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Interviews   

The Gentle Storm: Anneke and Arjen are in the same boat


It had to happen sooner or later. Anneke Van Giersbergen and Arjen Lucassen are two of the most established and talented Dutch artists in the larger rock and metal scene, and they’ve already crossed paths in Ayreon’s ambitious, progressive works (Into The Electric Castle, 01011001), with a success that we need not describe. Anneke has made countless appearances on stage and in the studio alongside other artists – among which Devin Townsend, of course, but also extremely varied bands like Pain Of Salvation, Within Temptation, Moonspell, or Napalm Death. Arjen, for his part, is known for using dozens of talented vocalists on his albums. Everything pointed at a common project between these two – and this project now has a name: The Gentle Storm. On March 23rd, Inside Music will release their first record, The Diary, which comes in two different versions for the price of one: the “Gentle” version, softer and more acoustic, and the “Storm” version, more epic and very much plugged.

We talked to the two musicians to know more about this collaboration, the idea of making two versions of the songs within a double album, and the theme said album is built around, the voyage of a Dutch sailor in the 17th century, aka the Dutch Golden Age. We also took this opportunity to talk about another highly creative mind, Devin Townsend, the theatrical project The Theater Equation, and The Gathering’s 25th-anniversary show, which Anneke was a part of alongside her former bandmates.

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Interviews   

Moonspell: questioning to stay alive


Moonspell are moved by a desire to outdo themselves. But although many bands use this verb in a way that suggests an excess of ambition, this is not the case here. This is not about a more-and-bigger approach, or moving away from the norm at any cost. It is about putting themselves and others into question, in order to avoid repetition and to aim for better dynamics in a song or an album, for the proper use of a sound, an influence or an arrangement. In short, it is about an honest quest for betterment, where emotion is both the means and the end.

Before this new record, Extinct, Moonspell offered us Alpha Noir/Omega White, a double album whose aim was to explore two aspects of the band’s music in a distinct way. We talked with the charming and well-informed Fernando Ribeiro on this exceptional project and the artistic conclusions the band has drawn from it. Maturity is the core theme of this interview, not only from a musical standpoint, but also from a more personal point of view for Fernando, who recently became a father – a big change that is all at once exciting and scary.

Among other subjects, we talked about the theme of the album, broader and more subtle than it seems at first (but then again, Moonspell’s fans are no strangers to subtlety): it is a mix of love, science and philosophy, which Fernando as always been attracted to since his years as a student.

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Interviews   

Steven Wilson: The joy of being alone


There’s no longer any doubt that Steven Wilson is giving priority to his solo career, to the detriment of Porcupine Tree, whose future is more than uncertain. He says so himself in the following interview, which he granted us to talk about his new record, Hand. Cannot. Erase. The man exudes enthusiasm regarding the freedom he enjoys now that he’s not, strictly speaking, constrained by a band.

His artistic freedom allows him to embark into risky, ambitious projects, in order to try and make things move forward, or at least to try something new. Paradoxically, his current musical mood will delight fans of Blackfield and Porcupine Tree, thanks to a few metal overtones that we’d thought we’d never hear again, considering Wilson’s comments on the genre a few years ago.

The music on this album serves a theme: isolation, inspired by the sad story of Joyce Carol Vincent, whom Steven Wilson sees as a symbol of the quirks of modern society. Speaking of which, there’s a paradox in what he says: on one hand, he deplores the progressive loss of human and social interactions, but on the other hand, he confesses to being happier as a solo artist that in a band. His imaginary character, who chooses solitude in order to be happy and observe the world, probably has a lot to tell us about the artist and his own complexity.

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Interviews   

Obsidian C. outlines the new face of Keep Of Kalessin


Keep Of Kalessin has recently seen the end of an era, with a change of label and the end of a rather tense relationship with vocalist Thebon. The conflict has received a fair share of media attention, through press statements that revealed opposite truths. Following the drama, Arnt “Obsidian C.” Grønbech, the band’s leader and guitarist, stepped into the singer/frontman’s shoes, with his bandmates’ approval.

Obsidian C. talked to us about these events and the transformation they brought about. The new record, Epistemology, more varied and grandiose than ever, shows the new face of Keep Of Kalessin: the new set-up as a trio implies a different composition process and a change in live dynamics, and having a new frontman means there are fresh creative possibilities. The new-found chemistry will help Keep Of Kalessin reinvent themselves and go further. Epistemology is only the first step in a new journey.

The new album is also a way for Keep Of Kalessin to involve their fanbase in the creative process, since the artwork is actually the work of one of their listeners, picked through a Facebook contest. Obsidian C. confesses that he finds the collaborative process particularly interesting. Who knows, maybe the next album will contain a riff written by one of your readers?

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Interviews   

The Pineapple Thief: The beauty of a fleeting moment


Like some of their elders, Pineapple Thief are a progressive rock band that have decided, with their new album Magnolia, to reduce the length of their songs. For the combo’s singer/guitarist, Bruce Soord (who’s also recently distinguished himself alongside Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse in Wisdom Of Crowds), this is not so much about changing styles as it is about questioning the band’s music. The songs are shorter, but that doesn’t mean they’re less rich, and the album as a whole is no less progressive. Soord even admits that some of the band’s older compositions could have done with a little more concision. Could this be a sign of wisdom and maturity in a genre that’s known for stretching out songs forever?

In a way, this debate is quite close to the one Danko Jones raised in our recent interview – namely, the easy path is not always the most obvious. Conversely, is writing a long song always a sign of accomplishment and artistic inventiveness? To Bruce, this new album is an answer to that question, up to and including its title, Magnolia. We talked about all this and many other subjects below.

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Interviews   

Orden Ogan: the monks are in battle order


Like most bands, Orden Ogan started playing in a garage, then proceeded on their merry way and eventually ended up as a professional combo. The release of their new album, Ravenhead, was a good opportunity for us to talk to guitarist/vocalist Sebastian “Seeb” Levermann about the way he approaches music, the concept and the visual aspect of an album, and more generally, on the band’s career, from their amateur beginnings to their recent US tour.

Said career was littered with the inevitable comparisons with their predecessors in the genre, which can be as nice as it can be annoying. Just as inevitable for any artist is that moment when you ask yourself what the essence of your art is. And in this respect Seeb is totally OK with taking into account the feedback their audience gives them.

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Interviews   

Danko Jones: Much ado with not so much


“- So, Danko, isn’t it too difficult to give interviews that early in the morning?
– Oh no, I slept well. I’m not a cliché! (laughs)!”

Should we be afraid of being clichéd? There’s plenty of rock’n’roll revolving around three chords and speaking of girls, drugs and fighting – like, really plenty. But is choosing to devote yourself to that type of music a sign that you lack creativity? Does clichéd mean easy? Does it mean bands like Airbourne and Danko Jones have no personality? Does a musician have to push the boundaries of technique or originality to offer something fresh and new?

To all those who feel like answering “yes” to this never-ending debate, Danko Jones shares his arguments to see things in a different light. And given the very spontaneous character of the man, it’s no surprise that the following interview, which was supposed to be about his new album Fire Music, turns at times into pure chatter, with a healthy dose of banter.

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Interviews   

Blind Guardian: Inside Hansi Kürsch’s imagination


Imagination is, without a doubt, an artist’s best tool. In literature and art, the frontier between real life and imaginary worlds has often been represented by mirrors. They show us a world similar but opposite to the one we live in, a world we’ll never be able to reach. What if artists were explorers, possessed of the key to step through the mirror and come back with memories from their travels, pieces of dreams that will give us laymen a glimpse of these unattainable worlds?

Mirrors, imagination and fantasy worlds that reflect the real one are precisely the foundation of Blind Guardian’s new record, Beyond The Red Mirror, which is a conceptual sequel to Imaginations From The Other Side, released 20 years ago. This extremely Blind Guardian-sounding album, full to the brim with musical prowess, is a new cornerstone for the band in terms of orchestration – an appetizer before their long-expected fully orchestral album, that should be the culmination of their career in this respect.

Hansi Kürsch talks about Blind Guardian’s ambitious new album and explains the links with the 1995 album, for an in-depth analysis of the band’s imaginative world.

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Interviews   

Anthony Vincent (Ten Second Songs) in twenty questions


Aside from Anthony Vincent’s sudden success and unquestionable vocal talent – both of which tend to draw attention –, it was mostly curiosity that drove us to contact him. For Ten Second Songs has led us to ask ourselves unusual questions: How does he do that? How does one “compose” such a sequence of styles? How does one learn to sing in so many different ways? And, most importantly, how is it possible to genuinely love both Britney Spears and Kataklysm? Given all these musical contradictions (which include a few guilty pleasures) and the various professional hats Anthony wears, where does his true musical personality lie?

The following interview will let you discover the man who made mainstream magazines (sometimes even people magazines) talk about Cannibal Corpse without even meaning to. A man who doesn’t hide the fact that he misses the excitement and feeling of danger that some bands used to inspire in the 70s, 80s and 90s, despite the growing presence of provocative content in today’s music.

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Interviews   

Napalm Death display the truth like a chunk of spoiled meat


After a while, you get used to the hoarse vocals of death metal, the grating vocals of black metal, and the crazy speed and aggressive guitar sounds of extreme metal. Aside from the artistic result, our ears and body can actually enjoy the various sound effects that can make a layman cringe. That’s not really the case with Napalm Death, a band that, despite a long career, keeps on releasing albums that prove an ordeal to dedicated fans and beginners alike. This is the result of constant self-challenging, evolution and studio experimentations, meant to push the limits of extreme music. It’s not only about speed, but about a wider sound spectrum as well, from the vocals to the choice of notes and frequencies.

When you add this desire to systematically disturb the listener to lyrics than denounce the behavior of powerful people, it’s easy to see a classic causal link – in-your-face music for a committed message. And yet, the main goal of the band is simply to make music they like and, at their own level, to make a contribution to a less unfair world.

On the occasion of the release of Napalm Death’s latest record, entitled Apex Predator – Easy Meat, the always witty Mark “Barney” Greenway took stock for us on what exactly makes the essence of the band.

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