are many who perhaps doubt if we deserved a serious deal with such a recommended metal label after only one demonstration release. On the other side of the horizon, Fragments Of Unbecoming is actually a formation performing a style that in these modern infected days nearly nowhere can be found again and according to our experience there is a numerous crowd waiting hungry for a band musically dedicated to the early Swedish Death Metal days - obviously, you are part of the lost hungry ones, too - as we naturally are! To take a view to the responsible demonstration release "Bloodred Tales - Chapter I The Crimson Season", I have to admit, that we invested our entire enthusiasm to put out a remarkable and outstanding edition which was e.g. described by the famous editor of the Chaos Mag as the state of art in newcomer releases. Besides, we got featured on two important compilation-CD´s dedicated to the best unsigned acts both national and international as a supplement for metal zines with large circulations. As you can imagine, especially this feature caused attraction by some labels. In connection, we send a wide-ranged promotion package to Metal Blade and finally they got interested and contacted us.
I'd say it's not a casual thing that a new German band plays old-school Swedish Death Metal. How come that you decided to play it and what are your main influences, maybe At The Gates/early In Flames or nowadays less known bands like A Canarous Quintet or The Moaning?
Yeah, it is more or less unusual that someone finally knows the mighty The Moaning! Perhaps you forgot Unanimated and Eucharist :-) Actually, I remember that my first contact with Death Metal was a real Swedish one (Edge Of Sanity - The Spectral Sorrows, Dark Tranquillity - Skydancer) and this definitely changed my point of view considering music in general. This fascination was and is rich of influence for me until nowadays. In my opinion, Swedish Death Metal is a genius and very unique form in music. I´ve never been beside listening to bands like Edge Of Sanity, At The Gates, Unanimated, Carcass, Dissection, Opeth, Katatonia, and plenty of others that perform this unique style in Death Metal filled with brutality/aggression and calmness, harmony and disharmony, deathlike melancholy and liveliness, or especially fulfilled with these unforgettable acoustic and instrumental songs. It is just a pleasure to listen to downtuned guitars playing twin-melodies and harsh voices screaming out like their souls are slaughtered. Add a magnificent and unmistakable sound of Swedish studios like Sunlight, Unisound or Fredman and the perfect release is ready to conquer! I mean, I heard "Darkday" of Edge of Sanity´s album "The spectral sorrows" for the first time in 1994 or 1995 and still admire this piece of art. Today there also is a great potential in Swedish Death Metal, for example with bands like Defleshed, Kaamos, Non Exist, Repugnant, Soilwork, etc. Don´t misunderstand my point of view, I´m also a fanatic in attending US Death Metal records and sometimes I prefer rather an American one. Especially the first Hate Eternal album is one of my absolute all time fave albums, because this is definitely one of this monuments in Death Metal art!
How do you look on Göthenburg scene now and it's development since the early 90's?
As I mentioned it already before, the change of the spirits in Swedish Death Metal was one part of the reasons why I planned to establish Fragments Of Unbecoming. I really miss this old-school sound and the roughness of ancient recordings. Sometimes, while listening to the dusty vinyls of Carnage, Entombed, Dismember, Carcass I get some kind of impression that these older albums are entirely free from pressure and based on merely impassioned song writing that had not to care about selling accounts. The productions had spirit and expressed a huge space for breath. Concerning actual releases, they are not really boring at all - there are some magnificant bands like e.g. Eternal Lies, Kaamos, Unmoored, etc. but in general, I prefer the older ones. Nowadays, some outputs sound exaggerated modern and synthetic both from new and old bands. Certainly, there is an irresistable progress in modern recording techniques, but! especially considering Death Metal there´s not a shadow of a doubt that older techniques carry the more spirit.
Your first record was Bloodred Tales / Chapter I The Crimson Season, the second is Skywards / Chapter II A Sylphe's Ascension. Why chapters, is this maybe has something to do with symbolic, maybe there are some similarities in a lyrical concept, maybe there are some connections between the albums, or maybe it's just that each album stands for itself?
The titles were not really done by a special purpose namely to connect both individual releases. The idea came up just to sequence the albums. Thus, the next album perhaps will be entitled ....-Chapter III ......, who knows? A connection between lyrical basics is not existent. Considering the musical tide: Basically, the two releases are not that different at all, namely because “Skywards” can be described as a direct continuation from that point “Bloodred Tales” ended in 2002. Concentrating on stylistic elements we changed nearly nothing. A very important aspect for my personal part is the replacement of instrumental e-guitar parts on “Bloodred Tales” with the use of acoustic guitars to enrich or reinforce the natural sound and atmosphere on “Skywards” - it offers a deeper kind of charm. We followed the path we yet went on “Bloodred Tales”, although we developed our skill and ability to write more intensive and impassioned songs. It is of great importance for us, that everybody who listens to “Skywards” recognises that this can only be a FRAGMENTS OF UNBECOMING-album.
In which way is the cover related to the record? It's very unusual cover for a death metal band.
From the point on I started to think about how the artwork should look like it was the main topic that there is a chromatic and thematic connection to the album title "Skywards" - thus I mainly used blue and white, because they are the elementary colours of heaven. Perhaps, I prefer to create monochromatic artworks, because they offer a special atmosphere and mood. The artwork is basically build upon a mixture of brush and digital drawings or compositions. I wanted to create an artwork rich of light and showing a kind of reflection of the notion "Ascension". In a mysterious way, the sylphe (poet: an elementary ghost connected to air, wind and breath and incarnated as some kind of beautiful female being) is placed on the cover as an obvious detail. As nearly everybody including you notice, it is not some kind of typical death metal artwork and it differs a lot from gorebased artworks. In general, the artwork always is the first affinity to someone who could be interested in the band. In a way, I always collect ideas based upon mind snapshots, special pictures in my daily life or design that differ in stylistic and artificial elements.
You produced the record by yourselves. How are you satisfied with your work? Is this the perfect sound you have in your mind for your music or maybe there are some famous producers out there (maybe in Sweden), with whom you can achieve this perfect sound in the future?
In a way, you are never satisfied to one hundred percent with your recording both musical and soundwise. It would be the greatest disaster for future plans if you achieve the perfect one. There always has to be a sophistication, a progress or an increase in composing and recording and even while recording I got here and there the idea of what the real strength of the Fragments Of Unbecoming in the near or far future will be or that is to say on which stylistic elements I´ll focus while arranging upcoming song structures. In any way, I can proudly admit that we in a way achieved "Skywards" to sound like bands that released their albums about ten years ago. Some might call this anachronism but in our view nothing is overproduced or sounds like millions of bands nowadays. “Skywards” sounds professional but unique, more natural and rough. We already minded to work with a famous producer from Sweden but in this case there will always be the danger to get sentenced as a simple copy of Swedish bands. In short, there are some elements which have to be optimised with the next recording and I certainly can imagine to achieve this even in Germany with national both famous or not that popular producers.
Where do you fell more comfortable, in the studio or on the stage?
This is more or less dependant on factors like mood, adrenaline and enticement to perform in front of an attracted crowd. Sometimes, for my part, I prefer to invest my entire enthusiasm and power in writing songs and arranging compositions in the rehearsal room or in the studio. It always is amazing to record a song in the veil of a professional sound, because you get the chance to experience the certain composition in a entirely new dimension. I really could not imagine to calm down this impulse while being on tour for a long time, like most of famous bands obviously have to do. On the other hand, I often feel this kind of fascination to act on stage, to perform the songs as loud and massive as possible. In any case, Death Metal is, concerning the basics and roots, made to be presented live and we certainly follow this primordial instinct. To make the long story short, I would consider Fragments Of Unbecoming to both sides in some equal relation.
What kind of live activities can we expect from you in 2004? Maybe some tour or festival appearances?
In any case, we want to play gigs and festivals as much as we are able to. To mention a big festival we are playing in summer - we are performing this year on Summer Breeze which is a great honour for us! Some gigs and underground festivals are already planned and can be viewed on the homepage. Concerning touring plans, we do not plan to tour that soonish as every single of us is working the whole week, the whole month, the whole year...thus, it is not that easy to jump on a tour. Perhaps, it will be possible to support some tour gigs in Germany - we will see what time will tell.
Thank you for the interview. Good luck with the album and happy new year.
Finally, it´s done, the interview now ends. I wish to thank you for the interesting interview, it was a pleasure to me to answer your questions. Hope, everything continues fine with Paranoid Zine in the future and we´ll get the possibility to meet on a gig or festival. Best Regards and keep the old Swedish Death Metal spirit alive!