Label : Ex Cathedra Records
Review by Tony Cannella
What do you get when you mix Celtic songstresses Enya and Loreena McKennit with heavier more bombastic artists like Nightwish and Within Temptation? Well, it’s hard to say for sure, but it would probably sound a little something like the Canadian singer Leah and her debut album “Of Earth & Angels”.
“Of Earth & Angels” is solid from the opener “Prisoner”. This is a nice up-tempo song that sets the pace perfectly. “Remember” is next and is just a beautifully haunting song that changes tempos. Leah has got a wonderfully emotional singing style and musically the songs are well paced and pretty diverse. Continue reading »
Review by Tony Cannella
From Mexico comes the Gothic metal band El Cuervo de Poe. The band was formed in 2004 and released their debut independent album in 2007. Now El Cuervo de Poe returns with their sophomore effort entitled, “Ex-Libris”.
“Ex-Libris” features almost an hour’s worth of music sung in the El Cuervo de Poe’s native language. The album gets off to a great start with “La Danza de la Locura”. The vibe throughout most of the album is dark and the band employs a full time violinist who is present throughout most of the songs. There are plenty of powerful riffs and vocalist Brenda Gaviño has a nice, smooth voice – she is not strictly an operatic vocalist, but she does come close at time like on the song “Nostalgia de Ti”, which is definitely one of my favorites – it has a slower tempo throughout most of the song and has a melancholic vibe to it. Continue reading »
Interview by Erwin Van Dijk
I reviewed the debut album of Ex Libris some time ago and I thought this was a good album and it gave me a better impression of this band than the Ex Libris gig I attended more than a year ago at the A New Dawn album presentation. But the Baroeg is a very difficult place for a band to perform. This interview is with Dianne van Giersbergen, the singer of Ex Libris.
Before we start this question: are you related to Anneke van Giersbergen? (in case you did not know, Giersbergen is a small hamlet in the south of the Netherlands)
Many people ask me this question but no I am not related to her. We share the same surname but are very different in voice type and vocal techniques. I like her style though.
Did you always want to become a singer and did you follow any singing lessons?
Yes! As a child I listened to the popular female singers all the time (for example Whitney Houston) and I became fascinated by the versatility of the human voice. I often found myself dreaming of being on stage in a big concert hall performing all kinds of music. My parents noticed my interest in music at a very early age and arranged my first singing lesson as a present for my fourth birthday. At the age of 7 I sang my first solo with a brass band in a Christmas concert. Over time I was taught by several teachers and joined various choirs. When I was 17 I sang at a prom concert with a wind orchestra. It was here that I met conductor and vocal coach Sef Pijpers (sr.) who was very enthusiastic about my voice and offered to give me singing lessons, eartraining and theory lessons. With his help I entered the auditions for classical singing at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, School of Music in Arnhem where I was accepted in 2005. Last summer I graduated from the bachelor program and currently I am in my first year of the master programme.
What do you do to keep your voice in top condition?
You may think of my vocal chords as my instrument but without a healthy body to support good breathing techniques I cannot sing anything. For a singer is it very important to live healthily and to keep your body in good condition. The four things I always keep in mind are: eat healthy food (I make sure I am eating enough fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, proteins, vitamins and minerals). Sports (I take dance lessons and often go indoor climbing). Have enough sleep (I wake up at seven o’clock and go to sleep at ten thirty when I do not have a concert or gig). Listen to your body! Furthermore I always make sure to keep away from places where people smoke. To keep my voice flexible I practice a lot. Five to six days a week I start my day at eight thirty: I vocalize for a half hour, after that I study for two hours and take a short break. After this break I study for another hour and take a lunch break. In the afternoon I mostly have rehearsals with classical ensembles, lessons, concert meetings or I do my research. In the evening I sing concerts, teach, work out or study some more. On evenings off or Sundays I rehearse with Ex Libris or make time for friends and family.
To what kind of music do you listen? And who are your favourite bands and musicians?
When I have the time to really sit down and listen to music I prefer to listen to classical music, mostly choir pieces, songs and opera. My favorite composers are Wagner, Rachmaninov, Zemlinsky, Berg and Verdi. When I am travelling I often listen to Anathema, Muse, Skunk Anansie, Dream Theater and Unexpect. Unexpect in particular is one of my new-found favorite bands! It is really like modern classical music.
Did you have any other bands before Ex Libris and/or are you active in any other bands now besides Ex Libris?
No, Ex Libris is the only metal band I have ever been a member of. I did some projects with other bands but this was not in the metal genre. Though I would like to do some metal projects outside of Ex Libris I do not think that I could find the time and energy for another steady band next to Ex Libris, my classical study and career.
And how did you became a member of Ex Libris?
When I was 16 years old I had singing lessons at the local school of music. It was here that I met Joost van de Pas who was studying drums and classical percussion. He and I connected almost immediately and we decided to form a band together. We shared a great interest for both classical and metal music and we set out to find other musicians with the same interest. Over the years several musicians joined and left our band that was then called Erinyen. When Paul van de Broek and later Koen Stam joined the band we knew this was a formation that could really work and we decided to change the name of the band to Ex Libris.
Why did you guys choose the name Ex Libris as name for the band?
Joost came up with the name. He was looking through the portfolio of his brother in law, who is a graphic designer. In this portfolio he found a project called Ex Libris and he was immediately convinced that this was a name that really suited the band and its music. An Ex Libris is used to indicate ownership of products of a craft-guild and can come in different forms like a seal, stamp or a brand. You could say that by naming the band Ex Libris we would like to brand our products as our own.
How would you describe your music?
When people from the metal scene ask me what kind of music we make I always say that it is progressive metal with classical influences. When people from the classical scene ask me what kind of music we make I tell them that It is music inspired by late romantic music as well as modern classical music played on metal instruments. What it comes down to is that the music really sounds like progressive metal, surely everyone will recognize hints of Dream Theater in our music, but has the features of a classical work. Especially the new album, which will be about the epic tale of “Medea” from the Greek mythology, will be filled with classical techniques like for example Wagner’s leitmotiv.
What makes Ex Libris unique compared to all the other female fronted metal bands in the world?
I think there are two important things about Ex Libris which makes us different from the other bands. First of all there is my voice. The female voice can be divided into three categories: alto, mezzo-soprano and soprano. Within these categories there are different types of voices named according to the colour of the voice: the Coloratura soprano is a very light voice which is very good at singing fast movements, the lyric soprano has a very bright voice and the dramatic soprano has a powerful and rich voice. Nowadays you see many metal bands with a (classical trained) soprano as their lead singer, almost all of them are lyric sopranos. I myself am a dramatic soprano. The way my voice harmonizes with metal music is totally different from the way for instance a lyric soprano’s voice would do. The range of the dramatic soprano enables met to sing both low and high notes powerfully. This results in a fuller sound. Secondly I think that it is very important to note that within the music of Ex Libris my voice is one of the instruments and not the lead instrument which the music should be built around. I do not want to be a singer who is accompanied by her band and do not believe that that is the recipe for good music.
Can you introduce us to the other members of Ex Libris?
Sure! We have Paul van de Broek on lead guitar, Koen Stam on keys, Peter den Bakker on bass guitar and Joost van de Pas on drums. Each one of them brings a different aspect to the sound that is Ex Libris and all are very talented and driven musicians. Next to musicianship there is also friendship. Though Joost has been my best friend since I met him we are all very close to each other. We often go to concerts and festivals together and plan a band getaway (last year we went to Paris for the weekend) every year.
You are looking for a new guitarist. For what kind of person are you looking for?
We were looking for a new guitarist but we are not anymore. We listened to one of the recordings of a show we did with the five of us and to our surprise it still sounded very good. We then decided to merge the lines of the second guitar into the existing lines of the lead guitar and synthesiser.
Is song writing teamwork in Ex Libris?
Mostly it is. The guys get together and write the music to which Koen and I later put vocal lines. The lyrics are mostly mine.
Where do you get the inspiration for the lyrics and the music? And can you tell us something about the songs on the album?
For me the inspiration for the “Amygdala” album came from personal experience. The lyrics on the album are about problems I have been dealing with, thoughts I had and statements I wanted to make. In the first song on the album: “Dawn of Sugars”, I talk about my frustrations with people who do not dare to be individuals. People who agree with everything their government or religion tells them and do not take a moment to think for themselves. The second song “Love Is Thy Sin” is about a relationship gone bad. In the song I try to explain to my former girlfriend that I wish she did not love me for then I did not have to hurt her by breaking up. “Breathe With Me”, the third song on the album, is about the power and emotions you feel when someone is craving for your body and you are craving for theirs. The songs “Sail…”, “…Out To Farewell” and “Death Becomes Us All” are combined into one epic. These songs tell the tale of a fisherman who sets out to sea and drowns. For me it resembles the end of my relationship with Joost van de Pas. We were together for 3/5 years and could not live with nor without each other. While I wrote my feelings into the lyrics of the epos, Joost wrote the lyrics to the song “Destined” about our breakup. The last song on the album “The Day Our Paths End” is about me becoming an atheist.
Which one is your favourite song on the album?
I cannot say that I prefer one song. They are all very different in style, lyrics and vocal techniques and I enjoy singing and listening to all of them.
Speaking of the songs, my copy of “Amygdala” had a rather confusing track list. Was this intended or went something wrong with the lay out?
Haha! No, nothing went wrong with the layout. The track list is the order in which we wrote the songs. So for example the first song on the album is the fourth song we wrote and the first song we wrote is the third song on the album. The number ½ stands for the twelfth song. The songs two, three, five and ten are not on the album because they did not suit our style anymore or because they will appear on our next album.
Why did you choose “Destined” vas song for the “Beauty and Brutality” album?
Peter chose the song “Destined” to be on the “Beauty and Brutality” album. The song has a very compact sound and a strong pulse and matched the time maximum of 7 minutes.
The album was released some time ago. How did the media reviewed the new album?
We were very happy to receive many good reviews for our “Amygdala” album from both fans and critics. The compositions of our songs, technical skills of our members and promise of new sound within progressive metal impressed many people.
And the last question, is there anything the reader should know that I have not asked?
Haha, good question! I think there is a lot to know about me and Ex Libris but it is up to you to dare and ask me.
Interview by Connie Bach
What is the expression people have? Where they feel they’ve heard a song before, and it has a flavour all its own. While some elements are reminiscent of Tarja, others stand out as different from all others. Being both familiar and fresh shows quite a bit of talent.
Hi, Dianne. What’s going on with Ex Libris at the moment?
We’re very busy planning new gigs, writing songs for the new “Medea” album and rehearsing the songs we’ve already completed. We’ve set ourselves a deadline at which all of the writing should be finished but there’s still loads to be done. We want the music on our new album to be a challenge for us as musicians, an inspiration for the listeners and a feast for the crowd. The “Amygdala” album already gave us a great start but there’s more to come in the epic album that “Medea” will be.
I looked up the Latin translation, recognizing Ex Libris as a Latin phrase. It translates to “from the books”. How does the actual meaning relate to the band’s choice of name?
Yes, if you translate the word Ex Libris you will find that it means “from the books” but an Ex Libris is also an object (like a seal, stamp or a brand) which is used to indicate ownership of products of a guild. You could say that by naming the band Ex Libris we would like to brand our products as our own.
If you envision the future, what would be the dream venue for Ex Libris? What other bands would appear in the same show?
I don’t think that there is one dream venue for us. There are too many awesome stages, concert-halls and festivals where we wish to perform one day. This also goes for the bands with whom we would like to share the stage but we surely wouldn’t say no to performing with Opeth, Devin Townsend, UnExpect or Freak Kitchen.
If the members of Ex Libris could all agree on three influential artists, who would they be? Why?
We all have very different backgrounds and our taste in (metal) music is not always identical either. For example: the bands I would often listen to when I was 16 years old were Skunk Anansie, Nightwish and Muse. For me all three singers of these bands were a great inspiration for the vocal styles and techniques I now use with Ex Libris. Peter tells me that he was influenced especially by Symphony X and the older music of Stratovarius and Metallica. And Paul says: “It’s impossible to name just three bands. Let alone name three bands only within the metal genre. As I was thinking about this question my music player randomly picked Coldplay, Nevermore and Toxic!”. With Ex Libris we compose music that has a good feel for us, without thinking about bands it may sound like. It is as Paul also said: “It’s up to the listeners to decide which other bands come close”. Out of all the awesome tracks on “Amygdala”, why did Ex Libris decide to contribute “Destined” to Femme Metal’s upcoming release?
I really like the feel of the song: it’s fast-paced yet eerie. Sometimes it is hard to do both. Ex Libris pulls it off quite well. Thanks, I like the song very much myself. It’s a funny piece of music that could resemble a strong ballad when looking at the lyric vocal lines but doesn’t reveal itself like that because of the guys playing fast riffs and solos. It’s a song with two faces that really connects with the lyrics and amplifies them. The lyrics to “Destined” are written by our drummer Joost van de Pas and tell us about the inner struggle to overcome grief and move on to better times.
If there is one track in particular that has a personal story behind it, what is that song and what is the story behind it?
All the songs on the “Amygdala” album represent a different aspect of me growing up and reaching adulthood. The lyrics on the album are about problems I have been dealing with, thoughts I had and statements I wanted to make.
“Dawn Of Sugars”, the first song on the album, is about me becoming an individual. Getting rid of all the ideas that are pressed upon you by the government, religion and others. In the song I also try to encourage other people to start thinking for themselves and dare to be different.
“Love Is thy Sin”, is my “sorry for dumping you” song in which I try to explain to my former girlfriend that she and I were not able to survive together. The lyrics say that it would have been better for us to never have loved each other so that I didn’t have to hurt her by breaking up.
“Breathe With Me”, the third song on the album, is about a power play between two people who feel attracted to one another and the emotions you feel when someone is yearning for your body.
The songs “Sail…”, “… Out to Farewell” and “Death Becomes Us All” are combined into one epic and resemble the end of my 3.5 year relationship with our drummer Joost van de Pas.
In the song “Sail…” a fisherman’s wife watches her husband set out to sea, knowing that this is their goodbye. “… Out to Farewell” tells the tale of death who’s coming to get the fisherman. During these two songs you’ll hear the fisherman (spoken by Koen) writing his goodbyes in a letter to his wife. “Death Becomes Us All” is an instrumental song which is the closing piece of the epic. The last song on the album “The Day Our Paths End” is about me becoming an atheist.
“Amygdala” is an intriguing album name. How does the name represent the collective strength of all the songs together?
The Amygdala are almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain. They perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. Since every song on our debut album is a memory or emotion set to music, we could not think of a better name.
Turning to your own personal career, tell me a little about your background as a vocalist.
Well, I had my first singing lesson when I was four years old – a birthday present from my parents, who had noticed my interest in music and singing. At the age of 7 I sang my first solo with the Concordia Fanfare during a Christmas concert. Over time I was taught by several teachers and joined various choirs. When I was 17 I sang at a prom concert with the Gildenbonds Harmonie Orchestra where I met conductor and vocal coach Sef Pijpers senior who offered to help me enter the auditions at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, School of Music in Arnhem where I was accepted. During my bachelor years at ArtEz I was taught by soprano Elena Vink, did a short internship at the Nationale Reisopera and received master classes from Barbara Hannigan, Barbara Schlick, Claudia Patacca, Lodewijk Meeuwsen, Riekje Bakker en Felix Schonenbaum. After completing the bachelor programme I auditioned for the master programme and was accepted. Currently I am in the second year of the master program where I specialize in classical music written between 1850 and today. I receive my singing lessons from Elena Vink, Wiebke Goetjes and Constantin Nica. Apart from this I also take composition classes, write poetry for other composers and I’m chairman of the New Artez Student Association, a group of master students who organize interdisciplinary classical music concerts. I hope to sing my final exam in June 2011.
Opera and metal contrast very well. Is this where you saw yourself in the long-run?
I don’t know. I’ve always known that my future lies in music but which direction my path will take I don’t know yet. For now I am very happy with the way my career and Ex Libris can develop side by side. I love both and need both musical styles to complete me as a singer.
I firmly believe that mastering different styles of music enriches you as a musician.
What do you want to achieve in the future, as a metal vocalist?
Mastering many more different styles of singing but always with a healthy voice. I wish to be an inspiration to many young singers out there and want to let them know that you can sing (almost) anything as long as you keep your voice in good condition and be aware of the fact that a good voice comes with a good support of breath.
Part of the beauty of the metal genre is that bands and fans are so connected, so genuine. So what would all of the members of Ex Libris like to tell your followers?
It’s so very true that metal fans are deeply connected to the music! I’ve done concerts in many different music genres but never were the people in the audience more devoted to the music than those I’ve greeted at an Ex Libris concert. It really is the biggest thrill ever when the audience is right there in the music with you! This being said I can only say that we would like to invite all our fans and followers to visit our concerts, experience our music and propose a toast to metal with us.
Label : Femme Metal Records
Review by Tony Cannella
In the realm of female fronted metal bands, there are so many great artists to choose from. Now, here in all its Femme Metal glory is a compilation released by Femme Metal records. “Beauty and Brutality” features 31-songs and over 2-hours worth of music, spread out over 2-discs from some of the best female fronted bands found anywhere. This collection also proves to be a useful resource and an education for anyone who is a fan of this genre of metal. The Femme Metal landscape is so vast and features so many bands of different shapes, sizes and styles, this compilation makes that fact all the more apparent. Disc 1 opens with the strong track, “Head Up High” from Floor Jansen’s new project ReVamp. This is just an excellent way to begin things. From there the CD flows nicely as some well known, and not so well known bands are showcased, as well as many different styles. It is hard to pick out what made the biggest impression on me, because each band offers something memorable. But some of my favorites were Exilia, Dama, Magion, The Mary Major and Asrai. Infinite Tales ratchets up the heaviness on the brutal “Running Away”. That is followed by the melodicism of One Without. Disc 2 begins with “Unleashed” from Epica’s great latest offering, “Design Your Universe”. Deadmanswake is next with the aggressive, “Back to Blood”. The different styles are once again showcased with bands like Vanity Ink, Seven Kingdoms, Diva Suicide, Solsikk, Virus IV and A New Dawn. The fact is, there is so much music on these two CDs that it would take forever to go through track-by-track, so I apologize to any band that I left out. Suffice it to say, there is so much diversity on this compilation that even the most jaded of music fans should find something that pleases them. In the end, “Beauty and Brutality” features a worthy cross section of some truly great and underappreciated bands. This compilation succeeds in every way, but the coolest thing about collections such as this is the ability to find new bands which you might never have been exposed to. Proceeds go towards aiding Cancer research in the U.K., so it’s all for a good cause as well.
Rating – 95/100
- “Head Up High” – ReVamp
- “No Tears for You” – Exilia
- “Rainy Roads” – Dama
- “War of Hearts” – Magion
- “A Vide” – Soulmaker
- “Morning Sickness” – The Mary Major
- “Longing For Serenity” – Disdained
- “Stay With Me” – Asrai
- “Lost Inside” – Crownless
- “Shapeless” – Re-Vision
- “Running Away” – Infinite Tales
- “Withered Serenade” – One Without
- “Shine” – Aperion
- “Thoughts” – Reactive Black
- “Elysium” – Apparition
- “Gates of Damnation” – Triaxis
- “Unleashed” – Epica
- “Back to Blood” – Deadmanswake
- “Spell the Party” – Vanity Ink
- “Somewhere Far Away” – Seven Kingdoms
- “Crystals” – Diva Suicide
- “Butterfly in Your Hand” – Exoterik
- “My Cold One” - Özge Özkan
- “Jaassa Varttunut” - Kivimetsän Druidi
- “Frightening Lanes” – Virus IV
- “Volatile Territory”- Solsikk
- “Absence of Light” – Dimlight
- “Doom Revail” - Raven Tide
- “Masque of the Red Death” - A New Dawn
- “Inner Guillotine” - VelvetSeal
- “Destined” - Ex Libris
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
- Mystery Blue – “Conquer the World” (2013)
- Orianthi – “Heaven in This Hell” (2013)
- Pamela Moore – “Resurrect Me” (2013)
- Dante Fox – “Lost Man’s Ground” (2012)
- A Persuasive Reason – “A Persuasive Reason” EP (2013)
- The Reasoning – “And Another Thing…” EP (2012)
- HUNTRESS & GOLD @ 013, Tilburg, THE NETHERLANDS 08/06/2013
- Anneke Van Giersbergen
- Noora Louhimo – Battle Beast
- Leah – “Of Earth & Angels” (2013)
- Kells – “Anachromie” (2012)
- Tristania – “Darkest White” (2013)
- Infinitus Mortus – “The Conspiracy of Love” (2012)
- Illuminata – “A World So Cold” (2011)
- Hitherside – “Hitherside” EP (2012)
- Hanging Doll – “The Sacred & Profane” (2012)
- Edenbridge – “The Bonding” (2013)
- Delain – “Interlude” (2013)
- Emily Lazar – September Mourning
- Ashley Costello – New Years Day
- Androniki Skoula – Chaostar
- Arkona – “Decade of Glory” LIVE (2013)
- Оксидерика – “Step to Darkness” (2013)
- Chaostar – “Anomima” (2013)
- Helalyn Flowers – “White Me In Black Me Out” (2013)
- My Ruin – “The Sacred Mood” (2013)
- Belladonna – “Shooting Dice With God” (2013)
- Visions of Atlantis – “Ethera” (2013)
- Upon Wings – “Afterlife” EP (2013)
- Maxine Petrucci – “Back to the Garden” (2013)