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  • Review by Faye Coulman

FUEL FOR HATRED: Sinsaenum founder Frédéric Leclercq talks death metal, Dragonforce and setlist shen

The not-so-enticing notion of a Dragonforce guitarist founding an old school death metal project may have raised more than a few purist eyebrows since Sinsaenum first made their bludgeoning, blackly visceral mark on an unsuspecting metal scene back in 2016. But with killer new opus ‘Repulsion For Humanity’ fresh in the can this month, creator Frédéric Leclercq explains why any nagging doubts about the band’s death metal credentials are about to be utterly, unquestionably and violently laid to rest. Brace yourselves…

"It’s kind of weird, because everybody in this band is totally legit and I’m kind of…not,” observes Sinsaenum creator and Dragonforce guitarist Frédéric Leclercq on the globally celebrated prestige of his fellow bandmates. Formed in 2016 out of a line-up numbering such genre heavyweights as Mayhem’s Atilla Csihar and all-star sticksman Joey Jordison, the mere mention of Dragonforce in the same breath as these acclaimed legends has inevitably encountered no small amount of narrow-minded backlash since news of the death metal supergroup first broke. With this unpalatable truth made still harder to swallow by the fact that Leclercq not only performs in the band but is indeed also its primary songwriter, forging a name independent of these high-profile origins has proved to be no mean feat for this lifelong death metal obsessive. Spawned more than two decades ago out of the guitarist’s little-known love of old school death metal, the years that followed saw Fred steadily building and accumulating ideas before finally joining power metal superstars Dragonforce in 2006. But despite the gruelling demands of this all-consuming new role, the irrepressible desire to make these adolescent dreams a reality resurfaced again just two years later following a chance encounter with drummer Joey Jordison during Slipknot’s All Hope Is Gone world tour.

“We bonded over our love for death metal,” Fred recalls. “So around the time that the demos were more fully complete and I had finally something more to offer, he just randomly sent me a text and he was like ‘Hey man, what are you up to?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, everything’s good, and by the way I’ve written a couple of songs’ which I then sent them to him and he was like, ‘Fuck, that’s awesome. Who’s the drummer?’ and I said ‘Well, you’ and that was it. So basically, what I wanted to do was work with people I’m friends with rather than people I’ve chosen because of what they’ve done before or because of they’re a famous name in metal. Just people I had a good connection with, so all the band members are good friends of mine.”

With this dynamic duo later evolving into a fully-fledged line-up also comprised of Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar, Daath’s Sean Zatorsky, Loudblast axeman Stéphane Buriez and Heimoth on bass, Sinsaenum finally released debut album ‘Echoes of the Tortured’ some eight years later. Having penned much of this early material whilst still in the deeply impressionable throes of adolescence, ‘…The Tortured’ unsurprisingly adheres faithfully close to the classic ’90s blueprint that left such an indelible, formative mark on the then-teenaged guitarist. And with his high-profile associations with Dragonforce inevitably throwing into doubt his credibility as an extreme metal artist, the resulting album follows a rather cautiously traditional formula that’s since evolved into something infinitely more unique.

Fred elaborates, “For the first record I felt like I had something to prove so I wanted to make a very deep, very perfect…not exactly an average death metal album, but a distinctly death metal album nonetheless. I wanted to make a death metal album which meant that I was respecting some of the codes of the genre, I wanted to tick certain boxes. But for this one it was more like, okay cool, so now that we’ve been accepted in that category in the music world, in the death metal scene, I just felt like, fine we know where we’re going now. We can take this wherever we want.”

From the gargantuan, inky groove of its richly nostalgic self-titled opener through to the tautly orchestrated melodic accents and majestic horrors underpinning blackened epic ‘My Swansong’, every lacerating, darkly turbulent moment of ‘Repulsion For Humanity’ abounds with the unmistakable sound of a band in full, gloriously unbroken creative flow. Yet despite this limitless new lease of creative freedom and assured confidence as an act independent of their high-profile respective roots, Fred was quick to approach the online promotion of ‘Repulsion…’ with no small amount of shrewd and strategic forward planning. With its fiercely infectious, Pantera-esque central groove and scalding, insanely paced energy, the instantly arresting ‘Final Resolve’ was the first track to be selected for airing ahead of the record’s anticipated release.

“I had a very predefined idea of exactly how I wanted to present the album,” the guitarist agrees. “And with ‘Final Resolve’ all the fans were instantly singing the riff and all of us in the band were like, ‘Fuck, this is really cool.’ So it was obvious to me that that’s the one we should release first but once it was out people were like, that’s a very easy song. And yes, it is a very easy song, but at the same time it’s a nice way to introduce people to the rest of the album. We always say you won’t attract flies with vinegar. I guess we could have put ‘Manifestation of Ignorance’ as the first song but that would have alienated a lot of people from wanting to discover more about us because they’d be like ‘Fuck this. This is way too slow and disturbing”.’

As keenly evidenced by its meticulous, coldly calculating execution and rich plethora of nightmarish atmospheres, it fast becomes apparent ‘Repulsion…’ is no simple, uncomplicated exercise in blindly primitive aggression. With these cinematic trappings finding their origins in an inspirational source still older and more deeply ingrained than the guitarist’s diehard love of death metal, Fred’s equal fanatical passion for classic horror also figures prominently throughout this darkly atmospheric opus.

“My ultimate favourite era of horror is the ’80s,” he enthuses. “When I discovered horror it was around 1990 and basically it was just like stuff from the ’80s like The Evil Dead or Re-Animator, so all these movies are just in me, like part of my DNA now matter what. Now, for this particular album, ‘Sacred Martyr’ is loosely based on the French movie Martyrs. It follows the storyline of torturing someone until they reach that sort of martyr-like level of suffering like in the movie. And the song ‘Nuit Noire’ is based on a French book of the same name. I also grew up reading a series of books called Gore, which I have tattooed on my left arm. Growing up listening to bands like Pestilence or Morbid Angel’s ‘Blessed Are the Sick’, I’ve always liked that almost storytelling quality about certain bands where you sense something more beyond the music. Something you don’t always get with bands. For example, I love Pantera, I love the aggression and the sound of ‘Repulsion…’ comes very much from the album ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’ in terms of sound. But as for the songs themselves, they were not telling me a story, it’s just like aggression and riffs and whatnot, but I love those bands that tell a story too like the ones I mentioned before or My Dying Bride or Cradle of Filth, for example, so I guess that aspect of Sinaenum comes from that. Speaking of which, I’m actually a good friend of Dani’s. I often write to him and always bother him about their setlist whenever they play live. I’m always like, you have to play the old stuff from just the first four albums and last time they played in Paris it was like, I was asking about all the songs like, ‘Are you playing ‘Queen of Winter, Throned’?’. ‘No.’ ‘Are you playing ‘The Forest Whispers My Name’?’ ‘No.’ Then he says, ‘So what, do you want to leave now?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I think I’m going to watch it anyway.’ Then he says, ‘Guys, we're just going to play ‘Cruelty and the Beast’ because that’s Fred’s favourite and he thinks we haven’t done anything good after that.’ So I thought that was pretty funny,” Fred laughs warmly.

With Sinsaenum’s own major touring cycle now imminently approaching, it’s clear this newly-formed entity is rapidly gathering creative momentum, with the writing of a third record likely nearing completion by early 2019. “We’re here for the long run, there’s going to be an album number three for Sinsaenum for sure,” assures Fred. “I released a lot of hatred for this album, so I need to gather up some more for this next one, which is actually very easy. All I have to do is just open up my social media, read through all the comments and yep, guess what? I’m ready for album number three,” he concludes with an amused chuckle.

Sinsaenum play The Dome, London on 19th October 2018

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