Having been made public little over a month ago, and with a debut album coming later this month, Sinsaenum seem to have taken a lot of people by surprise. As well they might: the band is the brainchild of Dragonforce’s Fred Leclercq and Joey Jordison – already a somewhat surprising combination – and is fleshed out by an even more unlikely collection of musicians, including Attila Csihar of Mayhem, Stéphane Buriez of French death/thrash pioneers Loudblast, Sean Zatorsky of American groove/death metallers Dååth and Heimoth of French black metal beasts Seth.
The result of this unholy union has already been showcased in the form of the dramatic, monochromatic video to Army Of Chaos, which, if you haven’t watched it already, is a stomping, groove-driven slice of aggression. As it turns out though, debut full-length Echoes Of The Tortured is a somewhat denser and more intricate affair than Army Of Chaos would suggest. Interspersed with atmospheric interludes, it is a slow-growing collection of songs that leans heavily toward old school death metal, with just a bit of black metal colouring.
So how did this all come about and where is it going? Should we consider this a flash-in-the-pan experiment or the beginning of a long career? We tracked down Fred Leclercq to find out more about the group’s inspirations, working methods, and why they’re avoiding the term ‘supergroup’…
This project seems to have taken people by surprise, but you told Hammer about your interest in making extreme metal almost a decade ago.
“Oh yeah that’s really part of my style. It’s hard to explain because people see you in one dimension and think, ‘Oh, he’s the bassist for DragonForce and nothing else’, but I grew up listening to Morbid Angel, Pestilence, Bolt Thrower and I guess you can hear all that in Sinsaenum. Those were the first albums I bought… well, my parents bought them for me actually. They went to a bigger town and I said to them, ‘Can you buy albums by Morbid Angel and Pestilence?’ and they were like, [adopts grumbling tone] ‘Yeah, okay’. And they came back with Altars Of Madness and Testimonies Of The Ancients.
“Those kind of albums you hear when you discover a genre have a huge influence on you. Like the first heavy metal albums I heard were Kings Of Metal by Manowar and No Prayer For The Dying by Iron Maiden, and I know every note and I guess it’s the same with those bands. With Sinsaenum I’m trying to create the same excitement I had when I discovered those bands, plus Bolt Thrower and black metal like Dark Funeral and Mayhem. There’s some Goblin influences in the instrumental interludes as well.”
And a bit of mid-period Satyricon as well would you say?
“I suppose if you refer to Army Of Chaos the answer is ‘yes’ [laughs]. It came out strange because the rest of the band really like that one, but to me, I wrote it and was like, ‘Okay, that’s catchy, but that’s not really what we are about’. But we really like playing it, we rehearsed it before making the video and it came out as an anthem, a statement. But the rest of the album is nowhere near that.”
The catalyst for the band was a conversation between you and Joey Jordison – how did the two of you get to know each other in the first place?
“That’s how it started, just as with the others, we’re all friends – well they are all my friends – and that’s what I wanted to do. People will think, ‘Oh, he’s just choosing these famous guys’, but they just happened to be famous musicians, more importantly I had a real friendship with these guys.”
Were you aware that having people like Joey involved would bring a lot more scrutiny to the whole thing?
“My plan was definitely to play with people that a) I like and b) are good. And it turns out that if people are good then they are usually known for this. Not that everyone famous is good… but they usually are. You know, you start dreaming, ‘Oh, it would be great to play with that guy…’, and it turns out that everyone [you want to work with] is interested in the music. I don’t want to use the term ‘supergroup’ because I don’t like what it implies. I guess once you have Joey and Attila – and in France Stéphane is a big name – yeah I suppose it became high profile. But the plan was to play the music I like and to play my music.”
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What do you get with Sinsaenum that you don’t get with DragonForce?
“It was a bit scary at first because I thought people might say, ‘Oh, it’s the guy from DragonForce’, and not give it a chance. You know I can go on stage and sing about warriors and smile but I also have that dark side of me, that is drawn to Morbid Angel or My Dying Bride.”
Is it a consideration that some people might ask what the guy from DragonForce doing playing death and black metal?
“Metalheads are sometimes very narrow-minded and I was the same when I was younger. It was like, [adopts stern voice] ‘I like this and I don’t like that’. But the way I see it now is, you know, if you look at actors, if you look at who Edward Norton played in American History X, we don’t say he was a Nazi because he played that one role. Picasso was a painter, he had a cubism phase, a surrealism phase – I’d like people to consider me as a musician; I can be DragonForce and I can be Sinsaenum as well, and tomorrow I could be – well I wish I could be – Allan Holdsworth as well, I like free jazz and want to express myself as a musician.
“This idea that you belong to this so you cant do that… I remember reading an interview with Metallica back in the day and Lars was saying, ‘Now I’m listening George Michael’, this was back in ‘91 and ‘92 and I was like, ‘That’s lame’. But now I get the point, I like George Michael too. Maybe I shouldn’t say that [laughs]. So yeah, I am prepared for that but I know what some people will say. It’s a shame but what can you do?”
That seems to be a part of ‘internet culture’ in general – certain people devote a lot of time to going online and complaining.
“It’s horrible, I really don’t enjoy this – its all about criticism and irony. I was reading the comments about Army Of Chaos and some of them are just mean for nothing. I mean, I don’t know about other people but I don’t have the time to go online and complain about everything I dislike or think is mediocre, but some people seem to just do that. There was one guy who wrote, ‘Oh I would have toned the guitars differently and the harmonies…’ it’s like, ‘Fucking hell, go and do it – I’ll listen to your album and probably enjoy it’. I think those people were always there, they just didn’t have the tools to bitch about things, now they have the internet so they can express themselves, they feel very important.”
Are you worried people will just see this as another short-lived side project?
“People think ‘super group’. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, those guys all think they’re really cool, gather in one room, do an album and then say, ‘Fuck it’’. Which is fair enough, some of them are. But there’s a real connection here, it’s not just like, ‘Lets make an album’ and it’s not a super commercial album. We are friends who happen to be in bands that are famous or known or whatever, and we consider it a band not a project.”
How are you feeling now the album is coming up for release?
“It’s a strange feeling, it’s like the songs aren’t yours any more, they don’t belong to you, they are out there with people. I guess it is like having kids and then they grow up and start going out, it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re not my babies anymore’. I had something like that, I was proud the songs were out but I have like a postnatal depression. So I’m happy, I think people liking Army… is great, and people hating it is great, because they will be surprised by the album because it’s probably not what they expect. So I am excited and nervous I suppose, but from those who listened to the album we had nice feedback so far. As a band we are super proud of this album which is one goal achieved, I suppose.”
Sinsaenum release Echoes Of The Tortured on July 29 via Earmusic