Interview by Tony Cannella
From Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the symphonic power metal band Celestial Ruin formed in 2011. In 2013 the band released their debut album “The Awakening” and now the band returns with a brand-new EP, “Pandora”. For anybody who love European symphonic metal, than I would highly recommend Celestial Ruin. For “Pandora” the band worked with producer Joost van den Broek to create powerful piece of work that should – hopefully – get the band introduced to some new fans. Recently, lead vocalist was kind enough to talk to Femme Metal. Here is what she had to say…
Hello Larissa. How are you?
Not too bad. Just trying to relax and enjoy what’s left of my evening.
I want to start out talking about your new EP, “Pandora”, which comes out soon. What can we expect when we buy it?
I would definitely say for those who have listened to us before, you’re in for a huge transformation, from the first album, “The Awakening”. Just the amount of time, effort and energy that has gone into the new EP; it is very different from our first album. For those who have not heard our music before, for those who like symphonic, symphonic hard rock, even (bands like) Halestorm and In This Moment, you’re definitely going to find that heaviness in the album, a lot more so than the first. It has very thick intricate layers of orchestra and some more catchy hooks that the first album had.
I really love the EP. I would say my favorite song is “Nevermore”.
I really love the single, “Sense of Exile” as well. What are the lyrics to that song written about?
“Sense of Exile” has definitely one of the darker themes going through it. The concept for the song was about a couple, and the male of the couple – the boyfriend – was incredibly depressed, and he couldn’t bear to live anymore so he asked his girlfriend to help him commit suicide, she grudgingly accepts. Now that he has passed on, he’s kind of stuck in purgatory, so there are demons now pursuing him, and she can still see him and the demons are tormenting her. It’s one of the more dark themed songs that I wrote for this one.
Would you say that “Pandora” is a dark record?
I would probably say this album is a bit darker. “Pandora” was the name I came up with for the album, based on Pandora’s Box obviously. It was about opening up and unleashing destruction, chaos and all of these different troubles into the world. Most of the songs are about something along that line, whether it is negative emotions – like “No Quarter” is about going into battle. It kind of has all of these different shades of a darker theme. There is not too much happy songs on this album. (laughs)
I saw the lyric video for “Sense of Exile”. Are there any plans to do a video for any of the songs on “Pandora”?
We’ve been discussing that recently. There was always a plan to do a music video for one of the songs. Originally, we had thought it would be “Firestorm”, but now with the feedback we’re getting with the album we’re finding “Nevermore” seems to be reaching a lot of people and becoming a very strong song from the album. We have been discussing it; we just haven’t finalized it 100 % whether or not it is actually going to happen yet.
It has been four years since your debut album “The Awakening”. Why the long gap between releases?
For us, we had to make sure that the music we were releasing was the best possible music that we could write. We worked with (producer) Joost van den Broek on this one; we have Ruben Wijka from ReVamp on keys. We went all out for this album. Sometimes when you’re trying to make something, it can take longer than you or your fans actually want.
How did you get Joost van den Broek to produce?
To be honest with you, my drummer is the one who told me that him and Joost had been in contact and that Joost had heard out first album and him being kind of neck-deep in the symphonic metal scene over in Europe. He liked our sound, but he also felt that we were very different from anything else that was happening in Europe, so he took an interest in us because we were different. Obviously right now, he is finishing up the new Epica album, he just finished another album with Xandria, and he used to play keys for After Forever. He is very well connected and he knows this genre back-to-front, front-to-back. Once we had a few conversations with him, he was fully on board, and we started the process of doing some fundraising campaigns. We did a few shows where all of the money went towards pretty much flying Joost over here from the Netherlands to do this album with us.
In addition to working with Joost, can you talk a little about the writing and recording process for “Pandora“?
We’ve always written our songs the same way, it is a collaborative effort. No one will ever just sit home by themselves and write a complete song, or even a structure of a song. What usually happens is we’ll just be all together, we’ll have an idea for a riff, and if I feel some kind of attachment to it – that is very, very important to me that whatever we start working on that I feel some kind of emotional connection to music – and we’ll just start flushing out ideas from there. With the recording process for this, it was a little different from anything we as Celestial Ruin had done before, because obviously we have never flown anyone in, we never worked with a producer that had worked strictly with this genre. When Joost came over, we spent pretty much the entire night, well into the wee hours of the morning doing pre-production, tweaking things on the songs. Before he even got here, he had been sending notes to us on production, on areas of the songs that he felt that should be flushed out or areas that could use some more tweaking, so we spent hours just trying to get these ideas together that he was hoping that we had. When he finally came here, it was non-stop prep work. When we went into the studio, they were very long days; we were there 12-14 hours a day from early in the morning until the studio basically kicked us out at the end of the night (laughs). Joost is very demanding. He has a feeling of what you’re capable of and he will push you beyond that to get the best possible performance that he can out of you. He’s tough, but at the end everyone was just so grateful because he has such a huge hand in how we were able to push ourselves way beyond what we thought we could actually do.
I have to say that I am a big fan of the new album, so it was obviously well worth it to work with Joost.
Definitely, he was worth it. We know the next time we’re going to be starting to write new music again soon. The next album we’re going to want to work with him again. It took a while to get everything all together. “Murder of Crows” was a two-year process to get it from what it was to what you now hear on the album; same with “No Quarter”, that one was developed over a two year process as well. The only two songs that were specifically written for this album were “Nevermore” and “Firestorm”.
Are you already planning another full-length?
I have stacks-upon-stacks of lyrics that I have started working on for a new album, but have we actually sat down and started writing new music? Not yet, but the plan is very soon to start doing that. We have had the CD release party on May 21st, and we have kind of putting all of our focus into making this show something that our local fans have not seen before, so all of the effort has been going into that, and making sure the album gets out there. We definitely want to sit down and start writing some new stuff soon, for sure. We were on tour from September to December and I know everybody was already starting to get the itch to write new music.
Do you have plans to tour extensively in support of this EP?
We are working right now to plan what we are going to be doing tour wise for this album. Nothing is set in stone just yet, the band definitely wants to. It’s just a matter of getting everything all lined up properly. We knew we were going to plan to go across Canada again. It depends on where all the dates line up. All your financial ducks have to be in a row, too. It has to be something that is going to maximize the opportunity for us, and get the most people possible to see and hear this music. We’ve been focusing a lot more on getting some opening slots for larger headlining bands.
As a singer, who are some artists that you look to as an influence?
Obviously, my first influence has come from Floor Jansen, lead singer for Nightwish. Her vocal range and her vocal ability is just unbelievable. This woman can belt. She can sing operatic and she can growl, which you hear on “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, their latest album. She’s definitely a huge role model because she shows the versatility that a singer in this genre really needs to have. I love her. Actually, a new influence has been Maria Brink from In This Moment. “Nevermore” was actually inspired by her and In This Moment’s new album. Therefore, she’s a huge influence. From the very beginning, I’ve always been a huge fan of Lady Gaga, I love Pink, Adam Lambert, I have kind of a wide range of artists that I like. It depends on how I am feeling and what the song is about.
You have been involved in musical theater. Is that something that you would like to continue to do?
Definitely. My focus obviously right now is one hundred percent on Celestial Ruin, but before I joined Adam and started building this project from the ground up that’s all I did was musical theater. It is definitely a passion of mine. I feel it has allowed me to have a stronger vocal range, than just singing in one octave. It definitely helps with our style of music, because we’re more of a dramatic style anyways, so musical theater is always helpful. In the future, I would love to continue doing some more musicals, but right now, the focus will be one hundred per cent on CR.
Going back to the beginning of Celestial Ruin. Could you talk a little about how the band first got together?
The original concept of the band and band name came from Adam, our drummer. He had been thinking about starting a female fronted symphonic metal band for about three years. He told me he couldn’t find the right vocalist. I had been singing at a local karaoke bar in Vancouver; I was doing Tony and Tina’s wedding at the time and we would go there and sing, and a buddy of mine who was running karaoke night asked if I would mind being filmed, to help him advertise his karaoke night and I’m like, “sure go ahead”. A friend of Adam’s in Calgary who knew he was looking for a singer, and he sent the video to him apparently saw the video. They arranged a contact between Adam and I – we met at the karaoke bar – I sang a couple of songs and I guess I was the right fit because at the end of the night he asked if I would be interested in joining the project, so I said yes. We started looking for our guitars and keys from the there. Not too long after we found Nathan, then we went through quite a few guitar players and we went through one other bass player, and then we found Mike, so Mike is our current bass player. We’ve been a band – it will be six years this August – and he’s been with us for five out of the six years. We have our solid guitar player, Eriz, and he’s been with us for the past two years. Most of the other transitions in finding the other band members – it was kind of a trial and error thing, Who is inspired by the same things we are, what is their endgame for wanting to be a part of Celestial Ruin. We are like a family. I think Mike says it best, “we spend more time together, than we do with our own families”. We’re a pretty tight unit now that we have been through so much together as a group.
We’ve come to the final question, Larissa. Thank you so much for doing this interview. Femme Metal really loves the new EP, and we wish you the best of luck in the future. In closing, do you have any final words for your fans to wrap this up?
I would just like to say for those of you have been listening to us since “The Awakening”, thank you, thank you so much. It’s a tough business especially when you’re trying to do something that is not common here in North America. Thanks for sticking with us. We really hope that you feel the transition between “The Awakening” and “Pandora”. And for those new fans out there, I’m so glad you found us, and keep your eye on us because we will never stop pushing or trying to create amazing, beautiful, visual music for you guys. We’ll always guarantee you an amazing show, and we always keep striving to give you something that makes you walk away going, “wow, I have not seen or heard anything like that before”. Thank you guys so much for listening, and keep following us on Facebook and our website. I promise we will not disappoint.