- Review by Faye Coulman
ON THE ROAD: Featuring Septicflesh drummer Krimh Lechner
Image by Stella Mouzi www.stellamouzi.com
Making the tricky transition from meticulously engineered studio perfection to the electrifying, utterly unpredictable dynamics of live performance is seldom a seamless process, least of all for a band whose blistering and bewilderingly complex legacy underpins more than two decades of genre-defying extreme metal. On the night that finds the Greek metal titans primed and poised to decimate the London Underworld, uber-talented drummer Krimh Lechner explains the painstaking creation of their most ambitious live repertoire yet.
“Ordinarily I’d simply go to the practise room and jam around for a couple of hours to create a song, but Septicflesh is far too complex a band for that,” remarks newly-recruited drummer Krimh Lechner on the intricate process of melding and mixing the Greeks’ mind-boggling array of bludgeoning, blackly flourishing and delectably groove-laden dynamics. Mere hours away from their co-headlining slot alongside much admired US black metal unit Inquisition, and the Austrian musician appears remarkably well-rested ahead of a process that’s been many long and gruelling months in the making.
Numbering his first album release with Septicflesh since joining the band back in 2014, the ex-Decapitated sticksman’s battering, insanely paced talents found an instant, fluidly organic fit within this uniquely vicious and varied musical unit. Meticulously splicing grandiose slabs of crushing groove in amongst richly expansive stints of flourishing strings and epic choirs courtesy of Prague’s prestigious Philharmonic Orchestra, the visionary collective took ample time to perfect the flawlessly engineered long-player that subsequently followed three years later. But despite being widely hailed as an act of sheer, seamlessly impeccable alchemy, the process of priming 2017’s ‘Codex Omega’ for the raw and heated immediacy of live performance would bring with it a fresh raft of additional challenges – not least being Krimh’s considerable physical distance from his fellow bandmates.
“The biggest challenge is the fact that I’m from Austria and the other guys are from Greece so practising is really difficult. As a result of that, we have to spend a lot of time thoroughly preparing everything beforehand,” he affirms. “We’d just finished the South American tour and then I flew to Greece for four days of rehearsals. That was really the tricky thing. Plus, we switched some songs around quite a bit, maybe making a pause here and there longer or cut an intro or combined parts from other songs. The difficulty is the fact that we cannot rehearse on a daily basis. All we had was four days of playing a couple of hours a day, just repeating the songs and making sure they felt okay for us within the set-list.”
But, while there’s no overstating the herculean levels of effort and stamina needed to bring this ambitious project to fruition, Krimh is also quick to credit the equally vital importance of painstaking forward planning and preparation. And beyond the more cosmetic practicalities of seamlessly recorded backing tracks and carefully pre-programmed lighting transitions, the process of crafting material tailor-made for electrifying live entertainment began at an infinitely earlier stage than many might assume. Having amplified the densely muscular grooves and bracing, breathlessly energised transitions of 2014’s ‘Titan’ to dizzying new heights of scalding intensity, ‘Codex Omega’ is a record unmistakably crafted for such violently energised and adrenaline-fuelled purpose.
The drummer elaborates, “When we wrote the album we wanted to have a live character to the songs which are now working live extremely well. These are fast and groovy tracks that motivate people to move around, whereas the previous album ‘Titan’ was a little more progressive and not so straightforward. This time, we thought we want parts that, although they might sound simple on the album, when we play them live it’s going to work perfectly and ‘Martyr’ is a very good example of that, as is ‘Portrait of a Headless Man’. On these tracks you can really see the movement in the crowd’s response, but also the dark art and the emotional range of it all. All of this is reflected in people’s response to it. Seth has often commented that that particular song gives him so much energy that it makes him want to smash something up. But in a positive and creative kind of way,” he hastens to add with a smile.
“That said, it’s not all about the crowd’s reaction because the songs are also producing a certain energy that gives us more power in turn as well. The cool thing about those new songs is that, as a musician, you have time to simply enjoy them and not worry too much about the technical side of things. You just go and groove and enjoy with the people. Whereas the more complex songs require you to focus very heavily on getting everything right and not fucking up.”
But however thoughtfully anticipated their newly-crafted repertoire may be, past experience has also highlighted the unavoidably variable and unpredictable reception each and every night on the road promises, with a variety of wildly differing venues and crowds to take careful account of. Yet, with Septicflesh’s London stint numbering the latest in a long line of hugely anticipated European tour dates, Krimh is rightly optimistic about what surely guarantees to be the band’s finest UK performance to date.
“Following our first airing of the songs, we decided to kick out one of the tracks and then a couple of days later we flipped the first song with another one. So you have to first play these songs live in order to see the reaction of the people,” he observes thoughtfully. “Only then can you decide what should stay and what should go. Also, sometimes you have crowds where the atmosphere is more dry and people just like to stand and listen versus crowds that are much more wild and crazy, like probably tonight will be because the Underworld is always a crazy venue.”
‘Codex Omega’ is out now on Season of Mist. For the full report on Septicflesh’s epic stint at the London Underworld, visit https://tinyurl.com/y9ok9jx6
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