Interview by Si Smith
It was clear from their early days that Benighted Soul were no average French symphonic metal band. From the Greek lettering on their 2005 bonus DVD demo “Catharsis” to their themes of mythology and history, Benighted Soul trod a unique path among the female fronted bands of the time. With their 2008 EP “Anesidora” we were introduced to a character who would now become the central focus of the band’s repertoire. I spoke to vocalist Geraldine Gadaut to discover more about this mysterious character…..First, may I welcome you to Femme Metal and thank you for talking to us. Also congratulations to Jeyms and we hope that little Eleonore is doing well and is in good health.
Thank you very much, it’s my pleasure ! Little Eleonore is fine. She’s beautiful. She’s a very calm and quiet baby.
Beginning in around 2002, that is quite a long life for any band already! How did you guys come up with the theme and style of the band? It’s been a long way ! In the early days of the band, we had no real intention of becoming professional musicians. We just wanted to make a few gigs and have fun ! We did covers of Nightwish or After Forever and our own compositions were naturally influenced by these bands. The line-up changed in 2006 : our goals and aims changed too. We felt Benighted Soul could bring something to the metal scene but we had a lot of work to do. We had to find our own style. We released a first EP, “Anesidora”, in 2008. We see it as a first step towards finding our way through music. This is the reason why we released an EP rather than an album. Our style was not fully grown at this time. With “Start from Scratch”, we manage to make a mix between rock, progressive and symphonic metal. But this is not something absolutely still. Our style will keep evolving with the next album.
For those who don’t know, would you like to tell our readers a little about Anesidora, and where she comes from? When recording the EP “Anesidora”, we were thinking about the artwork and which ideas it should convey. The lyrics were about childhood, innocence, but there was also this song, “Anesidora”, about Pandora’s box. The artists who were working on the artwork came to us with the idea of a little doll, symbolizing childhood and its disappointments, leaned against a chest that can be either a simple toy box or pandora’s box. This little doll with red hair and wings on her back immediately won our hearts. She took the name of the character Anesidora and became sort of a mascot for the band. The fans definitely love her ! So we decided that she would be the main character of our first album.
The new album brings Anesidora right up to date as she progresses through her life in this world. How much of Anesidora do you see in yourself? After all you act her role very convincingly! I could say she’s like a part of myself that would have come out of me and made its own way. So, she’s not really me and I’m not really her. She’s more of a symbol. But yes, just like her, I hated growing up. I found it difficult. So I use my own experience to describe what Anesidora must face. But she doesn’t react like I would. She’s a bit more rebellious, I think I see from your performance video reports that you take your singing very seriously, yet in between takes you are also a happy person with a great sense of humour. How do you reconcile these two “sides” of yourself? Do you adopt a different persona when you perform the tracks live or record? If so, who is the “real” Geraldine?…… I think these two sides are part of me. But of course, I’m not quite the same on stage and in everyday life. On stage and even in studio, there’s a big part of acting that requires attention, that’s why I can look very serious. I think acting is about deepening something that’s already in you, a part of you that you don’t necessarily show in everyday life. If I acted in normal life like I do on stage, I guess people would think I’m really crazy…
The little doll figure appears on your album covers and also in your videos. Who originally came up with the little doll characterisation? Will the doll grow up as Anesidora does? As I said earlier, we were looking for a symbol of innocence, of childhood…That’s how we adopted this little rag doll. But with “Start from Scratch”, we wanted her to change, to evolve. We asked Eliran Kantor, who designed the artwork, to give her a makeover. He changed her into a doll that looks more like a little girl. We like this idea of Anesidora evolving, maybe growing, album after album. The album is rich in orchestration and also involves a 20-person choir. How different was it having to work with all these different people? (or did you not have anything to do with them in the recording process….) The recording of the choir was amazing. We had to find 20 people motivated enough to rehearse twice a week during 3 months. It didn’t seem easy. But we found them and it was incredible to see how much these people got involved in the project. They were all very different : music students, family members, friends… But they all saw how important this was. Above all things, we really, really had fun together !
It is clear from a brief listen that despite the “symphonic” tag, there is no denying that there are some heavy riffs lurking in the mix there (for example at the beginning of “Wrong Reflection”)! What are your influences as a singer and are there any specific bands that inspire you?We don’t see Benighted Soul only as a symphonic metal band anymore. As you said, there are other aspects in our music : rock, progressive metal, even pop music ! As a singer, my influences changed. When I start singing, I was a big fan of Tarja Turunen and Floor Jansen although they are really different singers. I’m still fond of their works today but I have also new influences : Pain of Salvation, Ram-Zet… bands that are not inevitably considered as “symphonic metal”. Although this album is more rooted in the “real” world, there are still traces of the old Greek mythological themes (eg the last song “No Warning Signs” speaks of the Fates and the thread of life they weave and cut). Will we see more from the Greek themes in the future, or do you think that with this album the band has really “turned a corner” into a new direction? As you said, the band has really turned a corner. On our old demo “Catharsis”, our music was really rooted in epic metal. The way I sang was very lyrical. The mythological themes suited very well then. But “Start from Scratch” brought more rock in our music and I felt the need to write something more real, maybe more personal and stop hiding behind mythological character. It doesn’t mean there won’t be hints about mythology anymore. I like this subject and I think it suits very well the choir’s parts.
You guys have really gone to town promoting this new album. 15 reviews and 7 interviews just in February! How has the reception of the new album been in general? It would seem quite positive, achieving such scores as 5/5, 18/20 and 8.5/10! First place in the metal charts by FNAC! We worked a lot on this album. So of course, we were hoping it would be well received by people and reviewers. But the reception exceeds what we were expecting. What was amazing is that reviewers really understood our music, they understood the sense of our work. There was no gap between what we had intended to do and what was perceived. Even more exciting for you, you went on tour supporting Tarja Turunen on the “What Lies Beneath” tour in 2010! What was that like? Have you any secret stories to tell for us? This was really exciting for me considering that in 2001, I decided to take singing lessons when I first heard Tarja sing on “Dead Boy’s Poem”. So this tour was amazing for two reasons : 1 – Being in a band supporting one of my favorite singer ; 2 – The audience ! It was incredible ! We were very happy to meet people who like our music in these countries. Any secret story ? An interesting music video was shot by Pat from Kells in the tour bus but I can’t tell if you’ll get the chance to see it one day ! You begin your “Start from Scratch” tour soon. What can fans expect from this tour? Any surprises in the live gigs? Will Anesidora herself make an appearance? As its name suggests, we will mainly perform song from the album “Start from Scratch” but there will be a few surprises for people who know the older songs. Anesidora will follow us on tour, of course !
Most of your appearances are in France. Has your music travelled well across the borders? Do you get any messages from far-off fans? (this one [me] is in the UK, which is not so far…). As we live in France, it was important for us to meet our fans in our own country. That’s why most of our gigs takes place there. However, our music has already travelled. We have fans in Italy since we’ve performed there with Tarja on tour. But on social networks, we receive messages from South America, United States, Netherlands, Greece, Hungary…In the future, we really would like to be more active on the European scene. I think that when the album is over, the listener has been taken through a large range of emotions from our little doll-girl. How do you guys relax after shows or recording sessions? It must be quite draining for you!!
It’s a 70 minutes- album and yes, I think when it’s over, the listener must be a little bit lost ! When we perform the songs live, it’s always very intense. But when we leave the stage, there’s always lots of things to do and we don’t have the opportunity to relax until late in the night ! First, we like to meet our fans after the show so we always take the time to speak with everyone who wants to. Then, we have to pack up everything, instruments, hardware, clothes… When all is over, we can get in the car and, at last, sit down ! But there’s always lots of things to talk about : how was the show, the audience, who did the wrong note during one or other song…Once in the car, we’re still in the live energy, in the effervescence. But after an hour or so, everyone begin to relax and fall asleep, exhausted ! Finally, a great big thank you from all at Femme Metal for talking to us and we wish Anesidora a full and exciting time as she tours the country!! Any final message for the readers? Thank you for your interest, thank you for your support !