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EPICA's SIMONE SIMONS Says 'Attack On Titan' EP Was 'A Little Out Of Our Comfort Zone'
Josh Rundquist of That Drummer Guy recently conducted an interview with frontwoman Simone Simons of Dutch symphonic metal giants EPICA. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). On the band's new "Epica Vs. Attack On Titan Songs" album, which features metal versions of the theme songs from the highly successful manga-series-turned-worldwide-aired-anime "Attack On Titan". Simone: "It's an unusual thing for us to have done. It's a little out of our comfort zone. But, we're super-pleased with the end result. It's cool, because I first thought it was more like only a thing for Japan, but there's so many, how do you say? 'Admirers' of the genre worldwide and also, especially among the metal scene, so I think it's pretty amazing that we now get to share this with everybody. The metal fans, they're collectors, even though they might have heard it already on YouTube, they still want to have the physical or original product." On where the idea for "Epica Vs. Attack On Titan Songs" originated: Simone: "I was included a little bit later in the whole thing because I think, our manager contacted the band and said 'We have this option to do this.' The composer from these songs, from LINKED HORIZON, is actually an EPICA fan and he wanted us to do the cover tracks. We were contacted and thought, 'Okay, it's cool.' I first had to check out what is 'Attack On Titan' because it's not really something…I'm not into anime or I don't know much about it. I think it's cool, but it was new to me. We heard that this was an option to do the cover tracks and first, I had to do some research to see what it is about. Coen [Janssen], our keyboarder, he was like, 'You don't know this? It's huge in Japan.' I said, 'Sorry, no. I'll check it out.' I really liked the songs, but my first concern was 'How am I going to sing in Japanese? I don't think I could get the pronunciation right.' But, then we were told it would be translated into English for us to re-write the lyrics. Then, I was kind of reassured. [Laughs] But, I did not sing in Japanese because I don't think I would have done a good job. But, yeah, the composer from LINKED HORIZON wanted us to do the cover tracks and who contacted who exactly, I don't know, but yeah, we were in Japan the first time in 2016 or 2017 and we saw commercials out on the buildings. They had these huge LED screens and it was 'Attack On Titan' and I thought it was so cool. Of course, when you're in Japan, you see it a lot everywhere and we're not that big in Japan, but still, we got to do this job and it was quite an honor to do this." On how EPICA was able to make this unique project work: Simone: "Yeah, they kind of complete each other. The original songs are a little bit faster than the ones we did because for us, it was almost impossible to play and sing that fast. The original songs were much faster and we slowed them down with the exception of the ballad. We did the whole production like how we would do an EPICA CD. We worked with the same producer, went to the studio, worked with an orchestra and choir and yeah, did the whole package that we would normally do for an EPICA CD. We wanted to take it serious and not do it quickly. We wanted to come up with a great quality product." On how long it took for her to feel comfortable with the project: Simone: "When I was in South America with EPICA, then Joost [van den Broek] the producer, and I went through the songs to first see if the key was a good key for me to sing in so I could use the best side of my voice. So, we matched the songs to the perfect key for me to sing in. After that, we were then re-writing the lyrics to record demo tracks for us to practice on before the actual recordings and also, to send to Japan for approval, to see if they liked what we did. It's the same thing with the music as well. Isaac [Delahaye, guitar] and Mark [Jansen, guitar] re-wrote the guitars, came up with arrangements and the choirs, they added some secret EPICA parts and integrated them into the songs to give them a more of an EPICA touch. We did all this in between touring and while being on tour because nowadays, we have our laptops with us. We were writing lyrics in Colombia overlooking the square, sitting in the backstage, getting ready for the EPICA show, but also, at the same time, having the 'Attack On Titan' lyrics in my head." "Attack On Titan" was made available outside of Japan on July 20 via Nuclear Blast Records. "Epica Vs. Attack On Titan" was recorded during the summer of 2017 at Sandlane Recording Facilities by Van Den Broek. The original songs, which were influenced by the music of EPICA, were composed by Revo of popular Japanese band LINKED HORIZON. Photo credit: Tim Tronckoe
SHAWN DROVER Has 'Nothing Bad To Say' About His Former Bandmates In MEGADETH
Jimmy Kay of Canada's The Metal Voice conducted an interview with former MEGADETH and current ACT OF DEFIANCE drummer Shawn Drover prior to the band's July 15 concert at Petit Campus in Montreal, Quebec, Canada as the support act for ARMORED SAINT. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). On what he learned from being in MEGADETH that he's applied to ACT OF DEFIANCE: Shawn: "Punctuality, for one. No, I learned a lot of things. Overall, just try to be a professional musician. When we're headlining, be courteous to the support bands. When we're a support band, make sure we start and finish on time. There's so many things. Right off the top of my head, just represent yourself in a professional manner out here. This is not a game out here. We're out here trying to better our career. Doing things and going over your stage time and not caring what the headliner's people tell you and stuff, that's recipe for not being invited on another tour. I've been around the block a couple of times. I've always been an apt pupil and learned a lot of things in MEGADETH and try to be as professional as I can in every aspect." On what he learned musically from MEGADETH that he brought into ACT OF DEFIANCE: Shawn: "I didn't take a whole lot musically and try to emulate it in ACT OF DEFIANCE at all. I had the EIDOLON band before I joined MEGADETH. We'd already written six records and I wrote most of that music. So, to me, it was business as usual when we wrote music for ACT OF DEFIANCE, the songs that I've written for this band, it's business as usual for me. In a musical sense, I never took anything away from that where I'm going to copy this and I'm going to copy Dave's [Mustaine] style or whatever. It's nothing to do with that at all. I've always done things my own way musically. That was a different band and Dave wrote most of the music in that band, of course, and it was great to play those songs and to play to the stuff in the repertoire, the classic tracks and all that stuff they did over the years, that was a lot of fun, but it was a different role. That was playing a lot of music to the drummers who previously done it, so that was a whole different ball of wax, but it was great fun. This is great fun in a different way." On whether he was the catalyst for getting bassist David Ellefson back into MEGADETH in 2010: Shawn: "Long story short, we had a situation where we're going to go on the 20th anniversary [tour] for 'Rust In Peace' and we were without a bass player. James [LoMenzo] was let go at the time. It was, like, 'Okay, we need to find a bass player.' I was, like, 'If we're going to do that tour, it would be smart for the band to try to get David back.' Even it was for just for that tour. That was the mindset I took with that is I contacted David and said, 'Hey, what do you think about possibly coming onboard to do this tour?' It was just an American tour at the time for a month. He was open to it and I presented it to Dave. They haggled out all that stuff they had in the past — it was none of my business. A day later, he was down in the studio rehearsing, so it worked out. So, yes, it was me." On whether he's proud of MEGADETH's 2013 "Super Collider" album, which received lukewarm reception thanks to its commercial sound and less technical songs: Shawn: "That's subjective. I've got nothing bad to say about anything with those guys. It was a different kind of musical avenue, perhaps. I'm always an advocate of the heavier stuff. It's not a secret — anyone who knows me knows I like the heavier stuff, but I like all kinds of music. It wasn't as well-received as the other records, but it is what it is. Yeah, I don't really have anything bad to say about it. It's not my favorite record, but it doesn't mean I hate it either, but it's not my favorite record." On how his relationship with guitarist Chris Broderick has grown from their time together in MEGADETH to ACT OF DEFIANCE: Shawn: "Look, we all hung out. Myself and my brother [Glen] got Chris into the band. When my brother quit the band, we got Chris's information and Glen told management, 'Look, contact Chris Broderick, he can do the job. He lives in L.A. now. He fits the bill certainly.' The next day, I think it was, Chris was down talking to management and Dave, if I recall. It was a real quick turnover, which was good. But, yeah, Glen, I was part of that, too, getting Chris Broderick into the band. Yeah, it worked out really well." On breaking through in the metal scene as a then-relatively unknown Canadian musician: Shawn: "There's no secret, man. Glen got a phone call, Glen got an e-mail about joining MEGADETH and then, I got the call to join the band six days before the tour started. Lightning struck twice for myself and my brother. As it turns out, I stuck it out for the long haul, a lot longer than Glen did. Glen was happier, at the end of the day, he was happier doing studio work and stuff, so he opted to do that. I've been doing this for a long time. I like being on the road and creating music and all that stuff. If there was a secret, I'd write the book and sell a million copies." ACT OF DEFIANCE's latest album, "Old Scars, New Wounds", was released last September via Metal Blade Records. The disc was mixed by Dave Otero, who has previously worked with CEPHALIC CARNAGE and CATTLE DECAPITATION, among others. The cover artwork was created by Travis Smith (KING DIAMOND, OPETH, AVENGED SEVENFOLD, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD).
Sometimes The World Ain't Enough - THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA
I've said it before elsewhere and I'll say it again here. If the members of THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA were a group of fashionably dressed Brooklyn indie-rock hipsters in their twenties, the group would be one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. I have zero doubt that the band would be a main draw on the main stages of music festivals such as Coachella and The Governors Ball, with appearances on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and "Saturday Night Live" in between. But instead, since the cornerstones of the band are members of Swedish heavy metal legacy acts in their forties, we'll have to settle for THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA quietly churning out some of the purest fun rock records on the planet. For those of you that are new to THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, the group started as a fun side project for SOILWORK vocalist Bjorn "Speed" Strid and then-touring guitarist David Andersson – soon joined by bassist Sharlee D'Angelo (ARCH ENEMY/WITCHERY) – to indulge in a love for the catchiest corners of the 1970's rock spectrum. Whereas the majority of acts looking to the '70s search for inspiration in the earlier part of the decade – GRETA VAN FLEET's mining of LED ZEPPELIN's songbook being the most prominent current example – THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA turns its ear of influence towards the second half of that decade, when bands such as KISS, CHEAP TRICK, and ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA generated rock that was as catchy and sugary as the pop music of the era. The busy schedules that Strid and D'Angelo maintain with their main acts keep THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA relegated to side project status with sporadic live performances. Since its 2012 debut "Internal Affairs", the band has lurked in the shadows of the metal scene, indulging the members’ love for the rock that dominated the airwaves shortly before the 1981 launch of MTV, with love-obsessed power ballads and hard-driving odes to the greatest rock and roll cities around the world serving as band's primary lyrical focus. Now six years into its recorded output, the band's latest record, “"Sometimes The World Ain't Enough", is exactly the type of album that would have been released by a similar-sounding band that got its start in 1975 and was now adjusting to the change of the decade heading into the 1980's, with the synthesizers of keyboardist Richard Larsson taking a more prominent role as an era-appropriate record would have. The record gets off to a fast-paced start, with opening track "This Time" serving as a showcase for D'Angelo's warm bass lines, Strid's croons and Larsson's ability to replicate the orchestral keyboards popularized by Richard Tandy of ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA. But it's the second track, "Turn to Miami", that really shows the band's knack for replicating the changing trends of the era they pay tribute, aping the direction that GENESIS took its sound during that time as it shed the last vestiges of its more pretentious prog-rock beginnings, with a rousing chorus of backup singers to boot. This is then followed by "Paralyzed", which steps a couple years back in inspiration in its delivery of a sexy, funk-laden disco-rock jam. The rest of the record is a fun trip through the early '80s rock-radio playbook. On just about any other record that would be reviewed on this site, a track called "Moments of Thunder" would be a heavy metal assault on the senses. Here, it's a beautiful AOR power ballad with Strid earnestly crooning about lost love. I would be remiss if I also didn't praise the guitars of Andersson and Sebastian Forslund, both of whom overload every track with plenty of hooks, with their own nods to greats of the past, most notably on "Speedwagon" where they crack the code of pulling off the tone of QUEEN's Brian May. Is anything done by THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA original? Nope. But are they damn good at writing songs that would have been hit singles in the era they are paying tribute to? Yep. Do those songs still sound amazing in 2018? Most definitely.
Epica vs. Attack on Titan - EPICA
If you're a manga and anime fan, "Attack on Titan" (along with ""One Piece" and "Assassination Classroom") is one of today's global phenoms of the genre, much as "Akira", "Bubblegum Crisis", "Battle Angel Alita" and "Ghost in the Shell" were in the past. If you want to see culture clash at its best, come to Baltimore to witness cosplay attendees of the Otakon convention vying for street space during the NFL preseason amongst pre-liquored Ravens fans. It's a guaranteed spectacle. Late last year, symphonic metal pundits EPICA released its covers EP of music from "Attack on Titan", composed by LINKED HORIZON's Revo, leader of Japanese ensemble SOUND HORIZON. SOUND HORIZON blends classical, metal, J-pop and other elements, and the music created for "Attack on Titan" was originally sung in Japanese and narrated in German. EPICA stripped down Revo's core melodies and gave them an extensive symphonic metal upgrade, donning "the EPICA jacket," as guitarist Isaac Delahaye would put it. "Epica vs. Attack on Titan" was first released only in Japan, but now Nuclear Blast is offering the EP worldwide distribution. For EPICA fans, knowledge of manga is hardly prerequisite, since the differences between a Jaw Titan and a Cart Titan can be inundating. Here, EPICA utilizes English singing and narratives along with the band’s gratuitously stuffed symphonic and choral arrangements. It's thus no surprise that the group fluidly translates "Crimson Bow and Arrow" to cinematic heights, even if Mark Jansen's customized growling and Coen Janssen's (also responsible for the scoring and choir sections) tornado-speed synths smother at times. The patriotic march coursing through "Wings of Freedom" provides the platform for a frequently fast power metal number with swarming layers to peel apart and relish. Not so much sensory overload as it is hyper-processing here, and on "Dedicate Your Heart", upon which Simone Simons drops a tour de force performance, the barraging of EPICA's pageantry is frequently exhilarating. Only the breath-catching ballad "If Inside These Walls Was a House" eases the EP's insistent momentum. If only EPICA could've recruited taiko drumming legends KODO (on "Crimson Bow and Arrow" in particular), this would've been an even greater adaptation. Nonetheless, what the group has done here is a remarkable conversion in itself.
My Midnight Things - LIZZY BORDEN
If you've followed LIZZY BORDEN since the "Give 'Em the Axe" EP, you've learned to come prepared for the unexpected. As one of the L.A. metal scene's most ferocious acts, nobody was prepared for the lighter direction taken on 1987's "Visual Lies". The ""Master of Disguise" album two years later proved to be a wild gambit that returned cred to Lizzy, if not a wider audience embracing his need to grow as a performance artist. It's been 11 years since the bricks-heavy "Appointment With Death" album, which leaves to question where Lizzy Borden's musical mind frame is at in 2018. Well, make sure you're sitting down when dialing into "My Midnight Things", a bold and shifty glitter rock album with roots dug from seventies rock and moody goth-pop from which HIM staked its massive career upon. For longtime LIZZY BORDEN fans, an open mind will be prerequisite, but the positive news is this album is more endearing instead of off-putting. What's remarkable from the outset of this album is how sharp Lizzy sounds, and how operatic the title track rings. With a touch of QUEEN, a dash of Meat Loaf and a glossed-up revitalization of classic L.A. metal, "My Midnight Things" rolls like a champion. Its hazy synth spritzes carry into the catchier-than-hell "Obsessed with You", "The Perfect Poison" and "Run Away with Me". If it's not apparent after two songs that this album is hardly a standard LIZZY BORDEN disc, "Long May They Haunt Us" throws another unexpected curve, effortlessly mating THE BEACH BOYS and goth with a charming sugary swing. "The Scar Across My Heart" finds Lizzy and the band taking on pop punk, but it's happily more akin to REDD KROSS than FALL OUT BOY. How much shrewder does the band have to be than with "The Perfect Poison"? The song soars on Marten Andersson's lobbing bass, and a groove so delicious you'd nearly say yes to a cyanide chaser. Lizzy Borden himself stands tall with each building bar, whipping King Diamond-worthy shrieks at will. This song is major league stuff with each tick. "Our Love Is God" being the heaviest monster of the album, its proto crunch ushers Lizzy Borden's whirligig notes through its new-gen mash. And with the pop elevations of "We Belong to the Shadows" mingling a heave of SURVIVOR-based sweat rock with nervy hits of contemporary pop, it all surprisingly well suits him. With HIM snuffing out its own goth-pop torch, it's hardly likely the band’s audience (a demographic possibly unfamiliar with "Menace to Society" and "Love You to Pieces") will flock to LIZZY BORDEN. That doesn't mean Lizzy and the band didn't take some damn good notes on staying relevant. After 11 years, "My Midnight Things" rings like a Hail Mary album, but it's so stinking smart and exciting, it connects receptions more often than not. At this point in his career having sung "American Metal" and "Me Against the World" to a presumed point of inherent boredom, it's stellar that Lizzy Borden challenges himself like this with zero to lose and a bucket load of cred to gain. This still being Lizzy Borden, though, check that bucket for a gallon or two of stage blood.