Impact Is Imminent
CoC chats with Leif Jensen of Dew-Scented
by: Jackie Smit
While their workhorse ethic has been consistent since day one, there's no arguing upon spinning _Incinerate_ that Germany's Dew-Scented have come a long way since they burst on the scene with 1996's _Immortelle_. Their latest continues a tradition of fine thrash metal, taking a steadily improving blend of old and modern to more visceral heights than ever before. The good news? After seven albums it looks like they're just getting revved up. Says their always affable vocalist Leif Jensen: "The motivation for us is new possibilities -- the chance to do a new tour or get a new collection of songs out of our system. We believe so much in what we do that we've never had to motivate ourselves; it's just always been there."

CoC: Before we even start talking about the new album, the biggest Dew-Scented news going back to the end of 2005 was the band reuniting with your guitarist Flo [Muller]. What were some of the reasons behind that reunion?

Leif Jensen: Well, from the moment that we parted ways, I think that everyone in the band realised that he was an integral part of Dew-Scented but that we just weren't able to work together any longer at that point. There were a lot of issues between us and him and probably even more between him and himself. So it was a good time for a break and we subsequently started working with a good friend of ours, Marvin Vriesde, who came from Severe Torture and had helped us out in the past as a session guitarist. Then he got ill at the end of our North American tour and when we came back to Europe we still had a few shows left, so we ended up calling Flo and sitting him down and just having a really good talk. He helped us with those shows in Europe and pretty much before anyone had realised it, he was just part of the band again. It wasn't a planned reunion or anything like that; it was just as if he'd been away on a long holiday and was back again playing guitar with us in the rehearsal.

CoC: Given what had happened, were there any strange feelings around going back to the studio with him?

LJ: No, it was all very natural and actually very challenging because him and Hendrik [Bache, guitar] have a really good connection when it comes to songwriting. So when they started clicking their gears together again, we felt like the chemistry with the band had been restored and it just felt really appropriate for him to be there.

CoC: Looking back at the response you had to the previous album, _Issue VI_ -- in my mind that probably earned you some of the highest praise that you've received as a band thus far. Did you have that in the back of your mind when you went into the studio to do _Incinerate_?

LJ: Yes, we did, but at the same time we had personally started feeling quite soon after we began touring for _Issue VI_ that there were things that we should have done differently. We tried to really stretch the framework for our music and the limitations of the style on that album, and we tried a lot of different things which in some cases were so tiny, I don't think some people even heard them. But we noticed that some of the songs on that record didn't work in a live situation. Some of it we didn't even pick up and rehearse for the tour, which isn't a good thing because with any new album you hopefully want all of it to be good enough to go and play live. We also felt that we weren't 100% satisfied with the sound on that record, and that made us want to try something different with this one. The big thing for us this time round was just to keep it simple. We wanted it to be more like _Impact_, because we feel that we're at our best when we're being really straightforward and in your face. In fact, we actually played more songs off _Impact_ on the last tour than we did off _Issue VI_, which is just very bad and weird. So with _Incinerate_, we wanted to trim away the fat, keep the songs catchy and straightforward and not use ten riffs in a part where only one is necessary.

CoC: What struck me most about this new album is that there's more of a death metal vibe to it than you had on your previous records and a lot of your more vintage thrash references were gone almost entirely.

LJ: I understand why you say that, but I think that even if there's a death metal vibe on certain songs, it maybe just shines through more because the new material is faster and because we wanted to make it more intense. To be honest, I think that the lines between the thrash and death metal elements in our music are miniscule. It's almost like a band like Malevolent Creation: which part of what they do is thrash and which part of what they do is death metal, you see what I mean? So, I think that the death metal feel to this album just stems from wanting to make something simpler, more aggressive and more intense.

CoC: Another thing that certainly helps with the intensity of this record is the fact that you've probably turned in your best vocal performance to date.

LJ: <laughs> Well, this was the first time I walked out of the studio thinking that I had nailed it. But everything came together on this album in a nice way. We had enough good songs, and we had a situation where we recorded differently. I mean, we'd previously recorded our last three albums with Andy Claasen, which worked out well for us, but with _Issue VI_ I think we were trying to make changes and ended up changing the things that work best for us. We wanted to break out of our standard sound and ended up doing something that wasn't quite right for us. So we went to guy who knows us very well [Jorg Uken], recorded the album over three and a half weeks, took a break and then took it to Andy Sneap, who is a guy that really has the perfect modern metal edge and we were just interested to see what he could do with our songs. And I think it worked. The songs have a lot more bite and a lot more impact.

CoC: I think that getting Andy Sneap to work on this record is almost like a selling point in itself, given how sought after he is by bands and the calibre of bands he has worked with in the past.

LJ: He definitely knows what he's doing on a technical level, and he also knows thrash very well. He used to have his own band, Sabbat, and we've just been impressed with everything he's done from Nevermore to Killswitch Engage to Machine Head and Arch Enemy. So we knew that he'd be good, and after sending him a couple of our albums, our schedules matched and we could let him mix the album. It was an interesting procedure, and I think that he probably added 10% on top of what we wanted to achieve with what he brought to the table.

CoC: Does your music evolve while you're in the studio, or is everything 100% done by the time you go and record?

LJ: We have everything completely ready before we go in. We might change one or two things on a solo and maybe switch around a couple of vocal patterns, but we rarely change a single beat on the songs. It's like learning your work before you go to an exam; the time and the pressure is much too much for a band like us who only records for a couple of weeks. So there's no time for change when we're in the studio.

CoC: Was three and a half weeks the longest time you've spent in the studio?

LJ: It probably was. We actually planned to be there for a shorter amount of time, but we also thought that it would be a good idea to take a break after two weeks, come back and finish the album and then do the mix later anyway, so that we can worry about that later. I think that if you do it all in one go, even while you're recording you're already worrying about the sound, and that sometimes blocks your creativity a little.

CoC: It's a first for Dew-Scented to have guest appearances on a record, and I appreciate that you'll be asked this question by everyone you speak to for the next two years, but what made you decide to get Jeff [Waters, Annihilator] and the others on board?

LJ: Well, we realised that we were doing our seventh album and that we hadn't actually ever done something like that. We have a lot of friends and a lot of people we respect in other bands, and we've always thought that it's something we'd like to try if the opportunity is there. So this time around, we were relaxed enough about everything to give it a try, and the album actually turned out to be the perfect one to do it on. I've known Jeff for many years through us touring with them, and we really love and respect everything that Gus G [Firewind] and Mille [Kreator] do, so we got them all involved and it was just a very pleasant and un-bureaucratic process. It was a pleasure to have them on the record, because they all have very different styles to what we do. Obviously there's also a lot of interest driven to the album because they appear on it, but I wouldn't want people to think that we intended for it to be another selling point or anything like that. They each suited their particular song very well and it was a pleasure to have them record with us.

CoC: I understand you're currently auditioning new drummers...

LJ: We just found one, actually. I'm not sure if it's been announced yet though.

CoC: So, what was behind Uwe [Werning] leaving the fold?

LJ: It's a long story, but we saw it coming. We had already done a couple of tours with a session drummer, because Uwe wasn't able to make himself available due to commitments that he had at work or personal reasons. He finished his studies last year and moved to a different city, so we knew that sooner or later there would be a conflict of schedules and that this would happen. So we decided to sit down and talk about it. We're all old friends and he's been with us for six albums, so we told him that we had started writing the new material and that we really wanted him to perform on the record, which he did and he did a great job. But after that, we needed to search for someone else because he couldn't commit to going straight back out on tour. So we started speaking to some friends of ours in other bands and we struggled to find somebody. Eventually we opened up the search to the outside and we ended up with two people in the rehearsal room who played with us for a couple of weeks before deciding on a guy from Berlin who used to play in local thrash band over there, and he's just an amazing player. The first thing he did actually was to drive with us to Sweden to go do the video for "That's Why I Despise You", which I'm sure was a bit of a weird beginning for him.

CoC: Your first stop this year as far as touring is concerned will be the No Mercy tour, which also features Moonspell and Behemoth -- two bands that are very different to Dew-Scented. Looking back over your career, that seems to be quite a common theme, which brings me to my next question: what's the worst experience you've had on stage with this band?

LJ: <laughs> There are always going to be shows where you weren't happy with your own playing or where the audience sucked or where there were technical problems. But that's rock 'n' roll -- you can never be 100% safe and sure. When we started out, we never used to make a distinction between hardcore and metal, and we used to actually live in shared houses with guys from hardcore bands, so we also played with quite a few of those guys even though we were very much a metal band. I remember some of those shows being really difficult, because there would be five guys with long hair in the building and that would be us. There were never any really major problems; it's just that no one knew what we were doing there, because at that time the scenes were still very divided. Those weren't necessarily the worst shows ever, but they were definitely very interesting. I love the challenge of playing in front of an audience that's not into you though.

CoC: So, with that in mind: is there one show you can point to and say that it's the best Dew-Scented gig thus far?

LJ: Oh, plenty! I'd be very unfair by singling out a couple of gigs specifically, but I think that for me going to Japan for the first time was very special. It was just an amazing contrast in terms of both their scene and the country in general. It's always special playing a big festival like Wacken, just because they're so massive. Supporting Death in 1998 -- which is one of the few bands that everyone in this band agrees on as being a major influence. Supporting Morbid Angel right before David Vincent first left the band was amazing too, because I thought that they were really on top of their game there. There have been a lot of good ones over the years.

CoC: So beside the No Mercy Festival, the summer festivals and your European tour afterward, what else does 2007 hold for Dew-Scented?

LJ: We're going to go to North America. We're looking at two different options right now, and we had a really good time when we were there with Vader the last time. So that will probably happen in the autumn. We're also hoping to finally debut in South America, because it's something we've always wanted to do and it always fell through at the last minute. Apart from that, I don't know. I'm hoping that we'll be able to go to a couple of new places, and if not we'll probably start on new material.

CoC: So we can pretty much expect another Dew-Scented album in 2009?

LJ: I'm going to say 2008 to keep myself focused! <laughs>

(article submitted 25/3/2007)


CHATS
6/20/2005 J Smit Dew-Scented: Metal Thrashing Mad
4/12/2002 P Schwarz /
A Bromley
Dew-Scented: Inside Out
ALBUMS
9/2/2012 A El Naby 7 Dew-Scented - Icarus
7/28/2010 A El Naby 8 Dew-Scented - Invocation
3/16/2007 J Smit 8.5 Dew-Scented - Incinerate
6/20/2005 J Smit 8 Dew-Scented - Issue VI
8/31/2003 J Smit 7.5 Dew-Scented - Impact
4/12/2002 D Rocher 9.5 Dew-Scented - Inwards
GIGS
12/26/2003 J Smit Deicide / Destruction / Nile / Akercocke / Dew-Scented / Graveworm / Misery Index Redemption at the Palace
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