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.”