It’s been a little while since the last VISIONS OF ATLANTIS full length studio album, the last time they released one was in the year 2013. After a line up change and returning their old sound with new faces, they are due to release The Deep & The Dark next week. They assure us it will be their best and most memorable collection of songs to date. So whilst representing Distorted Sound Magazine, I spoke with one of their vocalists, Clémentine Delauney, about the album, particularly the lyrical content relating to doubts and demons we experience on a daily basis. She also talks more of her work with EXIT EDEN, explains her favourite touring destinations and what the scene is like in France regarding music.
So, you and VISIONS OF ATLANTIS will be releasing your sixth studio album The Deep & The Dark; I was looking through the lyrical content and in the first track there’s some references to struggling with a mental illness and someone being there to help you along the way. Was this intentional?
Clementine: Yes, well it’s not as bad a real mental health illness but it does look at what it’s like to be trapped in a cycle of self doubt or under the influence of negative thoughts and inner demons. Sometimes our worst enemies are ourselves; there’s always a voice in our heads that tells us we’re not good enough, we’re not going to make it or we’re going to fail. Often that voice in our heads or those negative thoughts are hard to fight on your own so there is someone there to help you and they are the light in your darkness.
Those are often struggles that most of us can relate to now and are becoming more aware of how mental health issues can affect us daily. Is this the main focus of the album?
Clémentine: That is one of the aspects. The Deep & The Dark refers to exploring the world out there and deep within ourselves. The title track The Deep & The Dark is definitely about the inner darkness we need to search in order to escape from it. Other songs that relate to it is the song The Grand Illusion. Most of the lyrics describe different aspects; one that comes up often is freedom that we can access by thinking about our own minds and escaping the industrial world that we live in, particularly the media and the government that are trying to shut us down. We become their little puppets that they can control and we pray to close to nature and life.
Talking of The Grand Illusion, I did notice the theme of being enticed into temptation by the sirens.
Clémentine: The Grand Illusion looks into seduction. Seduction is an illusion, hence the title The Grand Illusion. We are seduced by things and by people which we then get addicted and attracted to them by our feelings yet we stick with these things for the wrong reasons. We can be seduced in different ways; for example, different drugs and substances can be seductive and we are addicted to it for the wrong reasons even though you think this is good so you continue to take it.
My own interpretation of the song is that there is often a confusion between desire and true love; sometimes we think we love someone when actually it’s just desire and you can truly love someone without desire. That’s the main focus of the song.
Both you and Siegfried [Samer] wrote the lyrics for this album from what I understand.
Clementine: We wrote a lot together, we both different. I would bring in the topics and the meanings that we wanted to focus on in the songs and he would help to shape the lyrics to fit the melody of the song, checking them for mistakes and making sure they were grammatically correct. He would do most of the proofreading so he would be suggesting how to phrase things or changing certain words. I was mainly behind the writing but there were parts he wrote himself that I thought were really good. He also wrote verses but I was behind most of the lyrics.
From speaking to different bands, they have a different process behind making albums. Some write the lyrics first before the melody. What was the album making process for The Deep & The Dark?
Clémentine: It was the opposite for us. I feel more comfortable when I am writing lyrics when I have a melody because as a singer it’s easier to have a melody so you can let the words come out. Depending on the notes I can see which one is more natural to sing an ‘a’, another vowel or a specific word that contains a letter like a ‘c’ or a ‘t’ where I know to project the sound. So, you have singing tricks that someone doesn’t normally think about and sometimes, not necessarily in our music, in general the words match so well with the melody because they were created together. I like to make sure the words match the melody so it’s easier for me to know the strength of the melody first and then I can shape the words and lyrics nicely to the melody rather than have a text that gets put on top of a melody as that is difficult.
From what I understand, this is your first full length album with VISIONS OF ATLANTIS. Have you settled in well with the band and the music?
Clémentine: Yes. I was very lucky that we worked very closely with the producer, who isn’t in the band and has a more objective approach to making music. The idea was to make a pure Symphonic Metal sound with classical singing all the way through and I wasn’t comfortable with that idea at first as I like to sing classically sometimes when the song is suitable for that type of voice but I don’t just like to sing that way. I was very happy that our producer was open to let me sing the way I felt and keeping with what sounded best.
So, on some songs I decided to do some tests on how classical singing sounded on some parts and then I made another version with a chest voice, it was obvious on some parts that chest voice sounded better. The project went from being something that was going to be pure symphonic with classical singing to something that now sounds more sincere and more natural, we felt more comfortable with this. I was very happy that I could be involved with the song writing, the melody writing and I originated the last song Prayer To The Lost.
This is the first record where I have had so much freedom and I hope it will be like that for the next record.
In the track The Last Home, is that an example of a chest voice?
Clémentine: Yes, on that track and other parts, for example the first part of The Silent Mutiny is chest voice and in Book Of Nature most definitely. For the ballad, I didn’t want to use a classical voice because I wanted it to sound genuine and when you sing classically in metal, you use so many tricks to make your voice sound big. After a discussion with several singers who sing classically in metal tell me I’m pushing it or over exaggerating, which I was shocked by as it is a trick to make your voice sound thicker or more operatic and I don’t want to get into that, especially on a topic that is personal.
As a vocalist, who are your main influences?
Clémentine: I think this is a hard one as I don’t have just one main influence. I’ve been listening to music since I was a kid as both my parents are huge music lovers so I was surrounded by music all the time. My dad has a collection of over a thousand vinyls of all kinds from Led Zeppelin to French artists, classic and jazz so music has always been there.
When I was younger, I loved Michael Jackson and Madonna. When I discovered metal I loved Tori Amos, THE CRANBERRIES, U2, QUEEN and NIRVANA. When I started listening to metal I loved symphonic metal with the male and female voices; the main ones I grew up with as a singer were EPICA, WITHIN TEMPTATION and EVANESCENCE, they are part of my musical background.
The most important yet hardest thing to do as a singer is to find your own voice. When I was younger I loved to imitate vocals and people in school gave me the nickname ‘The Toon’ as I was always imitating cartoon characters and actors. When it came to singing I can imitate Celine Dion and Simone Simons so it was hard to find my own voice because I could get close to singing other voices and was trying to get rid of everyone else’s voices as with my voice and how it sounds, feels the most natural. It puts less brain into what I do and it allows me to get more into the music and the emotion behind it. That’s how it worked out for me, not trying to sound like anyone else. You don’t want to sound like anyone else, you just want to be unique.
Your voice works very well with Siegfried’s on the album, of course this is first full-length album with Visions of Atlantis too. Vocally, how did you find it working with him?
Clémentine: Siegfried has his own band DRAGONY where he is the only singer so it was easy to find a balance to work with VOA as being two vocalists. We agreed that the female vocals had a bigger part in the group so we decided to continue with that, The Deep & The Dark gave more room to my voice than to Siegfried’s. So, we had no problem working under those circumstances, as I said earlier we both wrote the lyrics together and when it came to the melodies I was given a lot of freedom to write a lot of the vocal melodies. Then Siegfried and the producer would rearrange them so Siegfried would be more comfortable as well. So, it all worked very smoothly.
Which song from The Deep & The Dark are you most looking forward to playing live?
Clémentine: We have already played the songs we are going to play live on the tour. We had a warm up show around mid-January in Vienna to help get used to playing the new songs. The one that gave me the most excitement was The Last Home and this song still feels extremely fresh from the writing because I haven’t sung that song as many times but it engages me. I am excited to sing it but I am nervous at the same time. It’s a very personal song, it’s hard to find the right limit between your performance and your emotions because once you get too much into the emotion of the song, it’s impossible for me to continue singing.
It’s not the same energy I felt back in the days of singing the old VOA songs as for the first time I am singing my own lyrics and feeling more connected our material that I never felt in the past. It’s an extremely wonderful feeling.
You also did some work with the supergroup EXIT EDEN, what’s the best part of being part of a supergroup like EXIT EDEN?
Clémentine: Everything is amazing about being part of EXIT EDEN. First of all, the music; the musical project, the people we work with to create the songs. It’s a magical team. Singing with these girls is wonderful and they are great at what they do, we push each other to give the very best in a benevolent and fun environment. EXIT EDEN is a blessing for me as project to be part of and we are given the chance to sing pop songs in a metal style whilst wearing huge dresses and being in a castle. Who would be negative about that? It’s awesome that we get to be a part of that.
How do you go about arranging who sings what in the covers?
Clémentine: We work closely with the producers to avoid tantrums, fights and negative emotions that can get in the way of the creative process so the producers made us try different parts. He would have the same part for two different singers and would decide which voice would fit it best then there wouldn’t be any bad blood as those decisions would be out of our hands. It wasn’t like me telling Amanda [Somerville] to shut up or the other way around as when you really love a part of the song you don’t want to give it up.
Are EXIT EDEN planning to tour?
Clémentine: There will be big plans for EXIT EDEN, we had a phone call a couple of weeks ago so things are going to move. We’re going to start work on a new album and it’s not going to be Rhapsodies In Black Part Two, it’s going to be different. We’re discussing whether to have our own material or not, if we are going to do covers what covers are we going to be doing. We’re still going to be a metal band but we’re not to cover the exact kind of songs we did for the last record in order to keep it surprising for people and not do the same kind of record they have heard before. There is no point in doing the exact same thing as it will never be as great as the first one because the surprise effect has gone. So, we are thinking about that and when it comes to shows, there are plans for the band to tour but not for now.
So, would you say Rhapsodies In Black was created to see how well your voices fitted together and to see how people responded before going on to write your own material?
Clémentine: Yes, I think when it all started I don’t think that was a huge masterplan on how the project was going to run. I think we all came up with so many cover songs that it would make sense to put an original song in the middle, it’s either we make it fifty fifty since the beginning or straight away with original material or make the album just cover songs. We all felt more comfortable and coherent with this piece covering pop songs in a symphonic metal style.
We always imagined this project to be a long-term band; we are not a project, we are a band. We plan to go touring and make new releases, we are now at work on a second record and that has opened the door to writing original material because it can be brought in at the beginning.
What’s the music scene like in France in terms of how it supports upcoming artists?
Clémentine: France always has an issue supporting upcoming artists. For example, the metal band GOJIRA; before they got their break, they were just another band as far as France was concerned. The moment they went abroad and supported METALLICA then everyone showed their support and was suddenly proud that they were a band from France. If you want France to support your band before you make, it’s not going to happen.
That’s not just in the music, it’s a mentality of the people; they will support the successful acts. I like to believe that if you are talented then people will support you but in France that’s not the case, you have to prove yourself first before they give you a chance. It doesn’t make any sense to me personally.
The scene in France also loves more brutal metal; Hellfest Festival used to be more brutal but two or three years ago they have opened their doors to more modern genres but before it was mainly Death, Thrash and Black Metal.
You’re about to go on tour soon with VISIONS OF ATLANTIS, is there anywhere you are particularly looking forward to playing again or for the first time?
Clémentine: I’m very much looking forward to playing in London again. I have always had great memories of playing London shows with SERENITY, I always remember a smiling happy crowd in London. I know tickets are doing quite well for London and I know this a place where our genre can be appreciated so I am looking forward to London.
We’re going to play places where I have already been to like Berlin, Munich particularly always has a great crowd. In fact, Germany in general is great, they just love metal. Czech Republic also have a great crowd, they really show you that they love you and when they come to take pictures with you they are very friendly. You can tell they are not used to seeing concerts every day and you can tell they are very grateful when you come to visit them; this is a feeling you don’t get in most places in Western Europe as most cities are used to having concerts every night and people in those cities are pickier about what they go and see. So, you have to be really good or really special for people to want to come and see you.
Thank you very much for talking with us today and best of luck with the album and tour.
The Deep & The Dark will be released 16th February via Napalm Records