Inside Out
CoC chats with Leffe Jensen of Dew-Scented
by: Paul Schwarz / Adrian Bromley
Part 1: Is Inwards the Only Way Out?

by: Paul Schwarz

Dew-Scented are one the finest thrash bands that has emerged from Germany since its "golden age", when the likes of Kreator, Sodom and Destruction first tore up the scene in the Eighties. Well, maybe they didn't as much tear up the scene as they did congregate in one corner of it and make a distinctive loud and offensive noise; to be called "one of the finest thrash bands that has emerged from Germany in the last decade" is a compliment -- but in being awarded such an accolade a contestant is not indicated to have had to face a lot of competition. As you can probably tell, I personally have my doubts about Dew-Scented; simultaneously, I am in no doubt that they are a tight, powerful metal band that will appeal to many of you out there and -do- appeal to me. My reasons for being rather sharply critical in the following email interview with Dew-Scented vocalist Leffe Jensen conducted in early January were simple: _Inwards_, their fourth album [reviewed in this issue], though more than unbridled enough in its vicious metalness to stand tall over Nuclear Blast's relative-unknown collective, seemed to me a little lacking in vibrancy, despite its undeniable, brutalising proficiency. Though I didn't dislike _Inwards_, listening to it led me to forsake it increasingly in favour of The Haunted. Though I haven't really altered this stance on _Inwards_ myself, I still think that many of you with more of a desire for volume in your head-down, thrash/death collection than me may well find the album and the band well worth checking out. That said, the band are still on my interest list -- and not just because my (possibly overblown and pretentious) reading between the lines "discovered" a hint of the will of Hegel and a healthy dose of Rousseaunian romanticism in the ideas behind Leffe Jensen's lyrics. I'll -definitely- be turning up early to catch Dew-Scented live when they come to Scotland with Vader on the 21st of March.

CoC: If I had to describe Dew-Scented briefly to someone who hadn't heard the band, I'd call you a mixture of The Haunted and Malevolent Creation (_Retribution_-era). What do you think of that description? How would you describe Dew-Scented to someone who'd never heard the band?

Leffe Jensen: Well yeah, I think we can live with your description! It's obviously very difficult to make up a "neutral" opinion about the material if you are playing it yourself, but I would say that both Malevolent Creation and The Haunted definitely have similarities in the songwriting approach with Dew-Scented, as we all go for the best of both worlds between thrash and death metal and also have the aim to sound as uncompromisingly aggressive and hard-hitting as ever possible. I also do hear strong Slayer references in all mentioned cases, so I guess that's a good point as well?! Dew-Scented's basic intention is to come up with an interesting mixture of untamed brutality and some technical sidemark in the song structures without losing the overall catchiness. We grew up on savage thrash metal and appreciate vile death metal, so that will always shine through in our own songs...

CoC: Why do you think that the metal scene needs Dew-Scented? Is there something missing from it that Dew-Scented can bring to it?

LJ: That's a really tough question and not really something I feel very comfortable answering. I think it's rather up to the listener to decide, at the end of the day! I think in general, the metal scene of these days needs more bands that believe at strongest in what they are doing and stick to their "individual" musical formula in the long-term, making sure to always move forwards in quality without abruptly jumping from one style to the next just for better instant exposure. We have been doing this for quite some years now, playing our asses off on stage, and I feel we have grown a lot as single musicians as well as in terms of being a tight unity. I think our new album _Inwards_ is the result of these last years of hard work and I hope it will be a record that satisfies the needs of some other people into violent straightforward thrash metal too!? That would be fair enough to us! I don't think we are a totally unique or stylistically "groundbreaking" outfit, and we actually don't intend to be! After all, we are having a good time ourselves with what we are doing...

CoC: Do you find that people are at all dismissive of Dew-Scented because of your German origins in the way that people tend to automatically pay more attention to metal bands, at the moment, who are Swedish?

LJ: Could be, but that is often used as an excuse by many bands for the question why they aren't succeeding. I don't know, I think there is a massive amount of outstanding extreme metal bands from Scandinavia, so it's pretty normal that the scene over there has a bigger focus and profile! As far as the German scene, I guess it also has a lot to do with the "glorious" past of thrash metal, as there haven't been many German extreme acts that managed to achieve a huge world-wide reputation after Sodom / Kreator / Destruction. Maybe Morgoth were the only exception to that!? Then again, I think this situation leads to make the up 'n' coming bands fight harder for what they believe in and hopefully one day get the deserved attention. And the scene over here had a very healthy period of evolution, as I think there are plenty of good bands now around in Germany that don't really have the exact same sound. I mean, bands like Night In Gales, Disbelief, Crack Up, Fleshcrawl, Bethlehem, Agathodaimon, Profanity, Harmony Dies and probably also Dew-Scented have been around for quite some years, always progressing next to each other without sounding too much alike. But coming back to your original question: in the very last instance, there is only good or bad music to me, no matter where the band comes from, and I think more people should start realising that by now...

CoC: What would you say to someone who claimed Dew-Scented were nothing but an inferior alternative to The Haunted?

LJ: I take the "alternative" as a compliment, because in fact there aren't many bands around that are devoted to this style of music! All other styles are full of lame copycats and now there is a handful of bands that have a strong Slayer vibe to them as well as a death metal attitude at the same time, and suddenly you'll need to put them into competition with each other? I don't quite agree with that! Everybody in Dew-Scented loves The Haunted and we really appreciate the fact that they had the guts to write their self-titled debut record, because that's probably the most pounding thrash metal record of the last ten years! Still, I don't think that Dew-Scented is too close to what The Haunted are doing and we never meant to "steal" their trademarks, so I don't see the problem here! I would love to hear their opinion on this, haha!

CoC: What do you think of Nuclear Blast, their history and their current roster? Why did you decide to sign with them? How do you feel about being on a label that has Primal Fear, HammerFall and Narnia on its roster?

LJ: I think Nuclear Blast is a cool label and they are (finally) opening a lot of new worldwide doors for Dew-Scented with the fact that we are getting far better promotion and distribution for our music than in the past, so I wouldn't be able to complain at all so far. I guess they respect our album and career so far and I think they are really satisfied with the media results on _Inwards_, so things are really looking good for our co-operation at the moment! We signed with them because we share the same vision for this new album and we as a band have the impression that they are gonna give us the best possible attention and facilities to get the album out to the people who care about our music! We don't have to dig all of their repertoire to know that we are in good hands with the label that works for bands like Destruction, Immortal, In Flames, Lock Up or also Dimmu Borgir! I think it's a positive move that they have a quite diverse, all-metal roster and the people working for/with us definitely know what they are doing!

CoC: Would you call yourselves a death metal band (as Nuclear Blast have)? I would say you were more thrash than death. Do such labels as "death metal" and "thrash metal" really matter to you?

LJ: I would say we are fairly in between both of those "labels", but to somebody who digs just well-done, aggressive metal, it shouldn't be much of a difference! I wouldn't totally agree with the fact that we are scheduled as "death metal", but to people expecting "nice" melodic or old school thrash metal, I think it does make sense to set a warning that Dew-Scented might be a bit heavier than that. We equally like some thrash and death metal bands so again, I don't think it's a big deal! Thrash metal riffing and songwriting, but with death metal brutality and pissed-off vocals, that would be a good way of putting it in case you should really need such a strict "labeling". Haha!

CoC: How important are your lyrics when compared with you music? Is there some message (or messages) they convey that you think it is important that people hear?

LJ: Basically the lyrics are meant to add to the certain musical atmosphere of a song, so of course I would always point out that the music is of bigger importance for us. "Message" is maybe the wrong word, but _Inwards_ definitely has some guiding theme lyrically, as you might discover by seeing the symbolic cover art, the title of the album and the names of the songs. _Inwards_ generally deals with the power of inner strength that we carry in ourselves and about the fact that we tend to forget more from day to day how vital that is and how little we challenge it! Daily life is full of shit, society is becoming more cruel, it's so much easier to be frustrated or hopeless these days... but then again, we could do something about it if we only wanted. Every bit of experience and every feeling is a source of power (no matter if positive or negative) for our minds and spirits. I think it's too bad that some people are giving up fighting for what they feel and that's the main topic throughout all the lyrics. I think it would be by far easier to speak about the individual songs instead of talking about a complete "vision", but I hope you will get at least some input now? Yes, I definitely think that lyrics should be a nice extra for the listeners that care! To me, there are good albums with crap lyrics in metal and some that are just better because they have some impressing amount of lyrical "wit" on top of good music! If you enjoy reading between the lines of metal lyrics, you might like our approach!? But the music will always go first and therefore the lyrics are just there supporting the very angry and aggressive vein of the music on _Inwards_...

CoC: You have built up quite a resume' of live work, playing with bands such as Overkill, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Arch Enemy and Cryptopsy. How important is playing live for you as a band? When you're writing songs, how much thought do you put into how it will sound in a live setting? Would you write, or have you written, songs that you couldn't perform live, or that wouldn't sound good when played live?

LJ: Playing live is the strongest part of death and thrash metal music! We would rather consider ourselves as a live act that is writing albums to be able to go out again to play some more shows, instead of the other way around! We have grown quite a lot as tight unity in the last couple of years, majorly due to the fact that we did as many shows as we could and went through a lot of different experiences when it comes to touring! Hmmm, I think you are touching a good topic here, as we perhaps finally managed to write the right material for a cool stage presence on _Inwards_!? In the past, we somehow always wrote two or three songs per album that we knew instantly wouldn't work out that well in our live-sets, so those songs never got played, really. With _Inwards_, I somehow think that we really composed songs that are straightforward and imminent, so it has been awesome to perform that material live! I think we learnt a lot about our own stronger and weaker points as songwriters through all those different shows we did in the turn of the years, and therefore _Inwards_ profited a lot from that. I really hope we will be able to come over to the UK soon for live shows as well, as we unfortunately never really had the chance to come over to play...

CoC: What do you think of your version of "War Ensemble" when you compare it to Slayer's original? Why did you choose to record a Slayer cover, why did you choose "War Ensemble", and what made you decide to include it as a 'bonus track' on _Inwards_?

LJ: Hmm, difficult one as well again! I think 99% of the Slayer cover versions done so far by other bands can't live up at all to the original Slayer song... Well, they just suck!!! I think we tried to make a fair and simple rendition of that classic, massive song just to see how we would be able to "represent" it ourselves and also to see how it would come out when we have it powerfully recorded and produced. The moment we first heard "War Ensemble" in its final mix in the studio, we felt sure that it came out fine and that it would be better to give it a use on the release. We were looking for one track off the session to be used as the Japanese bonus track for the album, so it looked like an obvious pick that we would leave the cover song for this reason!? It's always "risky" to play around with songs of bands that you would consider as direct influence for your band, so I can't really make up my opinion on whether we succeeded on doing a good version of the song or not. It was such a spontaneous choice that it only got rehearsed a handful of times, so we actually never thought about the "consequences", haha! In fact, we never meant to get special "attention" for the track and therefore we decided not to make it a regular part of the album, as some people seem to always give special value to cover tracks. _Inwards_ is a record that should stand on its own feet, so to say, just by our own material! "War Ensemble" is a song that pretty much every metalhead is gonna know by heart (or really should!), so it's a great tune to fully tear up the audiences during a good live show! Did I mention before that Slayer rule?

CoC: The floor is yours. Say anything about Dew-Scented you feel people should know that you haven't already touched on.

LJ: Thanks for this interview and for the support! It would be awesome to be finally able to come over for some shows with our new album _Inwards_. I hope some of your readers will give our new record a try, as I think they could like what we came up with?! Please feel free to visit our website for further details about the band. Take care and stay heavy! Chuck Schuldiner -- RIP, you are never going to be forgotten!

Part 2: Outward Bound

by: Adrian Bromley

"I think things are going as planned with this band. It just seems to be all going in the right direction", starts Dew-Scented singer Leffe about the band's new album _Inwards_ (their debut for Nuclear Blast) and their growth over the years. "I know for a fact that all of our fans are still following us and are quite happy with the evolution of our sound. We have always done what we wanted to do and I think, without sounding cliche, we have done the best record that we have ever done."

"We are getting a lot of feedback for this record and it is exciting to hear people so excited about what we have done here. It feels good. We are just trying to keep making the best music that we can and learn from our mistakes, to work with the new chances that we are given with being on a new label and just try to push the profile of the band out to the music fans. The scene is growing and it is a lot more open-minded and people like a lot of music and hopefully people who don't know us with latch onto what we are doing with the new album. Thrash metal is having a comeback and we are trying to seize the day and present ourselves in the best possible way."

He adds, "We worked hard to write and record the best music we could for this release. We wanted to have a good production, something we didn't have on the last few records. It took a while to get the right production. We were concerned on making the music of Dew-Scented a bit more technically intriguing than what we had done in the past. We also got a lot more aggressive and I know the fans like that too."

And have things changed for Dew-Scented -- the band is rounded out by guitarist Flo, bassist Patrick and drummer Uwe -- with them being on Nuclear Blast?

"Oh man, we have seen so many changes already", says the frontman about their new home. "We are able to walk through a lot of new doors, doors that were locked before we signed to the label. It is getting us excited about being in the band a lot more and motivating us as a band. The label is really excited about what we are doing and it is definitely a good sign for us."

"But I'll tell you one thing, Adrian", he continues. "It doesn't matter what label's name is on the back of our CD, just as long as there are people who believe in what we are doing and are working hard at making things happen for us. That is all we want to see. There is a lot of good chemistry between us and Nuclear Blast and they are extremely proud of the response we are getting."

With the jump to a major label and things changing week after week for the band right now, with touring plans and much praise from fans and the metal community, the band must be in awe of how things have gone for them since their inception. Are their prime goals as a band still intact?

"That is a difficult question. I think the risk is always big to fall into a routine with what you are doing and losing the freshness in your creativity. I think we have been pretty lucky with this band. We have learned a lot over the years and known quite well that this was a learning experience. A lot of bands in this genre come out with a massive debut album and then slowly lose ground and are never capable of getting that back with their follow-up albums. With us, we have had to grow with each album and you can hear that when you play _Inwards_ next to our older stuff. You can see that it is much tighter than previous albums and that we have indeed worked hard to perfect and nurture our sound."

For fans of Dew-Scented, the new album _Inwards_ finds the band stepping up things a notch, in both the technical and aggressive end. _Inwards_ is a definite monster of a record that exudes so much force and power but showcases it will finesse and grace rather than a pompous attitude that some technical death metal outfits omit. This is good, honest playing done with lots of passion. Leffe feels it big time!

"We are in love with playing technical music", he states. "We just want this to be an experience for all of our fans. We love to bring a lot of this technical stuff into the death metal mix, but still keep it catchy and open ended to go other routes with the musical creativity. We are so much into bands like Meshuggah, Cryptopsy and even Dillinger Escape Plan, they are all so cool, and we wanted those kind of technical features in what we do, but on a much smaller scale. To just squeeze it into what we play and let the music offer up a variety of sounds for people to digest. Our drummer is a very technical drummer and we really had to nail him down to playing a bit more straightforward with the music and not be too technical on this album. Technical, but a but more controlled. I think in the end, it helped make this record stronger."

And what about _Inwards_ is he most proud of?

"I think that this album has a beginning and an end", responds Leffe. "The whole album just makes sense. It is about full on aggression and this record builds up from song to song and ends in this huge blast beat massacre at the end of the album. With past albums we had mid-paced songs and some of them had too much melody in them, and this album has a very compact feel to it. Every song that didn't seem to fit the scheme of what we were doing with _Inwards_ was thrown out. We just wanted this album to be one of those albums that you put on and listen from start to finish and at the end of it all say, "Man, that was brutal!" and move on."

Even though the band has been around for almost ten years, they are still is in the trenches of the metal community, playing fast and furious against a sea of other acts trying to get noticed. Where does Leffe see Dew-Scented in the scope of the metal music world?

"I don't know, really, I don't think it is fair to say we are better than anyone else, because at the end of the day it isn't a competition for us. We aren't doing anything original or special", says the singer. "With our music we are just saying that we are influenced by a lot of '80s death and thrash metal bands."

He ends, "We are just trying to present what we like in aggressive metal with our own ideas. I know there are a lot more bands that are more special to the scene than us. I think we are just a traditional band. I think our music appeals to a lot of people, but I don't really care how big we become, as long as the music gets heard."


(article submitted 12/4/2002)

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