Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
The band Dendura is from Detroit/Grand Rapids, Michigan (USA). Dendura describes themselves as (breath in) Female fronted Egyptian themed prog metal or Egyptian infused prog metal with live belly dancing. Of course, Dendura is not the first band that incorporates Egyptian themes in their music. Examples are Nile (music and texts) and Iron Maiden (artwork see the album Powerslave and the current world tour. Steve Harris, who wrote the music for the song Powerslave never intended it as an Egyptian song. That was the idea of Bruce Dickinson much later in the writing process.) Belly dancing is also something bands use on stage – see DeadCell or the dancers from Rapalje (both from Holland) and singers like Shakira (who has like Dendura‘s singer Lebanese roots) Other references of the ancient Egypt in our modern culture are TV series like Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, the movie 10,000 BC and cats are everywhere today. In fact, one can write entire books about this subject. So what makes Dendura different from these bands? Let’s find out with some questions for Dendura‘s singer and keyboard player Aziza Poggi.
Can you tell us something about Dendura? Who founded the band and why did you decide to use the ancient Egypt as a theme?
I founded the band and recruited Steve Wethy a month into it. I always wanted the middle eastern and Egyptian influence in our sound as I always was intrigued and felt close to that kind of music. In the beginning, only half of our songs had it. Now, they all do.
The fascination of the western culture for ancient Egypt originates way back in the days of the Roman empire, more than 2,000 years ago. Since you use the ancient Egypt for your music, can you tell us why we in the modern world are so interested in a civilisation that vanished 2,000 years ago?
I think Egypt is one of the most fascinating and mysterious countries in the universe and it does carry on in today’s world. So much history and invention comes from Egypt. Makeup, the mummies, architecture, the temples, statues, the kings and queens, deity’s, how Egyptians lived and functioned, their beliefs in the afterlife and preparing their dead for mummification. If you watch The History Channel, you’re bound to see something about Egypt there. Egypt will continue being a place of discovery as long as mankind is still here. There is so much more out there to be discovered and that fascinates people as it is a place of mystery.
Where does the name Dendura come from? There is a Hathor temple in the village of Dendera. (Hathor was among other things an Egyptian love goddess. She also tried to destroy the human race but that’s another story.)
The name came from the Temple of Dendera in Luxor Egypt, Hathor’s main temple. I am very fascinated by the Egyptian deities and found Hathor’s temple perfect for our band name. She was known as being the goddess of music, dance and poetry. We just changed the spelling.
Who is Aziza Poggi?
I am an artist. I look at our music as colors that need the right textures and elements to paint the song. I look at everything as a journey and the road never ends as long as I don’t want it to. I am always learning something new about my voice, discovering new things that intrigue me and I feel deeply connected to my roots.
Tell us about your interesting tattoos.
I have four tattoos total. I have Nephthys, the twin sister to Isis, the goddess of lower Egypt who tricked her sister’s husband/brother into sex to have a son of her own who was Anubis, the god of the underworld and guardian of the dead. She was the lesser known of the sisters. I have her son Anubis on my shoulder, a cobra with hieroglyphics wrapping around it and the Eye of Ra as well.
You have Lebanese/Egyptian roots. Does your cultural heritage makes you a different singer compared to other musicians?
I think everyone is different really. This is just what makes me different, but of course there are other middle eastern singers out there. We just all have our own voice and sound.
Is it difficult to combine being the frontwoman and to play on a synthesizer onstage? Personally I think only Anneke van Giersbergen from Agua de Annique and the Gathering can get away with it. With a lot of other bands, like Grimskunk from Canada it simply doesn’t work. The synth acts like a barrier between the singer and the audience. What synthesizer do you use?
It’s a Korg, IX300.
And how? Like a piano or more for the sound effects?
I use the keyboard more for effects. Like a nice and heavy chamber sound or symphonic sound. In my case, I am not behind the keyboard that much. I play on sections where it fills up the sound. Our newer songs have less keyboards so I wont be back there as much as I have before. I have played it throughout the entire song of “I Have a Gun” and on the song “Symphony” and sometimes I just play sections on the keyboard on those songs that require it. If I were doing fancy keyboard parts, I couldn’t sing and play it at the same time (not yet) but because the keyboard parts I do play are simple, I can do that. I guess it depends on the vibe I am feeling with the audience.
Can you tell us something about the other members of Dendura?
Steve Wethy (Guitar) has been with the band since the formation. He also sings backups and writes lyrics. Sometimes, he comes up with vocal melodies which he is great at. He and I have been through a lot together and have always been on the same page musically when we were going through members and changes in our sound. Paul Stein (Guitar) joined about two year ago. I call him the linear thinker. He is very creative and also very technical. He and Steve are always coming up with new guitar lines and feed off each other very well. The guys all act like brothers. Justin Lee Dixon (Drums) is the newest member. He can mix up the metal and Middle Eastern drums really well. He has an incredible ear. He isn’t just great at playing drums. He sits in on my singing lessons with me often and gives me feedback and knows when I’m singing my best and when I am not. Each one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses and we all know what they are so we all balance each other out. It’s a perfect relationship.
Last time I was checking Dendura‘s website there was no bass player. For what kind of person are you looking for?
We have been looking for over a year now for the right bassist and we are working with one right now who we think might be the permanent member. We won’t be announcing anything final until after our CD is recorded. He fits in perfectly on a musician level and on a personal level. We auditioned several bassists before him and had one other really good candidate. We were looking for someone who musically was right, who would play more low-end bass, no slap (as was before), and who had the right personality. We have had people in the band before whose personalities and styles didn’t quite fit our own and, ever since, the band has said that will never happen again no matter how long it takes us to find the right person. We’ll use session people until then. Justin was playing as a session drummer for three months before we asked him to join, a bassist filled in for four months and we didn’t hire him, and now the bassist we are using has been with us for three months and he is on the verge of being hired. You only can get to know someone’s true colors with time and much practice. I compare it to being in a relationship because it really is like that. I wouldn’t commit myself to someone if I wasn’t with them for a few months. Steve and I just got lucky from the beginning as he was hired right away and sometimes luck plays a big part, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Dendura has released one album in 2006 called “New Life” (Killzone Records). Can you tell us something about the songs and the album in general?
“New Life” was self-released before we were on Killzone but they are releasing our new album we are working on right now with a Grammy-winning producer and Killzone has distribution with Century Media. The songs on the album are about a mixture of self-empowerment and Egyptian gods and ancient Egyptian history. For instance: “I Have a Gun” is our first song we wrote as a band and, at the time, I got out of an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. I wrote the song as my own defense weapon. Like my own protection. The gun isn’t stating I am going to harm this person, but I am protecting myself in case he comes and harms me again. The gun is more imaginary. “I, Nephthys” and “Isis” are Egyptian goddesses and sisters. They actually lyrically go together if you check out the words. In “I, Nephthys”, I am singing the song as if I am her confessing my sins to my sister for tricking Osiris (Isis’s husband) into sex to have a son, hence Anubis. In “Isis”, the song is still sung as if I am Nephthys and it’s about her qualities as a goddess. “Mummified” is about transition in life. I left it a little cryptic so it’s open for interpretation. “Rage” is about feeling as if I’m a puppet and releasing myself from others wishes on my life. “Symphony” came from a dream I had actually. I was out cold asleep, dreaming of wolves hunting me down in the woods. The keyboard parts were playing in the background like I was in a film. I have always had a fear of being eaten to death. I woke up, remembered those keyboard parts and started writing “Symphony”.“Nemesis” is a self-empowerment song about fighting the machine and way of life others put on us. I remember someone telling me once, we should strip away our Egyptian roots so we are more commercial-friendly and that is what is wrong to me in music. I think creative freedom and control is very important and feeding ideas and thoughts on how to make the song better is completely fine and understanding, but changing someone’s roots is wrong to me and we won’t do that. “Shadowman” has nothing to do with Egypt or self-empowerment but is about the fictional character Laura Palmer from the Twin Peaks series to be exact. I am a movie buff and sometimes, we’ll combine story lines with films we have seen.
And the last question: what are Dendura’s plans for the future?
To continue to grow musically and myself vocally.
Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
An interview with Ally from Ally The Fiddle. A fiddle in a metal band? Twenty years ago this would have been a ridiculous idea. But today there are many bands with a violin player. Think of Heidevolk and Stream of Passion. And Haggard of course. Ally, or Almut Storch – Hukriede is the violin player of the German Medieval Classical Deathmetal Band Haggard. She is also known for her work with Die Apokalyptischen Reiter or ASP although I doubt that there is anyone outside Germany who have ever heard of ASP. Ally The Fiddle is her solo band. Tony Cannella did a review of the album Red Unicorn and now it is time for an interview.
Did you have classical training or were you taught to play by ear like many violin players in the folk genre?
Well, in fact I studied violin at the academy in Rostock (North Germany) and have the diploma to work as a professional (classical) violinist. But to play Folk-Fiddle I took two or three lessons with the German Fiddler Bernd Lüthke (“Midnight Court” / Berlin) to come into it.
I did an interview with Maaike Peterse, who plays the cello in Kingfisher Sky and she started with the violin before switching to the Cello. Can you play other instruments besides the Fiddle & E Violin?
To study violin means you also have to play the piano. It is a really beautiful instrument and I started to practice a little bit more And I play a very little bit guitar. That helps me to compose and to understand Rock and Metal Music, because of its difference to the piano.
The violin seems to be an instrument typical for the folk & pagan metal these days (like Eluveitie, Korpiklaani etc). What type of violin/fiddle do you use?
I play an old classical instrument from the 19th century, combined with a pickup system (based on a capaciter microphone). I love that violin because of its warmth and tenderness. My E-Violin is a white Fender V8. Not even the best choice, because it is heavy.
For some reason most women in rock & metal bands (especially folk oriented bands) play the violin. (Marcela Bovio from Stream of Passion, Klaartje from Myrkvar etc). Do you think this means that the violin has become an instrument for women?
No, of course not! There are enough bands, who show us that this is not completely a ladies instrument: Koorpiklaani, Letzte Instanz, Haggard but maybe it is a way for women to take part in Metal Music. There are not many feminine rock singers or guitar- and bass players. On the other hand I personally feel the violin is a rather feminine instrument: intense and powerful but not rough.
To what kind of music do you listen yourself and who are your favourite bands and musicians?
My very favourite is the Canadian band The Tea Party; especially the oriental sounding songs combined with that deep sonorous voice of singer Jeff. And I am influenced by the Fusion violinist Jerry Goodman (formerly Mahavishnu Orchestra). He inspires me a lot and always puts me in a good mood! My favourite metal bands are: Killswitch Engage (my newest exploration – what a singer!!!), Symphony X, Iron Maiden, Opeth, Knorkator (a very funny German band) and Haggard (I love the new album “Tales of Ithiria”!). And of course ASP as my favourite Gothic band. There are very well known in Germany and you really MUST listen to them!!
Ally The Fiddle is an instrumental band and instrumental bands are quite rare. Record companies might this even consider a risk. Have you ever considered to use vocals on “Red Unicorn”?
Yes, that is a big issue for us! The record companies don’t like to take the risk and we have to discuss a lot with those companies and booking agencies. So I can’t exclude, that we would never use some vocals, but I’d love to try it first without! We made a compromise by using a speaker for one song – but for the companies and agencies it seems not to be enough….
And what made you decide to start a solo band?
I am working with many bands in many different styles and in many different studios. So I think it is natural, that you wish to make your own music. On the one hand you always have to make musical compromises; on the other hand your instrument rarely gets the chance to be shown in its full beauty. So at least I wanted to know, how I sound.
Where do you get the inspiration for the songs, and can you tell us something about the songs on the EP?
I was playing that tune with different folk bands. But I always thought, that sounds like a real metal song! So I will rerecord that tune in a harder and faster version on our following album – on “Red Unicorn” I added a second melody to make a rocky but poetic version. By the way: the tune was composed by the American fiddler Amy Cann and brought to fame by the great American fiddler Natalie McMaster.
I always listened to that tune while I was in the gym. It was written by the guys from Wolfstone(Ireland) and grew to a really unforgettable! So I created my own epical version with hard guitars on one side and the soft violin, viola and harp on the other side.
“The Mason’s Apron”:
That’s a well known traditional tune, that I heard in a similar but traditional version by the brothers Skirm and Dezi Donnelly. To record that song I thought to myself, which components I would want to hear on a violinist’s solo album. And one of them is of course some the virtous stuff in that piece. So, that’s it!
“Days of Thunder”:
These lines have been in my ear for a long time. When I met my guitarist Rob I could make the song complete. Especially with his marvellous solos at the battle part between guitar and violin. Days of Thunder tells about a “final day”, the “judgement day”. So is the medieval “Dies Irae” – a sacred musical theme – the red line of the whole song.
Now we are in the mystical Ireland. I’m sure, there is no saga about a Red Unicorn, but such a powerful and divine animal seemed for me to be the best creature to transport that story. It’s the only song with lyrics and speaker. Here I used two Irish Tunes: Paddy Ryan’s Dream and A Bunch of Keys. I really love that “gothic” song and it tells much about my view of human beings….
The EP was released in 2008, almost a year ago. Are you working on a full length album?
Of course we are! But we are in a need of a record company to finance and to promote it.
And what can we expect from Ally The Fiddle in the future?
We hope to inspire you on many festivals and to spoil you with many beautiful albums!
And the last question, is there anything the reader should know that I have not asked?
Not at all. But if there are any questions more, please ask us: email@example.com
Review by Tony Cannella
From Spain the band Masque of Death play good melodic metal. The band have only been in existence since 2008 and despite their relatively short time together they have managed to record a debut EP that would give many longer running, more established acts a run for their money. Even though Masque of Death lists only three members in their line-up, bass was played by Sergio Rabanal who has since left the band prior to the release of “Ivory Cities”. “Ivory Cities” features only 6-tracks and a playing time of about 35-minutes, but it is the quality not the quantity that makes this such an enjoyable listen. The band combine pounding metal rhythms, great riffs and solos with the self-assured vocal prowess of Sofia Ruiz to create a solid piece of work. Sofia Ruiz provides her strong passionate vocals that she also combines with an extreme vocal style on many of the songs – it is pretty impressive how she manages to employ two vastly different vocal styles throughout the course of “Ivory Cities” and she does it quite well. It is that style that drives such songs as “Abeyance”, “Numedak”, “Alive” and “Darkest Eyes”. The final track “The Shape of Things to Come” is probably my favorite, with a cool acoustic intro that quickly gives way to a galloping metal riff that is unrelenting and quite addicting. The songs on “Ivory Cities” are pounding, relentless and sometimes fierce, with some great melodicism, while still maintaining an undeniable heaviness throughout. Sofia Ruiz‘s style is somewhat reminiscent of Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil and – at times – she also reminded me a bit Amy Lee from Evanescence. Masque of Death are not currently signed, but after listening to “Ivory Cities”, I have a feeling that will change soon enough. A very professional and satisfying debut from this Spanish band.
Rating – 90/100
- Black Red Roses
- Darkest Eyes
- The Shape of Things to Come
- Sofia Ruiz – Vocals & Rhythm Guitar
- Carlos De Arquer – Lead Guitar
- Abel Ramos – Drums
Review by Tony Cannella
Israel is not really known as a metal hotbed, obviousl, but that doesn’t stop the interestingly named band Laid 8. With their self-titled 4-track EP Laid 8 gives the listeners an earful of highly melodic and dramatic metal, with a great deal of skill as both musicians and songwriters. The overall vibe of Laid 8 is mid-tempo, straight forward metal. The vocalist Tal Itay – at times – reminds me of Amy Lee from Evanescence, that is the closest comparison that I can think of, but she injects enough of her own personality into the songs to not be mistaken for an Amy Lee clone. The demo opens with the riff-heavy powerful rocker “Necessary Evil” and from there Laid 8 pretty much continues on in a similar vein. “Point of No Return” is another hard hitting number. That is followed by my favorite track, “Answers”. The band does some cool stuff on this one with vocal harmonies. The final track is a bit of a departure from the previous three and features some tempo changes. There is no denying the power and the hugeness of Laid 8’s sound, particularly with the singer. Overall, I was impressed with Laid 8’s songs throughout this EP. The band maintains its heaviness, while still offering plenty in the way of melodicism that potentially could appeal to a wider audience.
Rating – 88/100
- Necessary Evil
- Point of No Return
- Living Flame
- Tal Itay – Vocals
- Uri Ofir – Bass
- Dave G. – Guitars
- Oded Grosz – Drums
Review By Tony Cannella
Canada’s Viveynne are a project that features 14-year old Mikaila “Mikki” Straatsma on vocals and piano. Yes, that’s right I said she is just 14-years old, although you wouldn’t know it by listening to the songs on the debut release titled “Becoming Jane Doe”. In addition to adding her lead vocals and contributing piano and synthesizer, Mikki wrote all of the music and lyrics on the EP. She has also received many awards and accolades for her music, which you can see on her MySpace site. “Blood to Bleed” sets the mood perfectly and is a powerful opener. Immediately Mikki‘s soaring, operatic vocals grab the listeners attention and then the rest of the musicians join in and the song really takes shape. The vocals are well out in front in the mix, but they don’t overshadow anything. The voice and the music go hand-in-hand and compliment each other very well. In fact, the musicians on this CD are very good and an integral part to the overall sound and feel of the songs. The next song, “Becoming Jane Doe” begins with a melancholic piano intro, and gets heavier around the first chorus. This is perhaps the highlight for me. This song is just so haunting, that it’s impossible not to love. Next is “This Phobia” and this track keeps things running smoothly. “Goodbye Good Morning” is just a beautiful straight-up ballad and another definite highlight. This song also features a very cool guitar solo. The song is very dramatic, orchestral and pretty. “It’s Been Dark” speeds things up a bit and moves along at a nice pace. The final three songs “The Exiled and Her Opera House”, “Come Crawling” and “Sounds of Starlight” definitely conclude things on a high and leaves the listener wanting more. Vocally, Mikki reminds me a bit of Amy Lee of Evanescence, but she also has her own thing going, she definitely packs a lot of power and passion in her delivery. All of the songs are in the 3-minute range and are very well written. The whole CD is very well produced, but not over-produced.It would be easy to dismiss this release and say “She’s good for a 14-year old” but her age is irrelevant. The fact is, she’s good for any age. Just listen to the 8-songs and 27-minutes worth of music that is contained on “Becoming Jane Doe” and judge them on their own merits and come to the realization that this is one heck of a CD. A thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.
Rating – 85/100
- Blood to Bleed
- Becoming Jane Doe
- This Phobia
- Goodbye Good Morning
- It’s Been Dark
- The Exiled and Her Opera House
- Come Crawling
- Sounds of Starlight
- Mikaila “Mikki” Straatsma – Vocals Lead & Backup, Piano and Synthesizer
- Beth Wilson – Additional Backup Vocals (only in ”Blood to Bleed” and ”Becoming Jane Doe”)
- Chuck Kollatos – Lead Guitar, Bass Guitar, Additional Synth, Drums (only in “It’s Been Dark”)
- John Lama – Rhythm Guitar
- Randy Solski – Drums, Percussion (all the songs except in “It’s Been Dark”) and Additional Bass Guitar (only in “The Exiled and Her Opera House”)
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
- Flames of Fury – “FoF” EP (2013)
- Effloresce – “Coma Ghosts” (2012)
- Marie Fredriksson – “Nu!” (2013)
- Anneke Van Giersbergen
- Leaves Eyes’ – “Symphonies of the Night” (2013)
- Phildel – “The Glass Ghost” EP (2013)
- Lita Ford
- Sarah Teets – MindMaze
- Susanna Vesilahti – Unshine
- Trobar de Morte – “The Silver Wheel” (2012)
- Viper Venom – “In Venom Veritas” (2012)
- Via Obscura – “Gedanken” (2012)
- The Mariana Hollow – “Velvet Black Sky” (2012)
- Storyum – “Insomnia” (2012)
- Snei Ap – “Hidden Floors” EP (2013)
- Sin7sinS – “Carnival of No Tomorrow” (2012)
- MaterDea – “Satyricon” (2011)
- Rampart – “War Behast” (2012)
- Lita Ford – “The Bitch is Back… Live” LIVE ALBUM (2013)
- Epysode – “Fantasmagoria” (2013)
- Beyond God – “Dark Light of Dawn” EP (2013)
- Ayreon – “The Theory of Everything” (2013)
- Seremonia – “Ihiminen” (2013)
- Tuomas Tuovinen & Eveelina Kojo – myGrain
- TEODASIA announces European Tour with TARJA TURUNEN
- I Left the Planet – “I Left the Planet” EP (2011)
- Grimes – “Visions” (2012)
- Грай [Grai] – “О Земле Родной” ["O Zemly Rodnoj" - "About Native Land"] (2011)
- Gin Wigmore – “Gravel and Wine” (2011)
- Funin – “Unsound” (2011)