By Carl Begai
Having worked with Midnattsol vocalist Carmen Elise Espenæs over the past 10 years helping to shape her song lyrics, I’m well aware of her being very nature oriented. No, she’s not a hemp-smoking tree-hugger hippie; Carmen is from Norway, which boasts beautiful and often surreal landscapes, offering her a wealth of inspiration for her music. That said, it came as no surprise to learn the cover art for the self-titled debut from her new band, Savn, was a real down-to-earth photograph rather than a cut-and-tweak image crafted entirely using a computer.
How the band went about creating the cover shot, however, was an adventure in itself that took months to complete.
“I was thinking about the idea of the deprivation of music since Savn started because of this theme,” Carmen begins, referring to guitarist/founder and former The Sins Of My Beloved member Stig Johansen’s inspiration for starting the band. “I was trying to figure out how we could portray the idea of the deprivation of music in a picture, and because I love nature I had this idea of a musical instrument grown over with plants and roots and things in the woods, as if it hadn’t been played in a long time. Piano is a big part of our music and it’s a beautiful instrument, so that’s what I chose.”
“We found a 200 year old piano for sale, but the deal was we could have it for free if we picked it up ourselves. It was SO heavy and we had to get a lot of people in order to carry it from where we got it to our house.”
The band could have easily dressed up the piano for the shoot, but Carmen was aiming for authenticity as well as image. Even it if meant risking being locked up for seemingly erratic behaviour. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Talking to musicians / artists about the creative process is what this journalist tour-of-duty is all about. Actually being part of the creative process offers a new and valuable perspective of the time and energy spent on bringing the music from vision to the studio. Since 2004 I’ve played a small role in helping to shape the lyrics for the German / Norwegian folk metal band, Midnattsol, an ongoing collaboration that forces me to dig deeper each time vocalist Carmen Elise Espenæs asks for my feedback.
For the record, I couldn’t write a song to save my or anybody else’s life. When I was first approached by ex-Midnattsol guitarist / co-founder Christian Hector about proof-reading lyrics for their debut, Where Twilight Dwells, I took on the task not really expecting to do anything more than offer suggestions on using correct tenses and how to improve grammatical structure. In actual fact it became an interesting exchange of ideas with Carmen who, at that point, was very much in a learning-by-doing phase as a singer / songwriter.
Three albums in and Carmen has found her stride. In truth she doesn’t need my help anymore, but I was happy to offer it when she was finalizing the lyrics for the new album, The Metamorphosis Melody. I was pleasantly surprised – and more than a bit impressed – to find myself challenged by Carmen’s ideas rather than being met with grammatical errors, resulting in a full week of chaos and comedy as we bashed her lyrics into shape.
Following is our behind-the-scenes look at Carmen’s work on The Metamorphosis Melody, with me playing her soundboard and the voice of sporadic reason.
(And if any of this seems self-serving or narcissistic, it is. If you can’t be proud of your own accomplishments there’s no reason why anyone else should treat them seriously :-)…) Continue Reading
I’m not a huge goth metal fan, even less of a goth rock supporter. On the metal end of things the vast majority of goth-ick bands seem more concerned with having a hot piece of ass on stage front and center than the music, paired up with a male counterpart who wishes he was Peter Steele (Note to Doodness: There can be only one). The black #1 rockers, meanwhile, get their yeah-yeahs off playing the same three Sisters Of Mercy chords over and over from album to album, pretending they’re rejects from an Anne Rice vampire epic. It worked for The 69 Eyes and HIM, of course it’ll work for them…
How bloody boring.
That isn’t to say that all bands out of the goth realm suck – and Jeez help me, there are some knockout women to be drooled over – but very few have bent my ear for more than a spin over the last several years. Image, it seems, takes precedence over substance. Very sad indeed, especially in light of the fact that the band who gave goth metal life beyond the underground have decided to call it quits. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Carmen Elise Espenaes used to be known as the younger sister of Leaves’ Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine first and the singer of Midnattsol second. That started to change at the beginning of 2008 with the release of Midnattsol’s second album, Nordlys, an unexpectedly ballsy outing leaps and bounds ahead of their 2005 debut in every way. Affectionately referred to by some as having an Amorphis-meets-Iron Maiden sound, Nordlys took the folk metal direction established on Midnattsol’s first record, Where Twilight Dwells, and turned it on its ear. The band was bent on making an impact. More progressive and traditional metal elements, most certainly heavier, better produced, the album showcased a band interested anything but settling for comfortable half-measures. Capping it off was Espenaes’ multi-facetted vocal performance, so strong that one had to wonder where Midnattsol had found their new singer and why she was using the old one’s name. Once perceived as delicate and waif-like, perhaps even insecure in her role fronting a metal band, Espenaes blew the doors off on Nordlys like a seasoned professional. A development that could be seen as well as heard over the course of the select number of shows Midnallsol was able to put in over the past year.