Even though Orden Ogan have been around since 1996, according to Wikipedia, they became known to a wider public only in 2010. In this year their second album “Easton Hope” as well as their first album “Vale” came out as re-release on AFM. One thing was already clear on these albums: the band has everything you need to become great in melodic metal. A good sense for catchy melodies and working arrangements and also the technical skills to implement their ideas in an appealing manner. The early comparisons with German heavyweights Running Wild and Blind Guardian were quite appropriate. Since the release of “Easton Hope”, there is only one direction for the likeable, down-to-earth band from German Sauerland: up to the top. Headliner tours, good chart positions, bigger and bigger venues… The sky is the limit! Or not? Vocalist Sebastian „Seeb“ Levermann spills the beans…
In the beginning, let us have a look back into your past: Prior to this interview, I checked your previous albums again. My impression is that you finally found your sound with „To the End“. Do you agree?
No! I think that Orden Ogan always was what it is today. But it is okay if you have a different opinion. Some say that „Easton Hope“ was our masterpiece, others think that everything before „Gunmen“ was pure rubbish. It is okay for me and it is a situation every band has to deal with. Look at Iron Maiden and Metallica. Many think that „Number of the Beast“ or „Powerslave“ are the best Iron Maiden albums ever, I say it is „Fear of the Dark“. And many think that „Masters of Puppets“ is Metallica’s best, in my opinion it is „And Justice For All.”
I am not talking about good or bad, I am talking about the sound. In my opinion „Easton Hope“ and „Vale“ sound much different than the later albums.
I don’t think so! A song like „To New Shores of Sadness’ could be played together with ‚To the End‘ and ‚In the Dawn of the AI‘. If we would change the production, it would even fit on ‚Final Days‘. But there is an evolution for sure and I think that’s what you are talking about. In terms of songwriting, „Vale“ is a bit simpler and „Easton Hope“ a bit more progressive with plenty of different parts. The essence, the harmonies, the melodies, the modern riffs and the attitude are the same. But I know what you mean. We tried to reduce the orchestral elements on „To the End“ and push the guitar leads instead. We usually write our songs on guitars, but we replaced some guitars on „Easton Hope“ with an orchestra. It creates a totally different sound. But in the core, Orden Ogan have always been Orden Ogan.
Let us stick to the evolution of sound: What was your goal for „Final Days“?
There was no specific goal. It is never an active process. And so it is in terms of production, it was not the goal to create an album that sounds more bombastic than „Gunmen“. Between the two albums are three years and that means three years of more practicing, three years of more knowledge and three years of going extra miles. Summing up, there are a lot of details which make the album sounding better. That’s what we did! We turned every stone to achieve our goals.
Your albums always had a unique concept in terms of artwork, lyrics, title and costumes. Please introduce us to the concept of „Final Days“!
There is no real concept. In the beginning we had no clear idea. As a band we are very close to our audience, talking to the fans, signing stuff and so on. We are also often talking about our music with them. At the end of the „Gunmen“ tour, a lot of fans asked what could be the next thing. They said: „With „To the End“ you have been in a post apocalyptic ice world, „Ravenhead“ lead you to a ghost monastery in a marsh and now you visited the wild west. Where do you want to go next? Into space?“ After hearing this question a couple of times, we thought „Why not?!“ and so we decided to make a SciFi album.
When featuring something about AI, androids and the apocalypse, I expected something like the Terminator…
The album title was set quite early. First, we considered writing ten songs about the way mankind could go down. In this case, the AI does fit quite well to Terminator. I think if AI will kill mankind one day, it will not be like Skynet (the computer system in the Terminator movies, which tries to kill mankind – the author). I think that the AI would not try to actively kill mankind. It would rather be killing all that disturbs its plans. Just like you would be removing a nest of ants when building your house. ‚It is over‘ deals with the impact of an asteroid hitting. We also had a track about a killer virus, written already in 2019. But we didn’t put it on the album. The cover upgrade with the face mask has its origin also in 2019.
In general, I am not a friend of limiting myself too much. Usually I take a word field, find associations and create metaphors around them. When hearing ‚Black Hole‘, you might think about space, but in fact in deals with depression. It is the same with ‚Heart of the Android‘. It deals with a person forced to work like a machine and ignoring feelings and not with a robot becoming emotional. I work very often in this way. There are more examples on our other albums. ‚Vampire in Ghosttown‘ is not about vampires, but about being in a relationship with the wrong person. I like it when fans tell me years later that they finally understood what lyrics were dealing with. It is the same issue I have with lyrics by other bands.
Let us come back to the music on „Final Days“. Would you agree that it is the album with the most Pop appeal yet?
I would say it is our most versatile yet. There is a song like ‚In the Dawn of the AI‘, which could also be from „To the End“. ‚Hollow‘ is very complex and maybe our heaviest track yet. It would perfectly fit on „Easton Hope“. ‚Inferno‘ is of course very poppy, but we did something like that before. Remember ‚Farewell‘ from „Vale“. Now we also ‚Let the Fire Rain‘, which sounds like from the 80s. No joke, I checked all Ronnie James Dio songs whether we accidentally had stolen a riff. In addition, the chorus with its synths could also be an 80s Pop chorus.
That is exactly what I am talking about. The song is not a ballad, for sure, but it has a lot of Pop appeal.
People like to use this as four-letter word, just like an insult. But I don’t think so. I see it as a compliment, haha.
I already named the visual aspects of Orden Ogan. Again, you wear crazy costumes, which has a long tradition for you. Where are they from?
The guys are still looking quite normal. My „Emperor Seeb“ costume was made by the German Designer Transylvania from Cologne. She used to do a lot for German TV actors, just like Hella von Sinnen (a German comedian who always wears strange stuff – the author). I wrote to her that I would like to have something between Hellraiser and Star Trek Nemesis and not a day later she sent a sketch of that costume. I said „Let’s go!“, sometimes it is so easy, haha!
Your new album includes, once again, a Live DVD as a bonus. Where did you record it?
It was recorded at the last show of the „Gunmen“ tour and therefore it is from the last show we played so far. The event was called „Saloon Showdown“ and was taking place in the saloon of the „Fort Fun“ adventure park, which is located close to our home town. We already did the recordings of the drums for „Gunmen“ there and also a listening session and the release party. So it was cool to finish the tour there.
You were repeatedly called the heir apparent of Blind Guardian. What’s your opinion about this „title“?
Most interestingly, I did not hear this comparison at „Gunmen“ times, but currently it occurs more often. I can explain where it is from. When „Vale“ was released, Götz Kühnemund from RockHard Germany called us the „true heir apparent of Blind Guardian“. Metal Hammer wrote that Orden Ogan would be the new Running Wild. Our label AFM found it’s cool because you cannot sound like Blind Guardian and also like Running Wild at the same time. In their opinion it showed that we had a unique sound. Therefore they put both quotes into the press information. Weirdly, those labels have lasted until today.
I rarely heard anything like that from fans. We also don’t think that we sound like Blind Guardian. Some time ago I talked with Marcus of Blind Guardian about this comparison. He also mentioned that he does not understand it. All the harmonies are different. The only thing that unites us are the choirs. But even those sound different. Actually there are worse bands we could be compared with, but in fact it does not fit.
And also the label Power Metal does not fit. I think it does not match our music. Of course there are elements from Power Metal, but also a lot of others. In terms of „Power Metal“ I think of the typical „Happy Metal“ bands. Again, we also have a few happy songs, but the basis is much darker. Riffs like those used in the middle of ‚New Shores of Sadness‘ cannot be found in Power Metal. Some of our songs have, without lyrics and orchestration, a lot in common with Metalcore. All in all, I think that the label „Power Metal“ might be the best fit, but in fact we have our unique sound.
You have been around for a couple of years, but compared to others, the band is still quite new. What do you think a young band can achieve in the music business these days?
I personally have no high hopes. I had the aim to live from music and I have already reached it. I could live from both Orden Ogan or my studio. Right now it is a bit more difficult, but in general it would be no problem to make a living just off the band. It is an absolute luxury to have your hobby as job. Our aim is to keep on going forward. We are musicians. Think of David Bowie, who made an album when he was severely ill. What else should he do? He was artist.
Could you image that a band from your genre could ever reach arena band status?
The question is obsolete if you take a look at Sabaton or Powerwolf. I think it is great that this music can still reach so many people nowadays. Both bands have worked hard and long for their success and they have my greatest respect. So I have no doubt that band can still become really big. The question is, what are the reasons of success. Is it depending on the albums which are being released every three years. Or are there others factors? I don’t know. Maybe the next arena band will been born on Twitch.
My last question is about your line up. Your guitar player Tobi is no longer part of the band. What are the reasons and who replaces him?
Let me tell you the story from the beginning, otherwise it would sound too weird. The trigger was my broken thumb back in 2018 or 2019. The consequence was that I could not play guitar for quite a while. It happened only two weeks before a festival show, but we did not want to cancel it. Nils is not only a bass player, but also a superb guitar player. So it was obvious that he took my guitar parts and was only singing. I liked it and the feedback from the fans, the audience and also other bands was great. So we decided to keep it that way. I don’t need to play guitar on stage, because I can play enough at home or in the studio.
Because Nils changed over to guitar, it was the question who might play bass. Normally it’s a big thing to change your line up, but in this case it wasn’t. We were considering who to ask and somebody proposed Steven. And we all said „Yes, let’s ask Steven!“ So I called him and he simply said: „Okay, I come over for a rehearsal.“ Steven is the former bass player of Xandria and we know him from our support tour with them for Powerwolf. He is a real monster on stage, a very good bass player and, what is most important for us, a totally nice guy.
Concerning Tobi, I do not want to talk about details. We felt that he’s not fully in it on our 2018 tour. Sometimes things change in private lives. We felt it quickly and it was obvious that we had to face the truth. We did not want to, but sometimes there is no other way. For me, it was a fucking hard time, because I have known Tobi for many years now and he is a very good friend of mine.
So we needed a new guitar player. Finding a suitable guitarist is actually difficult. We play difficult stuff in both rhythm and lead guitars. Thus we needed someone who is really good at it. In addition, we are a totally relaxed band with no space for ego bullshit. We are just normal, down to earth guys and that’s what we were looking for. And, by the way, we needed someone who was not involved in another band. One day a friend of mine called me and recommended Patrick Sperling. I just knew him from afar, but not personally. So I asked for more details. My friend told me that he plays guitar like a younger version of Zakk Wild, that he also looks like Zakk, that he is a fan of Orden Ogan and that he lives only 30 minutes from my place. It sounded too good to be true! So I called him and the first thing he did on the phone was laughing out loud. I was confused and asked him what’s going on. He answered that he had always expected this call. Then I replied that he should know the question. He said: „Yes, of course I want to join your band!“ And that’s it. However, Patrick is a superb guitar player. Maybe we now have the best version of Orden Ogan ever. I am really looking forward for our upcoming shows!
And so do we, let’s hope for the best!