INFOS : email@example.com
Webzine dedicated to the metal band fronted by girls. We also like ambient,darkwave,rock & electronic music.
Label : Underground Symphony
Review by Tony Cannella
The veteran Italian Melodic power metal band Skylark returns with their ninth album. It is hard to believe that this band has been around this long, but since their inception Skylark has maintained a certain level of consistency that their fan base has come to love. Skylark also returns with a new singer. She is an American named Ashley Watson and she makes her debut on their new album “Twilights of Sand”. Skylark is primarily known for their conceptual “Divine Gates Trilogy”, and “Twilights of Sand” has some of the same traits that “Divine Gates” had. The new lead vocalist Ashley Watson fits in quite well with the rest of the band. She’s got a likeable voice and she would not sound out of place singing in a pop band, but she also handles the heavier material quite well. In addition to Ashley, there are also a number of male vocalists who takes part as well as some other female vocalists – it really would have been helpful to have a bio sheet, because it is hard to decipher who sings what but I am pretty sure Ashley Watson handles the bulk of the female vocals. The intro track “The Tears of Jupiter” kicks things off and leads us into “The Princess and Belzebú”. This is an ok song, but I am not sure if I like the male vocals here. The female vocals are good but the male seems a bit out of place. Other than that it is a pretty up-tempo song. “She” is next and has a pounding classic power metal vibe. The next track “Love Song” is really not a love song (in fact the chorus says “This is not a love song”) and it has a really fast tempo to it and is one of my favorites. There is some other pretty cool material on here like “Tears”, “Lions Are the World” and “The Wings of the Typhoon”. Another one of my favorites instantly became “Aitakatta” I have no idea what the title means, but it is such a departure from the rest of the album. It has a fast up-tempo, bouncy and happy vibe to it. The epic 10-minute track “Little Girl” concludes this album which clocks in at almost 80-minutes. “Little Girl” features the best of the male vocals on this album in my opinion and has a classic rock feel to it. The limited edition comes with a bonus CD featuring alternative, unreleased and different takes on some of the material. Skylark has already become a hit in Japan. Let’s hope that the rest of the world will give this band a chance too.
Rating - 78/100
Disc 2 (Limited Edition)
Label : The Asylum Emporium
Review by Luisa Mercier
Six years. A long time passed since “Opheliac”, Emilie’s last full-length release, but now she is finally back. I love her, love her imagery, the world she has created around her, her lyrics, her sarcasm and I even quoted “Opheliac” in my thesis when I graduated off university. And now here we are, “Fight Like a Girl” is going to be released in a few days. The opener “Fight Like a Girl” starts with a clock ticking and then electronica takes over. The style is not much different from what Emilie used to write in the past. It is catchy, fun and she ranges from a sweeter tone to harsh vocals. Following “Time for Tea” is much creepier, with a mood that remembers the gothic novels of the Nineteenth century. She even uses growling and the music is close to industrial plus her usual violin and harpsichord. Really worth listening. “4 O’ Clock” is a single released in 2008 and in “Fight Like a Girl”, Emilie proposes an orchestral reprise that has a soundtrack feeling. “What Will I Remember” is a melancholic ballad which could be easily be soundtrack for a Disney movie (and it is meant like a compliment). It is sweet with an hint of sadness to it. Completely different is the following “Take The Pill”, which is quite aggressive and the electronic music is dark and quite groovy. Emilie sounds threatening, sexy, expressive as always. The ending is absolutely explosive, one of the highlights of the record. “Girls! Girls! Girls!” starts with harpsichord and vocals and then it gets a cabaret mood, like we were in the Paris of two centuries ago. You can perceive the irony in her words and I love her for that. It is more like being on a stage than just listening to a song. “I Don’t Understand” is a sort of dialogue in music while “We Want Them Young” has an ethnic feeling with the percussion in the background and the epic music. I guess that soundtrack/orchestral sound is one of the new elements that appear in the album. Like an horror movie. This is what the start of “If I Burn” suggested me before it gets close to normal Emilie style with harpsichord, electronica and synth. Maybe it is the track that remembered me the most of “Opheliac”. “Scavanger” goes on on the same creepy notes, slow and doomish and “Gaslight” is a ballad for strings and harpsichord. This last instrument was used a lot more in this album than in the previous releases, more than her well-known electric violin. “The Key” is a short psychotic interlude in which Emilie recites the words rather than singing on a epic orchestral piece which would be perfect for a thriller movie . It flows into “Hell Is Empty”, an even shorter orchestral piece. I must admit that the second half of the album is very, very disturbing and I guess it is connected to a place that Emilie has often used as integral part of her imaginarium: the asylum. Hence the creepy atmosphere and the overall gloomy sound. In fact she stated that the album is: “an operatic feminist treatise set inside an insane asylum, wherein the female inmates gradually realize their own strength in numbers.” A little bit of peace with the instrumental reprise of “Gaslight” “Goodnight, Sweet Ladies”is a track in which Emilie uses her high pitched voice and creates an ethereal, almost neoclassical song. “Start Another Story” leads into “One Foot in front of the Other”, the closing track. It has a martial pace, like an army advancing. I can say that “Fight Like a Girl” is for sure connected to his predecessor as far as sound and style is concerned but it developed even further certain aspects of Emilie Autumn trademark. Now it is more epic, darker and the symphonic side has been well united to the rest.
Rating - 80/100
Interview by Tony Cannella
I have interviewed Doro Pesch countless times and she always remains one of the nicest and coolest people to talk to. Her passion and enthusiasm is apparent and what is also obvious is her genuine love for her fans. As she gets ready for another North American jaunt that begins on March 20th in Philadelphia, PA, she was kind enough to take a few moments to discuss her tour and other things.
Hi Doro! The tour begins this week (March 20th). What can fans expect when they come out to see you?
We are going into rehearsal tomorrow and I want to of course get all of the classics in like, “All We Are” and “True as Steel” and play a couple of songs off records that we very much like - all the highlights off each record. I will always play according to the fans, I want every show to be different and I want to feel it out like whatever the fans want to hear. If they want to hear more heavy stuff than I’ll play more of the heavy stuff, if they want to hear more anthems than we will put in more anthems, if they want to hear more headbanging, double bass stuff than we will do this. In the encore, they can call out songs they would like to hear and we will try to prepare everything and make it interactive. We want to do a killer, high energy show. I just got to New York on Thursday and yesterday I went to the Iron Maiden show at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and I talked to so many fans there and they are all coming to the shows in the New York area. Touring America is always super, super special and I want to make it special in every way.
So the set list is always going to be changing then?
Yes, every day it will be slightly changing, according to the vibe, to the people and to always keep it fresh. Sometimes some people travel to many different shows and the fans always have something to get excited about and to look forward to. It is not exactly the same every day and it will definitely be a good mix from the Warlock songs and the Doro songs. It will definitely be very special.
Have you ever thought about adding some of the songs from albums that were never released in America?
Yeah, actually we are going to put in a couple of songs and one of the favorite songs from the fans seems to be “Love Me in Black”. They call it out usually in the encores and I was so amazed because the “Love Me in Black” album never came out in the states. I’m so glad that the die hard fans are very familiar with even the songs that didn’t come out in America.
You came out with the EP “All We Are - The Fight”. Tell us a little about that.
It was for a very good friend of mine Regina Halmich. She is the 12 year women’s boxing champion. She had a special fight, it was against a guy and she asked me if I would play a classic like “All We Are” and I said OK. We played a little bit different version, we played it live and it was broadcast on TV - in front of like 10 million viewers. After it was broadcast, so many people called the radio stations and the record company called the fan club and said, “Wow, we love it and can we get it?” and some people didn’t even know the song, some people were not metal fans and they loved it. The record company said “OK, let’s release it”, I put in some songs which people who know “All We Are” would be happy to hear some other material on it. There are like five videos on it and four other songs. So I thought it is good to have another single out or an EP.
When you played the song live on TV, you had some special guest musicians with you. Who were they?
It was Schmier from Destruction the bass player and Bas Maas from After Forever was the guitar player. It was just because it was very short notice and Regina called me a couple of days before. At first the plan was that I would sing it alone and then I thought that I would like to invite some friends of mine if I can’t have the band over. Schmier is a very good guy and I just did something for his album (“Inventor of Evil”), “The Alliance of Hellhoundz”. So I called Schmier up and he said he would love to do it. It was such short notice, otherwise the band would have been there.
You also performed a duet (“Who I Am”) with Floor Jansen on the last After Forever album. How did that come about?
I met Bas from After Forever many years ago on a promotion tour in Belgium. We also did a South American tour together in Brazil and in Mexico we played together. It was really, really great and we all got along. I love Floor. I think she’s a fantastic singer and I always wanted to do something with another female singer. They called me up and said they have a great song and I listened to it, I loved it and then we did it. I think it came out really good. I was very pleased when I heard it.
Is it flattering to be asked to be on other artists albums?
It’s always a big honor when other people ask. Yeah, I love to do it, It’s always extra special. Every time I have done collaborations I was really happy to do it and It always came out really good. It’s very nice when people ask.
I wanted to ask you about the “20 Years a Warrior Soul” DVD. It’s one of the best music DVD’s I have seen in quite awhile. Tell us a little about that.
We took so long (to put it out) because the concert now is a few years ago but we had to clear all the rights. We wanted to not only put out the concert but we wanted to make a little tour movie as well, so we just put on the best stuff from the “Warrior Soul” tour. There is stuff on there from all over the world, from Russia, Germany, Spain, so we thought then let’s do a double DVD. I always like to put as much on it that I think the fans will find interesting.
The packaging was great as well.
I love good packaging with great artwork.
I think the fans can see that too. They really appreciate the fact that you always take care of them.
Yeah Tony, as you know, I only do it for the fans. Every single day the fans are in the back of my mind and I hope I can make them happy. I get inspiration from the fans. They’re the most important thing in the world to me. I always think that I have to do extra, extra good and put as much good stuff on the DVD or CD. Sometimes it’s hard, because with the record companies the more you put on the more expensive the production gets.
You are going to do a 25th anniversary show in Germany in December. Tell us about that.
I’m getting really excited for it. We want to do a couple of shows all over the world, but the first one will be in Germany in my hometown Dusseldorf. I want to invite some great bands, many, many special guests. We are just talking to some bands, nobody is confirmed yet except Leaves’ Eyes. We have a great big metal market where people can go and check out new stuff. We want to do a great stage show with many, many surprises.
Will there be another Warlock reunion at the 25th anniversary show?
We are in the middle of talking about it. It’s a possibility.
Are you working on new music?
Yes, I’m working on the new record. The song writing is going really well and I have tons of ideas. I got so inspired by all the touring experiences. After the American tour I want to go back to songwriting and then go back to the studio and record it. Probably put out the first single or EP later this year, before the 25th anniversary concert and then the new record maybe in December or January. It depends. I don’t want to put the pressure on me that I have to have it done for the 25th anniversary, but I definitely want to have an EP out where I can present some new songs. I have some collaborations in the making, which I think the fans will really be excited about.
Do you plan on filming the 25th anniversary show for another DVD?
Yes, we are planning for that. Definitely.
You are playing the Magic Circle festiva. Is it the festival organized by Manowar?
Yes, that’s it and that will be the only festival in Germany that we play, because I don’t want to overplay I just want to wait for the 25th anniversary. We will do a couple of festivals I think in Spain and Portugal, but I want to keep all of the excitement and energy pretty much for the 25th anniversary, so we will play just a couple of festivals this summer. I think we will play in America again on the 13th of September in Albuquerque.
Do you think that the European only releases of the early to mid-90’s will ever be released in America?
It’s so hard, because all of the record company people they change. I don’t know, we’ve tried like a couple of times but it’s not easy. At the moment, there are no plans, but I would love that.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything you would like to add or say to the fans?
I can’t wait for this American tour to start. The last one, it was so fabulous. It was unbelievable, all the experiences and all of the fans I met. I hope they will come out again, I hope they will bring out their friends, so we can have good, packed places and I want to thank them for their endless love and support. I would do anything for the fans and I always try my best and my hardest. I wish that everybody stays happy and healthy and that we can rock together for a long, long time.
Photos by Tony Cannella. Taken from the site dororocks.net
Interview by Robin Stryker
It was my profound pleasure to interview Charlotte Wessels and Martijn Westerholt, the vocalist and founder/keyboardist of Dutch symphonic metal band, Delain. Happily for me, the band was in my hometown of Atlanta for their U.S. debut at ProgPower USA. After fortifying ourselves with some Italian food, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
Charlotte and Martijn, of course, did all the work – even taking turns later in the night interviewing each other, whilst I sat back and giggled. (I swear it was their idea). Read on to find out what happens when band members, who are good friends in real life and extremely funny in person, get to turn the microphone on each other.
Hello Charlotte and Martijn! Last time Femme Metal talked with Delain in late 2009, you had recently headlined at Metal Female Voices Festival and were starting your tour with Sonata Arctica. Since then, you have released “April Rain” in the U.K., done headlining tours and have just performed at Wacken Open Air. How was Wacken?
Charlotte: It was awesome. Yeah, it was really great. We played at the Party Stage and there were lots of people there all cheering.
Martijn: And it was a PARTY! We were very surprised the party stage was called the “Party Stage”. It was amazing.
And that was just one of a lot of festivals that Delain was at this year, right?
Charlotte: We also did Sonisphere in the UK, which was REALLY amazing. I guess that was one of my favourites as well, next to Wacken.
Martijn: Mine too, absolutely.
Now, having sampled festivals all over the world, what has been the one where you thought everything just came together – the fans were on, the equipment was working, everything was perfect?
Martijn: We never had that. (laughs)
Charlotte: No, we’re still waiting for it. I mean, it’s taking FOREVER.
Martijn: (laughs) I’m just kidding, of course.
Charlotte: I guess Lowlands in 2009, which was really awesome. It’s a Dutch festival and I’ve been going there every since my parents allowed me to go to festivals, basically. Then, finally to be up on the stage there. And it was a good show, too!
Martijn: It was a really big festival with something like more than 50.000 people.
Charlotte: I think even 60.000.
Martijn: I think it’s one of the biggest in Holland. So, everything went perfect, and it was a really, really good show.
I understand that after ProgPower, Delain will make its first appearance in Mexico and Brazil. Do you have anything special planned for those shows?Charlotte: The fact that we will be there is kind of special. The special thing for us about Brazil and Mexico is that they were one of the first countries who had a really loyal and active fan-base. A few of the first fan-sites that popped up were the South American ones. And then you hear all the stories from other bands that it is crazy and wild over there. So I think we are as much looking forward to how they are going to be, as they are looking forward to how we are going to be. Martijn: Yeah, absolutely! And of course, you’re going to hear Charlotte talking Portuguese and Spanish.Charlotte, have you memorized some phrases and basic greetings? Charlotte: I actually contacted some fans … like “Oh, it would be so nice if I could say something!” … and sent them some stuff that I would like to say. I’m going to practice with them. I’m always trying to do that. And if I don’t get to memorize it, then I’ll just secretly write it on my hand. (Oh no, I’m telling my secret!)Martijn, how about you, or are you going to phone it in?Martijn: Yeah well, I don’t look forward to it. I think it is an average tour.Charlotte: Just another day at the office for Martijn.Martijn: But TOTALLY the other way around. It’s already great tour right now. We didn’t even play yet and it is already great being here in the States. I’m really looking forward to South America. As Charlotte said, we heard a lot of positive, crazy stuff from other bands there. And it is also always a really good sign if you have already developed a fan base and you didn’t even release anything yet or play there. So they deserve having us there, and we are really looking forward to it.
You’ve got very little time between ProgPower and Mexico, but have five days between Mexico and Brazil. Have you pencilled in some fun while you are there, maybe some sightseeing?Charlotte: We’ve had a lot of fun today!Martijn: We’re taking the car from Mexico City to São Paulo, so we needed five days. (laughs) No, we’re not. We have a couple of days off and we are going to do some sightseeing in Brazil.Charlotte: Destroying some more pools on the way over there.Martijn: Yeah, exactly!Charlotte: We’ll enjoy ourselves.I was really interested to read on Delain’s website that October 29th is actually the last show in Holland before the new album. Where are you on the new album?Charlotte: We are writing it. We have some songs and ideas for songs and we are hoping to get into the studio and get on going with it really quickly.Martijn: When we are back from this tour, actually the biggest part of the writing starts then. Then we really are planning to do a lot of stuff. Charlotte: We are going to lock ourselves in together.Is that what it takes when you are writing? To just step out of your lives and hunker down to write?Charlotte: If you have unlimited time, I don’t think you would need it. But at this point, we want something to happen fast. So, it is just making the circumstances to write more optimal.
Martijn: And it is also very easy if you sit together, to develop the style you want to do. Because you always want to innovate a little bit. When you are on your own, you cannot do that. So you need to be together for that. We have a lot of activities normally … without writing even … so it’s very important to really focus on it and don’t have any distractions. So we hired a small farm house in Holland and we are going to write and hope something good comes out of that.Charlotte, when you first started with Delain, a lot of the material for “Lucidity” was already written and you were doing vocal lines. And then in “April Rain”, it was much more collaborative. Now that you have worked together on two albums and know each other’s style, what is the process like? Charlotte: Actually, a lot of parts stay the same but some things change as well. I guess we are still working the same way. It is just that you get together earlier in the process, which makes it easier to respond to each other. At least for me, I like it better. I mean, the filling in the gaps on “Lucidity” was really cool but it’s richer to be there from the beginning and see how everything develops.
Martijn: Which I think we have to look into, if that is the most efficient way. But that is something for the future. Also still, the way of working is still moving. And that is good, because we are still exploring.
Your bass player, Otto der Oije, is a VERY recent addition to Delain. Would you tell us a little about him?
Charlotte: He was with us for the first time at the headline tour in the U.K. earlier this year.
Martijn: This felt like … I don’t know if it is also an American saying, “a lot of the lottery”. Something like that. What is the American saying?
Charlotte: Luck of the draw, that’s it.
Martijn: Exactly. It’s really great … really, really great with him.
Martijn: Because you achieve it yourself. But you also achieve it because of the people who visit you and who buy your stuff. They also achieve it for you, and that is very important to keep in mind.
Speaking of that, you spend A LOT of time on social media … you tweet, you write tour blogs, you’re taking pictures and posting them. “Here is where we are, here is what we’re doing, here is my kitty, here is what is going on in my life”. How do you keep that up when you are on the road, recording, writing music and living your lives?
Martijn: It is especially because of Charlotte, I think.
Charlotte: Actually, I went into the whole thing kicking and screaming, when they said, “Now you also have to do Twitter”. Of course, I liked the social networks and everything that is on there and it offers a lot of possibilities. But it wasn’t until the Twitter thing that I actually got really ADDICTED. But, it’s actually the most short and effective and fun way to get in touch with the people who like to follow you. Because, even if you are on MySpace and want to answer everybody, you can’t. With Twitter, it’s just 140 signs and you have a really short connection to everybody. It works, you know? You see that people actually FOLLOW you and you get kind of a gratitude for letting people know what you are doing.
Martijn: It gives energy.
Charlotte: That makes me feel happy. It’s like kind of a confirmation that what you’re doing is cool. I mean, of course, you don’t need other people to say that, but the fact that they do is fun! My parents ask me when I’m on tour, “You’re going to tweet a lot, right? We want to know what you are doing”. Sometimes my parents are like, “Hey, I read on Twitter that you are eating healthy foods”.
Martijn: It is also a blessing because I’m SO bad, I suck so much with this stuff. I want to get to answer but I sound so bad. It’s also a guy thing … I have a feeling that girls are better at this kind of stuff. Set aside that. I don’t want to blame it on the general male side and have to blame it on myself.
Charlotte: Actually, I never heard the thing that girls are more computer nerds than guys. I never heard that one before. (laughs)
Martijn: Not really computer nerds. I mean like being thoughtful about having good contacts. That’s what I mean. It’s good that Charlotte does that.
I’m curious about the extent to which the art history degree Charlotte is studying now colours your lyrics writing? The lyrics in “April Rain” have a very strong visual element.
Charlotte: When “Lucidity” was recorded, I wasn’t at university yet and was 17. So that wasn’t like an influence back then. The lyrics for “The Gathering” were written by Guus and there were some songs written by another guy who had some really poetic stuff on there, which was really cool. I kind of needed a dictionary for some it, though. They are not my words but I was in a band with him before and he really influenced me in the way you look at lyrics. Still, it is a very different kind of lyrics than ones that I would write.
Martijn: But also very complicated words sometimes.
Charlotte: They were REALLY good-sounding and with a really good metronome to it. They were really well thought over and excellent. But it is still different when it’s your own thoughts put to words. And from that, I think it has changed much from “Lucidity” to “April Rain”. I guess those are a little bit more personal. But on the other hand, when you are talking about really regular things — like things that happen to you in day-to-day life — it is interesting to put them in a different kind of form. If you look at the art history study, it helps to have a different way to say something. Like if you are looking at “Virtue and Vice”, it is about the virtues and the vices. You are talking about wanting to be something better and reaching out to them and saying, “I wish I was more like this virtue, or I wish I didn’t have so much of that vice in me”. It is just a more interesting way to say actually the things that I guess everyone thinks about every once in a while. So you keep them lyrically interesting but still comprehensible.
I’m feeling kind of lazy. So Charlotte, why don’t you ask Martijn some questions. And Martijn, what would you like to ask Charlotte? The ruder, the better actually … please do my job for me. J
Charlotte: (laughs) Martijn, what have you got in your suitcase right now at this tour that you are really ashamed about?
Martijn: That’s a good one! So, whatever I answer will be bad. I’m a totally boring guy if I have nothing and that’s not good. OR I have something really strange, which is also not good. So, I’m screwed both ways. Let me think, what do I have in my suitcase that I’m afraid might be found and am ashamed about?!? I think I’m a boring guy.
Martijn: No, actually.
Charlotte: Ah right, it’s the first day of tour.
Martijn: I think I wipe my ass very well. You asked for it!!!
That is SO being published.
Martijn: No no no no, don’t publish that! Don’t put that on the record … “wipes his ass very well”. No, I really, honestly, cannot think of anything. Actually because my bag was stuffed with a lot of equipment.
Charlotte: That is true. We didn’t get to take a lot with us, so we didn’t get a chance.
Martijn: I have a book of Napoleon and some history. I’m a real history addict, so I know exactly who is there on the walls. (Points to pictures of monarchs and military figures in the restaurant.) But anyway, to answer your question, I’m boring.
Martijn, what embarrassing questions might you have for Charlotte?
Martijn: Actually, I’m even meaner. I want to know …
Charlotte: He’s going to ask something that he already knows, that is really embarrassing. And then he is going to ask it anyway.
Martijn: No no no. What question would you REALLY hate to get in an interview … where you think, “Oh no, not THAT question!”
Charlotte: “What’s your favourite colour?”
Martijn: That’s a little bit disappointing.
Charlotte: I was just trying to keep it safe.
Martijn: Yeah, because she had her period back then, and she was very annoyed. This kind of stuff.
Charlotte: Exactly, exactly. Probably those kind of things. Or people who ONLY ask things that are in our biography at the website. Because then you just know, you didn’t do your homework. That too.
Martijn: Okay, your turn I guess. If you have another.
Charlotte: My all-time favourite question, which I was asked once by a Japanese guy, and it is the weirdest question I ever got. If you were a fish, then what kind of fish would you want to be? They actually asked me this. I was like, “Salmon or tuna, salmon or tuna, salmon or tuna, salmon or tuna …?”
Martijn: I would like to be a dolphin.
That’s not a fish, dude.
Martijn: That’s true, that’s true. It’s a mammal.
Charlotte: A starfish is cute, like a little starfish.
Martijn: A brown starfish. No, I’m more into lobsters, but that’s not a fish either.
Charlotte: Man, know your animals!
Charlotte: What about the Nemo fish. The Nemo fish is cute.
Martijn: That is gay. I think I would like to be a …
Charlotte: … you’d be an eel.
Martijn: An eel, yeah! Or a herring.
Last question and then “goodbyes” to all.
Martijn: What do you like about the lyrics of “The Gathering”? (sinister laugh)
Charlotte: I like the fact that no one until today has really figured out what it is about. Yeah, that is what I like most about it, I guess. And the lyrical theme is quite cool.
(Martijn continues laughing)
Charlotte: Asshole. (laughs)
Do you have any last profound and deep words for your friends, admirers and would-be stalkers at Femme Metal?
Charlotte: Please stalk us. We need the attention, especially Martijn.
Martijn: Don’t read this interview more than once.
Actually, read it again but backwards. It’s much more profound.
Charlotte: Yeah, there are hidden messages!
Many thanks to Charlotte, Martijn and Delain’s tour manager Rik for being charming dinner companions and utterly gracious throughout. Our thanks also to Dave at EarsplitPR for arranging the interview.
Interview by Ed MacLaren
Riding high on the growing wave of South American metal exports, Colombia’s Nova Orbis opens up a “new world” of progressive metal on their debut album, “Imago”. Influenced by the prog of classics past but firmly rooted in the future, “Imago” is an articulate and inspiring example of modern prog punctuated by not one, not two, but three strong vocalists. Femme Metal got a chance to talk to lead vocalist Ana Maria Barajas on the eve of their first tour outside Colombia.
Congratulations on “Imago” – what a great debut! And you created an original and musically diverse album like “Imago” as an unsigned band?
Thank you for your comments and for inviting me to talk about our music in Femme Metal!
With “Imago” being such a solid offering, it’s hard to believe you couldn’t find a label to release it. Have you been entertaining any offers since the album’s release?
Since we released the album we have been very focused on promoting it in our country with some gigs and also in some other countries with the help of Lugga Music. But we really haven’t looked for a label, since we want to see first the response from the public and the media as an independent band. But we will probably look for this in the future and see if we get any offers.
What struggles have you dealt with as a band trying to attract label interest and get your music heard? Do you have any advice to other bands looking to attract label interest?
There are a lot of bands from all over the world trying to capture the attention of the labels, media and the public, so it’s really hard for a new band to establish itself in the international metal scene. But with the Internet and all the tools that exist right now, there are more opportunities than before to spread the word about your music, many people from all around the world have the opportunity to go to your Webpage, to blogs, magazines, etc., listen to your music and know about the band and I think that’s great!
“Imago” is a wonderful slab of progressive metal – dark and emotional. Where did the inspiration for the album come from and how did it develop?
Thank you! Well, since the beginning we have been working as a team not just in the performing field but also in the creative field; we all compose songs for the band. In that sense, this first album compiles songs from different members of the band and I think you can feel it when you listen to it. Almost each song has a particular sound. Also the lyrics talk about different issues like fantasy, politics, philosophy and personal experiences. But we wanted to have something common in each song that could show what we are as a band, a certain sound that includes the strength of metal, the magic of the gothic atmosphere and the dynamic of progressive rock.
The guys in the band certainly have chops – the music is rooted in the new millennium but there are lots of nods to classic 70’s prog especially in the keyboards. Where do they get their inspirations from?
You’re right. There’s a strong 70’s sound in the keyboards, and it’s funny because I think that 70’s influence for David (keyboard player) came indirectly from current artists that still have that kind of sound like Erik Norlander from Lana Lane and even Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater. With the guitar players they are big fans of classic prog like Rush, King Crimson, Yes, etc. I personally love that 70’s sound on the keyboards. I think most of the bands right now use keyboards to create atmospheres and generally the keyboard doesn’t have a main role on the songs, so I think David’s style can be something different and good that has helped the band to have a unique style in the genre. But in general, there is no doubt that those roots from the classic prog still influence a lot the 21st century’s progressive music.
The arrangements and some of the breakdowns and instrumental twists on the album sound very unique to your band. Is it a conscious effort for Nova Orbis to push the envelope musically or does the music develop itself through a more organic approach?
We worked really hard on the arrangements and preproduction of the album trying to find our own voice, which is a really difficult path and we’re just right on the beginning, but probably that effort we put on it is already visible when you listen to the album.
The production is also a standout element. You can really hear the air between the notes - you can listen to each individual performance. Nothing gets lost in a wall of sound. What was Nova Orbis’ plan for the “Imago” listening experience?
We worked on the production of the album with Juan David Garcia, a Colombian producer that has been involved previously with different styles of music. We decided to work with him actually because of his experience not only in rock but in jazz, country, etc. And I think that helped a lot to have a particular sound in the whole album that lets not just the guitars but also keyboards, bass and even the drums have a main role in different parts of each song. We tried to work as a team in the whole production process adding our ideas as a band and the ideas of Juan David as a producer.
You’re experimenting with some different musical styles within the progressive metal framework. The flutes in “The Lamp” give the track a very medieval feel while “Sarah Deserves to Rest” has some eastern influences. What kind of influences do you and the band have as musicians?
Well we have some common influences like Kamelot, Nightwish, Dream Theater and Ayreon. But each one has different musical interests also. For example, David (keyboards) likes Anime soundtracks a lot like Yoko Kanno, Joe Hisaishi, also Hans Zimmer, John Williams and Tan Dun and he also likes Lana Lane a lot. Rodolfo (bass) is closer to bands like Liquid Tension Experiment or Symphony X. Joe (drums) likes extreme metal and progressive like Dimmu Borgir, Xerath, Opeth, Circus Maximus. Jorge (guitar) loves Porcupine Tree, Magic Pie and Opeth. Jose (guitar) is a big fan of classic heavy groups like Iron Maiden, but he’s also a big fan of folk and world music like Yasmin Levy, Cholo Valderrama, Ali Farka Toure, among others. I personally really enjoy listening to jazz voices like Nina Simone and Cassandra Wilson, classic rock and blues singers like Maggie Bell or Ann Wilson (Heart), bands like After Forever, Stratovarius, Within Temptation, Opeth and classical music.
“Love Remains” is a great centerpiece to “Imago”. It has a very theatrical feel with a fantastic epic metal undertone. Tracks like “Unstable Mind” and “Ancient Guardian” help define the Nova Orbis sound. Did you achieve what you wanted with “Imago”?
We wanted to show what we are as a band with our own style, diversity in music and lyrics, multiple voices, strong keyboard sounds… In that sense, when you listen to the album you can feel there’s a different atmosphere, different musical ideas and a variety in the lyrics that show what we wanted to have in our first album. Of course there are always things that you want to improve, and that’s the challenge for your next album, but in general I think we achieved what we wanted with “Imago”.
Nova Orbis has three singers. While you do most of the heavy lifting, Jose and Jorge make some significant vocal contributions. What are the benefits to a three singer approach?
I think it gives a refreshing sound in each song. You don’t listen to ten songs with the same voice, but three different voices along the album, each one with its personal style and it also lets us create theatrical atmospheres if we want to, having dialogues between different characters in the lyrics and doing live vocal arrangements with the three voices at the same time. It’s always a benefit to have more than one singer in the band.
Your voice has a very unique tone – it’s full and expressive but you can still effortlessly sweep up into your upper register. How did you develop your style?
Thank you! Well I think singing is a continuous process and each day you learn more and realize that you have to keep improving. I began to sing when I was very little and it’s a matter of time to gain self confidence, to know your own voice and begin to play with it trying to find your own sound. Something that has helped me a lot to find my own style is to try not to imitate anybody, just explore my voice and follow my own path. Of course, taking singing classes is always a good thing. For me, it has been important to have a vocal coach that can help me identify my weaknesses and strengths to keep growing.
How tough is it to stand out in the growing legions of female metal vocalists?
It’s rather hard since there are tons of female metal vocalists all around the world and also because we come from a country that is not part of Europe or the U.S. where you have the main scene for this kind of music. But the most important thing is to know what you want to achieve and focus on it. Try not to compare yourself to anybody else and follow your own path.
Some of the most original sounding female-fronted metal these days is coming out of South America. It could just be something in the water but then again maybe the kids drinking up metal for years are finally putting together their own bands. What do you think?
The South American metal scene has been growing constantly in the last decades and has a huge fan base. It’s interesting how before, we received music from Europe and the U.S. constantly but we didn’t have the chance to expose our music internationally. Before globalization, the musical projects from the region were pretty much isolated from the international scene and it was almost impossible to think about exporting your music outside your country. Now we have these great tools and people from all around the world have the chance to know more metal bands from South America. There are a lot of great bands ready to be heard and show their music to the world.
Are there any other South American female-fronted metal bands just hovering under the radar we should prepare for?
Of course, I can tell you about great bands like Impromtus Ad Mortem, Rhyme of Tears and Fractal Flesh from Colombia, Hamadria and Yaguarheim from Peru, Blood Parade from Argentina, Six Magics from Chile… well there are a lot more!!!
South American fans are some of the most rabid metal fans of all. What is the South American perspective on metal? Is any of it reflected in your music?
As I was saying before we have had a lot of musical influence from Europe and the U.S. and that factor certainly has influenced the sound of South American Metal but also there is something that is very particular in all the region and that is the vast importance of Latin roots in our culture and I think that is something that even unconsciously influences the way we are and how we express that in music. Latin people are very passionate about life, very expressive and I’m pretty sure you can feel that in all the music that comes from South America. Also, metal music has a huge fan base that keeps growing , which means that in the future the importance of South American metal in the international scene is going to be bigger.
What are your touring plans for the summer? Are you staying in South America or will you head to the north end of the continent or jump the ocean into Europe?
Actually next week we will fly to Argentina to play some shows in different cities of the country which is going to be a great experience, because it is the first time that we will play outside Colombia. And of course if somebody invites us to go to Europe and play then we would love to come!
Interview by Alessandra Cognetta
Heidi Parviainen is the lead singer of the Finnish Amberian Dawn. Their latest album, “Circus Black”, has been released on the 29th of February in Europe, USA and Canada. We took this chance to ask her (and Tuomas Seppälä, AD’s songwriter and keyboards player, as well as one of the founding members) some questions about the band, their latest work and more.
“Circus Black” is yet another step forward for Amberian Dawn. What do you think changed, was added or improved from your previous works?
Heidi: “Circus Black” is the most singable album from AD so far and I really like it.
This is the first album to feature a real orchestra and choir, which I must say is one of the additions I enjoyed the most. Was it already in your plans for earlier releases or is it an element you chose to implement only for “Circus Black”?
Tuomas: To be quite honest…we haven’t afford to use real choir before…now we had a chance to try it and it was great...
The Album Sampler states “strongest line-up so far”: what does every member bring to AD’s sound as a whole, both in studio and live?
Tuomas: We have gathered the best musicians possible so that we can achieve the very sophisticated and highly techninally advanced sound. Every band member needs to be a true virtuoso with his own instrument. I write all music for AD, including guitar riffs, vocal lines etc. but still there’s always some free space for every musician to color the music with their own way of play.
Another highlight is the once again stellar guest appearances. Can you tell us about these collaborations?
Tuomas: We have always used some guest vocalists or musicians on our albums. I like to to do it, because that’s how I can get more variations out of AD’s music. Those guest singers on this albums are ”hand-picked” and I tried several different singers and selected the most suitable for each and every song.
Heidi, you write all the lyrics for the band, often taking inspiration from Finnish mythology. What’s behind the lyrics of “Circus Black” and what is your usual writing process?
Heidi:On “Circus Black” there are no Kalevala lyrics at all. I wanted to take a step into a different direction with the lyrical work and this album has a kind of a psychological vibe since some lyrics talk about our fears, bad relationships etc. But there is some folklore too and even light horror. Tuomas always (except once with “Lionheart”) composes all the music first and sends the ready melodies to me and I write the lyrics.
You’ve also recorded songs in your mother tongue (“Virvatulen Laulu” from “End of Eden”), it’s surely a very different experience, for you as a singer and for the fans as well. Do you prefer singing in English or in Finnish?
Heidi: I prefer singing in English because we mostly perform to a foreign audience and it is importat that the audience understand what the lyrics are about. But it is really fun to break the rules sometimes and do something different. Who knows if there will be a new Finnish song someday…
What’s the concept behind the video for your new single, “Cold Kiss”?
Heidi:The story of “Cold Kiss” is a kind of a “Twilight” spirit lovestory between a vampire and a human.
AD recently toured Europe with Tristania, Xandria, Serenity and Van Canto, how was it sharing the stage with all these very diverse female fronted bands?
Heidi: Yes. It was! All the ladies on tour were a great company and it was kind of refreshing to once work with so many women. We had a lot of fun together. The only this I missed was a song together with all the ladies!
“Circus Black” was released for the first time in USA and Canada, too. What do you think this will mean for the band? Are there any plans for an overseas tour in the future?
Heidi: All the plans are still open and we hope to be able to tour soon. It would be lovely to go over seas but let´s see.
What’s your favourite song to perform live and why?
Heidi: From our previous albums I like “River of Tuoni” because it is the most popular song from AD so far and the audience know the lyrics and melody so they can sing along. But ther are many other I also like to sing.
Have you ever thought about pursuing a career as an opera singer, or singing something different from Amberian Dawn’s repertoire?
Heidi: Not really an opera singer but I do study classical singing at a conservatory and I also do some classical concerts. Who knows what the future will bring, I´m all open to it!
You’re often compared to other female fronted bands, like Nightwish for example. What is your opinion on this matter?
Heidi: Well. As I often say. Maybe ther are still too few female fronted metal bands that people need to compare the bands to the only one who really has reached the big succes in this genre. Still there are much less female fronted bands that male fronted. No one is really wining about their singing styles which sound quite same to my ears in their rock technique. It doesn´t bother me but it is quite weird that is still happens after these six years and four albums with AD. In my opinion there a quite few similarities with Nigtwish and nowadays even less after Nightwish started to work with Anette. Does really the singing techique of the singer make everything- includind songwriting, other istruments- sound similar? I don´t think so.
With the new album and single out since less than a month, what do you see in the future of Amberian Dawn?
Heidi: I hope lots of gigs and touring and hopefully a wider audience too and better sales!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, greetings from your Italian fans!
Heidi: Grazie mille! Baci a voi!
Band photo by Toni Härkönen
Label : Universal Republic Records
Review by Tony Cannella
We Are the Fallen is the much talked about, long awaited project featuring three former members from Evanescence that recorded the hugely successful, “Fallen” record. John LeCompt, Ben Moody and Rocky Gray from Evanescence have been joined by bassist Marty O’Brien and former American Idol contestant and vocalist Carly Smithson for the debut record from We Are the Fallen, “Tear the World Down”. Of course comparisons to their previous group are inevitable and already have begun. “Bury Me Alive”, is the opener and it is a dramatic number, thanks in large part to the virtuoso vocal performance of Carly Smithson. She seems to have been an excellent choice by the band to sing in this project, but there is no denying that she does - at times - remind me of Amy Lee. The music itself is dramatic and includes bits of orchestration sprinkled throughout the album. The next track, “Burn” is faster paced than the previous track and an excellent number. “Sleep Well, My Angel” is an emotionally charged, piano dominated ballad, that offers the listener a change of pace, from the heavier, more energetic songs. Other highlights include: “Through Hell”, “I Will Stay”, “Through Hell”, and “Tear the World Down”. Comparisons to Evanescence are only natural, but once you get past that, you realize that We Are the Fallen are their own entity and the songs on “Tear the World Down” are good enough to be judged on their own merits. “Tear the World Down” is an excellent debut by a band that is ready to shed comparisons to their former band and forge their own path.
Rating - 85/100
Label: Nightmare Records / Silverwolf / SPV
Rating - 85/100