Sunday, 7 June 2015

Underground Uncovered #1 - Okazaki Fragments


Welcome to the first instalment of a new series of features I'm going to be running, gathering together bands that might be below your radars. I'll be writing about and interviewing bands from far and wide, in the hope that people will check them out and give them more attention. I'm starting here with  Canadian death metal band Okazaki Fragments. 

Okazaki Fragments only formed last year and self-released their debut album, Abandoned in May. Much like many new bands, they're building up and promoting Abandoned and they've just played Calgary Metalfest, alongside a host of local metal acts. They've also been garnering a lot of attention recently, with a solid endorsement from NY's Pyrrhon already to their name. I conducted an e-mail interview with the band recently about their formation and what drives them as musicians:-

TNIO: Can you provide an introduction into Okazaki Fragments and who the band members are? How did you form?

OF: Okazaki Fragments formed from the remnants of two other longstanding Calgary death metal acts. All the members have played many shows together in the past and have been friends for many years. Okazaki Fragments is made up of Brian on drums, Viktor and Rory on guitar, and Sean handling vocals.

TNIO: You guys released “Abandoned” earlier this year. How was the recording process and what has the reception been like?

OF: We recorded Abandoned with a fellow Calgary metal musician Casey Rogers of Exit Strategy. The whole process was completed over the course of a week. Casey is great to work with and pushed us to ensure we captured our best possible performance. Initial reactions to the album have been unexpectedly positive.

TNIO: You’ve been compared to bands like Gorguts due to the technicality of your music. Why is Canada so prolific when it comes to technical death metal bands?

OF: Long cold winters. Canadian death metal bands tend to push themselves beyond the standard "Technical" Death Metal sound and place more emphasis on interesting song dynamics rather than an abundance of notes. This unique approach to technicality within death metal leads to the creation of some great bands. 

TNIO: One of the main purposes of these interviews is to find out first-hand how emerging bands find the transition from forming, to releasing music and touring. How have you guys found it and what experience have you gained from it?

OF: Okazaki Fragments is still a band in it's infancy, through our experiences in other bands we have all learnt that patience is incredibly important. Things do not happen overnight and you need to ensure you are properly prepared before approaching recording, touring, or any other big step as a band. 

TNIO: Following on from the above question, what advice would you give to new bands who’re maybe writing/recording an album and looking for shows?

OF: Practice and document your progress. Having a reference to visit and see where the song was headed has been very beneficial for us. We have documented all of our material in Guitar Pro and through video recordings. Being able to go back and review what has been done and where we can improve as a band has been a huge help when writing our music. When it comes to booking shows, being active in your local scene is key. Relationships with fans, bands, and other members of your local music scene are your primary resources for getting a gig.

TNIO: Has it been easy to get opportunities to play shows on a national level? Is there a strong DIY ethic amongst bands and promoters in Canada?

OF: As such a young band we haven't had the opportunity to play at the national level yet. Metal in Canada is such an underground scene that the DIY approach is still the way most shit gets done.

TNIO: What drew you all into metal in the first place? What influences you when writing?

OF: All of us grew up with an interest in heavier music. As we've grown older we have all found ourselves searching for something faster, louder, heavier, and more disgusting. Influence from way outside the realm of death metal plays a huge part in our writing process. We all share an appreciation for the innovative and experimental aspects of many styles of music.

TNIO: Have any of you played in bands before or is Okazaki Fragments your first?

OF: All the members of Okazaki Fragments have been in bands previous to this project. Rory and Brian played together in Calgary metal act Akakor, while Sean and Viktor spent time together in Mark Of Cain. These two acts shared the stage on many occasions . Both bands broke up around the same time which provided the opportunity for us to come together as Okazaki Fragments. During a brief shining moment in time Sean, Rory, and Brian also played together in a Minor Threat cover band.

TNIO: What are your future plans as a band?

OF: We are looking forward to writing our next release, pushing ourselves to find new ways to create noises.

Here's a review of their debut album, Abandoned:-



Tracklist:-

1. Abandoned
2. First Contact
3. Vermin
4. The Earth Aflame
5. Abominations
6. Huddled Masses
7. Descension
8. As The Planet Falls

In the interview with Okazaki Fragments, we touched upon the technical death metal scene in Canada and why it’s so consistent. OF bring their own style and sound to the sub-genre, with constantly shifting time-signatures, bruising kick-drums during the verses and really powerfully screamed vocals on the album’s opening title-track. This is a formula that they carry through Abandoned, While some people may profess to have heard death metal with more experimentation and technicality before, OF have a sense of approachability about them because they don’t go completely off grid. The jazzy moments during First Contact could easily be the soundtrack to  weird 60’s alien movie (you know the one’s I mean). Vermin features a lot of stop/start blast and rhythms, along with some deep gutturals that really shake your speakers. The high-pitched lead work at the beginning of The Earth Aflame brings early Dillinger Escape Plan to mind. Grind and death metal work in harmony in the song and throughout the record to make it both brutal and technical without losing the listener, which is a great skill to have. OF is made of skilled musicians though and it shows. Their song-writing and indeed the song lengths on Abandoned are meant to keep you hooked, not switch you off. Abominations contains a huge chuck of urgency and power and while OF aren’t racing to get to the end of the song, it’s still exhilarating to hear. That urgency flows through the rest of the record, with only a brief pause between Huddled Masses and Descension to give you time to breath. The latter contains some of the wildest guitar work I’ve heard for ages. I’m not sure what the musical term for it is, but you’ll know it when you hear it. It all comes to and end with As The Planet Falls and with it, any sense of normality and comfort. You know that feeling you get when you eat something really hot where you body says stop but your brain says keep going. That is listening to Abandoned is like. More please!

You can stream Abandoned here:-



As of yesterday, Okazaki Fragments have Abandoned available on CD to purchase. You can grab one via their bandcamp page above alongside the pay-what-you-want download version.

Okazaki Fragments Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/OkazakiFragmentsband

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