Leper Colony Infects Old-School Death Metal With Manic Thrash (Interview)
Leper Colony is yet another band created by Swedish death metal journeyman Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Revolting and about 1,000 other bands). To the untrained ear, it could be rather difficult to distinguish from one Johansson band to another. However, Leper Colony’s aggressive thrash metal style sets it apart from all of Johansson’s other bands.
On its debut self-titled full-length album, Johansson & Co. — joined by vocalist Marc Grewe (ex-Morgoth, Insidious Disease) and drummer Jon Skäre (Consumption) — Leper Colony rips through nine thrashy, pulsating, old-school death metal tracks with a fervor of a band half their age. The band’s unique take on the style isn’t limiting in the least, allowing the band to create something aggressive and catchy at the same time. Through e-mail, Johansson discussed Leper Colony’s origins, the new album, lyrical inspirations and more.
Another Rogga band! You’re in almost 1,000 bands (just kidding!). How do you balance your schedule and keep the music appropriate for each group you’re in?
There have indeed been a lot many projects through the years. I have no idea why it went haywire some decades ago, it's just that I seem to write a lot of music. Lately I've actually had a year away from doing anything new, besides writing for my main band Paganizer. And to answer your question, basically I just pick a project and start writing for it. It mostly turns out like that, but of course sometimes I put a song aside as I think it'll fit better somewhere else.
When coming up with riffs, do you just instinctively know what music should be for each band?
Mostly yes. To other people maybe my music sounds just like a lot of the same, and I understand that. But I easily get the feeling where a riff should go, and where it wouldn't fit. Something I've heard a lot is that Ribspreader and Paganizer sound just the same. And then I think to myself, that the guy or girl just hasn't been really listening to it.
How does Leper Colony’s music differ from some of your other bands? To my ears, it has more of a thrashier attack compared to Paganizer or Revolting.
Indeed it has, it's not as downtuned and has some influences from Slayer and from Death here and there. The Death influence I didn't even think of until I heard Jon´s drums on some of my riffs, and then I was just in awe of his playing. His drums make some of my very mundane riffs just shine, and some of it suddenly reminded me of Death here and there.
How did this collaboration come about? Did you know Marc and Jon beforehand?
Yeah I've known them for a while and I just thought it could be cool for me and Marc to work on a full album together, he's done some guesting on my stuff before. And Jon is such a killer drummer, so it's just great fun every time he agrees to play on something of mine.
Marc Grewe has a great voice for this type of metal, it’s certainly different from the deep guttural vocals of your other bands. What about his vocal inflection that fits so well with Leper Colony’s instrumentation?
Yeah Marc is one of the great ones, his vocals are legendary. And he is a legend indeed, so I'm just happy he wanted to work on this with me. And as you say, his vocals differ from the usual grunting, he is very articulate and has a more thrashy voice and I love that for these songs. I deliberately tuned higher and wrote more open riffs so he could really get to work on the material in a fitting way here.
“Rapture Addict” has a bit of a different vocal pattern (or is that a guest vocalist?), giving this track a different dynamic. How did this track come about?
It's all Marc, as it is on the whole album. Maybe it's got a different feel indeed, but I think that might come from Jon's killer drumming on just this song. And Marc has some more non growl vocals on a part too. The song just came as all the songs, during a session of writing for the album. I think I wrote all the songs in a week or so as I usually work.
You have a clever way with your song titles, what were some of the lyrical inspirations for the songs?
Sometimes there needs to be some humor or word games in there. Just to make it a bit fun. Some stuff like “Rapture Addict” is critical against organized religion, it's a subject that goes on forever or at least it'll go on as long as it is on earth. And some stuff like “The Surgical Undeadvors” is just gore and zombie fun. It fits the music so why not use the subjects.
You’re signed to Indian label Transcending Obscurity, what’s the experience been like being associated with them and owner Kunal Choksi?
It's been very good indeed. Kunal is dedicated to his work and grows his label day by day, which is impressive indeed. Also he has a very wide range of merch done for his releases, which is not something usual in this day and age, I mean if you don't count the biggest few labels.
You actually debuted the opening track “The Human Paradox” on the Transcending Obscurity label sampler in 2021. Was this track one of the first written for this album and what took so long from then to finally a 2023 full-length album release?
The whole album was written and done in one go so to speak, so it's been laying waiting for quite a while. I don't know exactly why there's been so many delays, but it is what it is, and now the album is finally out and we are very happy about that.
The album artwork by Alex Tartsus (De Profundis, Depravity) is fantastic. How did you choose him and what type of direction did you give him concerning the cover concept?
Kunal came up with the idea to use him and then I did an idea for the art concept and then it was just a waiting game really. i think actually this is why the album took some time extra, the artwork had to be finished and it took some time.
Your participation on Massacre’s new album Resurgence is outstanding. Have you had more talks with Kam Lee about the next Massacre full-length album or are there any other collaborations with other musicians in the works?
Thank you, great to hear you like it. I think it turned out very good too indeed. Yeah me and Kam talk all the time, and I'm writing new material for them as we speak actually. More than that I can't really say at this time.
What’s next for Leper Colony for the rest of 2022 and into next year? Do you have any plans to tour with this band?
No gigs planned but me and Marc have talked and we both feel that it would be great to write and record a new album next year, so that's what we plan right now.
Leper Colony releases on January 13th, 2023 via Transcending Obscurity.