Label : Alfa Matrix
Review by Davide Torresan
“The House of Wonders” is the debut album of Belgian Lovelorn Dolls, or rather the follow-up of the well received EP “An Intense Feeling of Affection”. Their music is the main result of the work of Ladyhell on vocals and Corpus Christi with music and the instruments. Their musical style can be described as a mix of alternative, rock and electronics and with this release they hope to make themselves known to the fans of this particular musical genre.
As the band stated, the listening of ” The House of Wonders” will carry you within an old manor where, between dark and fairy atmospheres, sweet and sick melodies, the listener will ride on a sort of rollercoaster. It’s a pity that I couldn’t get my hands on the graphic work done for this CD by Gogo Melone, singer and graphic designer for To-Mera and Plague of Stars. It was like to do a half-assed job, but it’s better than nothing, right? So here we go. I watched the artwork of theCD thinking that this could give me some clues about the general sound. I immediately assumed that there were some gothic influences and so it was. I heard also some other influences from other bands like Depeche Mode, Oomph and The Birthday Massacre. The first song that I appreciated was “After Dark” with its catchy chorus and heavy guitar riffs. Continue reading »
Interview by Miriam C.
If metal impersonate as a queen the German Doro, instead in the melodic rock/AOR territory the true deal is the US Robin Beck. Known for the uber huge hit single “First Time” in 1988 born from a jingle of a Cola Cola commercial, after 6-years-break from the last album “Livin’ on a Dream”, Robin do her comeback with her 9th album “The Great Escape” on her own imprint, Her Majesty’s Music Room. Want to know more? Continue to read this extensive interview…
Hi Robin, first of all thanks so much for accepting this interview! For me is a real pleasure to host and promote you in my webzine and I thank you for finding time out of your busy schedule to reply this humble questions.
Thank you Miriam I am happy to.
On your official biography, you stated that since you’re a little child you wanted to be an artist and when you were 10 yrs old you have written your first lyric. Now, being passed so much time, did still keep it and what you think about it?
This is not a secret lyric. It’s a childhood song about love of course… “Key to My Heart” Sort of a country song. I think it was pretty good for a kid.
Despite the fact that you are world famous singer, during your break for raise your daughter Olivia, you have still recorded album as a background singer. From this experience what you have learnt? Any good memory to share with us about that period?
I don’t have anything but good memories… and still more coming. My daughter is the light of my life! You do learn from being a mother how to be a parent from your children. If they are happy… then you’ve done a good job… so I give myself a gold star. I will also say that from having Olivia that I became more conscience of how important school really is… this something I took for granted while I was growing up. I hated school but it’s the most important part of our lives to begin with.
Let me get you to the early times of your career, at that time what were your favourite musical acts and are your musical tastes changed now?
Ha… Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Aerosmith, Queen, the Beatles, Stevie Nicks, Carol King, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Taylor and Reeves and the Supremes. Just to mention a few.
Your debut top hit single “First Time” in 1988 was a spin off for a Coca Cola commercial, how you got involved in it? Also the video clip was different in EU and in the US, why?
I was chosen to sing “First Time” the jingle… then the song was written and it just flew high by popular demand first in the U.K. – They then did an American Version since Americans don’t speak English I guess! LOL It was perfect the way it was first created… then we simply rocked it out for the simple reason that I was noted as rock artist and that’s the way they envisioned it for the States.
How was the genesis of your last album “The Great Escape”, when you have started to nail down the first lyric?
Hummm… really don’t remember specifically. It just came when it came… and out popped the entire album. We worked for about 5 months straight on it.
Your latest studio album was 2006′s “Livin’ on a Dream” (now I’m excluding the re-release of “Trouble or Nothing”), why it passed so much time since then?
I was putting together my own label and time was just flying by. I was also managing a band at that time and devoted a lot of attention to them.
How’s born the partnership with Tommy Denander and James Christian (that’s your husband)?
I met Tommy during a “Radio Active” invite to sing a song… and from there it was a relationship of 3. Me, James and Tommy. We are all very tight. James my husband is in House of Lords. He might be the best producer I’ve ever worked with. Not just because he’s my husband, but because he really gets me and knows better what I can do than even I do sometimes… it’s great to have these 2 men by my side.
What’s your personal meaning and what do you want to express with the title album “The Great Escape”? Or it’s simply related to a lyric present in the album?
For me it’s meaning was simply to take a break from life and listen to some great music. But the song is literally about getting away or escaping the trappings of a bad relationship. The title of the album really has nothing to do with the song I’m afraid. I kept it because I just loved the image I had created in my own head. When I’m listening to music that I love… all my cares vanish. That’s what I want for my fans.
Two songs that totally hit me are “The One” and “Don’t Think He’s Ever Coming Home”. What are the subject of this lyrics?
You hit the nail on the head with these two songs Ms. Miriam. “The One” is clearly about the love of my life and how to let him in on it. “Don’t Think He’s Ever Coming Home”, is a whole other story… this is an unhappy ending for a girl who tries to keep a man that truly wants to be with his intended. Some girls are just lying to themselves and this song spells it out for them in a most unforgiving light.
On “That All Depends” you sing with Joe Lynn Turner, how do you feel to realize such a dream? How was standing literally (and singing) beside him?
Ha… that’s funny… I’ve known Joe Lynn Turner and have sung with him for years and years… you’d think I’d be immune’d by now … but he’s dreamboat. I’ve always loved his voice and his way. I can’t say enough nice things about Joe Lynn Turner. It was great that he took the time to do this with me. Hopefully we will do another song together in the future.
In February 2009 you founded your label Her Majesty’s Music Room, why? I mean you haven’t no more faith in the labels?
Yep! That’s it in a nutshell. It’s a smaller system but much more satisfying. I mean really… working with a label can make you or break you… but working with my own label makes me happy.
The re-recorded release of “Trouble or Nothing” include 4 bonus tracks. If I got it right the songs are original from that session and why at the time weren’t included into the album?
No no no…. these songs were not from that time period. They were fresh newly written for the re release of “Trouble or Nothing”.
In the 80′s MTV was the leader in broadcasting and promoting AOR bands/singer like you now after 20 years or so we find that internet, with its connections of webzine and sites dedicated to music, is taking the lead. What do you miss of the 80′s from this point of view? And also how much do feel confortable this all this new technology? Have you already notice any pros and cons for your activity?
It’s great… no matter what this is how we evolved. For me it’s wonderful. I have much more exposure… sometime not the exposure that you want but as they say… all press is good for the artist… good or bad.
Watching your long, stellar career what it is missing is a full concert DVD. Any plans to record it?
Yes… we almost did it at Firefest. But I’m looking to do something that spans my career, not just a rock concert. This takes time but I can assure you not too much longer.
Finally your EU fans have the chance to meet you during your upcoming “Here Comes Trouble Tour” made of 10 dates running thru Germany, UK, Switzerland and Austria. Any project for a full European tour?
I am trying to put that together already. It was only the beginning to start this year after so many years of being missing from the touring circuit. It will take some more time to build up the audience awareness… let’s start here. Tell everyone to keep an eye on www.robinbeckrocks.com for coming tour dates in 2013 and Facebook as well.
After this EU tour, what are your next plans and if yes, are you involved in other musical related stuff?
I am in the middle of making a new album right now. We are also discussing new tour for 2013.
Olivia, your daughter is following your artistic footprints, would you mind present her and her songs?
She’s amazing and living her dream right now as an actress… but this girl has pipes and she can do anything she wants to. I would be proud to see her live her life and use her talents to make her own dreams a reality.
I’ve a just a little curiosity to fullfil, you know I’m from Italy and time ago you have recorded a duet with Pupo (that’s a real famous songwriter/singer here). Do you mind tell me how’s born this collaboration? To me, discovering this was such strange because Pupo doesn’t really represent the attitude of a rock star.
Well there’s not that much to tell… he reached out to me to do a duet with him and I did. It was fun… and Olivia was only 10 months old at the time so she was in my arms the whole time I was with Pupo singing.
Well, Robin, we’re at the end. I really thank you for your time. Please greet your fans and our readers as you like. Really thanks, Miriam.
Please come visit me at my website www.robinbeckrocks.com and on Facebook. I would love to see you there. If I’m in your area please come out and say hello. Watch my website for any details in the coming months. All my love.
Interview by Alessandra Cognetta
If you’ve never heard about them, this is a good chance to get to know more about Sabbath Assembly, a daring musical project that focuses its works on the hymns and texts of the Process Church (which we’re talking about right below). Their second album “Ye Are Gods” has just been released by Svart Recods and Ajna Offensive and we had the privilege to speak with mastermind Dave “Christian” Nuss and vocalist Jamie Myers about the new album and much, much more.
Hello and welcome to Femme Metal! It’s a pleasure to have you both here. Sabbath Assembly‘s upcoming album “Ye Are Gods” will be released in a few days, how are you and how do you feel during such an important phase?
Jamie: Terribly excited!
Dave: We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to share this music with the world.
How would you describe “Ye Are Gods” to someone who still hasn’t had the chance to listen to it?
Dave: “Ye Are Gods” presents hymns and liturgical text of the Process Church of the Final Judgment, a religious movement that began in the UK in the 1960′s. These are prayers and praise songs to the four major deities in Western religion: Christ, Satan, Lucifer and Jehovah. The album brings the listener through a cycle of spiritual death and resurrection.
There are a lot of guests on the album, with Genesis P-Orridge voicing the Sacrifist, Eyving Kang playing viola on “Declaration of Gods” and Imaad Wasif delivering a stunning performance on “We Give Our Lives”. How were these collaborations born?
Dave: The project seems to attract a wide range of occult thinkers and performers, and we welcome this opportunity to bring many voices to the recordings. Genesis came on board via Feral House Books, who supported our first album and subsequently recommended Gen to the project. Imaad was part of the very first incarnation of Sabbath Assembly and was recommended by the publisher of Timothy Wyllie’s book about the Process, to be discussed further below.
Jamie, let’s talk a bit about your involvement with the new album. What was your approach on Sabbath Assembly‘s music (previous works included), and how much did you participate in the creation process?
Jamie: When Dave first approached me about the project we had many discussions about which direction to take the new material in. He was extremely open to new ideas and graciously allowed me the room to explore the music in my own way. Especially when it came to reinterpreting the hymns from a vocal standpoint. It was important to me that I approach the melodies and harmonies with a level of creativity that satisfied me, while still maintaining the authenticity of the original hymns. Dave and I seemed to bounce ideas off of one another with a certain amount of ease and I was appreciative of the freedom to experiment with “Ye are Gods”. Nothing felt overly planned. There was good chemistry and the spontaneity just flowed.
It almost seems like you recorded the album as one whole piece, I admit I had to check a few times to see what track I was listening to. Was it in your plans to give the album this sense of, if I may say so, “unity” (integrity?), or was it a natural development of the writing process?
Dave: The album follows the structure and format of the Process’ “Sabbath Assembly” liturgy. Our task was to blend together text and hymn in such a way that a rock album was made, rather than simply a document of a Church recording. We tried this more documentarian approach at first, and the results fell flat. Our hope is that the story of the liturgy is well-conveyed through the final result of weaving prayers and hymns into and through each other. The credit for the narrative flow must go to the writers of the Mass.
What drew you towards the Process Church in the first place? How did you find out about it and why did it catch your interest to the point that you decided to base your musical production on it?
Dave: In Timothy Wyllie’s book “LOVE SEX FEAR DEATH”, there are several reproductions of sheet music in with the photos and propaganda of the Church. These immediately caught my eye, and in particular one called, “Christ and Satan Joined in Unity.” For some years I had been light-heartedly referring to myself as a ‘Christian Satanist’ — I just felt I could sympathize with both sides — and here was a hymn that was singing about this exact concept. It was a great moment of synchronicity; and thus a plan was hatched to bring these hymns into the world.
Your music is (please, correct me if I’m wrong) at present the only recorded version available of the hymns. Do you consider this a burden, a responsibility, or a pleasure, being able to spread Processean theology?
Dave: These are the only recordings of the hymns, and we do feel a great honor and responsibility in bringing them into the world. We’ve had many discussions in the arranging process about the question of authenticity. In the final analysis, Sabbath Assembly are interpreters, not historians. On the first album we printed the sheet music for two hymns in the cd booklet of the EU tour version, and on this album we print sheet music for 8 hymns, in both the LP and CD. Part of the intention behind this is to express that Sabbath Assembly does not hold any exclusive right on singing and recording this music; and others, should they feel inspired, can also participate in this movement. This is one reason we try to keep the focus of Sabbath Assembly as much as possible away from the personalities of the band; it’s the message that’s important, not the members.
The song “In The Time of Abaddon II” features words from the “Discourse of Abaddon” by Timothy I of Alexandria (Bishop of Alexandria between 378 and 384) and is the first track from “Ye Are Gods” to get a – very suggestive – music video. Why did you choose to implement part of this scroll and how is it linked to the Processean main theme of the album?
Dave: The first album has a song called “In the Time of Abaddon”, so in the wake of performing that tune we embarked on some research into the myth and story Abaddon, the Angel of Death, and discovered the “Discourse”. In terms of the album sequence, the song follows the hymn “Christ, You Bring the End”, for Abaddon is the creature you meet at your “End”; he frightens your corpse with his hideous appearance so that you willingly give your soul to God. “Abaddon II” is actually not a Processean hymn but one we wrote ourselves because we wanted a moment with a particularly dark feel, and honestly most of the Process hymns are fairly joyful. On a deeper level, the “Discourse” presents an ambiguous portrayal of Abaddon and his interaction with Jehovah that leaves the reader wondering who’s actually the “evil” one in the story. This moral complexity of what is “evil” and what is “good” also fits well with Processean ideas.
Jamie, what brought you to Sabbath Assembly? You performed with Hammers of Misfortune and Wolves in the Throne Room before joining forces with Dave, how would you describe these three phases of your career?
Jamie: I started out in music like many of my peers. I tagged along with my older sibling to a ton of metal shows and spent a lot of my youth going to DIY shows and playing in punk/hardcore bands. All the while, seeking out and listening to any interesting bit of music I could find. I would scour the dusty record bins at second hand stores for anything metal, punk, deathrock, even old country. It didn’t stop there either, I made it my mission to seek out every prog rock gem I could get my hands on. So when the offer to play bass and sing for Hammers was laid on the table I snatched it up. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play music that was influenced by some of my favorite musical genres. The level of musicianship that the members of Hammers had was unlike any other project I had been a part of. It really pushed me to better myself as a bass player and vocalist. My involvement with Wolves followed some shows that Hammers had played with them. I had a strong connection with the Weaver brothers and could tell that those guys were on the brink of something great. So when they asked me to work with them I happily obliged. In a round about way, performances with those two bands are what led to my involvement with Sabbath Assembly. Dave and I were familiar with each other’s music and had come from similar backgrounds so it wasn’t a stretch for the two of us to collaborate.
Timothy Wyllie (an original Process Church member) is featured on “Transcendence”, his voice delivering words from “Gods on War” by Process Church founder Robert DeGrimston. Why did you decide to seek him out and what where his thoughts on Sabbath Assembly?
Dave: For the album sequence we needed a moment following the apocalyptic “Abaddon” to bridge us into the redemptive tale that is the last track, “The Love of the Gods”. Timothy‘s homily about “the new beginning” that follows every death is absolutely inspiring. He has been a part of Sabbath Assembly since the beginning of the band, actually, as he and I and his book publisher, Jodi Willie, hatched the idea of the project together at a Book Expo in NYC that presented his book about the Process. Since then he has been a great support.
Have you ever received any particular or unusual critics or comments regarding your music?
Dave: We saw recently that a critic tore apart the last track on our album, “Love of the Gods” because of the positive vibes. It is important for people to know that while the Process did dress in black and preach about the Apocalypse, they also spoke with great joy of the inevitable reconciliation that awaits those who can unify good and evil in their lives — the Phoenix rising from the ashes. In some circles it’s more acceptable to sing about death, and in others it’s more acceptable to sing about life; Sabbath Assembly needs to do both.
Dave, I’ve read that playing drums and listening to rock music caused you some troubles in the past, to use an euphemism. It’s no secret that religion isn’t very fond of metal music. I’m Catholic and live in Italy, and I’d be redundant if I described the poor situation we’re in, “metal-wise”. Do you think there is a way to reach a sort of reconciliation, or maybe there’s already some form of mutual understanding and we just can’t see it (because having something to whine about is more entertaining)?
Dave: I really feel that what the Process teaches is a gateway for the future of Metal. We passed through the Satanic thrash of the 80s and the Church-burning black metal of the 90s. Karmically these steps needed to happen because of the history of the Christian Church and the repressive and destructive steps it took to control the darkness. Darkness of course can’t be controlled or repressed; it is always there, even if you can’t feel it for one moment it is waiting to resurface. So repressing is not the key as much as managing. In this regard, an explosive Satanic Weremacht may not be what the world needs today as much as a more balanced approach. I don’t mean that stylistically music needs to become as tonal and folky as Sabbath Assembly at all, I just mean that thematically bands could potentially work more with the idea of balance. While the metal scene seems to be accepting of bands like us, we can imagine that — MAYBE — in about 1000 years, the Catholic Church will begin to acknowledge the wisdom in this approach.
What can we expect from Sabbath Assembly in the future? Will you still draw inspirations from the Process Church or do you intend to explore new paths?
Dave: There are still many more hymns and texts to explore within the Process Church, so as of now the plan is to continue sharing the depths of their theology as it is revealed to us over time.
That’s it! Thank you both for taking the time to answer our questions. This is the “write whatever you want” space, so feel free to leave a message to fans and readers. We hope to see you soon on the road!
Dave & Jamie: Yes – see you on tour in Spring 2013!
Interview by Ed MacLaren
German folk-metal septet, Lyriel, have taken a giant musical leap forward with its latest album “Leverage”. Fully embracing its inspirations and influences, Lyriel have crafted a singular listening experience that will embrace you with its soft gothic string arrangements while bludgeoning you with its pounding riffage. Vocalist Jessica Thierjung took some time to talk to Femme Metal Webzine about the new album and what lies at the core of Lyriel’s sound.
Welcome Jessica! Thanks for joining Femme Metal Webzine for this interview! Congratulations on the release of “Leverage”? It sounds like your strongest album yet.
Hi! Thank you and yes; I am very, very excited about this release! “Leverage” means a lot to us. We are very proud and satisfied with it.
“Leverage” is a powerful and melodic album for sure – heavy and incandescent. The band obviously has high expectations for it.
Yes, we have. It was our aim that the production and songs should surpass the previous productions this time. We wanted the songs to be straighter than ever before and really grab the listener.
There are a lot of different styles battling for control on “Leverage” to great effect. Do you spend a lot of time experimenting with unorthodox arrangements and sounds?
To a certain extent! We’ve tried lots of sounds to make sure that the recordings sounded “clean” this time. We were much more meticulous than on the previous albums. Several times, we’ve re-arranged, re-recorded or made new vocal recordings in order to be satisfied with the end result!
“Leverage” seems most successful when it fully integrates the folk and metal styles. How do you find a balance within songs like “Parting” and “Aus Der Tiefe”, or is the hybrid a natural sound of the band?
This hybrid is what Lyriel is all about and it’s what defines this band. The Lyriel – style has grown quite gradually… Every band member has musical experiences that have grown from different kinds of music, so it’s a constantly evolving process!
“Leverage” brings the heaviness out more so than your previous efforts. How would you describe the evolution of Lyriel’s sound from “Paranoid Circus” to “Leverage”?
It’s really the first time that we’ve had enough time to really refine our songs properly, I feel. Pleq from the Panic Room in Sweden mixed the songs and left a real trademark stamp on them! His clear and powerful mixes were exactly what we’d been looking for since the beginning and now I think we’ll progress more and more.
Tracks like “The Road Not Taken” showcase the melodic, classical side of the band as well as its command of mighty riffage. Is that the sweet spot where Lyriel finds itself most comfortable and able to showcase its range?
Absolutely! Without a song like this, this really wouldn’t be a Lyriel album because this is one part of our main musical bandwidth. We are lucky to have four melodic instruments (main vocal, second vocal, violin and cello), all working together, which means that we have so many options to use. And, we really like ballads because we can wallow in all the different melodies. We really love performing songs like this; whilst, of course, loving the harder side to our material as well.
With so many members, how do you combine the acoustic and the electric together in a way that lets everyone showcase their instruments?
It’s not that simple but we’re always striving to find ways to do it. We decided early on, to give more space to the acoustic instruments and reduce the amount of synthetic sounds on “Leverage”. Whilst we were arranging the songs, we were always watching to make sure every instrument or voice will be used to its upper-most; and I think it worked out great!
What is the composition process like for Lyriel? Do you compose acoustically and then arrange the parts for the heavier instruments?
No, not as such… Olli (Thierjung – guitar) writes the basic ideas on the PC beginning with the verse and chorus which just contains one main melody, bass and a harmony. Then the rhythm will be worked out and the arranging really begins. After that, the songs will be devised and worked through by the whole band before we go into the studio.
Lyriel plays to a lot of different crowds from goth to medieval; fantasy to straight ahead metal fans. What’s the secret to your crossover appeal? Is it image, attitude, the music or all of the above?
Well, we actually feel very at home in all of these scenes, because our different band members all have very different roots. This puts us probably somewhere in between. And it’s supposedly why different kinds of people at every age like our music. It’s really fantastic to see the diversity of our fans at concerts or on the Internet!! It gives us an unrivalled opportunity to play different types of events, festivals, and concerts, with no restrictions!
What is the concept behind Lyriel? What are the essential elements of the band’s identity? The folk metal genre is brimming with high-caliber bands. What do you and Lyriel do to differentiate yourselves from these other bands?
Our sound concept really doesn’t fit into any scheme, and I think that makes a huge difference. We like to play different styles, but without losing the original Lyriel style itself – however difficult that is to define. I always pick out the cello and violin as our essential elements and we are always anxious to achieve new levels of sound and style using all the parts equally.(Laughs)It’s a really exciting and creative time for the band at the moment. Partially, our music is inspired by other musicians in this scene, of course… But we’re constantly trying to develop our own kind of music and style as well. So far, we’re pretty happy with everything but we’re still curious as to what comes next? Maybe that’s what’s exiting about us? We are not finished yet, and there is much more to come!
You sing two tracks in German on “Leverage”. Is it important to represent your German roots instead of performing exclusively in English?
Yes it is, absolutely. We are German, so why not sing in German? Those songs just cry out for it! Then again, performing exclusively in German is not an option for us either. I personally love to sing in English. Linda (Laukamp – cello) writes the lyrics in English rather than in German because English has its own lovely way of transforming words into lyrics.
Tracks like “Looking for Love” and “Black Clouds” have one foot firmly in pop territory and the other in the rock/metal vein. Have you ever thought about moving in a more pop direction and make a run at international top 40 successes?
Well from a young age I have always had a love for a bit more rock/metal vibe on things and I just don’t think I can move on from that just for the sake of being a top 40 success. (Laughs) Don’t get me wrong – I would love to have a song on top 40 but I believe in sticking with what I like might get the same result. I have to say as a live performer I love having the rock/metal feel.
You’ve said before that you prefer to sing live than record in the studio. Your vocals on “Leverage” can be gentle and sweet but will instantly leap in power levels. How do approach your vocals in the studio to record that live sound?
I try to feel the ‘magic’ and the ‘intent’ of each song. When we are recording, we often discuss the meaning of the lyrics and by this, try to figure out how to use my voice to cause a certain mood. It was a constant dialogue between me and Tim (who recorded the album) so as to make the very best out of every song and I think it has worked really well!
Does performing your songs live bring out different elements of the songs than on the album?
Yeah, in a way it does because seeing someone preform live can be a stronger experience then an album – it’s like a story being told. The songs are being influenced by the people playing the songs and you can give it that little extra.
Maybe a live album is in order to capture that vocal power and the musical diversity of the band?
Yes, a live album would be great! Let’s hope that we can realize this very soon?
With “Leverage”, Lyriel now has a pretty large pool of songs to play live. What can fans expect from Lyriel when they come to see you live this year?
The songs from “Leverage” of course, and a pretty diverse set composed of stuff from our other albums too. A few band members will be new for some fans, so it will be wonderful to see the reaction.
Are you going to play any all-acoustic shows? Your music would have just as much impact with or without the amps.
We’d definitely like to play all-acoustic shows in the near future, but nothing is determined just yet. We did a few all-acoustic shows in the past and we really loved them. The on-stage feeling is very different from what we are used to, but you are right, our songs work either way. And some songs actually work even a bit better in my opinion, because cello and violin are more evident and the melodies can really fly!
Famous last words?
Robert Frost’s quote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.”
Interview by Ed Mac Laren
Portugal’s Factory of Dreams make it clear from the first molar-rattling power chord that they’re ready to make your head explode with their incredible new concept album “Melotronical”. Musically and vocally epic in every way, it’s a 60-minute sensory assault that leaves you exhausted wondering what the hell just happened – just as you’re reaching for the play button again. Easily one of the strongest albums of the year so far, vocalist Jessica Lehto and composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Hugo Flores – seriously, what can’t this guy do – took some time to talk to Femme Metal about the concept of “Melotronical”, what makes their ongoing collaboration work so well and coming into their own as a top-tier band.
“Melotronical” is one of those albums that you can hardly believe when you hear it for the first time. You’ve beefed up the sound but lost none of your instrumental intricacies and trademark atmospherics. Were you as amazed at the result as the fans were?
Hugo: Yeah, the idea was to impress the audience from the very first track “Enter Nucleon” with an explosive and original sound. The initial synth from “Enter Nucleon” is very aggressive and then with the soaring guitars and blown up drums it’s all settled in for the ride! You know, the story and concept demanded a much more aggressive approach this time, so in the end the sound would really have to be much more powerful. I wasn’t that much surprised simply because I followed the album’s evolution every day, from composing to mixing. But I must admit I was indeed surprised after seeing the whole package and listening to the mastered version. I wanted to convey into music the idea of Tronic – or mechanical motion. “Melotronical” combines the atmospherics and simplicity of “Poles” with the progressiveness of “A Strange Utopia” and adds edge and vivacity to the sound. I’m very proud of “Melotronical”. I think we’ve really made our best album this far.
Jessica: Hugo definitely is a very skilled songwriter and on this third Factory of Dreams album the tracks do feel a bit different compared to earlier releases. The tracks are a bit heavier, the sound might be a bit richer. I was definitely impressed when hearing these tracks for the first time.
You’ve raised the bar for yourselves on this album – and everyone else for that matter. Musically and vocally this album is killer from beginning to end. When did you realize that you had something special on your hands?
Jessica: To be honest I don’t really reflect about my vocals as something special. I just do a job that is as good as possible at that moment, and if others find it special I’m very happy to hear that. (Smiles) As for Hugo’s song writing I have always found it special and it has kept growing with each release, which is very lovely indeed.
Hugo: Jessica is just too humble, I must say that her voice is indeed very special and the album is somehow a unique combination of her vocals with my music. I actually started realizing that it was special once I had my compositions laid down and the concept and lyrics written. And that was even more evident once “Whispering Eyes”, the main single, was taking shape with the recorded vocals. Very powerful music, appealing, yet quite progressive in its own way. But it’s also like Jessica mentions, I do what comes to mind and shape the sound according to that. Maybe for a fourth album I might pursue this line of songwriting, because “Melotronical” is definitely asking for a follow-up album.
What was the conceptual genesis of “Melotronical”? Was there a sudden epiphany or had the ideas been floating around for a while in the backs of your heads?
Hugo: It started because I wanted to play with a ‘robotic’ sound and that kind of material. So, I began writing and thinking about an album title that could represent a whole nature vs. mechanic feel. In the end, what came to mind, was a symbiosis between machine, organic and music. “Melotronical” is actually melody combined with mechanical motion as I mentioned. It was quite sudden, yes; I don’t recall having this concept going around for many times in my mind. However, the robot vs. human issue was present. I enjoy many films of that kind, such as A.I and books like Isaac Asimov’s. Also, my Project Creation trilogy is based around a mechanical dragonfly. So, it was always very present. The album was also a chance to revive two older songs that I had composed a long time ago. One was “Something Calling Me”. The first version was done in 2000 and I was the lead singer on that track. The second was part of “Protonic Stream”, much much older; I figure I was like 15 when I composed it on my dear old commodore Amiga, can you believe it?
Given the complexity and density of this music – and the fact you play all the instruments yourself – where do you start, Hugo? What was your process for building up the tracks?
Hugo: The process hasn’t changed much from my approach since early this decade. But I’ve learned new ways to mix and produce music. As far as the process and how everything begins? Well, it depends. It may be from a title or from an idea for a story, or even simply by just playing around with the synths and trying out melodies and sounds. Once I find a melody that pleases me, I start developing that melody, changing it and making it evolve. Usually I just let my thoughts and ideas go and when I run out of ideas I stop since that means that the track is complete. I don’t like to ‘force’ ideas or to make a track longer once ideas are unnatural. After that, I begin recording the guitars, the bass and later vocals. I also lay down my drums along with the synths and orchestrations, before the actual guitar recordings. Then it’s mixing time. Very time consuming but still pretty cool and creative. As far as mastering is concerned, I prefer to leave that to a mastering engineer, and ”Melotronical” had a brilliant mastering process done by Mr. Chris Brown, who worked on so many of my albums and several others from Progrock Records as well.
Hugo, your musical influences are far ranging but there seems to be a little extra nod to 1970s electronic music on “Melotronical”. Were you listening to any Vangelis or Jean-Michel Jarre while composing the album?
Hugo: “Back to Sleep” or “Protonic Stream” are good examples of how I enjoy a powerful synth sound. It’s all about an epic feel to the music, a wide and full of body approach to sound. Even though I don’t listen too often now to Vangelis, he has been quite an influence. I’ve grown up listening to synth based music. I’m grateful to that because synths enable me to do whatever pleases me. Nowadays it’s simply mind-blowing to see the possibilities, and you can have several orchestras right at your hand, ready to play at your command 24 hours a day. How’s that for a musician, huh? (Laughs)
Jessica, you dug deep and provided the album with a tour de force vocal performance, soaring, swirling and morphing from one song to the next. How did you prepare for recording the vocals for “Melotronical”?
Jessica: Thanks! (Smiles) I did not really prepare much before recording. Most of the time, when recording stuff for a new track, I listen to the track once or twice before I start working on it. Other times I just feel very spontaneous and start working right away, without listening to the track at first. It really depends on how inspired I feel. Sometimes I have tons of ideas at once when hearing the intro and other times I need to feel the atmosphere of the track a bit more. However, it was really hard work for me this time around. My father unexpectedly passed away in December 2009 and by the time I started recording for ”Melotronical” things were still really difficult to deal with. I lacked inspiration and motivation and I had to dig real deep to come up with most of the vocal lines I wrote. I’m not yet sure about my work in some of the tracks, but on the other hand I never am, I’m always hard on myself and I’m never fully pleased with what I do. I just think I did the best I could do at that time and then it’s okay.
Hugo: Let me add that I fully agree. Jessica‘s work on ”Melotronical” couldn’t be better, period. All the other albums are great, but this time, I don’t know, it was perfect. Maybe the fact that she was in a very emotional state may have helped. Or maybe the fact that she thought she would perform worse, Jess consciously lifted her spirit and she told herself to do that extra effort, thus surpassing what would have been a great performance from the start. Kudos to her!
You’ve really come into your own vocally on this album, Jessica. In our last interview for “A Strange Utopia” we talked a bit about vocal comparisons but on “Melotronical” it’s all Jessica Lehto! Your voice has become as individually identifiable as your influences Anneke, Sharon and Tarja.
Jessica: Thanks a lot! That’s just about the nicest thing a vocalist can hear! Of course influences will always be there, but as long as you’re not just a pale copy of them that’s nice.
Hugo got some great vocals down on the album as well and the two of you complemented each other very well. Thanks for letting Hugo record some vocal parts this time, Jessica!
Jessica: Well he’s free to do that at any time for sure! (Laughs) And I’m glad he did this time around, his voice fits great with the tracks and he’s really a skilled singer too, among so many other skills he has.
Hugo:Yes, I’m a good juggler too, and hamster tamer, as long as they’re friendly, and tamable. I already lost a finger due to one of those little things…damn hamster.He was delicious though… Jessica told me several times, “Oh no, you’ll ruin the whole thing!” but I said, “Come on please lemme do it, lemme do them vocals, I can’t just do the music, you’re the one you gets noticed and I’m an egocentric narcissist freak, please please!” and she was kind enough to grant me this little thing here.
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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