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The waiting is over, Sweden’s Avantagarde Metal collective Diablo Swing Orchestra has finally published the new video clip “Black Box Messiah” taken from the the 4th album “Pandora’s Pinata”. Click for blast your ears and delight your eyes with some kickass music below. (via Sweden’s DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Posts New Music Video For “Black Box Messiah” « Femme Metal Webzine)
Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
An interview with Daniel Håkansson, the guitarist and male singer from Diablo Swing Orchestra. When a reviewer writes a review about a relatively unknown band he or she will try to compare the music with another band operating in more or less the same genre. You can say a lot of things about Diablo Swing Orchestra but they certainly do not sound like your average metal band. This is good because there are already enough copycats and faceless bands in this world. Diablo Swing Orchestra adds a new chapter in the long history of hard rock ‘n’ metal.
Before we start a question about the bio: most bands have a simple bio but Diablo Swing Orchestra has a nice fairy tale in the style of Hans Christian Andersen. Who wrote it?
I did… but I merely wrote what we found out. I really wish I could take credit by saying we made it all up. Would be a nice movie, don’t you think?
Nobody can accuse Diablo Swing Orchestra of being predictable. Where do you get the inspiration for the songs and the music?
It’s a bit different with this album and the last one where I wrote pretty much everything. Me and Pontus (guitar, vocals, FX) did most of the writing together on this one. But everyone was more involved in the arrangements/writing on this album. We learned a lot while recording the last album which came in handy when putting these songs on tape.
And how would you describe Diablo Swing Orchestra’s music?
A god description I read somewhere was : It sounds as if Danny Elfman collaborated with System of a down and got Maria Callas behind the microphone.
Did you always wanted to become a guitarist and singer?
No not really, I wasn’t that interested in music until I turned 16. But because of my upbringing and my mother was an aspiring opera singer I got it from an early age anyway. Guess it was bound to happen but I just had to figure it out myself.
How do you see yourself, as a guitar player that can sing or as a singer who also can play the guitar?
Well, I first and foremost see myself as a songwriter and the guitar is just the instrument I use. But I’m more of a guitarist than I singer. I wasn’t even supposed to sing in this band at all. If just happened since some verses/choruses didn’t fit Annlouice’s voice on the first album. But it turned out I worked great as a contrast so we have incorporated more male (not just mine) vocals on the new album.
What kind of guitars & amplifiers do you use?
We actually use custom made guitars from Henrik Jansson in Stockholm. When it comes to amps we both have Peavy amps.
To what kind of music and bands do you listen yourself? Oh that’s a long list. To make it easier I’ll just write what I listen too at the moment: Kroke – Awesome Balkan folk band. This is the only band I’m playing in at the moment, I have played in other bands in the past but nothing serious really. Since it’s not my full time it does take up a lot of my free time but I’ll keep doing it as long as it’s fun. Even if no one would want to listen I’d still write songs. We felt that the name sums up the feel and sound of all of the songs in a good way. This is your second album. What have you done different compared to the debut album? We came better prepared this time around and we had rehearsed the details in the arrangements. We had also done better pre-production recordings and prepared special klick tracks containing all the tempo shifts. Then of course we wrote better songs =) He did a lot for the sound on the record. We had some ideas where we wanted to take the album and he picked up on them in a very good way and manage to turn into something even better.
Oh that’s a long list. To make it easier I’ll just write what I listen too at the moment: Kroke – Awesome Balkan folk band.Was Diablo Swing Orchestra your first band and/or do have other bands right now?
This is the only band I’m playing in at the moment, I have played in other bands in the past but nothing serious really.Is it easy to combine Diablo Swing Orchestra with your personal life?
Since it’s not my full time it does take up a lot of my free time but I’ll keep doing it as long as it’s fun. Even if no one would want to listen I’d still write songs.What is the idea behind the name of the album?
We felt that the name sums up the feel and sound of all of the songs in a good way.
This is your second album. What have you done different compared to the debut album?
We came better prepared this time around and we had rehearsed the details in the arrangements. We had also done better pre-production recordings and prepared special klick tracks containing all the tempo shifts. Then of course we wrote better songs =)Why did you choose the In Flames studio? (besides the fact it is located in Sweden)
He did a lot for the sound on the record. We had some ideas where we wanted to take the album and he picked up on them in a very good way and manage to turn into something even better.
Can you tell us something about the songs on the album?
If I am to say something general about all of them it would be that they are all more thought through in terms of arranging. We also had a lot of production ideas in the writing process. They may also come off as a little more weird than then songs on the debut at a first glance.
What is your favourite song on the album and why?
It kind of shifts from day to day but I’m really pleased with how “A Tap Dancer’s Dilemma” turned out.
How was the album received by the press and fans?
As it is to be expected the reactions have been mixed but the majority seems to think that we have taken a step forward with this record.
The cover art by Peter Bergting: who usually does book covers and graphic novels. Why did you / the band choose him for the artwork?
He did the cover for the first album as well and he’s a great artist and a friend of Andy.
What are the highlights for you with Diablo Swing Orchestra?
Two gigs I remember as being particularly awesome are the Summer Breeze 2008 and Mexico City 2009. That and of course recording and releasing our two albums.
And do you have any negative experiences in all those years with Diablo Swing Orchestra? Nothing juicy but I guess waiting for flights, busses etc can be a drag sometimes. We’re working on new songs but taking our time, since the main goal at the moment is to play live. Would also be great to put out a video for one of the songs but we’ll see about the financials for that this time around. No, I think you’ve covered most of it. Links
Nothing juicy but I guess waiting for flights, busses etc can be a drag sometimes.What can we expect from Diablo Swing Orchestra in the future?
We’re working on new songs but taking our time, since the main goal at the moment is to play live. Would also be great to put out a video for one of the songs but we’ll see about the financials for that this time around.And the last question, is there anything the reader should know that I have not asked?
No, I think you’ve covered most of it.
Interview by Si Smith
Although Dakrya is derived from the Greek word for tears, there is nothing weepy and morbid about this group of theatrical musicians! Dubbing themselves “The Charlatans” and branding their new album “an avant garde metal freakshow”, this septet of metal magick brings you the thrills and spills of the stage alongside the sparkle and allure of the circus. I spoke to two of the leading talents, Christina and Thomais….
First of all, thanks so much for this interview and greetings from all at Femme Metal. You call yourselves collectively the Charlatans. I gather that this is a old 16th century reference to “a flamboyant actor; one who attracts customers with tricks or jokes”. How well would you say this describes your little theatrical troupe?
Thomais: Well our little concept is based on this kind of twisted circus world. It’s a different but yet the same aspect of seeing the world we live in. It helped us connect with the character each one of us had inside … and bring it to life… Each one of us has its own unique and important role to play within this world.
Christina: We use our music to attract ”customers”, in our case the audience, and through the cheerful circus themes and musical theater atmosphere we try to introduce them to the ”Crime Scene” which is the world that we live in. Our lyrics speak of dreadful stories where money, ego, and fraud are the driving force of our society. So I guess we are Charlatans, we trick people to attract them to our world!
You burst onto the scene in 2008 with “Monumento” which was an invigorating mix of religious and operatic imagery. In contrast the theme of the new album is described in the opening song as involving “a dazzling haze of criminal minds; riddles, traps and horrible crimes”. How did this concept for the new album arise?
Thomais: It came really natural I would dare to say! Just look at the world around you… the whole album theme is vital and you are a part of it as well… it is the everyday things we have to deal with… people hiding behind masks feeling artificially beautiful, a world based on creating fear and insecurity… it was really easy for us to evolve with this concept.
Before the release of the full-length itself came the single “The Urban Tribe” as a download. In what ways did you feel that this was a representative track to put out as a single?
Thomais: First of all I believe that this track shows our new style and sound in many ways…the one that could hold the listener by the hand and make him enter our new world step by step and become familiar with the new things we wanted to express.
Christina: ”The Urban Tribe” is a song that reflects the change in our musical style in the best way in our opinion. Also we all love it! It’s a powerful track, a combination of jazz and swing elements with metal riffs and strong lyrics that holds the essence of the album.
Many of the lyrics of the new album involve jugglers, clowns or mime artists. Your vocals too are extremely theatrical and effectively express different nuances of emotion. What are your musical and/or theatrical backgrounds?
Thomais: Well I started my studies in the vocal area as a classical/opera singer (exactly what I do in “Monumento” album) but I’ve always had the craving of experimenting with my voice… the sound and color of it. I had a great love for dance and theater as well so musical theatre came across my way and I started searching and expanding my potentials as a singer in this field… I guess that helped me to discover my demanding little dark twisted character in “Crime Scene”!
Christina: Actually I have no theatrical background, never took any acting lessons or participated in a theatrical play. As for my musical background, I started singing since I started talking! I took singing lessons for many years and before Dakrya I was in another metal band. But I believe singing and acting are strongly connected, and many times you are called to play a role when interpreting a song. So I think it would be very useful for me and probably any singer to take some acting lessons.
The “roving” rhythms of tracks such as “The Urban Tribe” and “Camouflage” are highly reminiscent of the recent achievements of bands such as Diablo Swing Orchestra. Where would you say your influences are, as musicians, vocalists and performers?
Thomais: I think that the fact the seven of us has so many and different influences and sounds we like to listen and experimenting with gives this rare and weird sound. Of course we love bands such as DSO and Unexpect, but speaking for myself I really love soundtracks, alternative music, jazz, blues, and artists that love to take their sound one step further and create different and unique worlds like Tool, Porcupine Tree, Shining… there are so many I could name right now… I also have many pop – electro and industrial favorites, folk and world music as well… there are no limits in what I listen to, it depends on my emotional state every time.
Christina: We all like Diablo Swing Orchestra and I guess their sound was a great influence for us. As for me as a vocalist, my influences are quite diverse. From Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin to Bruce Dickinson! I love soul music, blues and jazz, while musicals like Chicago give me ideas about my stage performance. I want to find my own identity as an artist and i always have my eyes and ears open during this way.
The album slows down a little for “Inertia” then bursts into life again for the arrival of “Dramatis Personae”, which swells up like a Final Act before the ending of the play. In what ways does this song encapsulate or summarise some of the main themes of the album?
Christina: ‘‘Dramatis Personae” is actually the Final Act, as it reflects the main reason for the fear, the consumerism, the corruption and generally the madness that composes today’s life and were mentioned in the previous tracks. We all play roles, we are actors in a play we don’t really know the scenario, but have to improvise every time for our own advantage or the advantage of those above us. As the song says if you want to survive ”play your role right!”
You have recently been signed by Sensory Records, the same label as bands such as DSO, Wuthering Heights and Circus Maximus. In what ways (if any) has this changed the way things are done in Dakrya? In what ways is the label supportive of you as artists?
Thomais: Well we are satisfied that this cooperation came up! We have the right promotional support and many chances to take our sound beyond the borders of our country. We feel very proud sharing the same floor with so talented artists and it has helped us focus more on our targets for the future.
Christina: We are very glad we had the chance to be signed by Sensory Records. They have appreciated our work from the beginning and they support and promote us a lot, especially in the USA. So as far as we are concerned we try harder to do everything with professionalism and become better musicians and performers through a lot of work, so that we can return their trust in us.
By now you will have just completed your first February show in Athens alongside Psycrence and Allen’s Hand. Please tell us how the show went!! What were the highlights for you?
Thomais: We had such a really nice time and enjoyed ourselves a lot!!! It was the first time that we played for the Greek audience after so long and introducing the brand new concept and album to them was pretty challenging… it came up more like a theatrical show in the end! I was very exciting feeling this live contact with the audience again!!!
Christina: Yes, we had our first show in Athens on February after the release of our new album ”Crime Scene” and it went really great! We enjoyed it a lot and I think the audience enjoyed it as well. We had the chance to play in a great venue, the sound was very good and generally we didn’t face any problems or misfortunes. As for the audience I think the whole show, with our performance enriched with theatrical elements came as a surprise to them!
The whole Dakrya experience must be very daunting to recreate in the live environment. How on earth do you all keep track of all the elements involved? This surely must involve a lot of practice….
Thomais: Yeah it takes a hell of a practice!! Haha… well every rehearsal is a small show for us… cause as you very correctly said we have to give this sense of theatrical experience to the people that will give it a try and check us live. We also have this need of creating a vital world to bring those characters we get to play, into life. So we came up with lots of ideas and combined them interactively into our show…
Christina: Yes, the truth is that it’s really difficult to recreate live the whole concept of ”Crime Scene”. When we do our rehearsals we practice on everything. It’s kind of preparing a theatrical play where we have to take care of the costumes, the stage scenery and our whole performance apart from playing music and singing. Every song is a story we want to tell people and we enrich it with theatrical elements. On February’s show the audience took a small taste of what is coming up because we’re still working on it and try to make our stage performance better and make a step forward all the time.
I imagine it must be good for morale to have more than one vocalist up on stage at any one time. How does the dynamic work between you two? How do you manage to encourage each other when things get rough along the way?
Thomais: Well it was a spiritual kind of bonding that we shared from the very beginning… We managed to work perfectly together and had many ideas on how to create styles and melodies within the songs. We came to the point that we can choose the parts that Sophia gives us to work just by instinct. I feel that without each other the whole concept wouldn’t be whole… I would feel incomplete as a voice and theatrical character if Christina wasn’t there; knowing how important we are to each other encourages us and gives us strength for the show to go on!
Christina: We work perfectly together and sharing the stage has become something essential for us. Actually we can’t imagine Dakrya with just one of us! I think we complement each other and we manage to create a balance on stage. We always help and support each other and for example if I forget any lyrics, Thomais is there to cover it up and this can be a great relief!
With all the different ideas that make up a Dakrya album, how do the creative roles divide up between the band members? How does the average track get written?
Thomais: Each one of us created his own character and gave it personal characteristics. The average track and idea is written by SophiaX and then all of us are involving our ideas and colors in it… she gives us the toys and then we play haha… then the roles and their development are take their natural way I believe due to the fact that we are not only band mates but very close friends, we know each other’s way of thinking and there is a bidirectional trust in between us… so we always respect each other’s “sound space”.
Christina: Usually SophiaX is the one that composes the music and writes all the lyrics. So after the main directions from SophiaX, we all have the chance to add our own ideas and improvise on our instruments. Along with Thomais we get the music and the lyrics and then we make the vocal arrangements with SophiaX helping us especially when it comes to matters of expression and interpretation of the lyrics.
Finally, it would be great to know if you have any hopes of aspirations for the future of Dakrya. Or for yourselves as individuals? Is there anything revealing you would like us to know about yourselves before we close?
Thomais: We are planning to have some shows here in Greece and hopefully abroad, because we will be entering the studios once again soon!!!
Christina: What we really want for the future is to keep playing music that expresses us and making albums like ”Crime Scene” which we feel very proud of. We are planning to have more live shows around Greece and abroad and we want more people to enter our ”freakshow”!
Thank you so much for taking part, really, you guys do a great job, and we at Femme Metal wish the album and the Charlatans all success in the future!!
Christina: Thank you as well for your support and this great interview! We hope to see you all soon on stage!
Interview by Miriam C.
For the second time we give space to one of the most eclectic act of the last years : Diablo Swing Orchestra. This time we have had the pleasure to have a nice SkyPe chat with Daniel Håkansson for unleash more details about the third album “Pandora’s Piñata”.
Hi Daniel, first of all how are you?Do you mind present your band telling a little about the Diablo Swing Orchestra’s history?
Our ancestors performed orchestral works in defiance of the ruling church at the time. The orchestra was forced to go into hiding, performing in secret, with the assistance of oppressed peasants during the era. After years of performing for the pleasure of these peasants, the story claims that the church put a bounty on the performers lives, and that this bounty was so high that the orchestra knew they would soon be captured, and thus chose to play a spectacular final show before becoming martyred to the church. We got letters back in 2003 and did some research to find each other and since that day we perform as Diablo Swing Orchestra.
We are here for speak and introduce “Pandora’s Piñata”, DSO third album. What you can tell about its genesis? When you have started composing it?
The songs on the new album I started to write for back in 2010 but we didnt start seriously to arrange the songs until 2011.
Ok.. who’s like the recording process an a DSO album? I mean you have first the music and after you compose the lyrics or it viceversa?
First normally comes a rytmical idea (beat or riff) and if it’s interesting enough I start to try and find a melody that fits. When that is done I normally start to find the “theme” for the song (arrangemets etc) Then me and Pontus (guitar & FX) do demos for the others to take part of to start working on their parts. too.
And when Annlouice comes in?
When the demos are send out. I normally check the key of the songs with her before we finish them so that the intervals are suitable for her voice.
So connecting to this question.. What you reply if I ask to say more about her - I mean her musical background and stuff like that? And how she got involved in this project?
She is a classically trained singer and works full time as an opera singer here in Sweden. She was introduced to the band when we started to look for a singer by the opera house’s PR department. She got to hear a demo and she liked it and the rest is history =)
So she sing in the theatres as full time job?
Yes, indeed. We gain a lot for all her experience on stage even if it’s a bit different.
Well, I think that something different from the usual singer helps to get more people to like your music and be noticed, I mean people get curious.
Yes, it gives the band a certain flavour also a different flavour that after can attract different people from different musical ambients
At your concerts I bet we can find a metalhead, someone who likes jazz and why not opera… but the metalhead but be really openminded.
Sure, we seem to have a mixed crowd.
And talking aboout crows and live gigs… it sound strange to me that, according to the press release that I have in my hand, it’s hard playing gigs in US and Northern Europe. Why? On the contrary, for DSO music it’s very easy planning tours in South America. What the differences between the 2 continents? I mean, in my point of view since you’re close, should be more easy organize concerts in Europe instead in SA…
Well, we do have a much bigger following there which the promoters have picked up upon. It’s starting to get better in Europe and we’ve signed with an italian booking agency so we will do a full blown tour in italy in the future. Also more gigs in europe will follow. They are just not finalized yet. It’s probably the latin vibes in many of the songs that makes it work really well over there.
Now talking a little about the lyrics —- I quote the press release about the album’s theme - “The theme of ”Pandora’s Piñata”, are the seven cardinal sins that one can imagine falling out of this like-no-other-audio-visual-piñata”. Well, you can explain to us the real concept of the album because I haven’t really caught the sense, maybe it’s my fault but I haven’t really understood it and I for this I want to give you free speech and hear directly from the mastermind the truth hahaha….
Yeah, that theme is more in the artwork than lyrics. The lyrics are of a more personal level and based on my own experiences.
Mmh.. interesting so are you gonna unveil more details about it? Because you have really anticipated my next question…
The only differnet one is “Guerilla Laments” which I wrote based upon many email and letters we get saying our music has helped them though tough times.
Nice to know it, for the artist (in these case you) should be like heaven reading those letter and emails… Well, I’m glad that the music can help them but I’m quite horrified what people have to go though not very nice stuff and most time I don’t feel qualified to answer True, but I am glad that what we do can help peole. I truly am. You know, the reality it’s so brutal that sometimes we need to get away for it and sounds sweet be embraced by the music. Yeah, it’s one way to have a brief excape from everyday life. He’s quite well know here in Sweden and thoughout the world in come circels as a illustrator and have done some high profile jobs. He used to be Anders’ teacher in university and they have kept in touch since then. Interesting.. never imagine that, really! Congrats to him and Anders. Watching the site we get a preview of the album artwork with this 2 childrens and the snake. Can talk you more about its visual concept? Sounds like the reality to me and the everyday society. Yeah, good point ;) Well, you know I haven’t imagined that I was thinking something more fantastic and unrealistic the meaning of the title.. Yeah, we wanted a title that both wrapped up the album and piqued the listerer’s interest. It seems that it takes us about 3 years to write and record an album, it was the same amount of time between the 1st and 2nd record as well (2006-2009-2012) so next time is 2015 then =) Yeah, I wish we were faster but it seems we dont really control it.Songs are done when they are done. Actually we first realeased the first record it ourselves and later it picked up by Candlelight and but this time we had the deal with Candlelight figured out form the start and they seem to do some good work with the promotion. Well, we licened the album to the one year after we released the “Butcher’s Ballroom” ourselves. Petter decided to leave since he wanted to focus on his own music. They are both classically trained and were brought in as session musicians for “Sing Along for the Damned and Delirious” and we got along really well and they added so much to the band so we decided they should join the band We’ll do it as soon as we feel we’re good enough and have the money to do it properly . Thanks for a nice one yourself. Links Latest Multimedia
Well, I’m glad that the music can help them but I’m quite horrified what people have to go though not very nice stuff and most time I don’t feel qualified to answerIt’s quite common that people tries/finds something to attach on because those words/melodies helps them not to give up I think that no one is qualified for the replies.
True, but I am glad that what we do can help peole. I truly am.
You know, the reality it’s so brutal that sometimes we need to get away for it and sounds sweet be embraced by the music.
Yeah, it’s one way to have a brief excape from everyday life.Exactly..turning back to the artwork side.. I know that Peter Bergting for the second time is working with you for all the “Pandora’s Piñata” graphics but who’s Peter Bergting and can tell us more about him and his work to who don’t know him yet?
He’s quite well know here in Sweden and thoughout the world in come circels as a illustrator and have done some high profile jobs. He used to be Anders’ teacher in university and they have kept in touch since then.
Interesting.. never imagine that, really! Congrats to him and Anders. Watching the site we get a preview of the album artwork with this 2 childrens and the snake. Can talk you more about its visual concept?We always want to wrap up what the music is a bout in titles and art work. The music has both a playful and an aggressive/dark side to it. The name “Pandora’s Piñata” kind of encapsulates it. It kind of shows how someone is tricked into let some malign out that is wrapped out in a pretty package.
Sounds like the reality to me and the everyday society.
Yeah, good point ;)
Well, you know I haven’t imagined that I was thinking something more fantastic and unrealistic the meaning of the title..
Yeah, we wanted a title that both wrapped up the album and piqued the listerer’s interest.Well I was talking about the previous album and that’s it - If I recall well, your last album that you publish was on 2009 with “Sing Along for the Damned and Delirious” under Ascendance Records. Why took you so long to publish a new platter?
It seems that it takes us about 3 years to write and record an album, it was the same amount of time between the 1st and 2nd record as well (2006-2009-2012) so next time is 2015 then =)Yes, but this sounds so funny like the three time table haha.
Yeah, I wish we were faster but it seems we dont really control it.Songs are done when they are done.And “Pandora’s Piñata” is your first album under Candlelight Records, finally I’m so happy you, you’ve reached the ambitious deal with a prestigious label. How was the first approch with them? I mean who contacted who, when happened the first contact?
Actually we first realeased the first record it ourselves and later it picked up by Candlelight and but this time we had the deal with Candlelight figured out form the start and they seem to do some good work with the promotion.Let me understand before to sign properly with them you have only a distribution deal?
Well, we licened the album to the one year after we released the “Butcher’s Ballroom” ourselves.Reading the 2012 live line up I’m noticed that the only real change is the drummer: why Petter Karlsson is not coming on tour with you?
Petter decided to leave since he wanted to focus on his own music.Still talking about line ups that are changing, can you talk more about the new members Martin Isaksson and Daniel Hedin? What are their musical background?
They are both classically trained and were brought in as session musicians for “Sing Along for the Damned and Delirious” and we got along really well and they added so much to the band so we decided they should join the bandAny plans for a DVD/live album? It should be an interesting release to buy…
We’ll do it as soon as we feel we’re good enough and have the money to do it properly .Daniel, we’re at the end. I really thank you for everything!! Thanks so much for the interview!!!!
Thanks for a nice one yourself.
Label : Candlelight Records
Review by Luisa Mercier
Back in 2006, when “The Butcher’s Ballroom” was released, I truly felt it was something totally new, a breath of fresh air in the female fronted scene that started to show signs of lack of inspiration. They also were really underground, it was hard to find a copy of the album, but thanks to the very effective “word of mouth” on the web, soon their fame increased. And here we are, six years later, with a world tour incoming and albums sold all over the Internet and physical shops. In the meanwhile, they released another album “Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious” which showcased their classy trademark avantgarde metal mixing Russian folk, Italian opera, metal and much more. After three years, a new record deal with Candlelight, D:S:O are again on the stage with “Pandora’s Piñata”. I have to admit that I did not expect a great surprise since, after the first album, the avantgarde scene got filled up with bands, and a lot of ideas were alreay taken. I am happy to say that Diablo Swing Orchestra changed my mind after a few listenings. “Pandora’s Piñata” is a mix of metal of various kinds and folk from all over the world blended by D:S:O unique way of doing music. The opener “Voodoo Mon Amour” is a classic DSO tune that reminds me a bit of “Ballrog Boogie”. Metal meets swing, while in the following “Guerrilla Laments”, Diablo Swing Orchestra have created a new genre: samba metal. The usual jazz influences are not missing. Ann-Louice really is shining through the record with her opera vocals mixed with an atmosphere that seems coming out straight of Rio de Janeiro Carnival. “Kevlar Sweethearts” is one of my personal favourite and has a beautiful soft string arrangement, while Ann-Louice uses her non-opera vocals. They are beautiful, elegant showing how she can handle different styles. The song is a bit less fast than the previous ones, more guitar driven but the hook never misses his goal. “How to Organize a Lynch Mob” is just a string instrumental break. One of the craziest tracks is “Black Box Messiah” with its crazy kids chorus that reminded me of Pin-Up Went Down. Male vocals make their appearance and I can hear some folk influences from distant China. A nice contrast between chunking guitar riffs and strings in the intro of “Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball”, finding its way through electronics, trumpets and drums. The way male vocals have been handled in the end, recalled me some of the more symphonic Muse stuff. A musical feeling is what you get from “Aurora”, a track to let Ann-Louice show all her skills. It is a completely orchestral aria that would not make a poor impression on a Broadway stage. Middle-Eastern feelings is what you get from the beginning of “Mass Rapture”, and all over it is a very symphonic piece, quite different from the rest. Another gem, for sure. “Honey Trap Aftermath” is not metal, it is very jazzy, swing oriented, while “Of Kali Ma Calibre” has almost black metal blast-beats. Another highlight of the record. Closing track “Justice for Saint Mary” was a bit of a let-down since til half of the track sounds the same. It is a ballad that slowly changed and turns into a stormy metal track and in the end into a dubstep track. We are at the end of this crazy trip and all I can say is that D:S:O again delivered a very good record. They are among the strongholds of avantgarde metal.
Rating - 75/100
Interview by Ed MacLaren
Every once in a while an artist comes along that defies description, challenges convention and polarizes the listening public – like all great musicians should. Ayin Aleph’s singular combination of metal, goth, and the classical culminates in a unique musical viewpoint that is at the same time attractive and repulsive. Her first album, “Ayin Aleph I”, goes for the emotional jugular in full metal splendor while her recent “Ayin Aleph II” re-interprets much of the album in a more classically-based but equally chaotic manner. Recently, Femme Metal got a peek inside the fertile mind and imagination of Ayin Aleph.
It’s been two years since “Ayin Aleph I” and you’ve recently followed it up with “Ayin Aleph II” – an acoustic album of sorts – with piano and harpsichord versions of the tracks on your first album. What was the genesis of this idea?
I had a few ideas. Firstly, I wanted to show that metal music can sound in a grandiose and immense way on a classical instrument without the electric effect (saturation and distortion) but of course in another sounding aspect and in another expressivity type. Secondly, I wanted to enlighten all the tracks played by the instruments of the metal band. (You know clearly that with distortion and saturation it’s hard to hear clearly all the precise shapes of the melody.) My piano parts are playing the guitar and bass parts and sometimes even the pictures of some drums parts (percussive piano). Thirdly, I gathered all the choirs and songs into a monolith in order that it sounds like an drawing of a mini metal opera with an evolution of emotions that is the only topic: that means that this allegoric sense starts with the big choir and first song (the smallest in terms of sound effect) then the second song becomes bigger and more developed in terms of arrangement. All that evolves into a culmination and ends with a “soft death” of divino-diabolical emotions and with regrets about the future.
“Ayin Aleph I” is an elaborate album with layers and layers of densely structured harmonies and melodies. While “Ayin Aleph II” is not as intense, there is still a chaotic element that threads though much of the music on both albums. At the same time it feels natural and integrated. How does your music evolve from concept to completion?
It evolves like each suffering: at the beginning it is a shock because of something new that goes through your existence spontaneously like a bullet; the “swimming” period in some spheres with the hopes to find the source of that; and the tragedy of despair and love into eternity. All that is like inside life: of course it is highly intensive. Even if the musical period is less intensive, this strength is hidden simply in the depth in order to have its blast just after.
You see an affinity between metal, opera and baroque chamber music. What gave you the idea to integrate these musical forms and how did you know that it could be done so successfully?
I do everything myself on the level of inspiration. All the elements and musical norms are gathered between each other alone, like my music is asking for it. I do like it asks without digging into an analysis of the musical form or style. I am sure that all music cannot be “from” someone, even from its creator. I think that each creator is only a workman of inspiration that is coming down on behalf of Heaven.
With that said, “Ayin Aleph II” focuses more on the acoustic side of your music – “Ayin Aleph unplugged” so to speak. Your vocals are brought to the front and the music is softer while retaining its distinctive edge. If “Ayin Aleph I” was made for the avant-garde metal heads out there, who is the audience for “Ayin Aleph II”?
A much larger public. Because the sonority of metal belongs only to metal and the hard rock public. For the rest of the people this kind of sonority is not possible. I did this record like a transcription of my metal music. For me, in music, the first and last thing is melody. If someone doesn’t accept the saturation or distortion, I can easily do without it which means denude my music and show it to the public that hates metal or rock with all the ingredients that are composing my metal cake. My metal public like this album no less than the first one. I also enlarged my public with the gothic-classical public and some jazz fans.
The trill in your voice gives you one of the most recognizable voices in metal. It can morph from a sultry whisper to a shrill cry instantly. There is such conviction and versatility in your vocals and you maximize the emotional impact on every track. How did you develop such a unique vocal delivery? Does it augment your music in a way that traditional operatic vocals wouldn’t?
Of course, I don’t sing in an operatic way except the very sharp notes where it is not possible to sing with my natural voice. In sharp sonority, if you don’t sing with the head voice it is impossible. The vibrato of opera is essential: remember Freddie Mercury. The rest are only emotions that express with the means of the notes. I use my voice more like an instrument but not like a singer. My vocal sense evolves alone linked with the music and its requests. The idea is such: I search with my voice for the right musical expression that (sometimes very strangely) corresponds to the emotion involved. Of course, in opera there are too many codes and laws. It is divinely beautiful but this universe exists with a certain part of the public: a little elite of professionals or opera amateurs, but I, as a singer, exist for a much larger public and I search for the means of a direct liaison with those people.
Your music has such a theatrical aspect to it that it craves a visual component to complete the listening experience. The meticulous detail and staging in your videos and stage shows look to be so integrated with the music that in some ways listening to the music alone is incomplete. Do you compose with that visual performance component in mind or is the music meant to stand on its own?
My music is, of course, very linked with my visual realizations but all my videos are my sole point of view on this music. But with another individual that is listening to my music without watching my video can have completely different visions linked with his own experience and knowledge of this world and with his own luggage of emotional sensations. Here is my music. It exists completely without the videos in order to give the possibilities to each of us to create its own visual universe.
You project a strong sexual image in your videos and promotional materials but it doesn’t feel like it’s done in a gratuitous manner. We see you at times dirty, bloody and disheveled but you always maintain a potent sexual aura. What role does your sexuality play in expressing yourself musically and in the visual presentation of that music?
Not a very big role. But I think there is a blink of the eye at the very first moment. But for me it is an allegory of the human sin. All people observe beauty very quickly but at the same time don’t want to understand the source of this beauty by transforming it into vulgarity. Vulgarity kills this sense of beauty. The source of exteriorized attraction and the beauty are simply love. But not the stupid use of this love like a satisfaction of low physical envies. Love and beauty like the consequence of this love disappear forever… And I yell into the space about that in all my videos.
Your lyrics contain the same detail and potent imagery as your music. Does the music infuse the inspiration for the lyrics or viceversa? How do they serve each other in context of your overall musical vision?
Of course, music gives birth to all my lyrical characters. It’s like the lyrical drawing of all my sufferings and their history, mixed with my cerebral remarks. With the tools of my lyrics, I explain not only the mood or the subject.With them, I help go to the depth of emotions and you definitely know that emotions and sensations give birth to this sublime substance: music.
It’s difficult to discuss your music without touching on the reaction it arouses. When your name comes up with metal fans there are generally only two reactions: love or hate. There is no ambivalence towards your music. It gets a strong polarized reaction – which is rare thing. Is it simply a matter of taste or are the detractors just missing something? Does it even matter if they love it or hate it as long as you achieve a reaction?
I know that people either love me or hate me and that’s the same with my music. For me the people who hate exist in two categories: the ones that don’t understand and they are disturbed; the second category understand everything and it’s normal that they hate me because for human nature it is normal to love weakness – something lower in order to feel its own existence. The strength and beauty (of course I don’t speak about myself) call only for love from individuals that have the beauty of soul and body and, of course, from individuals less strong and beautiful it’s called jealousy. That is completely normal and about that I speak a lot in my videos. To love everybody and everything is not possible. Each person has his own taste, his color of love, his state of mind and his level of strength. To not understand is possible but the hate at the end kills the one who hates. If you don’t like something, don’t take it. Take something that is compatible with the chords of your soul and believe me you will not have the time to hate something.
Your music shares many musical ideas with the American musician Tom Waits. He hijacks traditional music forms, strips them of convention and injects a disorder and mayhem that creates a glorious musical noise that is only identifiable as his. His raspy vocal delivery is legendary as well. How important is it to evolve the musical form and push the boundaries of musical expression as an individual?
For me, Tom is an actor inside music. But me I am a musician inside cinema. It means that I do music and then I am transforming myself as she requests it from me. If this music takes or changes the expression or the shapes, I change as well in the same way and I hope that you can see that in my videos.
You go to great efforts to create a complete visceral experience for the listener. Is it more important to respond to music from and emotional level or an intellectual standpoint?
Only with the means of emotions: the highest in art was born from the emotion that sourced this envy or another envy. The envies have built that. The intellect can only do a very primitive and materialist analysis of the emotions.
In the movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, Beethoven is kidnapped by two teenage time travelers and brought to the present. At one point they leave him alone in a music store and return to find him gripped in fervent compositional rapture using synthesizers and other modern instruments. Your music could have just as easily been used in that movie. Does that scene resonate with you at all? Do you have an attraction to taking older music and amplifying idea and form through modern technology?
‘My music worn in a form of song is, of course, a music of cinema.
Your music can be a challenging listen for the uninitiated. What advice do you have for people who want to understand your music better who might not have the frames of reference?
Clean your eyes, clean your ears, understand what you like and what you don’t like, exist in the place that you correspond to with the people that you like. Stop lying to your own soul because only your soul knows what is convenient for you and what is not. Throw out the concept “I must”. Don’t wear the shoes of others. The word “I must” should be changed to “I love” or “I like”. Gather your pains with my pains, for instance, and you could see my music in a very different way. The point of view can change each time but your envies – like an expression of your love – will never change.
You have mentioned in the past that you’ve been working on a metal opera and a metal requiem. Are there any new developments or surprises in those areas? Is there an “Ayin Aleph III ” looming anywhere on the horizon?
I already have some songs for the new album and some drawings for the video and the music of my metal opera.
With the contrasting styles of “Ayin Aleph I” and “II” and interacting with the crowds at your live shows, who do you see as your core audience?
The metal, gothic and classical public.
(Famous) last words?
Be in love or fuck off and die.
Review by Si Smith
“Fables of the Sleepless Empire” is the latest release from Canada’s Unexpect since 2006’s “In a Flesh Aquarium”, and this release is a bit more tuneful than the last offering, if not being just as confusing to the casual listener. Unexpect always live up to their name, as the music takes unexpected turns at unexpected intervals and they manage to combine almost every genre imaginable into a magical mixture of music and voice. To the uninitiated it can appear confusion; to the fan it is genius. First track “Unsolved Ideas of a Distorted Guest” begins with tales of hopping bunnies and calls to mind Alice in her twisted Wonderland, such are the warped yet delicate twistings of the band’s lyrics. We are to be taken on a journey through bizarre soundscapes and wordscapes, sometimes frightening but always exciting. Above it all Leïlindel’s vocals soar and are echoed by complimentary growls which usher in this unique experience. Intricate violins mix with keyboard parts in the centre of the song to lead into more growls from Syriak and Artagoth, and eventually all comes together for a unified ending. “Words” starts with some haunting violin lines over a wandering bass, then the vocals come in with a slightly more traditional sound. However being Unexpect the “traditional” quickly turns into black metal riffery and some space age wierdness - yes, this is another typical Unexpect song. “Orange Vigilantes” continues with dissonant chord-bursts and frantic piano melodies. Despite the chaos somehow there is still a sense of order and melody. “Mechanical Phoenix” slows things down briefly before returning to the riffage; there is enough black metal growling here to satisfy the black metal fan, before Leïlindel takes her turn with some jazzy vocal gymnastics that are at once sexy yet surreal. The second half of the CD continues much in the same vein as the first. “Unfed Pendulum” introduces some more sound effects and electronic musings, and seems to tell the tale of a strange machine gone haywire; but as always the lyrics are poetic and ponderous, never quite saying in clear plain English what is going on, but leaving the listener to make up their own mind (although we are given hints on the lyrics sheet). After a brief interlude about whales, “Silence This Parasite” concerns “the reign of an Anomaly that should not be” and is one of the more dramatic orchestral tracks on the CD, with less of the unexpected and slightly more of the straightforward. The final three tracks make up a “Wedding Trilogy for the Faints of Heart” concerning tales of Oz, magic carpets and zombie lovers - so if you like your music and your lyrics fantastical there is no better place to look than here! In all, this is an almost exhausting album to listen to as it takes you to so many different places along the journey. Yet for the more travelled musically it will be a masterpiece beyond compare. Unexpect have definitely produced a far more rounded and involved piece than the last album. A CD that will merit many returns to replay through the drama, noticing an elusive gasp here, a hidden orchestral blast there, a subtle nuance that maybe was not glanced on the last walkthrough. A remarkable achievement!!
Rating - 85/100
Label : Believers Roast
Review by Luisa Mercier
After their debut album “Buried Alone: Tales of Crushing Defeat” was released in 2009, Knifeworld are back with a 3-track EP. Even though it may seems a bit short, the last song is 14 minutes long, so almost half an hour of music is assured. Now the line-up has six members and can be considered complete. I have to say that this EP is not easy at all to analyze since their music is completely crazy! The opening track is “Pilot Her”, a two minute track with pop, punk and prog influences. The addition of high pitched vocals gives a overall sense of madness and avantgarde! The title-track follows and it is really nice to observe how such a short song can involve so many influences and have such a progressive feeling. There some weird keyboard riffs, some strange guitars here and there. You should have understood that there is nothing predictable about this band and the last track confirms the impression! “HMS Washout” is a real trip: it starts as an art-rock track with the usual prog influences, goes on as an ambient/electronic piece and becomes slowly creepier when a saxophone appears til it calms down again. The ending is rock again with a punk edge. So if you have a lot of patience and love avantgarde, Knifeworld could really be your cup of tea!
Rating - 80/100
Label : Century Media Records
Review by Si Smith
Apparently Iwrestledabearonce don’t play by the rules. Except their own. What comes out the other end is a mixed up hash of electronics, screaming and breakdowns. But not as you would expect. The album begins with “Next Visible Delicious”, by stating its purpose clearly and precisely. It is as in your face as your own nose. Starting with computer age electronics it soon breaks into deathcore shrieks and then mellows into a nicely lilted sung portion by vocalist Krysta. Guitars remain with an industrial sound before the inevitable breakdowns kick in and there is a return to the electronics from the intro. If the first track is anything to go by, we are in for anything but a smooth ride! After this the album shifts into more recognisable metalcore territory with “You Know That Ain’t Them Dog’s Real Voice”, but again interspersed with melodic sung passages. Musically the riffs are busy and still involve breakdowns and electronics. But there is enough of a sense of humour injected here and there to suggest that there is more to Iwrestledabearonce than simple metalcore. Lyrically things are a little more confusing. The song never comes to a real climax or conclusion. “Deodorant Can’t Fix Ugly” is as fun as the title suggests, the humour definitely helping to lift the band from the average. Musically this track is refreshing at this point, just when the shrieks become a little jarring, a different group vocal comes in. “The Head Music Makes My Eyes Rain” is the nearest thing to a ballad on the album and once again serves up something different. Metalcore terrain slams us in the face with the next track “It Is Bro Isn’t It”, although the slower clean vocals sound much better than the male equivalent in songs such as this one. “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket” presents us with a melodic yet extremely heavy chorus and gang vocals add a new touch to this song. “Break It Down Comancho” allows for some balladic singing parts where Krysta can really show off her melodic vocal lines. “Stay to the Right” contains some remarkably dissonant riffs for people who like that sort of thing. “I’m Gonna Shoot” once again breaks the mold, starting slow and building up to a roving riff then the breakdowns and electronics return. The album’s first single “Karate Nipples” is as schizoid as the rest, taking what you know of genres and mashing them into metalcore madness. “Button It Up” does what it says on the tin, and effectively closes the album with more of the same, complete with growling riffs and swirling electronics. Iwrestledabearonce have stated that they want to offer “a release and reprieve from all of the world’s madness.” Granted this kind of guttural core music can offer a release of pent up emotion, expressing as it does a variety of moods along the way. But for this reviewer it seems very much a reflection of the world’s madness rather than a reprieve from it. If you go with the band’s mission statement and keep an open mind, then this will be a greatly liberating album. If you have more of an idea of how you would like your music to sound then you may be disappointed. But maybe that’s just what Iwrestledabearonce want. To break your rules.
Rating - 65/100
Review by Tony Cannella & Luisa Mercier
Sweden’s Black Oak is a tad bit different than a lot of metal these days. Okay, they are a lot different and difficult to describe. The bands diverse influences range from Jazz, Death Metal, Hardcore, Hard Rock, Pop, Prog Rock and of course metal. All of those influences play a factor on the self-titled EP from Black Oak. From the opening intro “Prescence” you get a sense that you are in for something unique. That is exactly the case with the opening track “How Does It Feel To Live Like It’s Too Late”. Vocalist Samuela Burenstrand has a diverse vocal style, she is like a cross between Hayley Williams of Paramore and Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy. That’s a pretty broad range and she incorporates both styles into her singing. The next track “Our Time Is Now” is perhaps the most mainstream song on an album that is definitely not mainstream. Musically, Black Oak displays a lot of talent and the songs are intricately written and performed. “Our Time Is Now” definitely became my favorite song and it is the one song that has an immediate impact. “City Lights” is another cool track as Samuela alternates between her more commercial vocals and her harsh death metal style, the contrast is quite interesting and appealing. The EP is completed by the “Loop of Oy”. At almost 7-minutes this is the longest song on this 26-minute EP and really draws things to a close with authority. Black Oak is a difficult band to categorize. I’m sure they would fit comfortably in a number of different genres. You can see for yourself, this EP is available as a free download on their official site. Black Oak is apparently working on new material for a full-length.
Rating - 79/100
The debut EP of this young Swedish band is opened by a creepy intro. “Prescence” is full of disturbing noises, electronics, distorted vocals almost resembling and android and suggests us the dark mood that we will find throughout the record. The following “How Does It Feel to Live Like It’s Too Late” starts with a prog/avantgarde approach while Samuéla, Emil e Niklas sing, mixing clean female vocals, growls and male vocals. She shows a certain versatility since she can scream, but also be a lot softer. I’d say there is also a certain metalcore influence towards the end of the track. 100% prog rock is the beginning of “Our Time Is Now”, while the track is a mix of straightforward rock, heavy metal and progressive with a quite anthemic chorus. A video has been shot for “City Lights” where again progressive (which apparently is a big influence on the band), metalcore and melodic metal mix to give birth to a catchy song with an interesting chorus. Best choice as a single. In the vein of the previous ones is also the closing track “Loop of Oy”, very melodic, but with metalcore moments. I also got the booklet with the album and I can say that the lyrics show a certain social effort, a plead to fight, to improve our world. The potential of this band is quite interesting. I am eager to listen to a future full-length release.
Rating - 70/100