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Leviathan

September 2011 was de maand waarop de Nederlandse metalwereld kennis mocht maken met het Duitse Leviathan via uw favoriete beukwerkperiodiek. Met het album 'Beyond The Gates Of Imagination Part 1' werd alvast de eerste belofte ingeluid om een opvolger te maken, om vervolgens met een stilistische omschrijving in de begeleidende biografie nog een belofte of wat extra te doen. En die belofte losten ze op mij vrij behoorlijk in en Leviathan is druk bezig zijn plekje in het wereldje te veroveren. Hun muziek leunt sterk op traditionele metal, maar ze weten daar een frisse wind doorheen te blazen. Dat lukt wel meer bands, maar toch weten ze zich voor mij voldoende te onderscheiden om eens wat meer over de band te weten te willen komen. Ze nodigden mij uit eens wat leuke vragen voor ze te bedenken naar aanleiding van mijn beoordeling van hun bovenvermelde debuut. Gitarist Tobias Dahs ging er eens rustig voor zitten.

Door: Ramon | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

Congratulations, it is official. With the release of your album you have officially entered the world of heavy metal. Do you take great pride in the final result, or are there point you would have changed already?
Thank you, it's still some kind of surreal to see your own record on all these shops like EMP or so. But we are overall very proud of the final result, I'm still regularly putting the album into the CD player and enjoying every single song. Perhaps in a year or two you'll look back at the album and perhaps feel like changing something, but up to now we haven't found any points that we would have done different.

Did it take you long to record it?
Oh yes, the recordings were very long this time. We were in the studio for about six weeks, each day an eight to ten hour recording day. And at some point of time it gets really exhausting, but when you get closer to the final result this is very motivating and it keeps you going, even if it's sometimes hard work. But what should be also mentioned I guess is the time we took to write the album, this was even longer. We basically started to write the first pieces of music in march 2010, so about one year before we entered the studio to record. Overall we worked on this new album for about twelve months.

What was it like to read the first objective reflections on it? Were any of the comments, which mostly are subjective naturally, in any way useful to you?
It's always thrilling to read each and every review that is released. You've put so much work in that product and you obviously want the people to like it, but I'm also realist enough to see that this is impossible, but still you always hope that as much people as possible like the album. About the comments on single pieces of the music, I have to say that I've stepped aside from looking at them too close at such an early point. When our first EP was released in 2010 and somebody disliked something about it I was always like: 'oh my god, we've got to change that!'. But this being our second record, I see all that a bit more differentiated. I read every review that is released and I also collect each for our archive, but we will let some time pass until we really take a close look at the reviews and the hints and comments, to see if they are useful. With more distance to the record you can also read the reviews in a more objective way and see which comment is really useful and which is more based, as you also mentioned, on the subjective taste of the writer.

Would you agree with me when I say that you get to know your bandmembers in a whole new way when you go through a recording process together?
Oh yes, I would totally agree with you on that. You get to know the other members a lot better if you spend each day eight to ten hours with them. And we also had some moments were we had arguments in the studio, about music or organizational things, which we probably never had without being forced to spend so much time together. But gladly we all developed a very close friendship to each other in the past two years, so that some anger that might arise in these discussions never lasts for long. All in all we do get along very well, but I've discovered some new sides on the other members during the recording, that's for sure.

What were the coolest things and the worst things about it?
Well on that case I can only give you my personal opinion as a guitar player. For me during the recording process the worst thing is recording the rhythm guitars. Because every rhythm line is doubled up you have to play 100 percent precise, there is no space for expression or feeling. Everything has to be right on the spot, I sometimes feel a bit like a robot during the rhythm guitar recordings. The coolest thing for me clearly was the lead guitar recordings and especially the solos. That's where you really can put some expression and feelings into your playing. The solos are special fun, because we usually don't write them before recording. You just sit down in the studio and give it a shot, and it's then that special moment that gets caught on record and what also makes a guitar solo really stand out, because it expresses your feelings in that very moment.

Did you already have the contract signed when you started recording the album?
Yes, we went into the studio two days after signing the contract. That was also very important for us, we wanted to have the distributional and label side solved, so that we were able to just focus on the music. We've had quite a few offers after the release of our debut EP and in February 2011 we sat down together, looked through all the offers and tried to find the one which would fit our situation best. And that was clearly the Bret Hard Records offer, because it left us a lot of control and overall seemed to be the best package for us.

Your biography contained the word 'staccato'. Was it that important to you (or the label) to tell that this is an important element of your playing style? And Why is that, or isn't it?
That wasn't really happening on purpose and not for a reason. When we had finished the record, our label asked for a biography. But they found the one I sent in too boring. So we handed it over to a local writer that works for some German webzines and asked him to write the biography. And he just came up with the expression 'staccato', and I have to say that I really didn't pay too much attention to the use of that word, the whole biography was written very good, so we took it. It isn't really something important that we wanted to point out about our playing style. It for sure is a part of every metal style, but it isn't as if we do pay more attention to 'staccato' riffs then to any other playing style.

The album is entitled 'Beyond The Gates Of Imagination part 1', so the obvious question would be when we can expect part 2, right?
We hope that Part 2 will be ready in about one year. Actually we planned to put the whole lyrical concept, that we build around the songs, onto one album. But we came up with a lot of ideas, and also came close to the time limits of a CD. And therefore we came up actually in the studio with the idea to split the lyrical concept into two parts. A lot of the music for part 2 is already finished and we are going to finish the rest in the next month. The drum-tracks for part 2 were actually recorded together with the rest of the music of part 1 and are saved for a later use in the studio. Our plan now is, if we are able to gain the budget that is needed to rent the studio again, to return to the Big Easy Studio in early 2012 to finish the record and to release it in autumn/winter 2012.

Does the title refer to your own musical, or maybe personal quest for new boundaries, as it is obvious you don't take the easiest routes when it comes to making music?
Essentially the title refers to the story of the album, which we thought of as a surreal journey of the listener to different scenes and stories, which are told in each of the songs. And all this being a journey beyond your imagination. But you're right, one could also consider it a reference to our music and our quest to find a unique sound. On writing this album our goal was to not limit ourselves to a certain genre. We just took our roots which are basically melodic death metal, and we just let the songs and often also the lyrical themes carry us to different influences that seemed fitting to us. That's also why each song has a different kind of musical direction. And it occurred to us not before we had finished the album that the title has this kind of cool duality to it. Describing the lyrical idea on the one hand and also our musical quest for new boundaries on the other.

With the name of your band you sort of hint in what lyrical direction you have set yourselves. Yet I don't get the impression I am dealing with hardcore theistic Satanists here. Correct me if I'm wrong. But don't you think a name like that may limit you in the future when it comes to exploring new lyrical themes?
I have to say that this is the first time that we come across this kind of connection between bandname and lyrics.

That's what I'm for.
Our ideas behind the name were the old stories about Leviathan that you find in the bible and also in other ancient stories. Leviathan is mostly described as a beast set together from different parts. Basically created out of pieces of a crocodile, fish, snake and dragon. And for us the connection between the appearance of this beast and the way our music is set together, made the name fitting. We also take different pieces and musical influences and put them together to our sound, our own 'beast'. We've never had any thoughts of a connection to the lyrics. I mean we are all not religious, but we are surely no Satanists. And also our lyrics rarely deal with religious topics.

Since we are dealing with it, what would you consider to be the overall theme of your songs?
On this new album, the main theme is the situation in the world today and the crisis that we are going through. It really has a socially critical touch to it. In the three acts of the album, we ask the questions 'What do we do?', 'Who are we?' and 'Which are our goals?'. Every song is linked to real event. For example the oil-catastrophe in the gulf of Mexico in 2011 ('Beneath A Blackened Sky'), war ('Where Light And Death Unite'), abuse of religion ('Servants Of The Nonexistent') or Megalomania ('Sway Of The Stars'). Our inspiration for the lyrics were often the daily news.

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That will probably not be the first thing one might expect from a band with the name Leviathan, but it already became apparent to me your lyrics aren't just written to fill up the song in an obligatory way. Don't you think it is kind of a shame that such pure and useful thoughts get lost in the extreme vocal style?
Well I wouldn't say that they get lost through the extreme vocal style. For me these vocals are the most natural way to express these lyrics. The lyrics deal with the current situation, and therefore they surely aren't happy … they are much more angry. And the extreme vocals have this certain energy and also angry touch that you just can't get with clean vocals. That's why for me they are very fitting to the lyrics. And there is another thing about the screams and growls that I love. It's the contrast that they are to the very melodic and sometimes even sweet harmonies that the orchestra creates. Perhaps harmonic clean vocals would even get somehow a bit lost in the orchestra, while the extreme style vocals always cut through all the harmonies.

Do you think it is essential that your listeners take notion of your lyrics, to some extent?
We would be happy if people would take notion of it and if they, based on that, reflect on their behavior. But it was important to us to keep the album open in a way. We wanted the listener to be able to just throw the record into the player, skip to a song and just enjoy that song without wondering about the concept of the album. But you can also dig down deeper into the album, set yourself down with the CD playing, the booklet in your hands with the lyrics and follow the whole album as a story. But we wanted the album to have this both sides, so that the listener can decide how he wants to experience the record.

That's great, really. Would you take on the effort to make an album with a story suitable for a movie or something like that? And if so, who would be in it?
Another great question, because we already have the plan to do a concept album with a story continuing through all the songs in the future. And that story would probably be able to fit a movie. Even now we have for every song scenes in our mind when we write them, if we had the budget we would also have enough ideas to do a short movie for every song of the new record. When we compose we often talk about scenes that the music should reflect, because it makes it much easier to compose if you have a cinematic scene in mind that you try to describe with music. So we would definitely take the effort to do an album with a story for a movie. About the actors, well I have to say I don't watch movies too often, so I'm not to keen on actors. But I know one person that would have to be in it. Johnny Depp, not because I liked him in 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. I actually loved all his roles, if funny or serious. For me he's one of the best actors around.

I saw you guys are from Bonn. Aren't you pissed it is no longer the capitol of Germany?
I have to say that I'm not pissed by the fact. But I also have to say that I was too young to really experience Bonn as the capital of Germany. I was born 1988 and when the capital moved back to Berlin I was only twelve years old, so I grew up more with the capital of Germany being Berlin. But there are some bad consequences that are also visible today. With the capital also a lot of cultural events moved to Berlin, so that in the past years Bonn really lacked of events as well as for advancement for artists that are settled here.

Is there a good metal environment in your city, would you say?
Well the environment for metal in Bonn isn't too good. We have not much clubs where you can play as a band, but we don't live too far from Cologne and the Ruhr-area where the metal scene is very alive and where a lot of live venues and clubs are. But even though the environment isn't too good, we still have a very big metal scene here around Bonn, with a lot of underground bands coming from this area.

Germany is a country that is great in many things, the heavy metal industry certainly is one of them. But the main thing everyone wants to know: will you guys be the winner of the Euro 2012 football tournament?
I wouldn't bet on that. I'm really a big football fan, and nearly watch every game that is aired. But I'm not too sure of that, as I see it there are three teams that are unbeaten in the qualification round and therefore also will be favorites for the Euro 2012. That's us, Spain and the Netherlands. So I would say that one of these teams will be the winner of the tournament.

”Football is a game for 22 people that run around, play the ball, and one referee who makes a slew of mistakes, and in the end Germany always wins”. I put my money on you guys, you are younger and less influenced by emotions. Which Dutch player do you fear most, since you know so much about it? And please don't say you fear the schwalbes of Arjen Robben.
I guess it would be Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. He's in a good condition and has made nearly 80 percent of the goals he went for this season with Schalke 04. So I'm pretty sure that he's the most dangerous Dutch player at the moment, even though on the last qualification game I saw he was out shined by Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder. But overall I consider him the strongest at the moment.

Germany is also one of the strongest financial countries in our monetary system. Do you think countries like yours have the obligation to save other countries in the Euro zone, or should you be protecting your own people first?
That is a really difficult question. As a citizen of Germany I would say, protect us first. But this is a very wide matter. And by the fact that all the countries that have the Euro are bound together because of the common currency we have, if one country goes down the whole currency will follow, and this will hit each and every country in the Euro zone. So I would say that we, as a quite strong country, have some kind of task to do as much as we can to help keeping the Euro as stable as possible. Just putting our own people first would be too near-sighted, on the long term we will have to find a way to bring the Euro back to strength, and I'm sure this will not work without the strong countries contribution.

Maybe it is interesting, maybe not, but I'm taking that change: what else is keeping you busy, apart from being in a metal band?
Apart from the band I'm studying IT at the university in Bonn, so nothing too interesting hahaha. With the others it's quite similar, two of us are also studying and the other two are working in an all day job. One thing that is probably interesting is that our bass-player Tom is working a lot with graphic design, he also is the one who created the covers for both of our records.

I knew something interesting would come from that question, hahaha. Back to the album. It is out now. Should it be quite a big success, are you ready to drop all you have for a while to jump into a wild touring schedule?
For sure. If the album will be successful and we get the right offers, I would pause my studies to give the whole living-from-making-music thing a chance. I mean this is probably an offer or chance that you get once in a lifetime, so it would be very dumb to not at least give it a try.

Is that what you dream of as a band?
I wouldn't say that. For us the dream would be, that the band finances itself, so that we are able to continue producing records without the need to put our own money into the project. And in addition to that our dream is to get our music out there as much as possible. We've also achieved some of these dreams, we've sold records and shirts to Japan, USA, Taiwan and even Australia. This is already a dream come true, because I never had thought that I would get that far with the band.

Apart from dreams, have you set yourself any goals as a band, maybe in agreement with the label?
From the label's side we have freedom in that case, there aren't really goals we have to achieve. For us personally the goal would be to regain the money that was put into the production of the record to be able to return to the studio again to record Part 2 as soon as possible. And in addition to that to play as much live shows as we can, especially in the festival summer next year.

Are there any plans to make those dreams come true a little bit?
Well, there are already some plans to achieve some of our goals. For example we have our first international shows booked for 2012 in Maastricht (NL) and London (UK) as well as a summer festival in Norway. And with all the rest, we will see what happens as we move on.

Let us look in the crystal ball together. Where do you think your band will be standing within a year?
This is also a very difficult question. We as a band always try to not look too much into the future. Instead we always focus on the next thing that is up, no matter if it's the next live-show or the next recording session. And if we put as much heart into all that as we can, we will see where it will take us in the end. Another thing that got me off doing predictions where we will be in a year, was what happened in the past two years to us. If you had told me in early 2009 when we did our first live concerts, that one year later will be recording our first EP, or if you had told me at the release of the EP that in one year we'd have a label deal signed and will be releasing our debut album, I would have called you crazy! So I guess it's always better to just see where the journey takes you.

Hey, thanks for your time and trouble. I say goodbye for now and wish you all the best with your endeavors in the near future. Would you take the honor upon you of closing the interview down?
Well thank you very much for the interview, you've had some unusual but therefore very interesting questions! And to all the readers thank you for your interest, and we hope to see you soon on one of our live concerts!

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