Interview by Ed MacLaren
Since 2004, Germany’s Krypteria has released a string of excellent symphonic metal albums – each reconstructing and redefining their trademark symphonic metal sound. With their latest album, “All Beauty Must Die”, Krypteria has stepped out once again with amazingly ear-pounding results. Led by the formidable vocal talents and dynamic stage presence of Ji-In Cho, Krypteria are becoming as equally known for their powerful live shows as their complex and powerful music. Femme Metal recently got the opportunity to talk to Ji-In about the making of their new album where she breaks down the Krypteria sound and tells us why all beauty must die.
Welcome to Femme Metal Ji-In! “All Beauty Must Die” is out and it’s a winner! Life in Krypteriapolis must be looking pretty good these days.
Hello Ed! Thank you very much! Yes, I can’t deny that after all the time we were confined to our studio working on “All Beauty Must Die” we are now very happy about getting all the great mail from our fans and wonderful reviews!
“All Beauty Must Die” is hookier and heavier than any of your previous efforts yet you’ve still been able to maintain many of symphonic and choral elements that made “Bloodangel’s Cry” and “My Fatal Kiss” such interesting listens. What was the band’s mindset going into the recording of the album?
Like always, we poured our experiences and emotions we had to deal with in the last year into the record. But as you may know we set up our own label and that means for the first time in our career we are free – in every part of this business. That means we are now responsible for everything – even besides the music – and that is very exciting and new for us. We told ourselves that if we fail, we will die by our own sword. This might sound a little weird but because of this knowledge we feel totally liberated, independent and stronger than before. I really hope you can hear it on “All Beauty Must Die”. By the way: we called our label Liberatio. (Smiles)
Do you feel that Krypteria has established a certain “trademark” sound that sets you apart from other bands – a sound that people will instantly identify with Krypteria?
I believe we do have quite a different sound from other bands. Not on purpose, this is just the result of our combined efforts at composing and writing. It is hard to describe in a few words, but I believe our fans will know by now what a Krypteria song sounds like. We have a knack for dramatic but still catchy melodies. We like to combine choir parts and classic elements with heavy riffs and beats. On our new album we have further grown and evolved musically. Maybe we are a little tougher and rougher, but unmistakably still Krypteria.
Are there still wild and unknown places the band still wants to explore musically?
There are surely a lot. But at this moment we are very happy with our baby and it is too early to think about our next steps or our next album. The only wish we have is to present our baby live on stage to our fans.
All Krypteria albums have a central theme that holds the lyrics and music together. What’s the conceptual thread that ties together “All Beauty Must Die”?
Well, it’s not a concept album like “Operation Mindcrime”, “Streets” or our 2007 release “Bloodangel’s Cry”. It’s about staying true to yourself and to your ideals no matter the obstacles. There’s a lot of rage and yearning involved and it’s about loss. But there’s also a lot of resolve, defiance and hope to it.
While we’re on the subject: why must all beauty die?
If I only knew!! Well, that’s how it is and there is nothing you can do against it. You can’t hold the good moments forever and stop time – only the memories can remain. But even these are gone when you die. To say something positive: not only the wonderful moments fade away but also the bad times and negative emotions are someday over.
Your singing is spectacular on “All Beauty Must Die”. Your vocal melodies have matured immensely on this album. How would you chart your vocal evolution over the course of your time with Krypteria?
Thank you for the compliment but I guess my teacher at the Musikhochschule who taught me classical singing would have a hard time listening to my singing!(Laughs) I think everyone of us has found his place in the band. We all respect and appreciate each other. We also totally trust each other and we feel safe when we are together. I think it’s always very helpful and encouraging if you feel comfortable and you feel accepted as the person you are. That’s the best way to express and develop yourself.
Do you still work on improving your vocal abilities either through personal practice or professional instruction?
There are days when I sing all the time just to try out what’s possible with my voice. And sometimes it’s better just to shut my mouth! (Laughs)
A goal of the band seems to be capturing the energy of your live performances – especially yours – on album. Are you getting close to getting that dynamic down digitally?
I hope so. But in the end it’s never as easy as we always have a lot of fun on stage – thanks to our audience. Every band would say so – the fon stage. Fans give you the best energy boost you can have and I could never compare these moments we share with our fans with anything else.
Although Krypteria started out more like a loose and informal “project”, it seems like Krypteria functions more and more like a true collective. How does that affect the direction and arrangement of the music?
I never thought of this band being loose and informal. But you’re right: the longer we know each other the more organic we’re getting. I’m very thankful that we’re aware of being four totally different personalities and treat this fact as an inspiring fact. That’s why we try to make sure that every facet is represented. I’m sure that helps to make our album more multi-dimensional and more colorful.
“All Beauty Must Die” is a heavy album with tracks like “Messiah”, “Higher” and “Eyes of a Stranger” but there’s still room for your delicate piano flourishes. How important is it to express that musical aspect of your personality on each album?
I love to write songs with only my piano and I think it’s a perfect instrument to bear up against the guitars. In comparison with the voice you can show a different and more complex atmosphere and in addition to my voice, the piano is very important for me to express myself and my musical imagination.
“The Eye Collector” is a standout track – and not just because it clocks in at an epic-length 11 minutes long. The intense arrangements and the simmering force of the music make it arguably one of your strongest tracks from any Krypteria album. What is it about extended tracks that bring out the best in the band?
Well, in this case this is easy to answer because we had a great inspiration based on a book by the German author Sebastian Fitzek. One of his fabulous books is a psychological thriller named “The Eye Collector” and we are relieved and very happy to tell you that he likes our song and the fact that it’s inspired by his book too. (Smiles)
When you decided to bring in some guests to record you didn’t fool around. Doro Pesch, Tobias Exxel and Olli Singer! Nice job! How did they do?
We are very happy that we could win these guys to play with us. For me personally, it’s a big honor to sing a duet with Doro – she’s really the Queen of Metal and no one is more experienced than her. After all these years she still gives to her fans everything she’s got on stage and that’s really something to admire. We got to know Eggy when we had our first gig in Germany. We shared the dressing room with Edguy and very soon we found out that they are very nice and funny guys. We are glad that finally after all these years Eggy could find some time to join us on the record – especially as a guitar player! And regarding Olli: he’s the best guy we could find to replace Chris on stage. He’s a real good guitar player but first of all a real good guy and we have a lot of fun with him when we are on tour.
Krypteria’s artwork always shows a lot of attention to detail – both in quality and in reflecting the musical and lyrical content of the album. At the very least the skull logo will look great on a black tour shirt! How did the artwork for “All Beauty Must Die” develop and what were you trying to convey with it?
Talking about the artwork for “All Beauty Must Die”, we were searching for a picture that would fit this title. I didn’t want my face to be displayed again on our cover, because we already did that. So I came up with the idea of a female and Asian skull. Fortunately, my band members were also very curious about the idea and what such a skull could look like. Thanks to our great illustrator Torsten Bürgin we now have this fantastic female skull logo. If I had tried to draw up something like that, we would probably have a different cover – I’m a real bad drawer and painter!
We’re starting to see more bands integrating members from different countries and making some incredibly creative music. This includes Leaves’ Eyes, Tristania and Visions of Atlantis to name a few. You’ve been the lone South Korean in a German band for a long time now. Has your South Korea ancestry played a part in your contributions to Krypteria or influenced the direction of the music?
Not in a direct way. But I can tell you that my family loves music – especially passionate and wonderful melodies. We’re very emotional and everyone in my family can play a classical instrument. So I guess this love for this style of music is in my blood.
“All Beauty Must Die” gives you four solid albums of excellent metal music to perform. Does the material give you an opportunity to express all facets of your personality on stage?
Absolutely yes. I love to live out all the emotions and subjects we are concerned with. It’s really like a therapy and after every concert I feel clarified – I’m very thankful for that.
I am not good with last words. All I can tell you is what I tell myself as often as I can: Enjoy your time on earth and keep in mind the wonderful moments but also the bad moments – you never know for what they are good for!