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Photo by Roberta Ilaria Rossi
Gig Review by Marcy Bell
It’s clear: Epica and Italy are entwined. The concert at the Alcatraz in Milan on the 27th October was a huge success for Simone Simons and her fellows. Stage B was almost full, there were more fans and friends than in the previous tour. As in 2008 Epica were supported by the Finnish Amberian Dawn and in this new tour also by the brand-new German band: Sons of Seasons lead by Oliver Palotai. The Dutch band presented live some songs of the new album “Design Your Universe” but most of the show was made with hits from the past such as “Black Infinity”, “Cry for the Moon”, “The Phantom Agony” and “Consign to Oblivion”. The gig started with the new “Resign To Surrender” and then it went into the old mood with “Sensorium”, hands up with Simone and the whole band with the beginning of “Quietus” and then the Oriental style of “Fools of Damnation”. It was time for “Design Your Universe” and the first single “Unleashed”, the beat of Ariën on drums started very loud running through “Martyrs of the Free World”. Epica’s classic “Obsessive Devotion” led the central part of the show, as it’s always a pleasure listen live this song with Mark on growl and Simone running back and forth the stage in a seven minutes Epica-old-style-vibes. “Tides of Time” showed all the deep and sweet part of Epica with Simone solo in all her vocal talent and Coen on piano: a moment that gave you shivers on your spine. The band went again on stage with the last three songs: “Black Infinity”, “Mother of Light” and the techno-version of “Phantom Agony”. The latter was an enjoyable surprise for the crowd that started dancing with color lights as in a dance floor. Good point for Epica indeed. The encore was with “Cry for the Moon”, “Sancta Terra” and the final “Consign to Oblivion”. The show was good, the crowd really enjoyed it and finally we can say that Epica are improving themselves live in every tour.
Gig Review & Photos by Erwin van Dijk
Epica has released their new album and this evening is more or less the release party. And because Epica is sponsored by Jägermeister the first 200 visitors will get an Epic USB stick full of exclusive, rare and previously unreleased Epica stuff. Also, the band will play the entire “Design Your Universe” album at this gig. Like Kamelot and Megadeth last year the venue was indeed sold out and this resulted once again in a queue from the doors of the Paradiso to the Leidseplein (Leiden Square) The last time for me at the Paradiso was for CHIC and Jello Biafra. Jello Biafra is the legendary singer of the Dead Kennedys and CHIC is a funk/disco/rock band from the seventies. Two cool bands but the opposite of Epica so to say. This was the second time for Epica at the Paradiso. The first time was supposed to be released on DVD but all we got was a book: “The Road to Paradiso”. This was years ago and the band has grown since then. Kingfisher Sky is a nice band who had the honour to be the opener tonight. Every band in Holland will sell thesouls to the devil to do a Paradiso gig so this was for Kingfisher Sky the opportunity of a life time. The Paradiso might be one of the most prestigious venues in the Netherlands, it does not have the biggest stage and with seven band members and your own drum kit and keyboards next to all the gear Epica uses the stage was very cramped. But Kingfisher Sky managed to squeeze six songs in the little time they had. Kingfisher Sky had barely 30 minutes. To save the Polar bears there was no light on stage - good for environment but not for us. But there were no budget cuts concerning the use of smoke machines and this gave the gig a mysterious feeling which suited the music. Kingfisher did a good gig but personally I would not be in their shoes this night. Epica is way out of their league and even a band like Within Temptation should be worried right now with this new incarnation of Epica. In short, Kingfisher Sky is an ‘art house movie’ while Epica is popcorn entertainment for the masses.
Maaike, who plays the cello said about this gig: “Supporting Epica in a Sold Out Paradiso really was one of the best things happening in 2009, we had a blast and in our opinion it was over far too soon. Thanks Epica and Epica Fans”. From the first notes it was clear that this gig would contain the usual ingredients: smoke pillars, firework, flamethrowers, etc - enough to start World War III Visually it was a very entertaining show to see but, more important, the songs from Epica’s latest album are strong enough to keep their own against all that visual violence. Not many bands dare to play their entire album live (and if they do, like Iron Maiden, there is a lot of critic and / or negative response) but Epica got away with it. And Medusa, who the true Epica fans will remember from the 2008 autumn gigs, says : “We had a great time, it was very crowded and hot, but of course we added some heath as well :)”. Medusa would also show up at Metal Female Voices Fest, together with Floor Jansen. Like Jello Biafra a month earlier Mark did a crowd surf but while Jello did the full round from stage to bar and back again Mark vanished somewhere midway into the crowd. And the Jägermeister girls also had a small appearance on stage with an air pressure cannon designed to shoot t shirts into the audience. Funny enough a lot of those shirts ended up on stage again. Poor marksmanship I guess. A word about the album: Like the latest Leaves’Eyes I would say it is a save buy for the fans. It has all the ingredients for an Epica album and the fresh blood from the God Dethroned boys makes it more metal. Epica did not reinvent themselves with this album. They took the best parts of their music and improved them even more. And, if I am really honest, this gig was better than the one at Metal Female Voices Fest.
Interview by Roberta Ilaria Rossi
Many are her collaborations in the metal scene, such is her reputation in Europe. After having released an album for her new project, Trillium, the peppery Amanda Somerville is back to town. We had the pleasure to chat with the blonde American singer, who told us many things about her latest work. Here is what she has revealed to us!
Hi Amanda and welcome to Femme Metal.net. Recently, you’ve released the album “Alloy” for your last metal project, Trillium. In my honest opinion, it is a very good album. Would you like to share with us something more about this project, for those who haven’t listened to the album and/or to be updated about your last work(s)?
Thank you very much; I’m happy and honored that you like it! I tend to call the music on Trillium singer/songwriter metal” because most of my songs started out as piano/vocal demos from me and have a lot of emotion and heart in them, in addition to the hard edge and heavy guitar riffing that’s so typical of metal. Also, since I’ve traditionally been a singer/songwriter and have worked in the metal scene for so long, it was bound to happen. I think there are several subgenres of metal represented here, as well as rock. Elements of melodic, gothic, doom… I like diversity! Still and all, this is the single most straight-forward album I’ve ever released, stylistically speaking. Being that I’m as much a writer as I am a musician, the lyrics are of utmost importance to me as well as the music that goes along with them. My songs are always very emotional because I don’t believe in writing or performing anything you don’t totally believe in or can’t make people feel along with you. On the most basic level, they’re all about human struggles and relationships; something we can all relate to, but many of the songs have a very violent streak in them. All of my songs are personal-based, whether it was something I went through or a dream that I had or someone/something that inspired me. My songs are little windows into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville. :-)
Which is the concept behind the creation of this band?
It’s debatable whether to call this a project or a band. For me, it’s simply a new facet in my work as a musician. I wanted to keep it separate from what I release under my name for the simple fact that I’d like to keep it as “pure” as I can, genre-wise. For years now, I’ve been asked by fans who know me from my work in the metal scene when I would either form my own metal band or release a metal album. The idea had to grow on me because I simply wasn’t ready for it until just the past couple of years and I don’t do anything I don’t believe in 100% and can give 110%!
Was the Trillium project born randomly or was something already created in your mind since a long time ago?
I think I kind of summed up that answer in #2, however the true turning point in the desire to make my own metal album came when I was working on HDK with Sander Gommans in 2007. I loved writing and performing metal music (which only continued to grow after I went on tour with Epica in 2008 to fill in for Simone Simons when she was ill and then with Avantasia) and had planned to make my next solo album more uniformly in that direction. But after some careful consideration, I decided to make it a project to keep it totally separate from my solo music so that I can still put a jazz ballad or Jamaican drinking song on my next solo album and not have to explain or apologize to anyone. ;-) It’s still 100% me and those who know me as a solo artist are used to me being rather musically schizophrenic, but since I’m relatively new in the metal scene, I wanted to keep it more clear-cut. The ideas kept coming together and about a year and a half ago, I had everything lined up the way I wanted it to be and Trillium as it exists today was born.
Listening to the album, I’ve been surprised about the second “half” of this record and I’ve noticed that there’s a great cooperation with an artist I really admire: Jorn Lande! I know that there’s a good friendship and a professional relationship with him, moreover he also took part in the Avantasia project. How was the cooperation with him born? What did make you choose him for the track “Scream It”?
Since working with him on Avantasia and touring with him, he’s become a very good friend and won my utmost respect as a musician and vocalist. The man is an incredible talent and I adore his voice! He’s also a wonderful person and can play a role perfectly. I had him in mind when I wrote the antagonistic role in “Scream It” because his voice and character fit so well and I was fortunate enough to have him gladly take part. He did an incredible job and it was exactly what I had in mind!
How did you choose your music partners? I know that there’s a strong feeling between you and Sasha Paeth (since early days with “Virgo”) since so many years now…
I’ve been working with Sascha so long now and we know each other so well, both professionally and personally, that our work flow is always very smooth. Sascha’s the “Big Boss” and so we all (everyone involved with the Gate Studio) owe everything to him. He’s absolutely brilliant and one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever known and I love, appreciate and respect him dearly. Miro and I have a similar taste musically and being that we’re both keyboardists, he catches on very easily to whatever I deliver to him demo-wise. I can give him a very rudimentary piano-vocal demo and it seems like he reads my mind in terms of what I’m imagining arrangement-wise. Robert Hunecke and Olaf Reitmeier I met in 2001 and we’ve done lots of things together, both in the studio and playing live. Those guys can play anything!! Simon Oberender came into our team around 2004, I believe, and he was an amazing asset to our team. Mat Sinner and I got in touch through Kiske-Somerville and we’ve also toured together with an outfit called “Rock Meets Classic”. He’s a powerhouse, a good guy and a big talent and has come to be another close friend of mine in the scene. Sander Gommans and I have worked together for nearly 9 years and we complement each other quite well as songwriters, even though we’re so completely different in the way we approach songwriting. I guess opposites attract and this particular constellation works out beautifully in our cooperation with one another! Sascha and Sander add a totally new aspect to my songs very much of the time for the simple fact that they’re guitar players and take a different approach to song structure and instrumentation than I typically do. It’s a great balance!
I’ve noticed that, inside your crew, there’s also Sander Gommans, ex After Forever former guitar player. How are the working relationship with him that, however, has been a good member for a band that made history in the Dutch metal music?
Yep, he’s pretty great. I call him my Riff King and anyone who knows After Forever, HDK or Kiske-Somerville can hear what an incredibly talented songwriter/musician he is. But I rambled on about that in the previous answer!
Is there a song taken from “Alloy” to which you feel more connected to? If so, why?
I’m really bad with “favorite” questions because my songs are like my children and it just doesn’t seem fair to call one out over the others. That being said, it’s also difficult for me because each is special in its unique way and I’m constantly changing my moods. So one day, I’ll be like, “Man, “Coward” is seriously such a great song!! I think that might be my favorite yet,” because it’s so decadent and the line, “Justice comes to dance upon the graves of cowards” so aptly sums up my belief in karma. Then the next day, it’ll be “Justifiable Casualty” because it’s so emotional and makes me cry every time I hear it, especially the line, “She said there’s no one who can declare a war on warfare.” I don’t know why - it gets me every time!!! Then another day it’ll be “Scream It” because Jorn really nailed the metal “Romeo & Juliet” tragic love story vibe I was going for and it turned out so perfectly. Then the next day, it’ll be “Machine Gun” for its powerful imagery and empowering anger it encompasses Then the next day… do you see a pattern here? ;-) Anyway, I love and treasure each song in a different way for a different reason because each one also has its own unique story and personal connection for me.
How the recordings have been so far? How long did they last? How long it took to write the lyrics and music?
Some songs I wrote already a couple of years ago, some I started working on just before we started on the production. All in all we were demo-ing, recording, mixing & mastering from March until August 2011.
On a technical level, “Alloy” is an album based on a deliberately obscure and chilly production, ingredient that combined with the songwriting process could already predict a masterpiece itself, sounding pop/rock, which also shows a great elegance. If you were to describe the album just with three words, what adjectives would you use?
Emotional. Loaded. Dark.
You will start a tour with Trillium in the next months and you will visit so many cities in Europe next to another Dutch band, which was born in these last years: Delain. How did the choice to support this band for the very first Trillium tour happen?
Sander and I have been in touch with them for a while regarding various aspects. I think they’re a good fit to Trillium and it’s something new, so I’m really looking forward to the collaboration.
What are the expectations for this tour?
I’m not a person who believes in having expectations. I like having a blank slate and filling in the spaces as I go along. In my opinion, expectations can only get you into trouble. If you let yourself simply enjoy the experience as it comes along, it’s much more fulfilling and you’ll never be disappointed. :-) I’m just looking forward to the tour and am grateful that I have the opportunity to do what I love to do and share the experience with some great people. I hope for the best and that’s all.
What do you expect from this band?
Ah, yes. See my previous answer on the subject of expectations. :-)
Besides being an excellent mezzo-soprano and composer, you’re also a vocal coach. You’ve been the teacher of many singers (like, for example, Simone Simons from Epica), what have you learned from your pupils? What is it left of each of them inside you?
First of all, thank you very much for your kind words. I must correct the statement, however, that I’m a mezzo-soprano. Though my range is actually all the way from tenor to soprano, I feel most at home as an alto. :-) I’m not quite sure where this whole”mezzosoprano” description came from that someone placed on my Wikipedia page but I can assure you that’s not the case. And that being said, I’m a student of life. Each person I’ve worked with, each project I’ve been involved with has presented me with new challenges to change and grow, both as a person and as a musician. I think it’s important to always find new stimuli to keep you on your toes and strive to always be better. In the same turn, I also learn about how I would not like to be and things I definitely don’t want to do. It works both ways!
You’ve started singing from the early age. How your passion for music was born? How did it happen?
I grew up in a very musical family where music was a very basic and essential part of life. According to my mother, I was singing before I was talking. It was always a “learning-bydoing” process and I was fortunate to also have very good music mentors in both my family and at my elementary school, so I learned to read music and play piano at a rather young age. There was no sudden moment or conscious decision in my wanting to become a musician; that’s all I ever wanted to be and do. All throughout my life, I was giving concerts, performing in talent shows and competitions, even DJ-ing, hosting karaoke & singing in cover bands and jazz combos to earn money when I was in university. It’s just always been a part of my life!
Which are the artists or bands who have most influenced your artistic growth, your music and your Arts education?
I never did study music formally, nor was I classically-trained in singing. My grandmother taught me how to read music and gave me the basic foundation that I still use for composing today. As far as turning points go, the big milestones were: starting to work with Sascha and the Gate Studio team and releasing my first solo album in 2000; then writing “Aina” in 2002-2003; doing more and more work for and with metal bands; writing thrash metal in HDK with Sander Gommans; getting involved in Avantasia; releasing “Windows” and now working on Trillium. I’d say those are the big ones!
We could say that you have a great long path behind. You’ve worked with artists like Kamelot, Michael Kiske, Epica, Avantasia and so on. What these people have given to you on an artistic level and/or a personal level?
Every new album, each new project or band or artist I work with or write and record is a further step in my growth process as a musician and as a person. So each one has changed my life because it left a lasting influence on me that’s led me to who I am today.
How do you feel, at this point, in your career? Are you satisfied about the work done until now? Do you have some other expectations or some other project you would like to do in your artistic career?
I’m very satisfied. I get to do what I love to do, travel all over the world, meet and work with some wonderful and amazingly talented people and I can pay my bills from that. I don’t think anyone could ask for anything more fulfilling on a professional nor on a personal level. I would love nothing more than to just keep the ball rolling!
As I’ve said before, you are best known for having worked with so many bands, in particular one of these bands reflects your fame: Epica. How do you feel like working with this famous Dutch band?
I’ve been working with them since before they were even called Epica (back then, they were Sahara Dust and had Helena Michaelsen as their singer!). They’ve joked that I’m the not-so-secret 7th member of the band and it’s been great being involved.
In 2008, you’ve had to replace Simone Simons, who was facing a serious illness which has forced her to retire herself from the music scene for a while. How did you feel like replacing one of your most famous pupil? I remember that, in the same year, you both performed together in Italy (for the festival called Rock In Field) in a beautiful duet. What could you tell us about it?
It was certainly a logical choice for them to ask me to fill in for her since I’d co-written all of their songs, coached Simone, produced the vocals and sung on every song. For me to agree to it was because I didn’t want my friends to have to miss out on a huge opportunity because the tour was going to be a very important one for them. It wasn’t easy, however, because I had no idea what to expect from the fans, whether I’d get tomatoes thrown at me or what because it’s always a tricky thing to replace a lead singer and not everyone is interested in the details or background story. However, it all worked out great and the fans were very gracious. Our duet in Italy was simply natural since we were both playing at the same festival; Epica and Avantasia. We had a good time!
Having mentioned one of the most famous female fronted metal bands of Europe, what is your thought about bands with female singers? Are you in favour or against the bands that use a girl for their own music? Which is your thought in general? Haha!! Is this supposed to be a “new” concept, having a woman fronting a musical event? Being a “girl” myself, why on earth would I be opposed to it? :-) I think the term “femalefronted” is a rather laughable one, to be honest. You never hear the term “female-fronted pop” or “female-fronted jazz”, or “female-fronted R&B”, right? So what’s the big deal about it in metal? I think some guys need to get over themselves a little because chicks rock just as much as - and sometimes, quite frankly, even more than - dudes do. I loved the song and thought the musical portrayal was beautiful. I’m a bit of an actress and a lot of a romantic, so it was fun and fulfilling. I think Serenity is a very talented band and wish them tons of success. It was scary but extremely exciting. That was my first real, big project I did in the metal scene and I had no idea how I was going to do it, I just thought, “I’m going to accomplish this, come what may!”. And I did. I didn’t do everything by myself, just the concept, story and lyrics and I co-wrote a minimal amount of the music. That was my initiation into the Gate Studio team and I proved myself and was soon a steady member. I’ve never really been able to force a song. I don’t believe in doing anything contrived, especially when it comes to songwriting. I think it’s a blasphemy to one’s art. Music is my emotional outlet and I let it take me wherever it leads. If I have an idea that’s just not moving further, I set it aside and wait for it to “speak” with me again. Some songs have taken months or even years to finish for that reason; they just need their time. And sometimes, a deadline can be a miraculous motivator. ;-) As far as songwriting goes, I don’t really have a “normal process”. Sometimes a song will begin as a chorus or a verse, or just a melody, or some chords. Sometimes it’s just lyrics and the body of the musical composition comes later. And sometimes a song will come to me from start to finish in its entirety; chords, vocal lines, lyrics and all! So every time, it’s different. Being that I’m as much a writer as I am a musician, the lyrics are of utmost importance to me as well as the music that goes along with them. My songs are always very emotional because I don’t believe in writing or performing anything you don’t totally believe in or can’t make people feel along with you. On the most basic level, they’re all about human struggles and relationships; something we can all relate to, but many of the songs have a very violent streak in them. All of my songs are personal-based, whether it was something I went through or a dream that I had or someone/something that inspired me. My songs are little windows into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville. :-) My albums, my songs are like children to me. It’s a huge labor of love, filled with soaring highs and sometimes horrible depths. Music is my highest form of emotional and personal expression. It’s very fulfilling to see everything come together and wind up being a work of art and rather a snapshot of myself at a particular stage in my life. Nope, I’m going to keep on truckin’ and keep the ball rolling! Not to sound greedy, but I want more, more, more! Thanks so much for your time and interest! I really hope I can see some of you while I’m out on the road - it would make me super happy!! xx Amanda Links
Haha!! Is this supposed to be a “new” concept, having a woman fronting a musical event? Being a “girl” myself, why on earth would I be opposed to it? :-) I think the term “femalefronted” is a rather laughable one, to be honest. You never hear the term “female-fronted pop” or “female-fronted jazz”, or “female-fronted R&B”, right? So what’s the big deal about it in metal? I think some guys need to get over themselves a little because chicks rock just as much as - and sometimes, quite frankly, even more than - dudes do.Talking about collaborations and cooperations, in 2010 you’ve released an album with another famous partner: Michael Kiske and last year, you’ve also took part in the new Serenity album, called ”Death & Legacy”, where you’ve played the role of the Queen in the amazing song “Changing Fate”. How was for you interpreting musically speaking a so important historical role? Which were your impressions when this Austrian band asked you to cooperate?
I loved the song and thought the musical portrayal was beautiful. I’m a bit of an actress and a lot of a romantic, so it was fun and fulfilling. I think Serenity is a very talented band and wish them tons of success.As I’ve quoted before, you are also a great composer. In 2003, you’ve been the backbone of the band Aina, for the album “Days of Rising Doom”, in which you’ve done most of the work: you wrote the lyrics and the music and you’ve also taken part as a singer. What do you remember about this experience? Was it hard to do everything by yourself?
It was scary but extremely exciting. That was my first real, big project I did in the metal scene and I had no idea how I was going to do it, I just thought, “I’m going to accomplish this, come what may!”. And I did. I didn’t do everything by myself, just the concept, story and lyrics and I co-wrote a minimal amount of the music. That was my initiation into the Gate Studio team and I proved myself and was soon a steady member.How does a work, created by Amanda Somerville? Where does the inspiration for the music and lyrics come from?
I’ve never really been able to force a song. I don’t believe in doing anything contrived, especially when it comes to songwriting. I think it’s a blasphemy to one’s art. Music is my emotional outlet and I let it take me wherever it leads. If I have an idea that’s just not moving further, I set it aside and wait for it to “speak” with me again. Some songs have taken months or even years to finish for that reason; they just need their time. And sometimes, a deadline can be a miraculous motivator. ;-) As far as songwriting goes, I don’t really have a “normal process”. Sometimes a song will begin as a chorus or a verse, or just a melody, or some chords. Sometimes it’s just lyrics and the body of the musical composition comes later. And sometimes a song will come to me from start to finish in its entirety; chords, vocal lines, lyrics and all! So every time, it’s different. Being that I’m as much a writer as I am a musician, the lyrics are of utmost importance to me as well as the music that goes along with them. My songs are always very emotional because I don’t believe in writing or performing anything you don’t totally believe in or can’t make people feel along with you. On the most basic level, they’re all about human struggles and relationships; something we can all relate to, but many of the songs have a very violent streak in them. All of my songs are personal-based, whether it was something I went through or a dream that I had or someone/something that inspired me. My songs are little windows into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville. :-)Which is the most beautiful part in creating an album, entirely written by you?
My albums, my songs are like children to me. It’s a huge labor of love, filled with soaring highs and sometimes horrible depths. Music is my highest form of emotional and personal expression. It’s very fulfilling to see everything come together and wind up being a work of art and rather a snapshot of myself at a particular stage in my life.Do you have already something new in your mind after the tour that will see you around Europe with Trillium or are you going to take a little rest and work, later on, on new projects?
Nope, I’m going to keep on truckin’ and keep the ball rolling! Not to sound greedy, but I want more, more, more!Thanks so much for the great chat, Amanda. I really hope to see you on tour with Trillium very soon. Is there something you would like to tell to your fans and to Femme Metal users?
Thanks so much for your time and interest! I really hope I can see some of you while I’m out on the road - it would make me super happy!! xx Amanda
Interview by Eetu “Ene” Niskanen
An Interview with Heidi, the soprano singer of the Finnish Metal Band Amberian Dawn. During this interview, we’ll talk about about the new album “The Clouds of Northland Thunder” that is coming this summer.
You just released your second album “The Clouds of Northland Thunder” with Amberian Dawn, how much work did it take?
Our front man Tuomas had already started the composing the new album when the “River of Tuoni” album was released and some of the song were already ready. Almost everything was recorded before the Epica European tour 2008 but some choir and vocal parts had to be done straight after the tour. It took lots of work from everyone and especially from Tuomas who almost lived at the studio during the recordings. I did all the choir parts except the “Incubus” male role so I had quite a lot to sing too.
Is there an lyrical concept behind the album?
Not a clear one. But of course I wanted to bring a bunch of exiting stories to this album and also pour some Finnish cultural heritance into the lyrics too. Some of the lyrics are based on the Finnish national epic Kalevala as also on our previous album. On the “Clouds” album the Kalevala songs are “Kokko- Eagle of Fire” and “Birth of the Harp”. But there are also lyrics based on my own stories and legends or even fairytales.
How the band has grown from the debut “River of Tuoni”?
The biggest growth has happened in the bands skills and of course our lineup has changed too. First came Kasperi to replace the former guitarist Sampo and just recently Tuomas decided to retire from guitar-business, at least the live guitars, and his replacement was Emppu with his wild hair. The sound of the new album is in my opinion more solid and there is more variation in musical ways.
What is your personal favourite song from the album?
Hard question because I kind of like them all but from different reasons and it is really hard to put them into any order. But maybe I would say “Sons of Seven Stars” because in my opinion the story and the music go so well together in this song. The story linkes quite remotely to the book about Seven Brothers of Aleksis Kivi, a Finnish author. But in this version of the story, the seven brothers were born in the ancient times from the alliance of a bear and a human. The bears left the land to their sons and moved to the stars. The seven sons grew up under the constellation of Ursa Major and the North star and persistantly and with vigor they plowed the frozen land and peopled the cold and dark North. They could have also been the forfathers for Finnish people.
How did you joined Amberian Dawn?
I was a keyboardist and a backing vocalist in a metal band called Iconofear from the year 1997. During the ten years with Icono-boys I developped my singing skills and felt that is was time to retire from the keyboards. I simply felt I was better as a singer than a keyboardist and I could give most on that area. So it was 2006 when I started to search a band as a singer. Tuomas and Tommi spotted my ad and I did some singing samples and also the lyrics for “Passing Bells” from “River of Tuoni” album as a test. I think I got the job…;)-
How long have you been singing?
I went on a music oriented school and I started taking singing lessions when I was 14 years old. By that time I didn´t even think about being a singer one day. I wanted to take some lessions because I felt tensions and pain in my throught when singing. I wanted to emprove my tecnique to get rid of the tentions which made my singing unpleasant. I enjoyed singing a lot and I wanted it to stay that way too. I joined a choir at the age of 14 and after that I have sang in various choirs and some ensembles too. I´m still taking singing lessions and trying to develop my skills - I feel that it´s an neverending project…..but I don´t mind as long as I keep developping!-
How would you describe your voice?
I’m a classically trained soprano and some would say I’m a soubrette soprano. - The soubrette voice is light with a bright, sweet timbre, a tessitura in the mid-range and with no extensive coloratura. The soubrette voice has a lighter vocal weight than other soprano voices and a brighter timbre. Many young singers start out as soubrettes but as they grow older and the voice matures more physically they may be reclassified as another voice type-.
What kind of music do you listen yourself and how often?
I listen to a lot of different kinds of music from heavy metal to classical. I don’t listen too much music because I´m not too much at home. But when I do I first listen to my mood and then I choose the right music for it.
Do you think it’s easier to rise as metal band on big metal country such as Finland?
Finland is the promised land for metal but because of that the competition is hard and the level is really high. You have to have a good concept, skilled musicians, good compositions and production, some luck, reliable and hardworking people to work with and a great team to built everything up. And not to forget the hard work from everyone. Sounds like recipe for a cake doesn’t it! Bake it in 666 degrees to make it metal…hahhah :D-
You did big european tour with symphonic metal band Epica last year, how was the experience?
It was a great experience and we all grew up as musicians during the four week on road. The Epica people were really fun to work with and everything went really as planned. Except we all got a bit sick on the tour and I was in a terrible flue for almost 3 weeks from the 4 weeks tour…there were mornings I didn´t have almost any voice but duringthe day I managed to get some of my singing voice back. In Germany I went to a doctor but I only got some herbs and allready in France I needed to see a doctor again who gave me antibiotics and some cortizone. I missed a lot of scenery because of being sick but none of the shows so I must be content.
There are a lot of female fronted metal bands in the world at the moment, how Amberian Dawn is different from them, how do you keep unique?
We play fast tempo, guitar driven metal with purely classical female vocals. To continue the baking theme I would say : the ingredients have been used before but not in this kind of mixture.
What are the plans of Amberian Dawn for the future?
We are planning a new European tour for the fall 2009 and maybe some touring also for the spring 2010. Tuomas has also started to compose new material for the becoming third album.
Interview by Ed MacLaren
It’s been long considered that in most things two’s company and three’s a crowd but in the case of Swedish power metal outfit Amaranthe, three is merely the number of world-class vocalists they feature on their self-titled debut album. With clean female vocals along with clean and screamed male vocals, Amaranthe are anchored by a vocal prowess of which few bands can boast. Add the fact that the band weaves progressive, metalcore and techno elements along with a unique pop sensibility into it’s power metal onslaught, Amaranthe is a new breed of metal band that fascinates with its innovation. Femme Metal got to spend some time with female vocalist Elize Ryd and hear about the origins of Amaranthe, big success in Japan, and their recent European tour with Kamelot.Your self-titled debut “Amaranthe” was one of the most anticipated releases of the year so far and it looks like it exceeded all expectations. Did you ever think you’d get this kind of public response so quickly?No, because this is the first time I’ve released an album with me as one of the main composers and singers, so I didn’t know what to expect. But of course, this was exactly the kind of respond I was hoping for, and have been dreaming of ever since I started to work with this band.It looks like Olof Mörck and Jake E Lundberg put together their version of an all-star metal band – including your formidable vocal skills. How did you get the Amaranthe gig?
In Amaranthe, the vocalists almost outnumber the rest of the band! That’s a very unique sound dynamic. Does it give the band a distinctive musical chemistry – something different to let Amaranthe stand out?Oh yeah, I think so, we singers are a different breed. (Laughs) We really have to think differently from a guitarist or a bass player, for example, not at least when we go on tour. We have to stay healthy and in good shape to be able to sing. No late nights and booze for us so it feels really good to not be the only boring one! (Laughs) Well maybe it works for Andy; he just gets that little extra rasp in his voice.
Photos by Johan Carlén
Interview by Eetu “Ene” Niskanen
We have reached singer and vocal coach Amanda Somerville for discover the latest news about Epica, her new solo album “Windows” and more project too. Enjoy!
Hello Amanda thank you for accepting our interview!
Well, thank you so much for having me!
So for the beginning, as we’ve been told, you are working on a new project with Michael Kiske and Mat Sinner, how is it going and what can we expect of it?
The songs for the album are now complete (I’m contributing 3 songs myself to the album that I wrote together with Sander Gommans) and Matt and his partner Magnus Karlsson are now finishing up the recordings. I was in Stuttgart and recorded my vocals about a week ago and am very excited about the end result. Everything went very well and I was looking forward to it because this was my first time working with Mat & Co. I very much like the songs that are on the album and I’m also honored to be working with Michael Kiske again, since I’ve already been on albums with him before with Aina and Avantasia. You can expect songs that are more rock with a metal edge and I think it’s going to be great!
This year you released your new solo album, the brilliant “Windows”, how much work did it take to get it finally officially released?
Thank you for the compliment. :-) I can’t begin to tell you the emotional, physical, mental and financial efforts that went into getting “Windows” finally released. The album was several years in the making (5+!) and then it was a self-release, so a lot of work went into everything from the cover & booklet design to pressing the CDs to doing promo. And I’m not done!
“Windows” had huge musical variety, how about your next solo album, will it follow the same kind of mixture or maybe something else?
Since my own taste is rather eclectic, my songwriting seems to follow that pattern, as well. I’m sure variety will always be a factor in my albums, but I’m constantly growing, gaining influences, changing. So far I have several songs already written for a new album and they’re a bit darker yet than “Windows” .
Also this year you worked on a project called HDK with Sander Gommans (ex-After Forever), how was the experience working as a vocalist on a lot heavier material than work on your solo material?
It was great! I love a good challenge and this was without a doubt the heaviest thing I’ve done in my career up until now. I was also able to try things out and sing in ways I normally don’t because the material was so incredibly… thrashy! ;-) But I totally got into it and feel like it’s my baby, too. I’m quite proud of the work Sander and I did together and since then we’ve been working together pretty regularly. So it was all around a win-win situation!
Another thing you did in 2009 was Epica’s new album “Design Your Universe”, you worked as a vocal coach for Simone, sang the backing vocals and in the choir, how was it working with Epica again?
I also made a guest appearance and sang a duet originally on “Unleashed”, for which I wrote most of the lyrics, as well. That version is apparently a bonus track for “Design Your Universe”. It’s always been fun working with the Epicans and we came up with more good stuff this time, too, in my opinion!
You are working on new songs with Sander Gommans, how is it that turning out?
Oh, it’s always a lot of fun working with Sander. We’re a pretty good creative match, so the work flow is always great and the end results are solid. We’ve got more work in progress for a few different projects, so we’ll see!
Years ago you were part of project “Aina”, you wrote lyrics and the concept and worked as vocalist, can we expect any more music as follow up for the brilliant “Days of Rising Doom”?
Goodness, that’s a wholly different can of worms and, even though I’ve written a sequel for it, it doesn’t look like that’ll be happening any time soon. Who knows for the future, though…?
You have worked with so many bands and projects, have you ever thought of fronting a band of your own? With this I don’t mean solo work, as an equal band member.
I have my respect for bands but I really don’t think it’s my thing. I’m not one to say “never,” however it’s not something that I can see myself doing right now. I’m much more of a solo musician when it comes to my own music and always have been!
Last year you were touring with both Epica and Avantasia, how was the experience?
Fantastic! I’m a gypsy at heart and performing is my favorite thing to do, so I was completely in my element. I think you could tell from my video blogs, couldn’t you? ;-)
What kind of music do you listen yourself and how often?
Quite varied, actually, and I listen to music almost all the time. Usually it’s something that relaxes me, helps me be sad when I need to be sad or gets me in a good mood
Who are your biggest influences?
My family and the musicians I’ve worked with the past several years (the Gate Studio team).
With all these projects and collaborations what can we expect from you next year?
More live shows, more guest appearances with various bands/projects on albums, new songs, new crazy videos - the works!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Doing the same thing, but more of it, on a higher level and probably with 2 or 3 kids to take care of on top of all that. Not sure which continent or country I’ll be in, however!
Thank you for the interview and take care!
Best wishes to you!
Label : Nuclear Blast Records
Review by Tony Cannella
Whether you like them or don’t, the one thing that you have to admire about Epica is that they never ‘half-ass’ it. Not when it comes to the song writing, lyrics, production and overall presentation of their new material; they are all-in. Their albums are always packed to the fullest and that trend continues on their newest album “Requiem for the Indifferent”, which features 14-songs and a playing time of 77-minutes. There is something to be said for knowing what you are going to get from a favorite band and Epica is one such band that delivers on what their fans have come to expect. Not that they are predictable or contrived, but you know you are going to get quality as well as quantity. “Requiem for the Indifferent” sets the scene with the opening intro “Karma – Prelude” and leads into the blistering – and dare I say awesome, “Monopoly on Truth”. Simone Simons sounds great as always and delivers another awe inspiring performance, as does extreme growler/screamer Mark Jansen –but in a different way of course. Next is the equally potent yet more subdued and accessible “Storm the Sorrow” which the band shot a video for. “Requiem for the Indifferent” is classic Epica mixing grandiose, symphonic epic songs with shorter, more easily digestible material. Probably the crowning achievement on this here release is the 10-minute “Serenade or Self-Destruction”. This song is like a musical journey with peaks, valleys and tempo changes. It is what is great about Epica crammed into 10-minutes; it may actually be their most ambitious song to date. The rest of the album is not bad either: “Delirium”, “Internal Warfare” and the 8 ½ minute title song should please long time fans and new ones alike. So, is this the best Epica album ever? I would never say that, but it sure as heck stacks right up there with their best work. I love the new Epica album and I think it rates right up there with the rest of their audio outputs. “Requiem for the Indifferent” seems to follow the same blueprint that the band has used over the years, but hey, it works and the band continues to fire on all cylinders, and deliver their music with a sincerity and passion that cannot be faked.
Rating - 95/100
Label : Fakto Records
Review by Tony Cannella
Road to Consciousness is the new project from mastermind Bernard Daubresse (ex-Free Launch, Lovelorn). The 13-song, 60-minute CD features a vast array of musicians and contributors from around the metal globe. It is amazing to see how many great musicians have lent their massive talents to this ambitious project. Road to Consciousness is a big melodic, symphonic metal project, that I am sure will appeal to fans of the genre. With around 20 musicians featured on the album, you may think that it would be difficult to find something for all of them to do, but that is not the case, as each musician adds their own unique stamp to the proceedings.There is a common theme running through each of the songs, based on the human condition and problems, thoughts that maybe the listener themselves has experienced. The epic 4 part track “Road to Consciousness” brings the album to a grandiose conclusion as the album just builds and builds up to that point and the four part closer really pushed it over the top for me. But there are many solid moments to be heard lead up to the finale. Songs like “The Middle Path”, “Mirror Mirror”, “I Am God” and “Jennifer” all display the passion and heart that went into this project. Road to Consciousness is everything that the symphonic metal fan should love. One has to wonder if this is only a one off, I certainly hope not because it would be cool to see where Road to Consciousness go from here.
Rating - 93/100
Label : Nuclear Blast Records
Review by Tony Cannella
MaYaN is the new Melodic Death Metal project featuring Mark Jansen of Epica. In addition to Mark – who adds his aggressive vocal style that fans of Epica are already familiar with – MaYaN use several different vocalists on their debut album “Quarterpast”. Joining the regular members of MaYaN to add their monumental vocal talents are: Mark’s Epica band mate Simone Simons, Floor Jansen of ReVamp, Henning Basse of Sons of Seasons and Italian Opera singer Laura Macrí. The singers mentioned do not make mere cameo appearances. Their contributions are quite substantial and they turn up at various points throughout “Quarterpast”. “Quarterpast” opens with “Symphony of Aggression”, Simone and Floor trade off vocals with Mark to help create an absolutely lethal opening track. The grinding and symphonic “Mainstay of Society” is next and again you hear some cool vocal tradeoffs between the male voice and Simone. This was another great song, and one that when all is said-and-done is quite memorable. The track, “Quarterpast” is only about a-minute-and-a-half long. It is basically a movie style intro that features a chorus of the female singers as it leads us into “Course of Life”. Henning Basse from Sons of Seasons makes his first appearance on this track, and adds his clean classic metal vocal style in conjunction with Mark’s brutal death metal style vocals and Floor Jansen’s power packed vocal style. “Savage Massacre” is next and with a title like that, this song better be aggressive, and it is, in fact it is one of the most aggressive tracks on “Quarterpast”. From the ferocity of the previous song, the band shifts gears with the beautiful, symphonic opera track featuring Italian Opera star Laura Macrí. Other highlights: “Bite the Bullet”, “Drown the Demon” and “War on Terror”. If advanced buzz is anything to go by, MaYaN had a lot to live up to with “Quarterpast”, in my opinion; the band has pulled through with flying colors. Mark Jansen has created a solid project that is without a doubt a separate entity from Epica and should stand on its own, although comparisons to his main band are inevitable. There is a lot going on this debut release from MaYaN, it is especially unique how all of the singers are used. Hopefully MaYaN is more than a one off; it should be fun to see how they progress in the future.
Rating - 90/100
Review by Tony Cannella
Hungry for more female fronted Symphonic Metal? Well, look no further than the Russian band Sphinx. Actually the band is fronted by two female vocalists and bass player Andrey Varenik chips in with clean male vocals throughout the CD. The first thing that grabbed my attention on this great CD is that the band delivers such a big sound. In addition to their Symphonic metal direction you also hear some very sophisticated prog metal leanings as well. “White Moon” is Sphinx’s follow-up to their 2008 debut “Prizrak” and although this one is only 4-songs and only 20-minutes long, the scope of the CD is simply huge. “Wild Wind” starts things off and it is quite a beautiful song that picks up in tempo as the track progresses. The next track “White Moon – 2” is one of the heavier songs you will find here. “Skyline” is another highlight. The two female vocalists provide dramatic sounding operatic vocals and are quite affective when they are harmonizing, like on the mind blowing final track “Twilight”. The male vocals provided by Andrey are clean and he adds a special touch to the proceedings. “Twilight” also features a bit of extreme male vocals and a healthy dose of orchestration. To say that I was impressed with Sphinx is an understatement. The music is so involved, without being overdone. “White Moon” is just an excellent CD that is sure to please fans of “Once” era Nightwish, Epica and Kamelot.
Rating - 93/100