Meet the Peruvian metal opera: Memorias de un Desperar, in voice of its own creator, Marcel Verand

marcel verand memorias de un despertar
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Marcel Verand talks about his metal opera: MEMORIAS DE UN DESPERTAR; he announces the release date of its physical version as well as the eponymous book on which all the music is based.

Interview by Cristóbal Torres

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MEMORIAS DE UN DESPERTAR is a Peruvian metal opera that emerged from the mind of Marcel Verand more than 20 years ago (shortly before Avantasia’s). However, mainly due to economic problems, the project simmered until it finally saw the light of day in early March.

The album features more than 20 guest artists, including lyricists, composers, and illustrators. We contacted Marcel Verand himself to tell us about the genesis of MEMORIAS DE UN DESPERTAR, the obstacles he had to overcome and the physical versions that he will present very soon.

Please tell us, who is Marcel Verand, how did his link with music and literature emerge?

I am Peruvian, I work as a consultant in the writing and publication of books, passionate about music, especially melodic heavy metal in its different sub-genres, this since I was about 10 years old; I also really enjoyed movies, especially fantasy, science fiction, and action movies. While I also enjoy reading, I must admit that I don’t usually read as much as I could.

How was the process of writing MEMORIAS DE UN DESPERTAR, when did the idea of writing it arise?

The story on which MEMORIAS DE UN DESPERTAR is based came to me more than 22 years ago through a dream, a dream so real, epic and emotional that I immediately connected with the vision of sharing it through a project that involved so much music, as illustrations along with the story.

By then I was already playing guitar and enjoying melodic heavy metal a lot, so it seemed like a good opportunity to start writing songs. On the other hand, I must admit that the time when my dream happened was not in old Ireland, it was in Europe, if I remember correctly France.

At that time I really enjoyed the world and Celtic music so I contacted a friend who wrote very well and who also had a lot of knowledge about Celtic culture. I told him the story and asked him to adapt it to the Celtic world. This is how the story of the Kilkenny Five came about. I chose the name MEMORIAS DE UN DESPERTAR since this story, although with elements of fantasy, could perfectly represent a past life. So what occurred to me was to imagine that one of the survivors of the story woke up one day, remembered the story, and decided to tell it.

At what point did the idea of translating the book into a metal opera come up?

The inspiration came from the song “Stars” composed by Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campell (bassist and guitarist for Dio) that appeared on the charity album HEAR ‘N AID released in 1985 (promoted by Ronnie James Dio).

In this album 40 artists from different heavy metal bands appeared. “Stars” is a powerful song that perfectly combines the voices of singers of the time such as Ronnie Jame Dio (Dio), Don Dokken (Dokken), Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Kevin DuBrow (Quiet Riot) , among others and guitarists such as Yngwie Malmstten, Neal Schon, George Lynch, Vivian Campbell, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, among others.

This song was inspired by the song “We are the World” which was also born for charitable purposes and which brought together many fashionable pop and rock singers of the time.

Although the song was from 85, I listened to it around the year 95. Listening to “Stars” was decisive when making the decision to create songs that allowed combining powerful voices in epic melodies. So between 1995 and 1997 I started to compose the songs (then my main instrument was the electric guitar).

Another album that inspired me a lot to start this project was LEGENDARY TALES by Rhapsody (today known as Rhapsody of Fire); this album shared a whole story of a similar cut to the one I had in mind. It was with Rhapsody that the idea took its final form. After listening to that great album, I decided to create a project that included a story, illustrations and music, all combined.

At that time I already knew Julio “Julián” Castro who already had a very good level with the electric guitar and was capable of perfectly executing the arrangements for that instrument; so I contacted a friend who had a recording studio and started recording demos of the songs.

Although the part of the guitars, basses, drums and keyboard I had them covered, the most difficult thing was to get singers who had the vocal register that would allow them to sing the songs; that, added to the little money available to pay for the recordings, stopped the project in 1998 and I did not continue it until 2000 when I composed the song “Más Grandes Que Dios” with an important Peruvian guitarist of the time named Eduardo Díaz Muñoz. (guitarist for a band called Angelus that in the 90s played neoclassical metal in Lima).

Then in 2000 I met the first Avantasia album, an album that had achieved what I had dreamed of so much. So I completely abandoned the project (I felt that what I dreamed of had already been achieved) on the other hand, I no longer had the budget to be able to continue with the recordings and wanted to concentrate on my career.

How was Julio “Julián” Castro contacted and why was he recruited to be part of MEMORIAS DE UN DESPERTAR?

I met Julio “Julián” Castro in 1997. Then I was very surprised by the technique and high level that he had developed with the electric guitar, this added to the great ability he had to create very good guitar solos (perfectly combining speed and melody).

So I had already composed the instrumental “Ira & Sacrificio” (whose original name was “Sin Escape”), my intention with that instrumental was to represent Leyden’s battle against his friends through guitar solos.

I showed Julio the song along with his idea of the guitar solo duel and asked him if he could create them; I liked the result so much that I immediately included it in the project.

How was the process of creating the songs; was it a compositional work together?

I believe a lot in the synergy that results from joining talents, there are always people more talented or skilled than one, and curiously one of my talents consists in recognizing the talent of others; so whenever possible I have requested the support of other musicians or artists to improve and complete my compositions.

Although most of the compositions are mine, in many of them I have had great contributions, contributions that have allowed each song on this album to be taken to its highest level. My role was to convey as clearly as possible the vision of the album, the vision of the song (regarding what the song was supposed to convey and what part of the story it represented).

When I got back to the project, it was incomplete and needed to add more songs to finish it. To complete these songs I had the collaboration of Deibys Artigas, Lukky Sparxx, Enzo De Rosa and Julio “Julián”.

The work with Enzo (de Rosa) was to create “Synopsis” and also “Epílogo”. Enzo is a renowned Italian film music composer currently living in Canada. I was very interested in working with him as my biggest wish was to give the album an “epic movie” feel, and this meant for me to add instrumentation very similar to soundtracks.

So in summary, yes, of course I have had support in the composition of the songs. My biggest role has been to convey as clearly as possible the vision of the project and the purpose of each song.

The list of invited musicians is impressive, how was the management of contacting them and selecting in which song each one was going to participate?

I took the search for vocalists very seriously, their role within the project is very important since the vocalist is the one who somehow represents the soul of each song.

While guitars tend to have a lot of prominence in a power metal song, I think the real stars are the vocalists. A good vocalist can convey a lot of emotions to you, and in the case of a story, a good vocalist can allow one to identify with the character he represents.

For the selection of vocalists I remember that I first tried to contact a couple of vocalists from the metal scene in Peru, but I had no response from them, I imagine they did not receive my message or in any case, by not being known, they paid no attention to me.

After that I started looking for session vocalists, who would offer the voice recording service for different projects. This is how on Fiverr I found the main vocalists, also some more by recommendation and on Facebook.

How was the process of illustrating the story; each illustrator captured what was born from his mind or was it a coordinated effort?

All illustrations were based on ideas that I originally had in my mind. So in the process of creating the illustrations I shared what I wanted to convey with each image as well as what I imagined in each illustration.

The first eight illustrations I could work with my friend Jose Luis Díaz Carranza more than 22 years ago. Jose Luis made the illustrations by hand and then painted them with tempera, since we did not have many resources for more expensive materials, but his talent allowed us to create eight epic illustrations.

Unfortunately since the project was cut short around 1999 and 2000, I couldn’t finish composing the songs, and neither could the illustrations. The last three illustrations (“Lothair”, “Más Grandes que Dios” y “La Muerte de Lothair”) were worked with another artist, who created them using technology, but under the same process; basically I told him what he wanted to convey and how I imagined each illustration.

How is the process of making the album in English going; why transfer the story to another language?

It was important for us to release the album first in our native language, since we are proud to be Latin American and we wanted to be able to share a quality product on the market that would make Latin projects stand out.

The reason why we also want to translate it into English is to be able to take the project to more corners. Without a doubt, with English, more people in the world will be able to understand history and enjoy the lyrics.

The challenge is to maintain the level of writing in English. But it also gives us the opportunity to seek the participation of European singers for the recording. We trust that we will be able to get singers of a very good level, just as we did in Spanish.

Of course, our lead singer, Deibys Artigas, will continue to be the lead singer as he speaks English very well. We hope to have the album in English ready by the end of the year, along with the book also translated.

Where did the initiative come from to carry out the live sessions explaining the songs?

Before musicians, those of us who make up the MEMORIAS DE UN DESPERTAR team are music fans, it is what we are, especially melodic heavy metal. We all have our favorite bands, that is why we know what a fan would like to receive from one of his favorite bands.

The objective of these live broadcasts is to be able to give the followers detailed or unpublished information about each of the songs, answer questions and interact with them.

These live events will be every Friday, we plan to have guests at some of them, especially vocalists or guitarists who participated, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Is there a chance to one day see the songs performed live?

Certainly, but for now we don’t have a possible date. I hope we are able to do it by the end of the year or before and at least participate in some streaming event.

We also count that in 2022 it will be possible to carry out tours and concerts. We will be attentive to receive invitations to visit sister countries.

Is there already a release date for the physical version of the album; will it be released with a label or is it self-produced?

The scheduled date for the official launch will be Friday, April 30, for both the hardcover and color book and the album with a Trigipack. We will show them on Live – Episode 7 that we are doing every Friday night.

Finally, where can you get both the album and the book?

Since it is a self-edition, for now the disc and the hardcover color book can be obtained directly through our web site or through a direct contact with us (info @ memoriasdeundespertar com) or directly by making the purchase at pre sale here. It is important that at the time of purchase they send an email to the indicated email with the proof of purchase and with the exact address where the product will be sent once it is available (in order to calculate shipping cost).