Interview: SIRENIA
Title: Overpowering feelings

Musically, he has become known as an artist with absolute self-reliance. But without great talent and intuitive flair for compositional timelessness, Sirenia mastermind Morten Veland would never have gone so far up in symphonic Gothic Metal.

For the current successor to the 2015 album „The Seventh Life Path“ the Norwegian constant composed much darker and more melancholic. But all the typical splendidly arranged, opulently orchestrated trademarks were woven again noble in „Dim Days Of Dolor“.

The newly introduced frontlady, singer Emmanuelle Zoldan, completes the songs to dusky glittering showpieces. I speak once more with Morten, who founded Sirenia in 2001.

How do you feel, after having finished these new, highly interesting collection of songs?

„I feel very relieved and satisfied. Personally I have a strong feeling that we have created something special and unique this time. As always I have been pouring my heart and soul into the album, but sometimes along the way there are certain things and elements that don't really respond the way you want, no matter how hard you try. This time it felt that everything turned out the way I planned and hoped for. So it is with a really great feeling I await the reactions from fans and media.“

What still counts most for you in making music with Sirenia?

„Making music is what makes me feel able to contribute and create something that is meaningful to myself and to others as well. Every time that I come up with a new composition, riff or idea that I really like, it triggers great emotions, energy and enthusiasm in me. It is a drive that has been there since the beginning, and it feels just as strong today as back in the early days. Music is something that plays a huge part of my life, always has, always will.“

One year for all in total - you're pretty quick back with an new album this time. Reason(s)?

„I spent a bit longer actually, I'd say somewhere between 15 – 17 months. I already began working on material for this album before the previous one was released, I usually do so for every album, so this is normal procedure for me. But I am in a very inspired and productive period of my life. New ideas comes to my mind at all times, and my biggest challenge is most of the time to pick out the best ideas. A luxury problem most people would say, but it actually causes me a lot of headache. Hehe…“

How long was the songwriting for all the new compositions?

„The total time would be around 16 months for all songs. Some songs can come more easily and some songs I work on for about 2 years. I always switch back and forth between a lot of different songs at all times. When I am unsure about my next step in one song, I just move on to the next one to see if I have inspiration that would serve that song at that given time. I can easily work on 12 different songs in just one day, my head is always full of music and ideas, so my mind is always quite distant. I try to unplug from the world of music at times, but it seems quite impossible. I definitely consider myself more a-social than the average person.“

 Please tell a bit about the songwriting process itself, highs or lows to mention?!

„As most people are aware of we had to go through a line-up change in the middle of the production of this album. It is always a chaotic situation to end up in, and it really caused all of us countless hours of head ache. I really can't stand these things and it just feels really shitty every time it happens, these things also takes away a lot of focus that should be channeled into the music. Anyway, we really had no choice. We had to end Sirenia as a band or find a new singer, that's the only two options we had. I still think I have more to give, so ending the band did not seems right just yet. One of the two highs for me during the production of this album was to record Emmanuelle's vocals. It was a very relieving moment to see how cool the songs turned out, one by one. Her voice added a lot of diversity, power, emotions to the songs, making them complete. The other high was when I was in Ribe in Denmark to mix and master the album with Jacob Hansen. First time we worked together and he did an amazing job, lifting our music to a new level.“

Touchingly orchestral and uplifting symphonic, dramatically theatrically and operatic beautiful 'Sirenia Metal' since 2001.

What rides you to such a high level of devouring aesthetics year for year?

„I work hard and spend a lot of time with music every day to improve myself as a musician and composer in every aspect. My goal has always been to deliver better and better albums every time. There is always new unexplored musical territory to discover, so that is maybe the most important reason that keeps all of this interesting year after year. I think Sirenia has improved a lot technically, performance wise and production wise this time. I also feel very strong about the song material, and in my opinion it is the most diverse album we have ever done.“

What do you think is the main recipe for the ongoing success of Sirenia?

„I never considered us a really successful band. But we have been around for 16 years, releasing our 8th album now, and there is still interest for what we do. In that way I feel very privileged, and I love being able to spend so much time with music. I would like to tour more too in the years to come. Sirenia were never one of those bands that lived on the road, not sure if we ever will be, but I would certainly like to do more shows. I enjoy traveling and performing for our fans.“

„Dim Days Of Dolor“ is suitable for so many ears, as I think … for what special musical ideals of Sirenia stands these new album release mainly?

„Making diverse albums and including elements from a lot of different musical styles has always been important to me, and it is what I consider the essence of the band, the groups musical concept so to speak. I think there is a lot of material on the album that can reach out to a lot of different listeners in all kinds of genres of Metal, in Rock too. Maybe even to listeners of more commercial styles of music.“

Are you satisfied with the songs and the success of „The Seventh Life Path“, when you’re looking back?

„I am satisfied with the songs and the compositions, I think the album has many interesting songs and overall good performances. There is also some songs that stands out from what we had done earlier. In retrospect though I have to admit that there is a few things that bothers me on that album, things that I expected and wished would have turned out better, with a higher level of quality. The mix and mastering is probably what bothers me the most, this could have been much better in my opinion, and deserved to be much better as well. It really does not do any justice to the songs at all. There is also some vocal parts that should have been performed on a higher level. I am not saying it is bad, but I know it could have been better, and should have been better. I always strive for perfection, so naturally these things bother me.“

Are new musical facets of Sirenia to hear on the upcoming release?

„There is new things to discover on the new album. Especially the production and Emmanuelle's vocal performance contributes a lot to that. But there is also a lot of new sounds, details and atmospheres to be discovered. I really enjoy listening to this new album in a high quality head set. The songs has so many details to be discovered and the mix is so balanced and clear.“

„Dim Days Of Dolor“ sounds inspiring - what kind of lyrical vision is mainly behind the album title?

„As the album cover portrays, the concept is about feeling alive when you're dead, and feeling dead when you are alive. Some songs spins around this theme, but all songs are written individually, so it is no concept album in any way. I always felt more free when I could take every song in whatever direction I wanted. A concept album would put a lot of boundaries on me as a song writer, this is how I always felt anyway. But maybe somewhere down the road I will try to make a concept album. It is always interesting with a new challenge.“

Please report about the recruitment of Emmanuelle Zoldan.

„We parted ways with Ailyn in the middle of the the production of this album. We really had to think fast and Emmanuelle was the first one that came to mind. I have always been a fan of her voice and loved all her performances with different bands she's collaborated with over the years. She has also been singing in the Sirenia choir since 2003, so we go back a long time and we have worked a lot together in the past. But actually I would never expect her to be interested in working with Sirenia on a fixed basis, as she had a great career in opera already. Me and Emmanuelle have talked a lot about music and so on, and I was a bit surprised to see that we had so much in common musically. We like a lot of the same bands too, and we are both very openminded when it comes to music. So finding a new singer was in fact very easy this time, it was like a miracle.“

What are the main vocal powers and mental advantages of Emmanuelle in your opinion?

„She is a very diverse singer that can handle a lot of different styles, be it Classical, Opera, modern style, Rock, Jazz - whatever really. She is very good at interpretating the songs and putting a lot of emotions into her performances. She is also very serious about her work she has many years of experience as a professional singer. Furthermore Emmanuelle has a very nice personality, and she really got along well with the whole band from the very beginning.“

How was the work with her as a main singer this time for the new songs?

„It was a very interesting experience, and we really learned a lot about each other as musicians. She has many strong qualities in her voice that I will focus more on when I compose the next album. I think we will be able to develop the cooperation in the future and create more great albums together. I am very excited about what the future will bring for Sirenia. I am sure that we will be able to continue to raise the bar on future releases.“

Were the new songs built especially around her voice - or did you start with the songs basically and Emmanuelle brought herself inside on a suitable way?

„Emmanuelle joined the band in the middle of the recording process of this album, so obviously all the compositions were already finished at that point. We have done some modifications with some of the vocal melodies to adjust them perfectly to her voice, and it turned out great. However on the next album everything will be composed especially for her voice. I am already looking forward to this process.“

Be so kind and describe the main musical character of the new album with your very own words!

„That's a difficult question to give a good answer to. But I think that “Dim Days Of Dolor” is like a musical travel through every feeling in the entire spectrum. It is also an album filled with lots of contrasts and it leans towards the melancholic realm as Sirenia is known for doing.“

The direction on the new release is pretty sombre, deep melancholic and dark longing, but the music itself may appear somehow pretty positive. Do you agree about it?

„I am not sure if I feel so much of that 'positive' thing in the music. Hehe… I think I would feel more comfortable with using a word like 'energetic' instead. But the positivity though, for me, is that it has turned out to be an album that I feel very proud of. In my mind there is no doubt that this is the best Sirenia album we have ever done. Might sound like a cliché, but it is my honest and sincere opinion.“ 

How relevant are classical based melodies for Sirenia?

„It is a part of our sound and concept, but it is not something that is more important than other elements. Most of the classical melodies are channeled through the choir, but also in a few lead vocal melodies. The growls and male vocals have also been a part of our sound on every album and they all feel important. For us it is the diversity, the sum of all the different elements that is important.“

How important are opulence and depth in the theatric arrangements for Sirenia?

„I have always put a lot of focus in this, and it is important for sure. But I also value the dynamic a lot, so I also think that minimalistic parts are important. And very often it is the minimalistic parts that is most beautiful and emotional. I also love contrasts, and all of these elements arranged in good way makes a great Sirenia song in my opinion.“

The new album seems to reveal a musical adventure of many surprising contrasts - curious listeners get rewarded surely with a very high degree of diversity. Please tell about such levels of the new material with your own words!

„Yes, as I've mentioned before, this is what really is the concept, the heart and soul of the band, the blood flow, the life source. This is what it is all about for me as a composer, this is what I have been trying to achieve through my whole career. In the early nineties when I began listening to Metal there was no bands making this kind of music, with all this diversity. So the solution for me became to make a band and compose the music that I wanted to hear myself. The cool thing was that it turned out that my music appealed to many others as well.“

The timeless and marvelous „Veil Of Winter“ (love the truly stunning, great rockin’ solo!) surely is one the very best songs on the new record. In what kind of moods are you able to create such masterpieces best?

„One thing that I have discovered over the years is that I always come up with the best ideas in winter. This time of year in Norway opens a flow of inspiration in me. So it seems that in winter time I come up with most of the ideas, then I use the rest of the year to arrange and perfect my ideas. I also work best with composing when I am alone, this has always been the case for me. I find it more difficult to focus when I work with others with composing material.“

Song titles like „Goddess Of The Sea“, „Cloud Nine“ or „Ashes To Ashes“ already speak pretty lot about the fantasy base of the lyrics - please bring the main lyrical direction of the album a bit closer!

„As always I write all songs individually and I write about the subjects that I always held close to heart. No big changes in the lyrical concept, but I try to improve my way of writing from album to album, and I always try to find new angels and new twists. I am still focusing on the darker aspects of life in my lyrics, it comes naturally and it always felt like the perfect match with the feelings in my compositions.“

Please bring the cooperation with the producer a bit closer! Interesting details out of the studio to mention?

„I have produced the album myself, as I have done with the last 6 albums. But the album is mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen at Hansen Studios in Denmark. It is the first time that we work together and it turned out to be a fantastic experience. I have a lot of respect for Jacob's work, and I really think that he were able to lift the album up to a higher level. I am happy with the sound on most of our albums to date, but this time it feels truly amazing, everything just feels right. It sounds exactly the way I always wanted Sirenia to sound. In many ways it feels like Jacob read my mind. Haha.. Great guy, I am sure that we will work with him more in the future.“

Sirenia switched from Napalm Records to Nuclear Blast back to Napalm. What a journey! Please tell a bit about!

„In the music industry you don't get a fixed job, like in most professions. We get a contract for a period of time, or a number of albums to be exact. Several record companies have been interested in Sirenia over the years, and we had to choose the company that would give us the best conditions at any given time. So that's how we ended up going back and forth a bit. I think that both Napalm Records and Nuclear Blast are great companies for Metal music. They have both been around for years and years and have tons of experience and huge networks.“

Any additional words?

„Cheers to all the readers, hope to see you on tour soon. Please check out our new album coming out the 11th of November. It's worth a chance. Rock on!“

© Markus Eck, 25.10.2016

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