Monday, December 18, 2006

Evanescence - The Open Door

The new CD from Evanescence, titled The Open Door is more personal in nature than the songs on their debut CD, Fallen, but maintains the same dark, haunting quality that Evanescence is known for. "Lithium" is about struggling with deep depression and contains the same emotional power that "Tourniquet" did on their debut CD. Then there is the song that's clearly about obsession, titled (ironically enough) "Snow White Queen." But there are also more "light-hearted" songs such as "Call Me When You're Sober." Okay, not exactly a light-hearted song, but lighter than the rest. All-in-all, the music's great with even more of the haunting Classical Symphony/Metal sound, the lyrics are meaningful, and Amy Lee's vocals, as always, are superb.

Best Song: "Lithium," hands down. Although, the song, "Like You", which is about mourning over a deceased loved one and longing to be reunited, is an extremely close second.

Coolest Part: Of course, a song about obsession goes on my list of potential wedding songs (assuming I ever get married). "You belong to me, my Snow White Queen..." MWAHAHAHA!

Gripe: Although the CD is everything you could expect from an Evanescence CD, it just doesn't seem to contain the same "Wow!" factor that Fallen did. While some songs are better than what was on Fallen, the overall effect of the CD just doesn't compare.

Best to listen to while reading/writing: Dark Fantasy, Magic Realism, and any kind of SF/F/H with a dark romantic twist to it.

Format: Audio CD
Label: Wind-Up
List Price: $18.98

Monday, December 11, 2006

Interview - Transentience

Tansentience is certainly a band to watch for, so doing this interview with them was an honor.

How did the band get together and what made you decide to do Goth Metal?

Kristof: I'm actually from Belgium (you know, where we have Belgian Waffles and Brussels Sprouts) but moved to the Netherlands in 1999. I didn't have a lot of musical connections there, even after living in The Netherlands for 6 years, so I basically placed a number of advertisements all over the internet, looking for musicians. It was an incredible "leap of fate" to find myself surrounded by these talented, motivated and like-minded musicians. It took us a while to find the right vocalist, but I'm convinced that Carmen is the ideal female vocalist for our music. As tothe Goth part; I never really set out to form a Goth-metal band. I only knew that I wanted to piece together influences from Symphonic and Power Metal and add clear female vocals to that. It was only later that I realised how putting operatic vocals to a bunch of loud guitars and the use of keyboards most instantly turns you into Goth Metal. I don't think any of
us mind.

Joop: Nowadays it is hard to be distinctive in music, mostly because the people who listen always try to compare your music with other styles & bands. I would say we create music like the style Kristof mentioned earlier, not only a great combination between Symphonic and Power Metal, but also influenced by a lot of styles from the past until now.

Why did you pick Transentience for the name of your band?

Kristof: I've long had a number of projects which I grouped under the title of "Sentient Beings". When I decided to start my own metal band, I took a number of things in consideration. The domain name shouldn't have been taken, it had to be related to "sentience" and it had to have a
mystical ring to it. Not long after, I came up with the name "Transentience". The domain hadn't been taken. It also indicated the next stage of "sentience" and sounded mystical enough. So, when I started placing advertisements, I used the name "Transentience". I also registered the domain name, and made a preliminary website which made it easier to get responses from interested musicians.

How would you describe your sound?

Joop: As mentioned before, our sound is based on Symphonic and Power Metal, but there is more to it than just those two influences. We have created songs which are all easy accessible for everyone who listens to it. Interesting fact is that all of the members with different musical
backgrounds have a part in composing the songs, so no matter what "timeframe" you're from like the 70's 80's or 90's, you will always hear something of this particular period. This results in music which can be "recognized" by a lot of people, even those who are not into metal.

I've noticed a lot of great metal bands coming out of Northern Europe--particularly Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands. Has this been recent or are we Americans just now noticing?

Kristof: To be honest, Europe has been putting out a lot of high-quality hard-rock and metal ever since the Seventies. Most noticeably, Germany and Great-Britain have been at the forefront of metal with bands such as Scorpions, Helloween, Iron Maiden and Saxon to name but a few. But other countries have contributed as well, spawning a large number of metal bands: Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, Vandenberg, Vader and Europe to name but a few. But it's true that only recently, European bands have grown to Superstar Status on the American continent with bands such as Nightwish, After Forever, Epica and Within Temptation leading the pack. Three of which are Dutch bands. Hurray!

Joop: "A Belgian who cheers for the Dutch, I never get used to it, hehe."

But what Kristof mentioned is true. It is amazing that a lot of high- quality metal is coming from Europe and in particular The Netherlands. Being the metal-programmer of the Venue "De Peppel", I receive a lot of demomaterial of bands from within The Netherlands. When I listen to them and look at the artwork of the cd-covers & labels, it always surprises me that the level is already so high. It is not a coincidence that we have put a lot of effort in our cd-labelling and artwork. Presentation is everything, as well as on stage as our demo.

What are your favorite fiction genres, and have they had any influence on the songwriting?

Kristof: I'm the classic sucker for Epic Horror and Fantasy. I don't think, however, that it has influenced my views on music in any way. Clive Barker, J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and Stephen King are all present on my bookshelf, yet I've never really purposely written any
song nor lyrics on horror, heroic little people or wizards and dragons. I have however, in a distant past, tried to do a project based around the love of a King for a farm-girl although that never really went beyond a few musical sketches and only one finished song which isn't
anywhere near Metal at all.

Joop: I have all the books of Jack Vance, Pinhead (of the movie series Hellraiser) is my idol and with my former band I wrote 2 songs, which are called "Final Fantasy" and "The Dark Crystals". Yes, you could say I am a "little" influenced by Fantasy & Fiction. Mostly in a musical way though, I do not care much about the content of the lyrics. To me, the melody of the lyrics have to be sung in close harmony with the rest of the music. For me, the voice acts more like an melodic instrument than as a "storyteller". Carmen is doing a great job creating the melody as well as the lyrics, doing her share in the band with great ease!

What's in the future for Transentience?

Kristof: Fame, Fortune and Fans! Aside from that, I'm mostly in it for the music and the live gigs. Anyone who has been on stage once and has been cheered at by three or more people will confirm that it's one of the biggest rushes possible.

Joop: What he said....

Being live on stage is really a drug! Right now we are in the preparations of performing at the biggest metal award in The Netherlands, The Metal Bash 2006. We are selected as one of the 16 bands to perform in the Semi Finals. Throughout the whole of The Netherlands and Belgium there were about 200 competitors, so we are very proud to be part of this select few!
And about the future? Stay tuned on us, you know you want to!

Line-up Transentience:
Kristof Elst - Guitars
Joop de Rooij - Keyboards
Carmen Agtsteribbe - Vocals
René Bouwer - Bassguitar
Kace Huiszoon - Drums

Monday, December 04, 2006

Nightwish - Highest Hopes: The Best of Nightwish

All their best songs on one CD? Can it be true? Am I dreaming this? Well, if I am, don't wake me up! I've been a Nightwish fan ever since I first heard of them two years ago, so take this review for what it is: a biased one written by a fan.

I'm not going to gush over how great they are, yadda, yadda. But I will tell you what I love most about this CD (aside from the fact it's their greatest hits CD, 16 great songs that span their entire music career since they started back in the late 90's). The titles alone on songs like "Elvenpath", "Nemo", and "Wishmaster" show the influence SF has had on this band. Heavy Metal riffs accompanied to the voice of a trained Opera singer (Tarja Turunen) gives them a freshness rarely found in Heavy Metal today.

Best Song: "Dead Boy's Poem" will likely leave you in tears.

Coolest Part: They manage to cover Pink Floyd's "High Hopes" without mangling it, and they play it as a live recording. Yeah, I'd love to see Green Day try to do that!

Gripe: "Slaying the Dreamer" and "Carpenter" are not on the CD; although, they do have "Wish I Had An Angel" and their cover of "Over The Hills And Far Away" on it, so I'm in a forgiving mood. But alas, this will likely be the last Nightwish CD to feature Tarja Turunen as the lead vocalist, so how they'll sound in the future is anyone's guess.

Best to listen to while reading/writing: Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Dark Science Fiction, Epic/Heroic Fantasy, Horror, Space Opera, Sword & Sorcery