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Sebastian Seeb: I never saw Orden Ogan as a commercial project

We discussed with the founder of one of the most important modern power metal bands for their new album, "Final Days".

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Orden Ogan is a constantly growing band that has in recent years earned a fair place in the Hall of Fame of the European power metal. Already from their latest releases they are charting a steady upward trend with their fans growing all over the world, headline tours and participations in the biggest festivals in the world.

A few weeks ago, their new album entitled "Final Days" was released. On this occasion we called their founder and leader Sebastian "Seeb" Levermann and he answered some of my questions. Stormy in his speech - like his music - but at the same time very calm and pleasant guy with a great passion for what he does.

MixGrill: Seeb, welcome to MixGrill! I' m really very excited about this interview with you today! If you wish, we can have our conversation in German...

Sebastian "Seeb" Levermann: How good is your German? (laughs)

MG: Well, let’s find out. So, a while ago, your new album, titled "Final Days," was released. How do you feel about it and what are the reactions you have received so far?

SL: At this point I’m feeling great, as a few days ago we learned that we are in the third place of the German charts, something spectacular not only for us but for power metal, too. It's awesome to feel the support of the people and to see your band develop into something big. Another thing I noticed is that - yes I have given several interviews over the past few years but - the interest of the journalists and the press for the new album is high, beyond any expectations. And the numbers on Spotify show that there is a lot of interest for the new album and the band. With almost half a million streams a month I can only be happy. The whole production of the album was a very stressful process, but we really like the result.

MG: Four years after the great "Gunmen" what has changed in Orden Ogan and how much do you think you have progressed, compared to the previous album?

SL: I think at the end of the day it is another "Orden Ogan" album, like all the previous ones. The musical identity of the band is very clear. From the way we compose, how we build the harmonies and the melodies, the breakdowns etc. So I would say we have some classic Orden Ogan elements. If I can say that we have changed something from the previous albums I would say that we are moving conceptually in darker paths of science fiction than in the past. "Final Days" is probably our most complex album to date. There are long, progressive tracks to find, but we also have more "poplike" songs like "Inferno" or more classic '80s heavy metal tracks like "Let The Fire Rain". Another thing I changed was in the production. I consider it the best production I have made so far. The production of this album is really great, something that fascinates me as a sound engineer and producer. I think all these details made the difference here.

MG: Tell me a few words about the concept behind the lyrics.

SL: At first, we only had the title "Final Days" and we thought we wanted to make ten different songs with ten different versions about the end of humanity. Starting with "In The Dawn Of The AI" ​​which talks about an artificial intelligence that takes control and turns itself against humanity. The song "It Is Over" talks about humanity's latest collision with an asteroid. We also had a song about a deadly virus but as you can see, we left it out (laughs). We may include it in a next release, but for now we felt that it shouldn’t be here, as people are tired of the virus. Another thing I really like to do is take words or phrases that are related to a particular topic and extend them semantically. For example, if you listen to the song "Black Hole", the huge black holes in the middle of the universe first come to mind and, of course, it is close to the subject of science fiction, but in fact the song talks about the feeling of collapse from depression. Something similar happens in the song "The Heart Of The Android" where many thought it was an advanced robotic machine, but in fact it talks about a man who feels all the time that everyone around him is expecting for him to work like a machine, without anyone being interested in how he really feels. And what is really impressive is that the fans come after years and say: "oh... I finally understood what these lyrics were talking about" (laughs).

MG: Can you tell me a few words about the story behind the cover of the new album? It's an amazing cover.

SL: Thank you very much. On this cover we see our mascot Alister Vale, who already exists from our debut, "Vale". Basically he wears a tophat and a red mask on his nose, but  we couldn't connect his mask with the whole science fiction concept of the album, and that's why he wears a red anti-asphyxiation mask that looks much cooler. Anyway, the cover picture is not directly related to the content of the lyrics, so everyone is free to make their own interpretations of the cover.


MG: As you have done in the past, there are also some guest musicians on "Final Days". Ylva Eriksson from Brothers Of Metal (in "Alone In The Dark") and Gus G. from Firewind (in "Interstellar"). Tell us a few words about these collaborations.

SL: First of all, let me tell you this: For a lot of people Orden Ogan is a band that probably makes some money nowadays, but I never saw it as a commercial project and I still do not see it that way. Orden Ogan is a thing that comes from my heart, it's the kind of music I want to make. You know what I mean, don't you? I will continue to do so regardless of the number of people they listen to us on Spotify. Whether it's only 40 people or 40 thousand or even 40 million. This is exactly how I think when I work with guest musicians on each album. We do not do it for the sake "namedropping" but we want these musicians to put their own elements to our music, something that will make each song sound great. Needless to say, Gus is one of the best guitarists on the planet, but the whole story was essentially a joke. Since 2018 we had realised that we had a problem with our guitarist Tobi who has now been replaced by Patrick Sperling. There are so many things that have changed the past years that kept us away from doing things the way we wanted. It may sound funny but in a meeting with my bandmates we said that "if Tobi can not play his parts then we have to bring someone else to play them". Then our bassist and now guitarist Niels Löffler said "I can ask Gus G". He knew Gus, because he was touring with him at that time. We all looked at each other and said yes. Sounds a bit silly the way I tell it because Gus is a top guitarist. Of course, he is also a very nice guy and our collaboration was perfect.

In the case of Ylva we knew that this song needs a female voice and we did not bother to find the biggest name, but the most suitable voice for this song. She was suggested to us by our company AFM. I tried to imagine how "Alone In The Dark" sounds with her voice. We needed a nice, soft and melancholic voice for this song and Ylva was the voice we wanted... I think she performed the song perfect, it couldn't go any better.

MG: Already from your first album, people said that you are the next generation of German - European power metal. People compare you with bands like Helloween or Blind Guardian. How do you feel that you belong to one of the most important bands of the genre?

SL: It is a great honor for us to be associated with such bands and to say that we belong to the next generation that keeps the spirit of power metal alive. I believe that time will be the judge of that, and I think that we are just in the beginning. Of course, on the internet you can read various things like, for example, that we were founded in 1996, something that is not true, because back then I was 15 and I just held in my hands my first guitar. Our story begins actually back in 2008 when we released our first album "Vale". I will try to keep going as much as I can because that is what I want to do and, of course, it is great for us that our music is a success and is on the charts. It is also important that we have done headline tours with Unleash the Archers and Rhapsody of Fire as support bands. And you don't call them small bands. Now another tour was planned with the support of Grave Digger and Rage. Due to these facts you can tell how much Orden Ogan has grown. Well, the coming years will show. There are many great old bands that will eventually retire some day, because nobody can do this forever, but we will be there to lift up high the power metal flag (laughs).

MG: Of course I can not but refer to the coronavirus crisis. How do you plan to promote the album at a time with no concerts or festivals?

SL: The truth is that we have done a brainstorming and we are thinking of having a livestream show. I can say, however, that many stream shows during the last year made me sad. When I see a band play in an empty venue, where nobody is there to see them, it reminds me of my youth days when we used to play without an audience in empty venues because we were a completely unknown band, back in the days. I really don't want to go through it again [we both couldn't stop laughing here]. It just can't work if there is no interaction with the audience. I think if we ever tried something like that it would be something completely different. It would be a kind of musical movie or a show in a very special location. We are thinking about it and we'll discuss it, whether we'll do it and how. We have to consider many factors that are not current to mention now but I believe that in the next days or weeks it will be clear.

MG: What is the highlight of your career so far? Do you want to share it with us?

SL: There are too many to date. There are so many wonderful moments I can remember. Definitely the 70,000 Tons Of Metal. Traveling in the Caribbean on a cruise ship is something you do not do every day. Our first Japanese tour was a wonderful experience. It's a completely different world and since I was a child I have been dreaming of playing in Japan. Then we have played in great festivals like Wacken in Germany and Hellfest in France. We also came to Greece once, in fact, to a small festival called Metal Healing in Drama in 2007. A festival not really supported by the fans but we didn't bother at all because the weather was perfect and we ate Greek salad and souvlaki all the time and in the evening at the hotel there was a wedding... we had such a great time, we really want to come back to Greece. For a strange reason none of the tours we have participated in so far came to Greece, we will see, maybe we will try it ourselves.

MG: Seeb, thank you very much for this interview. One last message for MixGrill readers and your fans in Greece?

SL: Alex, thank you very much. Yes, I would like to say to all MixGrill readers it is important that everyone stays healthy. Ιt is certainly not the worst virus that has ever existed on the planet, but it is definitely anything else but harmless. I'm personally very careful and you should also be extremely careful. I know that the economy has affected many of us and has led many people to depression. I can see it here in Germany. People are not the way they used to be. So, it is very important to tell you to hold your head up and don't let the whole thing take you down. Everything will get better. After some bad times there is always something good to come. And if you listen to Orden Ogan's new album, then you will definitely feel better (laughs)...