?Symphonies of Slickness?
An Interview with Angtoria by MetalGeorge
Pictures Courtesy of Angtoria.com
Whilst it does seem that symphonic, female-fronted metal IS all the rage these days, what with the surprising explosion of Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, and Evanescence here in the States and all. However, in Europe the genre is exploding with more and more new bands popping up everywhere. Standing head and shoulders above them all (including most of their upper eschalon contemporaries), however, are Swedish-British powerhouse Angtoria. Featuring Abyssos? Chris Renn and Cradle of Filth?s own Sarah Jezebel Deva, Angtoria provide all of the bombastic metal goodness with a emotional depth and melancholy missing from many happy-go-lucky Euro-metal bands currently peddling their wares. It?s only a matter of time before Angtoria sweep fans of this style of their feet, so I figured it was time to dig up some information on this stellar rising talent! Watch this space! Angtoria are gonna be huge!!
Hello! When an unmarked package/CDR arrived in my mailbox, I had no idea that the BEST demo of the year was going to grace my ears! Needless to say, I am already a HUGE fan of Angtoria! As unfortunately cliche as it may be, for those who haven’t checked out the website or heard of Angtoria yet, could you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Hey George! Thanks for those words, it?s great to hear that you like our work! ANGTORIA is a completely new orchestral metal band formed by Sarah Jezebel Deva, myself and my brother Tommy Rehn. We?ve only existed as a band since the summer of 2004 when we recorded our demo and we?re aiming to secure a record deal as soon as possible to be able to record and release our debut album.
So Chris and Sarah, when you both met in 2001, was the idea of collaborating something that you immediately wanted to do? At that time, was there enough downtime between Sarah’s work in Cradle of Filth and Chris’ work with Abyssos (what is the status for the band, by the way? I was a big fan!) that something like Angtoria could be birthed? Was the desire to do something outside of your main projects a thought that had been waiting for come to fruition?
When Sarah and I first met each other on a tour back in 2001 we immediately became good friends. Obviously it didn?t take us long to start talking about music, and we soon found out that we were interested in the same things and had the same goals to do a completely orchestral project, like a movie score/soundtrack. We decided to start working together and I started writing the songs for the project as soon as I came home from the tour. Later on we recorded a demo which we sent out to our contacts. Unfortunately we found it to be more difficult than expected to get any record label interested in our orchestral music simply because all of our connections are within the metal music scene. All labels basically said that we need to put distorted guitars and real drums to the songs in order for them to be able to sell it. But since the whole idea of the project was for it to be completely orchestral, to do something like that was of course of no interest to us. We had plans from the beginning to also start a metal band together at some point when we had the time, and we figured that while we were trying to get our orchestral project out we might as well start with our metal band as well, which we did and formed ANGTORIA. We work our way around our other engagements, but of course it?s always difficult to find the time to do everything at the same time. Abyssos is unfortunately laid to rest until a record label shows the interest needed for me to be able to create the next Abyssos album. I?ve had all the songs for the album composed for quite some time now, just awaiting to be properly recorded. But these days getting a record deal is not something that is easy. So far no record label has shown the right support for Abyssos in order for me to able to work with it and complete the album for a release, which of course is extremely sad, especially for me?
If I’m correct, Angtoria originally began as an orchestral project, sans guitar and drums, etc? Was incorporating a more “metal” feel to the music something that came naturally after a while, or do you still desire to create an all orchestral project? If so, would you be more inclined to push this project more towards a non-metal related field/scene, like the Projekt, Cold Meat, World Serpent or Cleopatra/Metropolis sort of scene?
As explained in the previous question, our orchestral project and ANGTORIA are two separate projects/bands. I guess most people simply assume that it?s the same project since Sarah and I are involved in it as well, but they are separate.
In my opinion, Angtoria are READY to be signed. I’m sure you must have all kinds of offers by now. How has the response from the industry been to the demo so far? Have you sent it to many zines and labels, and does this demo originally come in the same DVD packaging as your initial, orchestral demo?
Thanks a lot! That?s nice to hear. We?ve sent out the demo to various labels around the world and we?re currently in the process of talking to several of them. Unfortunately I can?t reveal or say anything regarding the progress at this point as I?m sure you understand since it?s highly sensitive right now? The reason why we decided to use a DVD package for our orchestral demo is simply to enhance the feeling of the music being to a movie. Since ANGTORIA is a ?normal? band we will not use a DVD box for the demo/album.
The sound quality here is beyond great. It sounds better than most CDs,to be honest. You recorded this in Tommy’s studio, Virtual Symphony in Sweden, which must have been comfortable for you. How did these sessions go for you? Are you happy with how they turned out, and are you fans of the recording experience in general? How does recording with Angtoria compare with your prior bands? Is it more of a stress/hassle free experience?
I?m glad to hear you like the production. Just to clarify though, our demo is just a demo recording and not the final result of the album. Yes, it?s extremely comfortable to record ?at home? and not have to travel anywhere. Especially since we have children and families here, which is always difficult to be away from for longer periods of time. So the more we can accomplish ?at home? the better of course. My brother and I have worked together before in the recording studio and we work extremely well together and have a lot of fun. This is the first time we?re involved in the same project though, and I must say that it?s a shame we haven?t had time to do it before! As a musician/producer we?re never 100% happy with the result of a recording. There is always something that can be improved, and it can always be better. For being a demo, though, we?re quite happy with the result of the production.
Tommy, when did you open up Virtual Symphony? You really have a gift for getting a great sound! Have many bands come to you seeking your assistance? Is being a producer/engineer something you wish to make your living out of, and would you like one day to enjoy the same success as, say Tagtgren’s Abyss or Studio Fredman? To have people refer to an album as having a “Virtual Symphony” sound to it?
I?m glad you like the sound on the pre-prod. We are quite satisfied with the result as well (All three of us).There are still things to improve of course when it comes to the proper album recording and mix. More real instruments for starters, and a better mixing console and some new (read vintage) outboard equipment is needed to be able to improve the sound. I started building up the studio 7 years ago, but my first producing experiences was the two Moahni Moahna albums we did 95(Temple of Life) and 97(Why). Me and my partner Henrik was quite young then but we knew how we wanted the albums to sound like. We actually kicked the engineer out of the studio and finished the mix ourselves….
The last seven years I?ve been composing Musical-Theatre music for a Theatre company in Sundsvall. During this period I learned a lot in the field of Arrangements and Orchestrations for Symphony instruments. I find it very useful now while working with the ANGTORIA-songs. In a couple of months the new “Virtual Symphony Studio” will be ready. We are working on it as we “speak”. It will be more of a complete studio with separate soundproof Recording/Control room. We will then be able to record real acoustic drums-choirs ? string sections… e.t.c. Now it?s mainly sampled stuff. You can follow the progress on the ANGTORIA website. The first major project in the new studio will of course be the first ANGTORIA album, but in the future both me and Chris really want to work with other bands who seek the “Virtual Symphony” sound we?ve created together.
So song writing-wise, it looks like Chris and Tommy handle the music, while Sarah handles all of the lyrical duties. How would you describe the process? Is there much collaboration musically, or do you both bring finished ideas to the table? Also, with regards to instrumentation, is it Tommy who handles all of the guitars and drums, with Chris on the orchestration?
In the beginning I was writing all the music and Sarah was writing all the lyrics, but after I asked Tommy to join ANGTORIA when we were about to record the demo in his studio, he has also contributed with writing music for ANGTORIA. Sarah is the one writing all the lyrics though and it will stay that way, but it will be me and Tommy writing the music. For some reason there have been much confusion regarding who is playing which instrument in ANGTORIA. To tell you the truth I don?t know why thou since we havn?t specified anything anywhere regarding who plays which instruments. Since the both of us do everything we?ve simply specified it as: music/composer on both Tommy and I.We write, compose, orchestrate and play all the instruments together. Sometimes I write, compose, orchestrate everything, sometime Tommy does and sometime we do it together on each others compositions. So there is no specified instrument we play or task we perform in the songs, the both of us do everything. The main instrument the both of us will be playing live though is guitar.
Sarah, living in Britain, how often do you get to collaborate with Chris and Tommy? Do you send pieces of music back and forth, or do you go to visit them in Sweden occasionally to write? Lyrically, what avenues are you looking to explore with Angtoria? Do you prefer to write from a first person, personal experience, or to deal with a 3rd personal, more fictional perspective, letting the listener differentiate for themselves?
Well I mostly collaborate with Chris…email, phone calls and when he has stuff, he sends it, I ok it or ask for something to be changed. I wont sing on something just for the sake of it. It has to be right, have the right feeling?otherwise we fail in being different. We don?t want to be just another female fronted band. If that was ever the case, I will start rapping!
Anyway…when we are close to something…and the studio is free, yes I will fly over. The lyrics to this demo were far from finished when I got to Sweden the last time. In actual fact, “Six Feet Under?s Not Deep Enough” was written at 1am and within 30mins! I prefer to write about issues or things I have an understanding in. “Suicide On My Mind” is clear enough right? I want to write about things people can understand or relate to. “Six Feet Under?s…” is clearly about a strong hatred for someone and I know thousands of people will go, “Ahhh?I know what you mean”. I don?t really want to write about dragons and laying on a grave talking to fairies, because unless you live in lala land, not many people will be able to understand what?s going on in my head! Do I want people to understand what?s going on in my head? Not really but I know that most of the things I will write about, I?m sure a good 99% of people listening will comprehend! (unless you live in a box with a snail)
Are you excited to be fronting another band after supporting such other acts as Mortiis, Therion, and Cradle? Many might not know that you’ve experimented with very different genres over the years, from punk to jazz. Do you think having this diversity has made you a better singer, and is there any one place where your heart truly lies?
Yeah…it lies in the bed of Johnny Depp! Oh..you didn?t mean that, huh! My heart will always be in extreme metal. Anything from Horna to Watain to Emperor? but at this stage, I cant do what my heart desires because I want to sing, but one day, I will write extreme metal.[Due to the fact that] I grew up listening to 80-90s pop, I feel by having an open mind, yes, it has helped me become a better singer but I?m aging now, like a old stinky cheese! Let?s hope I do sound better with age huh!
Does any of that make sense? Its gone 1am and I?m so tired…..and this will be the first band I?ve fronted but the second project I?ve attempted with Chris….Am I excited? Not sure…right now scared is the word! I wont take [anything] for granted, ever! I think the biggest compliment vocally I can pay to you on this demo is the fact that, until I logged on to your website, I had no idea that this was you singing.
Being that most people are used to hearing you sing operatically with Cradle, I think that many are going to be amazed at the depth of emotion, versitility, and range you show here with Angtoria. I was already a huge fan before, but now I am even more impressed.
I?m so tired of singing this operatic style. I?ve sung on 23 albums I think now, maybe more and damn….if I have to sing high again on another album, I WILL eat my head! I?ve been type cast! I got my job with Therion because of singing high with CoF, I got my job with Mortiis because of singing high with CoF and Therion…and well…you see the pattern! It was so nice when I did the Dead Can Dance Tribute album “The Lotus Eaters”, because A) I sang on my own, totally solo and B) I sang it in a Folk style and not operatically! I know people want something solo and opera like but, I just have no passion for it anymore, 10yrs of singing like a cat getting run over! I wont stop but I will limit it. I cant express myself totally and I feel you can only put a limited amount of feeling into your vocals and the way you sing when singing so high. I want to connect with people and do something they understand. I feel i got there with this demo. I shocked people and I even heard, “Wow, you don?t only sing opera”?
That statement says it all huh?
Over the course of your career, you’ve become almost an archetype for female vocalists in metal nowadays, alongside women like Anneke of the Gathering. Who were your idols growing up that made you want to sing, and how do you feel when you see women in bands now emulating what you’ve done. Do you feel you’ve opened doors for them, in a way?
Madonna! She was the main one. Not just for her voice…it may be hard to understand but she was a voice, a drive for me while I was growing up. She always gave out a message to her fans “Never give up on something you want so much and if someone knocks you down, you get right back up”. Through all the lows in my life, it was something positive that kept me going. I thought, if some waitress from Detroit can become the biggest female singer in the world, I can too! Well, not as big as her! I don?t think I would want that but at the end of the day, we are ALL given the same chances in life, it just depends on how wide open your eyes are!
As for opening doors…emmm…I?m not so sure I can say that. To say that would feel a bit big headed but I would like to think I have inspired people. I mean, I?m online so much and I get so so many people come to me saying how much I inspired them to sing or not to give up, it touches me and many have brought tears to my eyes through the things they have said. Me? Sarah Jane? An inspiration? Yeah right! Its hard to believe, hard to take in?scary, but rewarding. If Cradle Of Filth is the last thing I ever do, I will be happy knowing I touched a few people! ( Not touched them sexually though….well, if they are boys under 16, I do try to limit myself to one a week 😉
All the songs are my favorites; I can’t pick just one. They are all well-crafted and arranged; I especially love the choruses. How important is memorability and songwriting to Angtoria, and how much new material do you have written so far? Could you tell us what it sounds like in comparison to the 5 songs here on the demo? Also, how did you decide to cover the Kylie Minogue song “Confide In Me”?
Thanks! The five songs we?ve put on the demo is a good overview of how ANGTORIA sounds. We decided to put those five songs on the demo simply to show the musical range of ANGTORIA. We have songs that reach from quite heavy and fast to slow and beautiful, songs that are more guitar riff based and technical to songs that are easy to understand and more orchestrated. So the demo is a good overview of how ANGTORIA sounds and show the range we will be working with on the album. The exact number of songs for the album haven?t been decided yet and wont be until the final stage of the studio recording when everything is set of course.
We were talking about doing a cover and it was Sarah who came up with the idea of doing a metal version of ?Confide In Me? by Kylie Minogue. I like that song and Kylie Minogue as an artist as well so I didn?t hesitate at all. I started working on converting it to a metal song right away after she mentioned it to me.
I’m sure Angtoria will receive many comparisons to Nightwish, which I think is unfair, because Angtoria possesses a more melancholy side to your music. Does this bother you, or do you feel that comparisons like these are unavoidible when playing melodic, orchestral metal like this?
Well, we use distorted guitars, drums, orchestral instruments and female vocals so it?s obviously inevitable that we will be compared to Nightwish. Everyone will at some point be compared to something by someone, no matter what you do, so I don?t have any problems whatsoever being compared to other bands.
I love the male counterpart vocals in “Deity of Disgust”, performed by Martin Haggstrom. That name sounds familiar. Is he also from another band?
We?re very happy to have Martin included on one of the tracks since he?s an amazing singer! If you?ve heard of Tommy?s other band MOAHNI MOAHNA you will recognise Martin H?ggstr?ms name and voice since he was their vocalist during the time they were active from 1992 ? 1997.
Is Angtoria planning on performing live anytime soon, or would you prefer to remain a studio project? If so, are you going to be recuiting many members for a session touring group? Are you all fans of playing live, and how would you compare it to the writing/recording atmosphere?
Our goal with ANGTORIA is to be a ?band? in every sense of the word. We will assemble enough members to complete a full line up, we will tour and release albums etc. Of course all of this depends on the possible label that we sign a deal with and how much they are interested in investing in us. But our goal is to treat ANGTORIA as a full member band and tour and release albums etc.
Sarah, I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on the state of women in metal today. It seems you find more dedicated/involved women in metal than in any underground hard music scene, and even more so these days. Have you experienced any adversity over the course of your career, and would you like to see yourself as a role model for more young women seeking to make a career in music?
The more women in metal the better. I hate this attitude that women shouldn?t be in metal. To be honest I can only laugh at that statement, which I have to admit, I?ve come across on the internet, but mostly by young kids. Lets not forget the bass player of Bolt Thrower or the lead singer of Crisis! I think some men feel threatened by a woman who can sing or play better than them. I mean, take Angela (Arch Enemy), that woman can sing. She is an amazing performer and I must say, she is a good role model for women. Yet it amazes me how I?ve heard rumours of people, well,I called them retards, sending her hate mail!
Why? Give me one valid reason? There isn?t one other than, once again…Jealousy! Yes, it would be nice to be a role model to other people, not just women. Don?t make excuses for not succeding, you can make something of yaself if you want it bad enough! It doesn?t matter what kind of life you have had or haven?t had. This music business is damn hard and sometimes I think I would rather clean bird pooh off of people?s cars BUT one day, I know I will make it and if I don?t, oh well! I tried! At least I tried!
I must preface this by stating that, while I feel you are as beautiful as your voice, I was wondering how you feel about the double standard of physical appearance that women deal with in music? With us, all we have to sell is our talent, but for women, the whole “sex angle” gets added in with the whole thing.
Its the same with every thing a woman attempts to do. Looks first, talent second. If you let it get to you, a career in whatever form of entertainment is not for you. People will have there opinions of you no matter what you do or say. At the end of the day, however someone views me/women in general is not my/our problem! A lot of these opinions are formed from jealousy, from bitterness of not being able to live their dream, again, not my/our problem! People who throw the sexiest or down putting remarks clearly have nothing better to do. It doesn?t effect me. Anyone with intelligence can make up their own mind about what is good and what is not, and if you are gonna judge a woman’s music by the size of her arse, then your a sad twat and need to get a life!
Please fill us in on what’s next for Angtoria!
We?re currently in the process of talking with various labels regarding ANGTORIA and we?ll see where we end up when it?s all set. Hopefully that means the recording and release of the debut album of ANGTORIA and a tour following the release.
Ok, we’re finally at the end! THANKS a lot for answering my questions, and for the amazing music! Best of luck, and take care!!
Thanks a lot George for supporting us by doing this interview with us!
Please visit our official site at: www.angtoria.com for all information and updates regarding ANGTORIA!