Fragments of Unbecoming – Gateways to PerditionTuesday, 31st July 2018
The year is 2004. Melodic death metal was in all of its shining, if not near-saccharine glory, bands seemingly coming out of every nook and cranny of the globe to bastardize At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames. Sure, the focus was usually on Scandinavia, especially Sweden, but across central Europe, melodic death metal held serve in Germany with Night in Gales and the band in question, Fragments of Unbecoming making headway. Fragments’ Skywards: Chapter II – A Sylphe’s Ascension full-length was released via Metal Blade that year, helping usher in a byzantine brand of melo-death where conventional song structures and soft melodies were thrown out for a more brazen approach. It ended up being a hallmark of Fragments’ sound going forward, subsequently equaled on 2006’s Sterling Black Icon and more recently, their new Perdition Portal. Here to discuss Fragments past and present is guitarist Sascha Ehrich, vocalist Sam Anetzberger and bassist Christopher Körtgen. Read on…
Dead Rhetoric: A lot of people were introduced to Fragments in 2004 when Skywards Chapter II was released. What do you remember most about that time?
Sascha Ehrich: Back then, Skywards was our first full-length album and our first release on Metal Blade. I do remember how great it felt becoming part of this famous metal label and family. It was overwhelming and at first somehow felt surreal. After our demo release Bloodred Tales, the start of our career could not be better. I also remember the festivals we took part in 2004: PartySan Open Air, Summerbreeze Open Air, etc., and we played two special and exclusive release shows in September 2004 together with Amon Amarth in Bochum and Ludwigsburg – this was a great experience as well.
Dead Rhetoric: You emerged when melodic death metal had gained a lot of attention, but, you stood out from a lot of your peers. To you, was it hard to carve out a name for yourselves with so much competition?
Christopher Körtgen: I think both, hard work and ambition, came together at that time and it worked out very well. We always did music we for ourselves would like to listen to, and obviously, it worked out as well for many others out there. Since we are not a band with great touring ambitions, people had to focus a lot on the music we wrote back then. Still, we meet people who have the Skywards and/or the Sterling Black Icon CD in their collection and still like it. We have our style and cultivated it through the years, always adding something new to the sound or changing here and there a little bit. For now, 18 years, it works well for us.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think Fragments was overlooked as a melodic death metal band simply because you’re from Germany and not Sweden?
Körtgen: No, I don’t think so. What you can read in nearly every second review since the first record is a comparison with “old In Flames and Dissection.” Of course, you can find elements in that music since we are influenced of course by the great classics, but we carried it through time into here and now. I presume that the lack our touring didn’t get us in the mind of many people.
Dead Rhetoric: You released two albums on Metal Blade. What was the cooperation like? Were they supportive of the band?
Ehrich: We highly appreciated the cooperation; these guys were and are true fans of metal music and as a band you can feel this! They also supported us getting booked for big festivals and good concerts. If we wanted to, we also could have done a tour with Hate Eternal back then.
Dead Rhetoric: Moving along, you have a new album and are on a new label. Does this mark a new era for Fragments?
Körtgen: The current album Perdition Portal is Chapter Six for the band on the third label (if you don’t count the first self-released EP on Sylphony Creations). It is released via Apostasy Records and we are very happy with this newest release. I wouldn’t say it is a new era for Fragments of Unbecoming, but it is a change. First, the songs are more straightforward, second, we have for the first time, no acoustic interludes/songs on this album and last we gave the whole album a modern (but not too clinical) sound. These three points in total gave the whole album a new touch. But you still recognize the Fragments-style.
Dead Rhetoric: Perdition Portal is classic Fragments, but sounds fresh. How has the songwriting process evolved over the years and did you try anything new for this album?
Körtgen: Of course, we change over the years, so the recording process changes too over the years. Now you have so much more options for a good but cheap pre-production for example. Back in the days a lot of the music was written in the rehearsal room where a rough song structure became slowly a song. With this album, it was mostly Stefan’s (guitar) work, who did at home a whole pre-production of the songs including a programmed drum line, all the guitar work and a little bass. We share the music and then the fine-tuning starts, concerning some parts, some melodies, some variations etc. I am the only one who works with guitar pro, for example, Sascha (guitar) and Ingo (drums) all do it by ear and 18 years’ experience within this band. We did, for example, all the drum recording in the Kohlekeller Studios, before that Ingo did it in his own Soundtunnel Studios.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve always used a lot of imagery and metaphor in your lyrics. What’s the lyrical focus this time out for Perdition Portal?
Sam Anetzberger: Generally speaking, Perdition Portal is about transitions between light and darkness with themes, such as alienation, disappointment, isolation, delusion, and their associated shortcomings. A transition actually stands for a process of development. However, human history has shown that people and cultures in their search for an absolute truth make the same mistakes in completely irrational, grotesque ways. The tragedies of our ancestors repeat themselves episodically, as if humanity was fatalistically damned. Instead of mourning over old shadows, one should kindle one’s own inner fire and try again and again to inspire oneself.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there any songs you’re particularly fond of?
Körtgen: This changes from time to time, actually it is the title track, “Perdition Portal.” I love the dynamic in
this song between calmer parts, melody and straightforward blasting. And the lyrics fit perfectly to this song, you have so many killer lines in this song.
Dead Rhetoric: Your lineup has been mostly stable since your 2000 formation. What keeps you guys together?
Körtgen: Easy answer: friendship and love to the music. Sam got into this band to release Stefan in doing all the vocals and I joined the band after Wolle left the band, so there are no hard feelings when we meet. We are all happy how far we’ve gotten with Fragments of Unbecoming.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2018?
Körtgen: Currently we are already working on new songs for an upcoming album and we want to play some gigs in late 2018, I hope this works and we can present our then-not-so-new album to a broad fanbase.