Xandria have become somewhat of a staple within the German symphonic metal community. Although the group was first formed in 1994, the high voltage unit has been experiencing a revival with the assistance of their new female vocalist, Dianne van Giersbergen.
Dianne is equipped with pipes that seem tailored specifically for the engaging theatrics of Xandria, and that shines through on the band’s new title, ‘Fire and Ashes.’
This release is the second Xandria effort to feature Dianne at the helm, and shows the members of this long-running group exploring new territory through both operatic metal and a handful of cover tunes.
Music Enthusiast Magazine recently sat down with Dianne van Giersbergen to discuss the making of ‘Fire and Ashes,’ the group’s upcoming touring plans and the reason behind their decision to cover a Meat Loaf power ballad.
Music Enthusiast: Was the intention to go with a more operatic sound with your vocals for this EP?
Dianne van Giersbergen: Well first off, I really like that you are asking me this. That tells me that you noticed. For me I took more liberty to interpret these vocals lines with mine own voice. When I had to sing the songs for ‘Sacrificium,’ I was only in the band for a short time and it was hard for me to get into the format while being coached by the band members. Everything came together in one moment and we were searching for what we needed to do. Of course, the fans were used to Manuela Kraller and I have not toured with band a lot, only for the Spain shows. So we really searching and the results are really good. But now after one-and-a-half years later, we enter the recording studio and knowing much more of what the audience wants to hear. I felt much more comfortable to go back to my own roots with my own voice and really work with that again, and on this EP it shows. For me is more vocal freedom and like you, fans really pick that up.
You include a cover of Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” on the EP. Whose decision was it to record that song?
It was a decision we mutually made. When we had the photo shoots for ‘Sacrificium,’ the particular pictures that are in the booklet were taken when we playing music on the radio or stereo. And Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’ came on and there was this moment when we looked at each other and recognized that we are big Meatloaf fans. So it was decided then if we had the opportunity to do a cover that could be on a record, it would be one of his songs. So when Napalm Records came up with a question, “Would you want to do a cover?” We immediately said, “Yes!” We already knew what we wanted to do, then it was only about choosing one of his songs. It was not a very hard decision and this song for me is very good vocal-wise to interpret and had so much feeling that I can still do it. And of course, there was a nice twist of turning the parts around.
Who is the vocalist that is also with you on this song?
It is Valerio Recenti [My Propane], an Italian singer who lives in the Netherlands. Oh God, I love his voice! (laughs) There is so much raw energy comes alive when he sings and he did a splendid job on this part.
When I was listening to this particular track, I could see Xandria recording an operatic concept album around this song and a theatrical performance for it.
Well there is an idea for it. We will have to talk about that among ourselves, but yes that could work.
You re-recorded two of the previous Xandria songs for this release. What was the reason behind that decision?
When Lisa left the band and they were starting to write for ‘Neverworld’s End,’ they decided they wanted to move into a new different direction.
They did, of course, and the sound changed a lot and these two songs are not just the audience’s favorites but also our favorites.
We really wanted to bring them to life again with the more up-to-date sound Xandria has, and of course with me singing them.
We didn’t change them too much so the fans from the first album will also still love them and have respect for the new versions. At the same time, we wanted to bring them into 2015.
Is band currently working on new material for a new album?
Yes, yes we are and you are not the first to ask. What I can only tell you is what we have made so far sounds really, really awesome. Nothing is completed yet so can’t tell you a date or timeline, but we are very busy composing new songs. And yeah, it will be out there.
What is going on with your other band you are involved with, Ex Libris?
Ex Libris. Yes, my Dutch band. We had some lineup changes. We have three new band members; it was only me and the keyboard player, we were the only two left. We decided it was up to us to move into a new direction with new band members who will fit the profile better. We did, and you might know of him. The new bass player is Luuk van Gerven’ from After Forever. We are happy with this new lineup and we are very busy rehearsing new songs that are very complex. We want to master them before we hit the stage together, but we will I promise you that we will.
It will be for just the European shows?
So far, yes. No funds to fly overseas to do shows over there, we’re not at that stage yet. You never know what is to come.
Is there a new Ex Libris album in progress?
I wouldn’t say an album, [we’re not sure] which direction we want to go but there is some song material, yes. That is for sure and that’s how it always starts with us. Ex Libris is really a band that writes concept albums, so we already have the title and the theme.
Back to Xandria, who was the producer for the EP and where was it recorded?
Well we recorded at the Netherlands. The producer is Joost van den Broek who produced ‘Sacrificium’ and did the arrangements for ‘Neverworld’s End.’ He is based here at the Netherlands so it is close to my home. It was finished at Soundlane Recording Studios where the last Epica album was recorded and produced.
I see you have a jewelry line?
(laughs) Yes, and thank you for bringing that up. This is a big passion of mine and jewelry has always been a big passion of mine. I discovered that I was gifted in this making them myself. To figure out how I can combine this with my music, I came up with the idea to make them out of used guitar strings. The material works really well and makes them look edgy, and also because there is a story to tell. So after the shows I see all the musicians just throwing them away. Why? It is a big part of the show, so I thought, “Well, there are musicians just throwing them out.” I started approaching people, for example Ruud Jolie from Within Temptation and Johan van Stratum from Stream of Passion and of course my own guys to see if they give me the strings to make jewels out of them. They were very enthusiastic and I have their support. In the meantime, I have the support of many, many others. I have so many strings now to keep making my jewelry. (laughs) I have many requests and I am happy about this.
And you bring them to shows to sell?
Whenever I can, yes. For example, at a festival when you are not able to do your own merch than it is no use when you only have three items you can put on the merch table and I cannot overrule them.
For the new Xandria album, will your opera vocals be enhanced for the new songs as was done for the EP?
I think for sure there will be. Like the ballad “In Remembrance,” it’s based on a classical composition. Did you know that already?
Yes, it’s based on a classical composition by Giuseppe Verdi.
Good, and we were inspired by his opera “Un ballo in maschera.” I think this will work out so well that we might transition into this, and if it works out for the next album for sure we might do more opera stuff. I am a big fan of diversity but will always stay true to my roots and I will always fight for the classical vocals sound to the album.