First Fragment Dasein CoverI’d like to begin this review by discussing the gigantic fucking roll that French-Canadian guitarist Phillipe Tougas is currently on. Starting with last year’s release from Serocs, he has played on three downright kickass albums, all favorably reviewed on this very website. His work with Zealotry gained my notoriously stingy tech/prog-death approval, and his bizarre Timeghoul and Demilich-inspired project Chthe’ilist is almost certainly going to make the Kronos year-end list. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, his longest-running band, the neoclassically-inspired tech-death outfit First Fragment, is finally dropping their first full-length album, exactly six months after this firestorm began with And When the Sky Was Opened. Unfuckingbelievable.

Longtime readers will be quick with comparisons here, so let’s get this out of the way; despite his immense recent output, Tougas is in no way the Vardan of prog-death, and like all of his recent outings, Dasein has a good chance of absolutely flooring you. Everything that made the group’s acclaimed 2010 EP The Afterthought Ecstasy great has been retained. Beginning with “Le Serement De Tsion” and relenting nearly an hour later in a Chthe’ilist-like explosion at the climax of “Evhron,” this album has more dynamism, intrigue, and above all, notes than anything you’re likely to hear until maybe the next Archspire LP. It’s the sort of album that I always wished Fleshgod Apocalypse would make1, full of Malmsteenian neoclassical wankery that’s tightly controlled by propulsive songs.

The title track “Dasein” is proof enough of the album’s potential, gliding into existence on a slick but dreamy almost klezmer-esque melody before the full band sets all knobs to ‘kill’ and really start shredding. The non-stop sixteenth note riffing manages to be so spectacularly pyrotechnic that the song’s screaming guitar solo is the least technical passage by far, and it’s followed by a fantastic bass solo section that shows that the band can really pull back and let one member shine. “L’Entité” follows with a flamenco introduction that’s obvious Kronos-bait, and completely works as such. First Fragment‘s ability to gracefully flow between not just riffs but rhythmic languages is best seen in this full-length instrumental song, but you’ll hear more great examples scattered throughout the album, like the swing stomp sections in “Le Serment De Tsion” and “Gula.”

First Fragment Band 2016

Though Dasein is quite long, there isn’t a bum song on it, and even late in the album the band tucks surprises in among their mind-boggling riffery. Just when you think they’re running out of new ideas – as in the beginning of “Voracité (Apothéose, partie 1),” when a slasher film sample introduces a muddy instrumental passage – some solo or riff comes around to blow you out of the water completely. “Voracité” introduces a lead halfway through that, while somewhat buried in the mix, makes for a great backing track for sequential bass and guitar solos.

Though it’s the guitar work that really propels this album, the whole band is in on the gymnastics, and the drumming from Severed Savior‘s Troy Fullerton is prevented from stealing the show only because of how incessantly spectacular the string players’ performances are. But perhaps most charming is the work from otherwise unknown vocalist David Alexandre Brault-Pilon, whose all-French delivery matches the intensity and personality of the instrumental performances; his little spit-take at the end of “Le Serment De Tsion” is a truly charming moment and a mark of this album’s levity. But there’s even more to this album than performance, as its production is spot-on. the instruments are clean but far from computerized, and there’s enough space for the considerable dynamics in some of these songs to really shine through. Despite its near hour length, Dasein is barely fatiguing at all.

Dasein‘s incessant shredding and neoclassical flair set it apart form a North American tech-death scene that’s often too preoccupied with aliens2 and clean production3 to write inventive, progressive albums and seat the band rather comfortably next to European acts like Spawn of Posession and Gorod. And between Christian Muenzner popping in regularly for solos and the group effortlessly swinging between jazz and neoclassical influences, this might be the most fun and impressive tech metal out there, and a far cry from the po-faced posturing of the band’s peers. Dasein is vibrant and colorful, but still brutal and incredibly fast, managing both to impress and beguile even the hardest-to-please tech death pedants [Vardan‘s been quiet for a while. Somebody should check on him.Steel Druhm].


Score: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Websites: firstfragment.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/firstfragment
Releases Worldwide: May 20th, 2016

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Although, having taken the time to listen to it, I have to say that King is quite good.
  2.  Rings of Saturn and everyone else on the West coast
  3.  Rings of Saturn and everyone else on the West coast and most of Canada
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  • Dion Ka

    Holy shit. I am not much into technical Death Metal and mostly listen to Black/Doom but this sounds awesome! Listening to the stream right now. Great review!

  • Hammersmith

    This is the album to beat this year IMO. I haven’t been so taken with an album since Beyond Creations “Aura”. It is completely enthralling for the entire duration.

    • Mike

      Not surprisingly, Beyond Creation and First Fragment are connected (they’ve shared drummers)

      • Hammersmith

        This just reminded me that Beyond Creation is playing here in July w/ Zenith Passage.

        • Kronos

          I went to the leg of this tour in Chicago and it was actually embarrassing how much better Beyond creation were than TZP or Rivers of Nihil. They just looked like amateurs.

          • Meriyas

            I saw Beyond Creation in Brisbane with Ne Obliviscaris. Beyond Creation are absolute pros, I loved their set. Possibly my favourite set of all time, they kindly asked that if we didn’t mind we could get a circle pit going lol. So polite, so brutal.

    • Matt McMadden

      I didn’t much care for Aura, but Earthborn Evolution blew me away.

      • Hammersmith

        Interesting, I like Earthborn Evolution, but much prefer Aura.

  • Bart the Repairman

    Mmm, this sums everything I want from tech-death. Bonus points for not overproducing the shit out of it.
    I wonder if the next Vale of Pnath record will match this level of awesomness, because if you judge the book by the cover…

    • Hammersmith

      Looking forward to this. The couple songs they’ve dropped from this new one have been solid. I’m not sure how I feel about the new logo, its illegible like other metal logos but in a completely different way.

    • Name’s Dalton

      No shit?

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Intriguing… I’ve seen this name getting thrown around before but never gave it too much thought. Namedropping Gorod and SoP, the Kronos seal of approval and the mere mention of Muenzner pretty much guarantees that I will enjoy this. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Mike

    So pleased this band is getting the recognition they deserve. Their EP / demo floored me and I’ve been waiting for this full length for some time. Once again, the Quebec tech death scene is proving to be some of the best in the world.

  • De2013

    Amazing! The guitar work is absolutely awesome! Last time I went berserk about a tech death release was Sophicide’s!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Just wait for the upcoming release by Prolific: a throwback Stockholm Death Metal band formed byPhillipe Tougas and Rogga Johansson.

  • Wilhelm

    This is oddly appealing although not usually my style of preference. Mixing/mastering done rather well too.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Idk why Obscura can’t write songs that sound complete like these guys. It’s not like Obscura play more riffs per minute, and yet they can’t hold down a song.

    Good guy First Fragment, pairing mind-boggling technicality with great transitional work and song individuality. Gravity blast on the last track melted my brain.

    • Kronos

      Obscura are bad.

      • Even Omnivium?

        • Kronos

          Even Omnivium.

          I mean they’re not always bad but they don’t write solid records.

          • SegaGenitals

            I thought Omniviun and the album prior were pretty solid, in a Death meets Atheist way. I don’t care for the post Muenzner stuff.

          • lagerbottoms

            I kinda agree. I always love a few songs on their albums, but I never seem to love the album

    • Requiem

      I’ve tried about 1000 times to get into Obscura but honestly I just can’t for this very reason. Imo this record has everything Obscura just miss every time and more.

  • TJ

    Best tech deal album I’ve heard so far this year. The bass is just unreal.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Awesome musicianship. These guys seem capable of tackling any style like pros.

  • brutal_sushi

    Damn, that embedded track is tasty as fuck. I need to pick this up for sure.

  • kmal666

    You had me at Christian Muenzner.

  • Reese Burns

    Album art looks a lot like the latest Borknagar album’s cover.

  • IndignantN00b

    I totally hear the comparisons to SOP, Obscura, Gorod but I’ve never really taken to those bands despite the killer chops because the music never hits me as all that *heavy.* They all sound like techy melodeath to me. This album retains the “fun” factor of those bands best work but brings the Origin/Cryptopsy undercurrent of manic brutality into the mix. And it’s long without ever feeling like it because every single song is great- a nice reminder that truly elite bands CAN craft something longer than a vinyl LP without losing coherence or steam.

    It’s funny considering this alongside the year’s other tech death masterpiece (Krighsu IMO). Wormed represents the most abstract and willfully art-damaged side of the genre, sort of where Gorguts was pointing with Obscura, whereas Dasein is so relentlessly and unapologetically neoclassical you could basically say it’s traditionally western tonal music. It almost strikes me as–dare I say it?–accessible in a way very few tech death albums are, all while upping the speed quotient and matching the brutality of the genre’s heaviest bands. A future classic for sure. Great review!

  • Pacal

    Totally on board with the music, but the band name? Sounds like a generic MacGuffin to collect in a JRPG.

  • Zac Melvin-McNutt

    Damn, I can tell from the embedded track here that I am slowly but surely trending away from hyper-technical death metal. This absolutely would’ve blown me away 2-3 years ago but I guess it’s like when you have too much to drink and end up with whiskey dick.

  • Brother Ben

    Their EP impressed me; I’ll definitely look into this.

  • William Hebblewhite

    Philippe Tougas is an absolute maniacal God. This Neoclassical Tech Death is just what I need while marking exams! Great review

  • ImageOfChaos

    First off let me say that I am an absolute tech death fanatic and have been ever since getting into Death and their amazing back catalog in the late 90’s.
    It is also worth noting that even though I have been an avid reader on this site for about 5 years and have AMG to thank for introducing me to bands like Alustrium, Beyond Creation, Archspire, Soreption, and Sophicide, I have never posted a single comment…until right now.
    So please, do not take it lightly when I say if you are even mildy interested in the genre, you must give this album a spin immidiately. It is an absolute clinic on tech death wizardry from start to finish that also manages to incorporate solid songwriting. Thank you Kronos for the well written review and for introducing me to this masterpiece of furious technical bad assery – and now I will return to my headphones.

    • Kronos

      Thanks for dropping in! You should comment more often.

  • Andrew jadowski

    The bass player sounds like he is having a fuck load of fun throughout this entire album!

  • Bas

    An album called Dasein… why didn’t AMG’s in-house Heideggerian Diabolus in Muzaka review this ;-)

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Too much Sein and not enough Zeit on my end!
      Also Kronos is a beast at writing about tech-death.

  • groverXIII

    Of all the tech-death albums that I’ve listened to, and I’ve listened to a lot, this is the closest anyone’s come to matching Gorod’s ability to write “catchy” complex songs. As far as I’m concerned, that’s high praise.

  • De2013

    Is it already on bandcamp?

  • SegaGenitals

    Very nice production. Tech-death is a bit oversaturated lately. But this is a cut above.

  • Requiem

    Honestly this is fucking incredible. What a stellar and epic yet still brutal and heavy masterpiece. Channeling the absolute best of Fleshgod and Obscura and arguably even improving on them. I’m blown away.

  • Kryopsis

    Well shit, I was pretty upset about missing Gorod’s live show here but looks like this city has its own Gorod! Excellent review of a mind-blowing album!