Bandleader/singer/songwriter Elina Siirala – Angel Nation
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Inner Wound Recordings for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Inner Wound Recordings for the promo pictures of the band.
Melodic metal act Angel Nation are led by charismatic band leader/singer/song-writer Elina Siirala. I had a sit down with her to discuss the band’s new album, ANTARES, which has taken the band a really long time to release given that Angel Nation’s previous album, AEON, came out in 2017. Siirala is Finish but now lives in England, where her bandmates also reside. We talked about the new album, its concept, the member changes the band have gone through, as well their choice to crowdfund the album. Since 2016 Siirala has also been the lead singer in symphonic metal act Leaves’ Eyes. If you’re interested in knowing more about Angel Nation then make sure to check out the previous interview I did with her in the Metal-Rules.com archives.
Hi, Elina thanks for making time for this interview; I hope you’re doing well today. The last time we spoke was back in 2017 at the time of the release of the AEON album.
Thanks for having me one more time.
First of all, how have you and the band been holding up during the pandemic?
It was definitely hard not having any live concerts for so long! It was tough for all of us, but it also gave us the time to finally finish this album.
Did the band do any touring for AEON?
Yes, we did both UK and European tour. We also played the Brainstorm festival for example.
AEON was the first album released via a label; are you happy with the sales of AEON?
It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Inner Wound Recordings and we were very happy with the promotion and results for AEON.
In 2016 you joined forces with Leaves’ Eyes. Did that complicate anything with Angel Nation?
It of course meant that I had to concentrate on Leaves’ Eyes for some time as we had quite a lot of concerts that year, including a seven-week tour in U.S. We were working on AEON back then and released it on 2017, so I was still determined to keep Angel Nation going too.
Why did guitarist Sonny Antoniou leave the band last year? Was his departure expected?
He was getting increasingly busy with other projects and since we were just starting to work on the new album and that would have meant a lot of effort and time, he made the decision to step out before that. We talked about it so it wasn’t unexpected, but of course it’s always sad to lose a band member.
Was it hard to find someone to replace him? How did George GT Stergiou end up joining?
We actually didn’t find anyone to replace him as at the time we were more concentrated on the writing process. George joined us for the 2018 European tour so we continued working with him on the new album.
According to the internet he joined the band back in 2018, is that correct?
Yes, we were looking for a second guitarist back then to beef the live sound up and he ended up joining us for the European dates.
New album ANTARES
When did you start writing material for ANTARES?
I started back in 2019 and was writing all the way up until 2020.
Fly Away [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
Who does what in the band when it comes to writing music? What are the lyrics about this time?
I write the songs using keyboards, so I usually start with the vocal melodies and make the structure of the song from start to finish. Then I make synth ideas and send it to the rest of the band, so they can add their ideas. Sometimes we also end up changing some structures and chords on the way, but that’s how it’s mainly been since the start of the band.
The lyrics are kind of a journey I’ve had over these last three years but also include some older topics. It’s always a mix with me as I like to combine very cryptic text with hidden meaning with reality and fiction.
The info sheet says that the album is inspired by a concept of an army of angels. What’s your comment to that, is it a concept album?
That’s how it started back in 2019, but it’s not a concept album. All the topics intertwine with my own life experiences and everything that happened over the three years. It’s a bit of a mix of fiction and reality. There are also a couple of songs that were already written back in 2017.
Can the songs stand on their own or do the listeners have to listen to the song after each other in order to grasp the story?
They absolutely stand on their own, it’s not a concept album in that sense. All the songs have their own character and can be listened on their own.
What are the longest songs “Face To Face With the Merciless” (3.30), “Where’s the Time” (3.32) and “End Of Innocence” (3.58) about?
“Face To Face With the Merciless” is about the process of creating, how it feels to have the passion and being drawn towards making music and on the other hand how scary it can be to release it after you put so much yourself into it.
“Where’s the Time” is about people always telling you how time heals when something bad happens. Sometimes it feels as though that the pain doesn’t get better and you start wondering where’s this time, that’s supposed to heal you.
“End of Innocence” is about a turning point and I’m sure we’ve all had these. When something monumental happens, that really breaks you to pieces and it feels like nothing will be the same. You look at life and people around you differently and It feels a bit like the end of innocence.
Jonah Weingarten (Pyramaze) makes a guest appearance. Which song does he play on and how did he end up on the album? Are you old friends?
He made the whole orchestration for the song “Way Back Home”. I’ve known him for a long time, but not personally. I heard some of his work for Leaves’ Eyes and thought he’d be perfect for the ballad as I had something like that in mind for it. He did an excellent job!
Out of Sight, Out of Mind [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
Why did you call the album ANTARES? Does the title have any special meaning?
We wanted a more red, fiery theme for this album in contrast to AEON. I was searching for red-coloured planets and stars and came across Antares, which is the brightest object in the constellation of Scorpius and has a distinctive red colour. As I happen to also be Scorpio, I thought it was a great combination. 😀
Was Jobert Mello (Sabaton, Primal Fear) given free hand to creating the cover art work and are you happy with it?
We gave him the concept idea which included some inspiration from Bladerunner and Terminator 2. We wanted to keep the hybrid character in the artwork too. We had a few versions of the cover and at the end we were all very happy with the result!
Do you think the band has changed anything musically if you compare ANTARES with your previous albums?
Yes, I think this album is definitely the heaviest and much more guitar driven than the previous ones. The keys are more at the background in general. Personally, I was also using my voice in different ways on this album.
Did you feel any pressure on delivering something extraordinary this time around since AEON went really well?
I can never really force the song writing, so everything I do comes from the moment and can’t be calculated. I think there’s always pressure no matter what, but I will never fabricate something for the sake of it. I’d rather have authentic songs and then if they resonate with the listener, great!
The info sheet says “Get ready for it all: heavy rocking and epic tunes”. Do you think you managed to create all that?
I think so! There are definitely heavy, rocking and epic songs, but also combined with a lot of ’80s influence and of course those moments of quiet and peace.
Have you read any reviews of the album yet? Do you care about what media writes about you?
There has been quite a few and I’ve read some of them for sure! Reviews are always the opinion of one person so it’s important to try to maintain a neutral position regarding them. Of course it’s nice to read positive reactions to the album and some are very observant, picking up small details that most would not recognize, so that always brings a smile to my face.
How would you like to describe the music on ANTARES?
As mentioned earlier, it’s heavy, rocking and epic! I like variety, so again the album includes power metal, ’80s rock, symphonic elements and catchy melodies.
This time around you chose to crowdfund the album, why did you do that?
It was the only way for us to cover the costs for making this album. As I’m sure many know, it’s not just about writing and recording the music. There’s also mixing, mastering, album artwork, music videos, etc. So it was a nice way to involve the fans and we are extremely grateful for the overwhelming support!
At the end you raised more money than you actually needed, how did that feel? You sure have a loyal fanbase!
The goal was set to cover the very minimum. Since the fans pledged more, we were able to make two music videos, which was incredible!
What kind of stuff did you auction for the fans to buy?
We had the album of course, and a T-shirt to go with it. I offered hand written lyrics and a specifically written song (I ended up writing two!). There was also an “ultimate package” that included for example a cover duet song, multiple videos of me talking about the lyrics and writing process of the album.
Is it correct that the album got delayed? Why was it postponed?
The original release was planned for October 2021 and we released in April 2022, so it took a bit longer due to some delays in mixing and also organizing the video shoots. It was still difficult because of the pandemic, but I’m glad we managed to do everything at the end!
The label is helping us distribute the album and they of course have all the necessary contacts also for promotion, etc. They’re taking care of the pressing of the CD and vinyl and many more things that would be very difficult on our own.
Was it planned that IWR would release the album? What’s it like to work with them again?
When we started the crowdfunding, we had the conversation about the release and since everything went so smoothly with AEON, I had no hesitation about asking if they wanted to be part of this album as well. Everything has gone well this time too. It’s only a bit over a month since the release, so things look very good!
The CD version of the album is out and the vinyl version is planned for release at the end of May. Do you think that release will hold? I know that many bands are postponing their vinyl releases due to trouble to printing vinyl.
Unfortunately we couldn’t release the vinyl at the same time due to these printing problems you’re referring to. However, the release was set for June 3rd and that’s going to happen. I already received the vinyl and all the pre-orders through the band have been shipped.
There’s only 100 copies printed in transparent vinyl and 200 in red vinyl. Why so few? Are there any plans on releasing a simple black vinyl version?
There’s always many factors to be considered when investing in a vinyl edition. This is our first one ever, so I’m so excited! We decided to make it very exclusive and the signed transparent ones are almost sold out now! We also decided on having two coloured ones instead of black one, but let’s see what the future holds!
Past present and future
Are there any plans on heading out on tour or doing one-off shows in 2022?
For sure! We want to play these songs live and there are plans to play UK and also some shows in the Europe.
Why was the release party cancelled?
This was unfortunately due to the venue closing down and hosting another concert instead. With such short notice we weren’t able to find a suitable alternative venue. There are new plans already in the pipeline that we will announce very soon!
At the moment the band has about 15,000 followers on Facebook. Do you think that number is going to increase with the release of ANTARES?
The followers have already been rising during the crowdfunding and making of the album. We weren’t so active in the time leading to this new album, so now it’s time for some more regular news again! Hopefully many new fans will find us due to ANTARES.
End of Innocence [OFFICIAL AUDIO]
Do you think the fact you’re in Leaves’ Eyes will bring more fans to Angel Nation?
That’s hard to say. People might find the band because of my connection with Leaves’ Eyes, but they have to of course like the music to actually become a fan. I’m sure there is some crossover between the two bands and that’s nice thing to have!
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Angel Nation yet?
You’re missing out on some interesting combination of music styles, vocal styles and of course catchy choruses and great metal band sound!
Seraph [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy ANTARES?
1. If you like melodic metal, this is a perfect album to sing along to.
2. The album has great variety, so you won’t get bored listening to it.
3. It’s a hard, rocking album without the typical symphonic sound. Straightforward songs with small twists to keep the listener on their toes.
Well that was all for this time, once again thanks for taking the time making the interview. I wish you and the band all the best, do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Thank you so much for this thorough interview, I had a lot of fun answering the questions!
I hope the readers like our new album and I hope to see you at our gig very soon! Take care and rock on!