Interview by Ed MacLaren
After numerous delays, Norway’s Ancestral Legacy has just released an exceptional new album of doomy black metal with “Nightmare Diaries”. But before the album was released the band experienced a nightmare for its own diary – the departure of longtime vocalist Elin Anita Omholt. While losing a vocalist might be a death knell for some bands, Ancestral Legacy are set to continue their own legacy with an excellent new vocalist in Mexican Isadora Cortina. Ancestral Legacy fans get the best of both worlds – they can listen to Elin on the CD and get to watch live as Isadora grows into her new band. Femme Metal got a chance to spend some time with Isadora and get her views on Mexican assimilation techniques for living in Norway, living the dream, and the importance of bringing your own shoes.
So how does a nice young woman from Mexico hook up with a bunch of long haired Norseman in a metal band?
I first met Eddie through MySpace, he added me as an Ancestral Legacy friend, I left a comment on the music and after some chatting we became friends. Like a year later he told me about a song he wrote and asked me if I was interested in working on it and of course I was – it’s the song called “Atrapada en Pesadillas” from the EP. After the band got to hear the song, I met Christopher the drummer, we talked on MSN and things happened so I traveled to Norway for a month to visit him. While I was there Eddie told me they had not rehearsed in a while because of Elin‘s (former vocalist Elin Anita Omholt) accident, he was wondering if I could rehearse with them. After some months, Elin decided to quit and I was getting my visa to move to Norway and marry Christopher, it was kinda natural for them to ask me to join and it was like a dream come true to me. Now I live in Norway with the man of my dreams and play in the kind of band I always wanted to.
What was it about the band’s music that attracted you to it? Were you a fan of Ancestral Legacy before you joined the band?
The first thing that attracted me was a song on their MySpace called “Murdered by Reality” I really love the ending of the song and how Elin sings it, I had it on my mind for weeks. After I worked with the song in Spanish, I got to hear “Out of the Dark and into the Night” from the new album and I could listen how mature and incredible the new material was. It was very mature compared to their older material and I think it’s a very different sound from other metal bands with female vocals. I was not the kind of fan that screams and flash boobs when she meets one of the guys, I was more admiring how good musicians these guys are and how good quality songs they can create.
What’s your musical background? Have you performed in any other bands?
Well, I had been most of my life a shower singer, then at 15-years-old I joined the concert choir of my school. My teachers were singers from the Mexican Military so it was a good way to start and of course I believed in myself as a singer. After three months of rehearsing two hours, five days a week they picked me as soloist. We had concerts out of Mexico City and we also sang for the President once. I had always been into gothic and metal stuff since my brother listened to Iron Maiden and my cousin to Metallica since I was a kid. Then I discovered that metal was also for girls by listening to After Forever, Nightwish and especially Tristania. My life changed and I knew that metal was what I wanted to sing. I tried to join some bands but my mom would not let me do it, so the only band I could join was my brother’s cover band. We were playing four days a week in bars and it became a good way to get some money and train myself onstage. Anyway, I was getting frustrated that metal was not part of what the owners of bars let bands play. The good thing is that I learned to sing different styles; VERY pop things to more hard rock voices and that help me to get out of my head that the only way I could sing was the military-opera style I learned. In that period I did some presentations on TV, universities and musical contests. In 2008, I recorded two songs with the gothic German band Beyond the Void and also the song with Ancestral Legacy. Those experiences gave me a lot to learn on the studio and were very important to me. From then on my life completely changed so I went from singing metal in my room in front of the mirror to play original songs with the guys onstage.
How have things gone so far? Is everyone getting along? Is the band treating you well?
From the beginning they have been very nice and warm (that Nordic people is cold is not true at all). I was not sure what they were thinking of me until we did a three song-concert and they got really drunk, so they told me that they were really happy to have me on board. In the beginning they were hoping that my voice was not that soft. They wanted me to sing more powerful like Elin did because my voice can easily get lost within this hard music. But after rehearsing a lot with them – and in a way get used to the music without Elin‘s vocals – I got better and in the latest concerts they were telling me that I have improved a lot.
Replacing any longtime vocalist is a daunting task. Do you feel any pressure living up to Elin’s vocal legacy? Considering that Elin’s vocals appear on Ancestral Legacy’s new album, “Nightmare Diaries”, it must be difficult to step into her shoes.
Since the “Nightmare Diaries” album is Elin‘s album, I get to sing Elin‘s melodies but with the new songs I think I can bring a darker sound than Elin did. In a way I am not stepping into her shoes but coming with my own shoes to do my own thing. Elin is an awesome singer and I learned from her to print more power in my voice but now it is my turn to make music with them as Isadora not as the next Elin.
It was a long road for Ancestral Legacy to record and release “Nightmare Diaries” however the end result is a very strong doomy offering of black metal. How do you develop that connection to the music when you missed out on all the struggles to get it recorded and released?
In a way I didn’t miss them that much since Christopher and Eddie were updating me on it via MSN and the release problems were on while I was moving to Norway. On the other hand, I was there but only through them. Since I came in, Eddie has given me songs and he is very open minded. He has never pressed me with what kind of lyrics or melodies he wants, he knows that I don’t have experience writing vocals so he is very patient and helpful. The band know that the fact that I came in is gonna mean a change but at the same time all of us wanna have some new and different elements. Christopher has been into progressive drums and he thinks that that will improve his style with the band. We just wanna make music and we do it as it comes natural to us and that’s the connection we all have with the music – no matter who came first or last.
What is your plan on reproducing the vocals live? What are you doing to put your personal stamp on the vocals?
For me, the most important thing live is that people get to feel the music as I feel it inside. If I am home alone I will not head bang or get really physically active, I just concentrate on the singing and practice on printing my feelings for the song in my voice. But when you sing live everything counts, and a good way to transmit what that music does to me is by being very active onstage. I hate to stand still and smile (as I had to do before) and of course since I practiced at home so much I can concentrate on the people there, in making them see that they are special to us no matter if they are old friends of just first time listeners. That formula works very well for me live, and it has helped me in the way that people don’t compare me to Elin – they just accept me as I am and they like the music as it is on the CD with her and live with me.
Ancestral Legacy has been touring to support “Nightmare Diaries”. What has been the fan reception to the album and your vocals?
DAMN AWESOME! For some reason I am always very worried of what the people will think of the band with me, but in the last concerts they have been buying CDs, coming to say hi and say how much they enjoy our music, telling me that they will be waiting for the new album with my vocals and of course head banging a lot! Especially they guys in Paris, they are so metal! I am really thankful that fans and friends of the band welcomed me in such a good way instead of just comparing me. And as a great plus, I was so happy after we made it to the local newspaper twice.
You’ve re-recorded “Separate Worlds” for Femme Metal’s Demonic and Divine CD compilation. Have Ancestral Legacy been doing any other recording since you joined? Have your vocals and influence had an impact on the creative process of the band?
We have some new songs but we have not recorded them, just some demos without recorded vocals (since I don’t have good recording equipment at home). But I have the lyrics and bad quality recorded vocals in my computer. I think new songs will be coming this year. Well, I don’t believe it’s my voice that impacts the creative process since Eddie has the same system: he writes a song, sends it to me as he once sent it to Elin and we work on it. He is not writing music for my kind of voice specifically. I have enjoyed it a lot; we have one song ready that is called “My Wretched Lord” and in a way I feel it’s so mine and I feel it’s easier for me to sing it. I think that will be for good in the future as it will be easier for me to interpret the new songs.
What are your aspirations since joining Ancestral Legacy? What are your goals for yourself and the band?
When I started my aspiration was to sing the songs as well as I could, now my aspiration is to write good vocals and lyrics for the new songs, and of course get a CD where I can read “Isadora Cortina-Vocals”! I have to say the band exceeded what I thought it would be. I never imagined I would play a gig in France or Germany. Now I see that everything is possible and I just wait for life to surprise me… Maybe one day we will get a world tour or something! Ha-ha! In my personal life my aspiration is to incorporate myself into Norwegian society, go to university, get to speak Norwegian perfectly and be a perfect wife.
Starting in a new band comes with a lot of new experiences. What have been your best and worst moments so far?
To start with a new band meant to start a new life with a new language to me. I do not regret anything and I have loads of new friends from all around the world. In a way, the best moments are each live concert we have had. After all of them we were always so happy. But especially the mini European tour we did was beyond everything. I didn’t wanna come back! We went on tour with bands that became really good friends: Act III, Veil of Mist and Thorny Roses; all of them stole a piece of my heart. The worst has been that since I am not really used to the weather in Norway I get sick quite often so I usually come to the rehearsals with zombie face and a biiig pack of tissues. Unluckily, I got sick in France once so it was quite tiring to play, I was fighting with myself because I didn’t want to sleep all day – I wanted to enjoy every single moment in and offstage!