Review by Tony Cannella
From Germany, Kerstin Bischof first came on to the Femme Metal radar due to her brief time in the German symphonic metal band Xandria. She never did record with them, but the handful of live performances with that band garnered rave reviews. Now she has finally released her highly anticipated debut solo album, “Project Ava” and now the rest of us can see what all of the fuss was about.
“Project Ava” is a collaborative effort with Kerstin and her multi-instrumentalist husband Guido Wehmeyer. The first thing is that Kerstin has one heck of a singing voice. She has got a tremendous range that allows her to sing in different styles and convey various emotions. After the opening piano intro “Midnight Earth #1” we are treated to the excellent “Crimson”. This song is a straight-forward guitar heavy opener and is built around a pretty solid guitar riff and changing tempos. Continue reading »
Interview by Miriam C.After some painful band splits (we have already seen her in action with Axxis and Xandria), the German singer Kerstin Bischof has decided to going solo (helped by her husband – and former Axxis guitarist – Guido Wehmayer) with her first independent offering called “Project Ava”, that at the moment is only avalaible digitally via ITunes. Read what she says about this new musical adventure in the following interview. Hi Kerstin, first of all thanks for accepting the interview! It’s an honour!
Hi Miriam, thank you for the opportunity to talk about my musicAs an artist what is your background and influence and what is the fact that triggered you to become a singer?
There is no single fact that triggered me to become a singer. It was always an urge or a drive inside me and I absorbed everything musical around me. A big influence was Kari Rueslåtten when I was a teenager. Nowadays it’s artists like Tori Amos and my husband Guido Wehmeyer who inspire me the most. Continue reading »
Interview by Roberta Ilaria Rossi
After so many years of silence, Xandria comes back in the metal scene with a masterpiece album, “Neverworld’s End”, showing the power and the new direction the band is going through. I had the chance to talk with the new singer, Manuela Kraller, which brought me into a magic world, explaining what is this new album for the band and for helself as well.
Hi Manuela, welcome to Femme Metal! New Xandria’s album, “Neverworld’s End” was released a few days ago, would you like to share something with us?
I was very excited before the release and about the reaction of the people. But all went well and until now we got a lot of good feedback from the fans, what shows us that we are on the right path
The record was released by Napalm Records and I know that it took long time to produce it and to create it. What can you tell about it? How long did the recording last?
The recording itself took a few months all in all. The recording has taken less time than creating and producing the album of course: The production and songwriting from beginning till the end took a few years… ….it was a lot of work, but it was worth the passion and time we put in it.
Last Xandria album, “Salomé – The Seventh Veil”, has been released in 2007. What prompted you to “delay” the release and the creation of this new album? I know that some changes have been made: Lisa left the band, then Kerstin left as well… What can you tell us about it?
Of course there has been a delay because of the front woman changes and the searching for a new singer. For the Xandria boys it was hard to find a new singer after Kerstin has left, but finally they found me
You have a sort of opera singing and listening to the album, I’ve found so many references to Tarja Turunen. Some fans that had the chance to listen to “Valentine” have thought the same thing. Do you agree with this statement? Do you see yourself like the heir of the great Tarja?
No, I don’t see myself as a heir of Tarja and I don´t want to be a second Tarja. I am Manuela and I am an individual woman with my own voice. Of course people compare us, because we both sing classical and have a dark timbre, but everything else is different. And everybody who listens closely will recognize this. Some people also think I want to sound like Tarja, but that´s not correct. My voice sounded like this already before I have ever listened to Tarja. My voice is like this, not because of Tarja, but because of myself. Well, don´t understand me wrong: It is not a bad thing being compared with Tarja, but I really hope that once people will stop this comparison and say: “This is Manuela‘s voice” and not saying “She sounds like Tarja“. That´s my aim, to develop my voice more and more and get my own unique voice.
I think that this album will finally make the history for Xandria and it will bring you lots of great surprises. Now Xandria is a symphonic band, to all intents and purposes. What do you expect from yourself and from the band?
With “Neverworld´s End” we laid down the basis for a new beginning. And now it is time to go forward and upwards, step by step. I expect a lot from Xandria and from myself. I am a kind of perfectionist concerning singing, so I will always try to make my voice grow and to give my best on stage. My wish for Xandria is that we will make music that enthuses people, give as many concerts as possible and perhaps once make a world tour, I think this must be amazing!
Listening to the record, I’ve found similarities that recall albums like “Once”, “Century Child” and, why not, “Wishmaster” by Nightwish as well. What is your thought about this? Have you ever thought of proposing yourself as the new Nightwish singer?
Many don’t know it, but I really applied in 2006 as new Nightwish singer!;) But at this time I didn´t have any possibilities to make a demo, so I just send some live recordings of me when I sang in church, not a very good way to make an application But I tried and that´s the most important thing for me, even if they didn´t take me as new singer. But Xandria did and now I can make real symphonic metal, yeahh! Many people compare us with Nightwish, we expected this, because we make symphonic metal with opera voice and if you do this it is normal that people make this comparison, because Nightwish is the most known band in this genre and people always compare with something that they know. The comparison is ok for me, but I think that Xandria nevertheless has its own style! For example do we have much more progressive style in our music than Nightwish had in further times, we have our own catchy melodies and I use my voice in a much more different way than Tarja does. I also use rock voice sometimes (f.e. in “Soulcrusher”) or a very fragile not very classical voice in the verses of “A 1000 letters…”
Personally, I think that now Xandria can consider itself as “Old Nightwish at the Age of Tarja“. Many similitaries have been found and I think that you’ve “stolen” something from Nightwish, in order to explore some new “lands”. Do you agree with this statement?
We surely wanted to explore new lands, but don’t want to “steal” anything from anyone, though I know you don’t mean this in a way of plagiarism but of spirit in the music. Yes, we share a lot of this spirit with Nightwish, I think we have some similar visions and it’s great to realize that people enjoy our music because of this vision. But we would not reduce this to a certain era of another band, we surely want to originate much of a similar spirit but create our own music with it.
Talking about the sound, a change is so evident, a sort of an evolution, as if the band wanted to experiment a new sound. You are more metal-oriented, more symphonic metal and you’ve “left” the gothic genre, as experienced in the first albums. What did cause such choice?
With “Salome” you can say the music of Xandria hasn’t had a real development anymore, they went in a kind of blind alley in my opinion. It was time to decide in which direction Xandria wanted to go and Marco and the others found their consent in focus on the symphonic and metal elements. Marco also wanted a coherent sound for Xandria and the music and this was the way for a new beginning.
We can say that Xandria has been brought to life again: after a possible split in the years, Xandria found a new singer, worthy of this role, a new sound, a metal-oriented one. It will be a successful year for you. What are you expectations for this news adventure?
As I said before: We expect that our way leads now upwards step by step and we are working for this with passion. What the future will bring for us nobody can tell, but hopefully it will bring only good things to us
How do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ll see myself in my red wooden house on a lake, with a golden record on my wall and as someone that made a living from singing (it´s not about the money, but about the opportunity making music everyday and everytime , someone who still tours around the world and gives concerts…
What does it represent “Neverworld’s End” for you?
It’s my fantasy world. The world that I loved as a child and when I sing the songs, I have the feeling I am reviving my childish dreams again…
What is Xandria for you,for your personal and artistic growth?
Since I am in Xandria I learned a lot, also personally. I grow with every step on our way and I have the feeling I find more and more myself as a person. Artistically it gives me the possibility to develop my voice and to make the music I always wanted to make…
We’ve talked about bands, I know that you’ve worked with Haggard. What is the most beautiful memory related to this experience?
We had a concert in front of 100.000 people in Colombia, that was quite amazing! I also made wonderful experiences on tour, got to know many great people and countries and learned a lot. But the most beautiful memory stays the very first concert with Haggard. It was the first time that I sang in front of a few thousand people at the Masters of Rock festival. It was an amazing feeling to stand there on stage, because in this moment I knew that I want to be a singer and that this is the right profession for me.
Had you worked with some other bands before?
Before Haggard I have never worked with any band before. Haggard was my first band, second band was Nagor Mar (now Forty Shades) of switzerland.
Now you’ve joined Xandria and you’re the female singer, replacing that role that once was Lisa’s. how do you feel to be in her shoes, now? I know that you and Lisa have a beautiful friendship. Will we ever see the both of you in a duet, someday?
Well, I think I brought my own shoes with me I don´t want to step in somebody’s footsteps, I want to leave my own on Xandria’s way. To be honest, I don´t know Lisa very much, we’ve met only twice in life…I don´t know if there’ll be a duet one day, we’ll see
Ritual question: what do you think was the impact of the fans when they heard about your entrance in Xandria?
From the first moment on the reaction of the fans was very positive. They supported me from the very beginning. Of course some fans will always say: “We want Lisa back!”, but that´s ok. Everybody has its own opinion and own taste concerning voices. I try to concentrate on the positive critics and feedback, that´s what counts for me
At the first public event, Classic Meets Pop, where the band officially introduced you to fans, you’ve performed live the song called “Ravenheart”, as you have sung several famous songs at Out of the Dark Fest, like “Now and forever”, “India”, “Save My Life”. In my opinion, your voice makes perfectly what the song wants to convey to the listener. How did you prepare yourself to sing these songs?
I tried not to copy Lisa, but do give in my own voice into the songs. I thought a lot about the meaning of the lyrics and tried to express the content of the songs with my voice. It wasn’t very hard to sing the songs. For the new songs I had to practise a lot more, cause they are much more complex.
Is there a song, among the ones I’ve named, or among the most famous Xandria songs, that you like the most or you feel more connected to? If so, why?
I can almost not choose just one song of the new album, every song fascinates me and I love to sing everyone of them! Of the older songs I like “India” and “End of Every Story” a lot…
A videoclip for “Valentine” will be out very soon, in particular it will be released for St Valentine’s Day. Would you like to share something with us? From a small taste, I was under the impression that it seems a very particular videoclip…
Well, it is not about love It´s about an artist that sells his soul and heart to a higher instance. Outside he laughs, but inside he is very sad. The harlequin represents the artist….
Talkin’ about live experience: after a long time, Xandria embarked on a short tour in Europe, and as I was saying earlier, you’ve been the long- awaited protagonist for Out of the Dark Fest, along with Serenity, Amberian Dawn, Van Canto and Tristania. What was it like for you to scale back on stage with your new band, feeling the chills down your spine given by fans that were there, all the emotions, giving the people what they wanted to convey? I guess it was a truly remarkable experience for you…
It was a great feeling to stand finally with Xandria on stage and sing a full set with them! The fans were amazing and we really had a great time on tour also with the other bands! It was a wonderful time!
The audience has witnessed the power of your voice and how much drama, energy and versatility you will be able to give. How do you train your voice? How do you prepare yourself before a show or a particular event?
I make some voice practices every day, 2 times a week I go into a rehearsal room near my home, where I practice the Xandria songs and sing to the instrumentals. Because it is not possible to practice every week with Xandria: We are living about 800 kilometers away from each other, so I have to practice also on my own. Next to that I do sports: Swimming, jogging and I also go to fitness (Pilates, Zumba). My body is my instrument so I try to take care of it as much as I can
According to what you wrote in your “biography”, you’ve been introduced in the music scene at 23. What could you tell about it? What has been your Art Education?
That’s right, I started singing very late. In my family no one made music, so it lasted a long time until I found music on my own. In a choir in Finland I discovered classical singing for me and back home I started to take singing lessons. I have never studied singing, I had 6 years of private classical singing lessons. Now I practise on my own….
How did you discover your own passion for metal music? Is there any band that has inspired your way of singing or that you like to listen to/to sing of?
When I started taking singing lessons, I haven’t been inspired by female fronted metal bands or Tarja. After two years of singing I started to listen to Nightwish’s “Once” and that was the point when I recognized by myself in which direction I wanted to go as a singer. Tarja was for sure an inspiration when I started singing.
2012, as I was saying, will be very rich and full of surprises. We’ve seen you around Europe last year. What will happen this year? Are you going to plan a new tour? I know that you will support Epica for a few dates…
Yes, we’ll support Epica in March and in April! I am really looking forward to this! And we want to play as many festivals as possible. There is not another tour planned yet, but there’ll be one for sure this year…
Which is the most beautiful memory related to the band and to the music itself? Maybe I realize that it’s too early to ask for this question…
That’s difficult, because there have been so many wonderful moments. For example at concerts. But when I saw our CD “Neverworld’s End” in a record store between all the other Metal CD´s, I was very proud:) It was like a kind of present for all the hard work we’ve done. It was a wonderful feeling…and of course every single concert, when I see in the people’s face that they love our music and that we bring joy to them with what we do. That´s the biggest present of all
Thanks so much Manuela for having allowed us this interview. Waiting for the release of new Xandria album, the editorial staff wishes you lots of happiness and we wish you all the best. Is there something you would like to tell Xandria’s fans and to our readers as well?
Thank you! It was a pleasure for me:) To all the fans: Thank you sooooo much for the support and for the positive reactions and comments related to our new CD!! It makes me very happy to see that you love our music…Love you!! Kisses, Manuela.
Label : Drakkar Records
Review by Tony Cannella
The German band Xandria have -to date – released four studio albums that are very well regarded in the metal community. Now they have released a compilation/best of CD. “Now & Forever” features some of Xandria‘s best moments, but also so much more. The packaging includes a 20-song audio disc that features 70-minutes worth of some great music. The other part of the package is a DVD that includes: live material, interviews, video clips… the works – and it all comes in a beautiful gate book digi pack. A lot of care went into compiling the material for this collection and it really shows. Appropriately the song “Now & Forever” kicks things off and is the first of five songs from the bands 2005 CD “India” and it is a great way to start. “Ravenheart” is next and it is taken from the album of the same name. “Kill The Sun” follows that up and the strength of the material becomes quite apparent. “In Love With Darkness” is a great mid-tempo track with a fantastic vocal performance by Lisa Middlehauve. This is definitely one of the best tracks this collection has to offer. This CD is packed to the brim with so much great music and the songs are taken pretty evenly from each one of their four CDs. Xandria is symphonic metal at it’s best. Even though the songs range from 3-5 minutes in length, they have a big epic feel to them, thanks to the inclusion of the symphonic elements. Other highlights include: “Eversleeping”, “Only For The Stars In Your Eyes”, “The Lioness”, “India”, “Sisters Of The Light” and “Save My Life”. The material is pretty strong and consistent throughout. A trio of rare and unreleased tracks (“Drown In Me”, “One Word” and “Lullaby”) bring the CD part of this collection to a close. Based on the strength of the material, it is beyond me why Xandria never rose to a greater level of success. Now on to the DVD…
The DVD part of this set is quite a good companion piece. This DVD features almost 2-hours of footage, including the band tearing it up live at the 2007 Summer Breeze festival in Germany. 8-songs are shown being performed live here including favorites: “Now & Forever”, “Firestorm”, “The End Of Every Story”, “Ravenheart” and “India”. The band certainly looks comfortable on stage and seem to be having a good time. On a personal note, it is very cool to see the band in a live setting for those of us who never have gotten the chance to see them live. Mixed in with the live footage are some insightful interviews with every one of the band members talking about the past, present and future of Xandria – of course that future is now without Lisa Middlehauve. The interviews are in German, but there is an English sub titles option for us non-German speaking folks. The band certainly comes across as down-to-earth and articulate in the interviews. In addition to all of that, you also get some behind the scenes footage and video clips of the songs “Ravenheart”, “Save My Life” and “Eversleeping”.
Since the release of this collection the band have made a very crucial line-up change. Out is Singer Lisa Middlehauve and she is replaced by Kerstin Bischof. We will have to wait and see until their next release to find out if this line-up change will be a success for Xandria, but one thing is for certain, Kerstin Bischof is going to some big shoes to fill. This is a great release for fans who are looking to get into the bands catalog but don’t know where to start and for the die-hard fans, the inclusion of the unreleased tracks and the bonus DVD make this an essential release for any fan of Xandria.
Rating – 90/100
- Now & Forever
- Kill the Sun
- In Love with the Darkness
- Only for the Stars in Your Eyes
- The End of Every Story
- The Lioness
- Save My Life
- Some Like It Cold
- Black Flame
- Like a Rose on the Grave of Love
- Sister of the Light
- Drown in Me (rare Bouns Track)
- One Word (Previously Unreleased Bonus Track)
- Lullaby (Rare Bonus Track)
- Summer Breeze Concert 2007
- Behind the Scenes
- All Videoclips
- Lisa Schaphaus – Middlehauve – Vocals
- Marco Heubaum –Guitars
- Philip Restmeier – Guitar
- Nils Middlehauve – Bass
- Gerit Lamm – Drums
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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