“With Sinsaenum, I want it to be raw and dirty and disgusting, just like the cover”
Free time is a rare privilege for Frédéric Leclercq. The leader and chief songwriter in death metal powerhouse Sinsaenum, he is also acting as the group’s manager and booking agent. As Already Heard catches up with Leclercq a week before the release their second full-length record, ‘Repulsion for Humanity’, he’s got a lot to keep his mind occupied.
“I have to take care of the tour which involves finding someone to sponsor us and finding support bands,” Frédéric explains, taking into account where his thoughts currently lie as the album’s release draws closer. “I know it’s coming soon, and I have to schedule some stuff to promote the release, but I don’t really have the time to sit back and enjoy the fact that the music is gonna be out soon. I’m the one dealing with all the different steps, which is interesting because I know exactly what’s going on, but it involves a lot of work.”
What started off as a one-man side project, Sinsaenum has continued to blossom like graveside flowers since the release of 2016 debut album ‘Echoes of the Tortured’. Comprising an all-star lineup featuring Joey Jordison (ex-Slipknot, Vimic) on drums, Attila Csihar (Mayhem) and Sean Zatorsky (ex-Dååth) on vocals, alongside guitarist Stéphane Buriez and bassist Heimoth, Sinsaenum is already an established unit, albeit one yet to play a show. And with this lineup in place, Frédéric is already noticing changes in songwriting to suit it.
“Echoes’ was written by me alone over a long period of time. All I wanted was to make a perfect death metal album based on my criteria of what death metal is supposed to be. I wrote those songs not knowing who was gonna play drums or who was gonna be on vocals or anything, I was just writing music for myself. Then I got in touch with Stefan, and then Joey and everyone else and that was the story,” Frédéric elaborates on the thought process that went into Sinsaenum’s annihilating debut record. “Now, because we kept the same lineup and obviously everyone has their own style, I’m still the main songwriter, but knowing that it’s Joey on drums and Stefan on guitar or Sean on vocals, I guess it does influence the way that I’m gonna write, even if it’s not on purpose.”
Frédéric also considers his songwriting approach to be far more autonomous on ‘Repulsion…’ than on ‘Echoes…’ tributes to the classic death metal titans who inspired the project initially. “I wanted to make the perfect death metal, I had boxes I wanted to tick if you will, like from the book of death metal. ‘Repulsion..’. was a lot more open market. We knew where we wanted to go, but we had no restrictions in terms of style or length of the album or speed or anything.”
“Everything that I do, everything in my life influences my way of writing music”
True to his promise, ‘Repulsion for Humanity’ is a far more expansive record that demonstrates Sinsaenum’s staying power, compared to other temperamental supergroups where too many egos tend to spoil the broth. Perhaps the biggest strength of ‘Repulsion…’ is the number of colossal hooks it serves per song, from the adrenaline jolt of ‘Scared Martyr’ and the ‘Sworn to Hell’, to the bullish grooves found on ‘Final Resolve’. One particular highlight is found in the enticing cries of “Rise from the dead, from the kingdom below” heard on ‘Rise of the Light Bearer’.
“When you write music, you don’t really analyse what you’re creating,” Frédéric explains. “I think that song was sort of a hypnotic chant to be repeated. The song is about an occult ritual, so I wrote it with that in mind.
“Obviously you wanna touch people and you wanna have that sort of communion with the crowds, so it’s good to have that in a few songs with those catchy hooks. ‘Final Resolve’ is also one with it’s ‘crush’ chants. But I feel like a lot of the choruses are pretty unchorusey.”
While ritualistic resurrection chants may inspire ‘Rise of the Light Bearer’, Frédéric is the first to admit his sources of inspiration are often ambiguous and unexpected when it comes to songwriting in any form. “Everything that I do, everything in my life influences my way of writing music”, he admits. “Even going to a restaurant will have an impact. To some extent, everything has an impact artistically, like if I have an argument with my wife, that’s gonna have an impact, but if I go on a vacation with her and everything is nice, that’s gonna have an impact too.
“Horror movies and soundtracks definitely have an impact on my way of writing music,” Frédéric adds, in response to the suggestion that the dark side of cinema makes its way into the gloomy atmosphere of tracks like ‘I Stand Alone’ and the funeral ‘My Swan Song’, “But it could also be other things. Right before this interview, I was watching ‘The Office’ again with Ricky Gervais, and that uncomfortable cringe atmosphere also has an impact.
“But certain songs on the album are specifically about either horror movies or books. So the song ‘Nuit Noire’ is inspired by the book of the same title and ‘Sacred Martyr’ is about the French horror movie ‘Martyrs’”.
‘Repulsion for Humanity’ is Frédéric’s bid to create his own metallic template, but he’ll always acknowledge the importance of the bands that made him see the darkness in the first place. Citing a vast range of extreme metal icons such as Bolt Thrower, Obituary and even groove titans Pantera. Perhaps most significantly is a love for Floridian death pioneers Morbid Angel, which Frédéric and Joey have bonded over throughout the years. “I’m never gonna lie and say ‘Morbid Angel? Who’s that, never heard of them!’ They’re probably my favourite band period, my favourite death metal band without a doubt,” he states.
“It’s the same with Joey because that’s actually how we bonded years ago. We were calling each other Morbid Angel and we still do, like when we text each other it’s always got ‘MA’ written on it.”
For Frédéric, the time of ‘Blessed Are the Sick’ and ‘Slowly We Rot’ represent a golden age for extreme metal, and it’s an age that he takes more inspiration from than today’s crop of artists. “I don’t listen to what’s coming out nowadays, to be completely honest,” he admits. “I think genres are relative and that people will find new ways of expressing themselves. So I think everything had been written [in death metal]. So bands like Morbid Angel were the first ones to make the recipes, and everyone else has been following the recipe afterwards.
“Those guys invented the omelette, and now everyone’s just doing omelettes and adding chorizo or herbs or whatever, if you want to follow my kitchen metaphor,” Frédéric adds. “What I prefer is the original recipe, and I’m trying to use the same ingredients as they were at the time and try to take it from there as opposed to following the recipes from nowadays’ generation.”
While seeking out newer bands has been a necessary task in order to seek out support bands for upcoming headline shows, Frédéric is the first to admit he’s fallen out of touch with more recent uprisings in extreme metal. For him, this is both a blessing and a curse. “I guess in a way that’s good because it means Sinsaenum are keeping things fresh because I haven’t been listening to ten years worth of music.”
In those ten years, a number have trends have infiltrated metal, particularly as the U.S. bred scene culture made itself known throughout Europe. Frédéric sees this movement as alienating and realises how much of a polar opposite Sinsaenum’s music is. “I think maybe because I haven’t really been paying attention, but when I hear those bands, it sounds like they all went to the same studio and did the same song,” he says.
“When I look at magazines and I see those guys and their haircuts and hipster clothing, I need something different. With Sinsaenum, I want it to be raw and dirty and disgusting, just like the cover. It’s evil, and mean and it’s the colour of shit and that was the entire idea. That’s what I wanted it to be, otherwise, everything seems too polished.”
Given the reputation several members have gained from playing in globally recognised acts, including Frédéric’s role as bassist and primary songwriter in power metal titans Dragonforce, the potential for Sinsaenum to become the gateway band into classic death metal is very real. “I mean, if it does, that’s great, and if it doesn’t, it’s not a problem,” Frédéric says, considering how ‘Repulsion for Humanity’ will be received by a riff-hungry public. “Obviously it’s easy to play the card of ‘Oh I don’t care what anyone thinks’, but you also need people to buy the album and come out to a show, otherwise this experience is going to stop.
“I feel very lucky to already have a label that has allowed us to release two albums and make them sound the way we want, but I suppose that if what we do helps people discover the pioneers of the genre and also figure out 90 percent of what’s coming out nowadays is shit, then that’s great, we’ve achieved something,” he adds. “But if we achieve nothing, that’s great too ‘cos we’re all gonna die.”
Needless to say, Sinsaenum has been an integral component of Frédéric Leclercq’s creative and artistic ventures over the past few years. While it would be easy to offer a straightforward statement that he doesn’t care how ‘Repulsion for Humanity’ is received, hearing people’s feedback is always going to be a craving for any artist. “When people enjoy the music, and they understand the composition and the thought that’s gone into the music, I like that. I like when it’s more than just ‘oh that song’s great.’ It’s great when people analyse music because I love to do that myself, so I guess saying ‘I don’t care’ is not true,” Frédéric states.
“I’m trying not to care because obviously, I’m very attached to everything that I do artistically, it’s a part of me that’s out there and obviously if I get shit reviews, it’s gonna hurt me for sure, but I’m just gonna pretend that I don’t care. And if people say ‘oh that’s great blah blah blah’, same thing, I’m just gonna pretend I don’t care. But it does affect me whether I like it or not.”
As the brains behind and creative heart of Sinsaenum’s vile body, Frédéric realises how important this music is to him, and this passion is constantly reflected in gutsy performance across ‘Repulsion…’, and it’s only natural for the creator of such an ambitious album to hope anyone listening can also identify that ambition. “Deep inside, because I took all the time to write all of this and because I’m making all this effort for this to come out, obviously it’s because I want people to like it, so I need that from them,” he explains. “But also based on the fact that I don’t really like people and humanity in general, that’s the duality of me; putting out an album and waiting for people to tell me that it’s great, and at the same time me telling them, ‘well go fuck yourself’”.
“So yeah,”Frédéric Leclercq concludes. “Ultimately if people like the album, that’s great. If they don’t, well that just confirms what I’ve been saying all along. Repulsion for humanity.”
‘Repulsion for Humanity’ by Sinsaenum is out now on earMUSIC.
Sinsaenum will play The Dome in London o October 19th.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)
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