By Carl Begai
Season Of Ghosts vocalist Sophia Aslanidou has left her Blood Stain Child past behind, although it’s probably more accurate to say she’s buried it in the dust kicked up as she’s moved forward. Months before the December 2014 release date of the debut album, The Human Paradox, Sophia made certain to keep word-of-mouth-and-social-media promotion ramped up, and it paid off better than she or anyone else expected. Pre-orders and a significant buzz on metal websites added up, but having Season Of Ghosts booked to play the popular annual Metal Female Voices Festival in Belgium saw the band perform for close to 2,000 people for their morning set. This in spite of being at the bottom of the roster and not having an album out. It was an experience that cemented Sophia’s strength as a do-it-yourself artist, and her commitment to making Season Of Ghosts much more than just a studio project.
“One reporter at the festival put it best; she said you had to be living under a rock not to know that Season Of Ghosts was playing,” Sophia laughs. “It was surreal. We had to wake up at 7:00am and I’m not a morning person. I was tempted to have a couple beers before the show but it was too early in the morning even for me (laughs). I went out on stage and saw something like 1,000 people, and when we started playing people started coming into the venue from the market thing they had set up outside. We had a large audience watching us and cheering us on, and I was wondering what the fuck was wrong with those people (laughs). I mean that in the best way because I couldn’t be up that early for my favourite band, and we weren’t even the first band that day. The response was very heartwarming and very surprising. We brought as much merchandise as we could and it sold out very quickly, almost everything we had. I was very impressed.”
“We did five songs in the set,” she adds, “one of them the Blood Stain Child song ‘Stargazer’ because it’s a fan favourite, and lyrically it’s a song that represents me as a whole. The lyrics are very personal, which is why I chose to play it.”
“If I could stay awake around the clock I would, and if people come to me for advice about this sort of thing I tell them that if you have a project you need to work on it yourself, because nobody is going to do it better than you. It’s your child, you gave birth to it, so nobody is going to hurt more than you if it fails.”
Although it wasn’t intentional, the Metal Female Voices Festival gig gave Sophia the opportunity to prove that she can, in fact, sing her proverbial balls off. The Epsilon recordings for Blood Stain Child played out in favour of the band’s developing trance metal sound, tweaking her voice with technology to a sometimes off-putting degree. Live footage on YouTube of Blood Stain Child in action showcases an inexperienced Sophia that is sometimes painful to watch. The Human Paradox puts her in a much different light thanks to the broad use of her vocal range, but it was the MFVF show that proved she is a very capable singer. This begs the question as to whether vocal lessons became a part of her routine since leaving Blood Stain Child.
“Yes. I actually started taking vocal lessons long before I joined Blood Stain Child,” Sophia reveals. “Even while I was in the band I never stopped those lessons. Since Blood Stain Child, I’ve become a better singer because I learned some new techniques to project my voice in a better way – I learned to us my voice more effectively – but 90% of the reason why I sound better now is because I have better knowledge of how the microphones function on stage. When I was with my old band that was my first time on stage, and nobody ever took the time to explain how we use the stage. The acoustics of the venue, the microphone techniques, there’s a whole science behind all that and if nobody explains it to you, you’ll end up shouting into the microphone and singing flat notes. You’re never going to notice until you see the video and that’s exactly what happened to me. I didn’t know if people could hear me so I ended up shouting to be heard over the instruments.”
During our June 2014 interview, Sophia described Season Of Ghosts’ music as “a strange mix of everything from classical to epic movie soundtrack to metal, gothic, industrial, Visual Kei and my general weirdness.” She wasn’t kidding. While there are some strong threads linked to Blood Stain Child – including occasional growling vocals provided by the lady herself (!) – the album goes well beyond straightforward metal and into the realms of both symphonic and trance music.
“People have told me they were expecting something completely different. Maybe they were carried away by the fact I wear Visual Kei or gothic, so they were expecting gothic music. In fact, because I’m a huge enthusiast of electro-gothic industrial EBM, that stuff is on The Human Paradox.”
Sophia kept a tight hold on the reins while making The Human Paradox, leaving nothing to chance and never content to merely settle. She was open to and in fact required the help of Italian multi-instrumentalist / composer Zombie Sam to tie everything together, a collaboration that she admits made a big difference in the creation of the songs.
“I started out with ideas on my piano and guitar, I collected them and put them in different folders so that Zombie could take a listen to them and we could start arranging them as songs. We constructed the songs together because I’m not very good with software yet, we agreed and disagreed on things, and Zombie did the elaborate string orchestrations. He helped a lot with the strings and the keyboards, but the vocal melodies and the main structure of the songs were my doing. But, when we sit down and work together we create some really weird stuff. When I worked with him on his album for ‘A Hallow Tale’ and ‘The Awake’, he told me I was free to create some of my own vocal lines, which made for a great working relationship.”
Ultimately, all final decisions on The Human Paradox were made by Sophia. No second guessing, and no excuses if the music failed to meet her expectations.
“It’s as good as I thought it would be because there were no surprises involved,” she explains. “The reason for that is because I had to control everything, even the mastering (laughs); ‘I want this louder, I want that lower…’ Some producers would say that’s bad because I don’t let them work, but this is my project so I’m prepared to go all the way for it. If I let other people work on it 100% alone it would have been different from what I expected, and what I wanted. I had to approve everything because I didn’t want any surprises. What you’re listening to is the mix and the master I approve of (laughs). I’ve been working on the album for so long, it’s been a non-stop process. Over the last couple of months I lost a lot of sleep, but I think it was worth it.”
It can be said that Sophia’s love affair with Japan soured to a degree given her volatile split from Blood Stain Child, but her presence on the scene in that small corner of the world earned her a valuable fanbase that she doesn’t take for granted. They’ve been paying close attention since word came down she had launched Season Of Ghosts and have shown a tremendous amount of support.
“The reaction from the Japanese fans that have seen and heard the preview, judging by all the pre-orders, was overwhelming,” Sophia admits. “Traditionally, Japanese fans are very supportive of the artists they like. They are the type of people that will buy your stuff at the shows; they don’t trust the internet all that much. So, I’ve received messages from the Japanese fans asking me to tour there, and if I go there I know they will actually show up. They back up their words with actions.”
So, with live dates in her homeland away from home more or less a done deal, is it realistic to bank on Season Of Ghosts putting in time for a world tour, even on a small scale?
“It’s very realistic and we are already in contact with different agents in Japan, North America and Europe,” reveals sophia. “Hopefully something good will come out of it. We’ve had some offers but I want to be sure that everything is 100% before we commit to anything.”
Live photo by InterdependentPhoto.nl. Used with kind permission.