Latest Release: Perils Of The Deep Blue (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.sirenia.no
Music should entertain, evoke a response and make the listener want to hear more. Norwegian metal band Sirenia, who have mastered symphonic gothic metal sounds brilliantly have that captivating effect. Utilising both male and female vocals in various registers gives them an almost cinematic quality. Adding a powering rhythm sound, the mastermind behind it all is guitarist and vocalist Morten Veland. On the eve of the first ever tour to Australia, Loud Online snared a chat with the multi talented founder of Sirenia.
You’re coming to Australia for the first time ever.
We’re looking forward to it a lot, it has been something we’ve been looking forward to for over twelve years. For as long, I guess, as the band has been around. It has proved to be quite difficult to make it happen because of that great distance between us and the high cost related to it. We are extremely happy. We are hiring the backline. What we are bringing is just our instruments and the effects pedals for the guitars. The stuff that we cannot go without; drums, PA systems, keyboards, outboards and all that, we are renting.
I am guessing that for festivals in Europe it is a similar deal?
For a band coming out of Norway, we are pretty much isolated from the rest of the world. So, whenever we got to play shows and stuff like that, we have to go by plane. So then for us it is like, if you want to bring a lot of stuff with you them that is generating a lot of high cost. We try to keep that down as low as possible as most bands, I suppose. It would be simpler if we were living in Germany or central Europe where you could just put all your stuff into a trailer and just drive around between big cities. It would be so much simpler for touring but living in Norway you have to fly so a bit of a more tricky situation. So we just have to take that for what it is and make the best out of it.
With so many complex arrangements do you need to implement keyboard programming or strip things back for a live performance?
Actually no, when we go out on the road, we use a hard disc recorder to put all the symphonic things, the keyboards, choirs and so on and even the bass. If we played without the bass and symphonic elements, it wouldn’t sound like Sirenia. So it is important to have those elements when we perform live. When performing live, we try to present the songs pretty much as they are on the albums. Then you get that raw, unpolished and energetic, live sound to it which makes the experience different. We put a lot of focus on presenting the songs as they should be without leaving out important elements.
When writing epic songs, like the twelve minute song, Stille Kom Doden on the last album, do you think about live performance at all or just concentrate on the song?
When I am composing, I don’t think much at all about the live thing, that is something that I deal with later when we start band rehearsals for the tours. Sometimes, when I am sitting and writing an energetic riff I will think, ‘wow, this is going to work really well playing live’. After all these years, you get experience and at the shows the watch the crowd to see what they react to so you get an idea of what the fans really like live. Sometimes when I am composing it is between live or being best for CD. I am not changing songs because of it, when I am composing, I am simply trying to write the best possible songs I can. I don’t care too much about the live thing.
Being a metal and bass heavy mix, is it beneficial having a female vocalist to cut through the mix? Do Ailyn’s vocals cut through the mix in a live situation?
Well, actually that has proven to be quite difficult in the past. It depends on the singer but some don’t have that power in their voice. So, live, it has had a tendency to disappear a little in the mix. It is more of a challenge to make the vocal high enough because if it is too loud it will feedback and cause trouble with the overall sound. So, it is quite the opposite in a live situation actually. But, the reason I brought in a female singer was because I like the contrast of a female singer and a powerful metal band. Also, having the male vocals and mixing up all kinds of different elements in our music by having a female and male singer. It provides a lot more possibilities and more variations in the music which is an important thing. There is a great contrast between my vocals and Ailyn’s vocals which both contrast the music so that is what I really like with the female voice in a metal band.
Does a soprano voice allow you to put through gloomy lyrics yet play with the listener’s mind? The song Funeral March is lyrically bleak yet strangely soothing.
Ah, well, that is not something that I did not think so much about. I always write lyrics regardless of whether I am performing them or Ailyn is performing them. I just try to write lyrics that fit really well with the music. Sometimes there is a little bit of interaction between either vocal parts but I have to make sure that everything fits well together.
Did you have to take a back seat from the writing mindset to have an objective view as a producer?
Yeah, I always try to keep an open view on everything even at the start of the process when I am writing the riffs to start putting songs together. When I writing a riff, I can hear how it should sound when it is all put together so I will start matching drum beats and bass to decide if it is an instrumental part or something with vocals. My mind just starts working right away and I am creating a list in my head of just how everything should sound in the end. When I start producing, I try to bring it all as close to vision as possible. That can change along the way with new ideas but more or less, I usually get an idea of how it should be and that is what I work towards to put that idea to life.
There a several guitar solos on Perils Of The Deep Blue. As a guitarist in the production chair, do you find yourself having to contest with editing backs solos?
Ah, with solos, sometimes I think about the vocal melody and I’ll start building around that melody. Or, I’ll just do something completely different. It is all about what the song demands, in a way. It might add an effect but I have always used solos to bring something melodic to the song. I am not the guitar player to showcase speed and technique. I focus on the more melodic aspects. When I first started playing guitar, I was really inspired by Slash. He is amazing having melodic solos that stick in your head. Usually in a band the focus is on the singer and afterwards you might whistle the chorus. For me, when I was listening to Guns’N’Roses I found myself whistling the guitar solos because they are so melodic and catchy. That is something that I also wanted to do with my solos. Melody is the main thing for me when it comes to solos.
The rhythm guitar sound is a big wall of distorted power. How much of that is your amplification and how much would you attribute to a tight, rehearsed rhythm technique?
It is a combination. When I record my rhythm guitars, I always records four guitars. Two guitars on the left [of sonic spectrum] and two on the right for a full rhythm sound. You really have to focus on the rhythm to get it all as much in sync as possible. They have to be dead on the rhythm every time when you’re playing the same thing on top of each other part. When you get that right and play it exactly, you will have a more massive sound. That is the why I am working and it does so really well to give that big wall of rhythm guitars. For this band, having that metal foundation with the bass there make those elements on top of it gives us a lot more power.
Have you found yourself being compared to Nightwish or Therion?
Oh, yeah, that is natural for people to do, whenever they hear a band or music they always want to compare it to something different. That is also the case with Sirenia. I can understand it. It gives people an idea of what we sound like or are doing. Personally I think you could say there are some parts that are a little bit similar to Therion and so on but overall the concept and sound of Sirenia is quite different to anybody else.
When you have to hand over your album to the mixing and mastering process, do you find that it alters your final vision or what was expected initially?
Yeah, yeah, whenever I am sitting down, searching for guitar, drum and bass sounds, I really want the perfect sound. When you come to the process of mixing it is a give and take situation because you cannot take a bunch of perfect sounds and just put it all together, expecting it to sound perfect. Sometimes you have to remove some of the bass and guitars so it is not too much. Or you may have to remove some of the top end to make space for keyboards and vocals. In the end it is not about the perfect drum or guitar sound but it as all about the combination of everything.
Looking over your albums, how would you say your style has changed and what is the one album that for you, had everything work together perfectly?
When Sirenia started out it was a bit more of a typical, old school, gothic metal band. After two albums I felt that I had explored that musical field but with the third album I was afraid that I was starting to repeat myself. I also wanted to do something different with the third album. We went to a more melodic style with that album and were giving female vocals a much bigger part to our music. Most songs were spinning around the female vocals and we were writing shorter songs and simpler arrangements. It was more straight in your face with more focus on the lyrics and the melodies of the singers. After that, with the next two albums, we were trying to perfect the style or push it further again. I fell now that with our latest album, we were going a little bit back to the beginning in a way but doing it in a new, improved approach. So I really feel that with this latest album we found something really cool as a perfect mix between the old Sirenia and the new Sirenia, in a way. We took the best from the past and the best from the latest and combined it into a great mix that I think sounds really cool and quite special.
Catch Sirenia in Australia on these dates:
13/12: Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
14/12: Factory Theatre, Sydney NSW