“It’s also an encapsulation of how the band came together”

Multi-National Power/Symphonic Metal act LOST DAWNING are new on the scene. They released their latest EP Embers Of Dusk before 2022 ended and with it receiving high praise, it’s clear they are ones to watch out for. Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to lead vocalist Phillipa Sztencel and drummer/band founder Daniel Engström about the EP, origins of the band, mental health and who they would have join them on a quest.

Hello, thank you for taking time to talk to Rock Out Stand Out today. First of all, for those who haven’t heard the name Lost Dawning and have yet to hear you, how would you describe your sound?

Daniel:  Well, I suppose we’re like cheery power metal. It’s definitely Power Metal at the core, it’s keyboard driven, there’s a lot of melodies. There is a lot of beautiful vocal melodies. We’re modern power metal with our roots firmly placed in all the older bands that we listen to. You can hear Helloween, a litte bit of Stratovarius and there are also the symphonic elements because there is a lot of keys. It’s a bit of a blend. 

In the rhythm section there is a lot of old heavy metal so when me and our guitarist Will [Øgaard] originally founded the band it was just the two of us. We mainly played a lot of speed metal and thrash so those roots still remain. A long time ago when we had just gotten some members together and we had Phillipa with us; we had the beautiful vocals alongside the thrashy guitars and drums. Will and I always used to say we’re half Nightwish and half Motorhead.

I was reading your Facebook posts listing your different influences. Could you let our readers know what they are?

Phillipa:  So my influences are very much into the melodic side of Power Metal so stuff like Power Quest; they are one of my absolute favourites, I’ve done guest vocals with them as well. I also like the really optimistic stuff like Freedom Call and some of the late 90s/early 2000s bands so Sonata Arctica and Edenbridge. That’s where a lot of my influences come from. 

Outside of metal music, I am also into a bit of prog rock and I’ve been playing piano for a long time. Piano plays a very big part in what I enjoy listening to and composing. I am also into keyboard driven melo-death bands such as Children Of Bodom and I’ve gotten into melodic black metal recently stuff like Borknagar and a really good band called Null.

I first conceived the idea of becoming a metal musician through the German band In Legend where they use keyboards instead of guitars in their music. I thought “oh I’m classically trained, am I going to fit in?” but there was a way for me to fit in.

Vocally, Michael Kiske and Noora Louhimo are two of my absoulute favourite vocalists. Michael Kiske in particular, I love that he has that clear voice in a genre rather that a gruff guttural voice.

You also stated literature influences on the Facebook post?

Phillipa:  Oh yes, particularly on the third track Burning Stars. I studied literature at university and that was the first song I wrote after university. I’ve been writing poetry for a couple of years for Creative Writing and I was struggling with getting back into song writing after that so I decided to write a sonnet and break it up into the trains, put a couplet at the end and put a chorus in between. It was a way of easing myself back into song writing.

Is there any particular writers or poets that influence you?

Phillipa:  Ooooh good question, I’m into 19th Century literature in particular. That was a lot of what I studied at university. Jane Austen fans will hear the reference to Persuasion in that song, there are also little illusions in there to Dylan Thomas as well. There are a couple of Nightwish references in there too. So I throw a bit of everything in. 

Fire Alone was also book inspired, that was actually me thinking in the same way of bands writing about fantasy series they grew up with such as Lord Of The Rings, in Daniel and Will’s case it was Dragon Lance. For me, it was Warrior Cats; so I decided to write a song about Warrior Cats. It’s the song I have the most fun performing.  

Daniel:  That’s the first track of the EP. Fire Alone, the Warrior Cats inspired one.

Who are your influences Daniel in terms of drumming? I also read that you play the guitar as well.

Daniel:   That’s right I do play guitar, I play drums mainly. I also sing a bit and growl. On this EP, I do some backing vocals as well. In my other band Lycania, I do guitars and growls. I am inspired by a lot of things. It all started out with my step-dad’s music that really got me into metal. He listens to everything that has to do with metal basically. He is also a huge power metal fan so I grew up with Freedom Call, they’re great. It started out with the real classics such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Uriah Heap; those sorts of bands. 

I found my real love for music through eighties power metal and thrash. Helloween has always been my favourite band since I discovered them, particularly the first three records. Blind Guardian, Angra, Shaman; there are so many power metal bands. Prog rock like Jethro Tull, Genesis etc. Also the progressive metal side of things like Nevermore and Dream Theatre. Of course because I am Scandinavian, Black and Death Metal were genres I grew up listening to. Death, Vader, Darkthrone; all of those. When it comes to music outside of rock and metal, I don’t listen to a lot but I love Kate Bush. Particularly the old stuff, the first five records. Her stuff from the seventies and eighties is just magical. Her vocal range is unbelievable. I also love Thrash bands like Kreator, Sodom, Sabbat and Skyclad. Skyclad are folk like Thrash who write good music and beautiful lyrics.

Phillipa:  I was going to say Skyclad have intricate lyrics. I would also like to say that Threshold are a huge influence of mine; largely for the lyrics about social commentary. 

Daniel:  That’s really worth mentioning. I really like Skyclad’s lyrics, Nevermore wrote amazing lyrics too and Black Sabbath. Another band that write great lyrics that we don’t think about as you can’t understand what they’re saying is Cradle Of Filth. They can weave words in a way that’s really unusual whilst writing about really grotesque things. Nightwish have great lyrics too, nothing more to say about that.

Your EP Embers Of Dusk is out, it’s a great EP. Burning Stars reminded me of Nightwish, particularly the Oceanborn Era, was that the intention?

Phillipa:  It was quite heavily Nightwish influenced. They were the band I listened to the most in university. 

Daniel:  Phillipa wrote half this one, our keyboardist Peter [Lenz] arranged everything. I wrote all of the drum parts they way I wanted to play them, with some input from the rest of the band of course. When it comes to Nightwish, personally I really like the very new and old stuff. I really like the trio of Oceanborn, Wishmaster and Century Child as well as the latest two albums. Oceanborn has always been a huge influence on me as well; the old school Power Metal Nightwish with Jukka [Nevalainen] drumming is something special. 

In Burning Stars, the drum groove during the intro is very influenced by that album. Particularly Jukka’s performance during the intro of the song Gethsemane. There’s this drum groove where the snare stays very consistent but the ride cymbal and bass drum keep changing up the groove with different note values that gradually keep building up the intensity of the song. It’s very dynamic.

So Nightwish is in there not only from the composing side of things but from a lot of us musicians as well. I think Will listens to a lot of Nightwish but the rest of us do.

What was the most challenging part of recording the EP?

Phillipa:  It was definitely the technological aspects of it and getting used to how REAPER works, particularly some of the less user friendly parts of it. Also, hearing my own voice as well. That’s always a tricky one because you’re always hypercritical of yourself when you hear things. Sometimes that can make it difficult to get takes you are happy with.

Daniel:  I guess for me it’s also been the technological side of things. I do a lot of it. We had a lot of problems with mics, in particular during drum recordings. Some of the stuff couldn’t be kept so there is recorded sounds that have been kept and not replaced but the timings and sounds have been replaced by samples. The drum kicks for example, it’s a bit more triggered than we would have liked it to be. This was because of the limitations of the mics. 

Recording when each of us are situated in four different countries is also a challenge; I’m from Sweden but I live in Germany right now and our keyboardist too. We’re the only two members that live in the same country. So it’s Germany, The Netherlands, Wales and Denmark. The organisation of it all is fluid; if we were together and had studio time, it would be a lot more efficient and faster. At the moment, it was through a lot of Discord Messages explaining what recordings we wanted and a lot of remote studio engineering sessions.

I suppose COVID-19 and restrictions it imposed didn’t help either.

Phillipa:  No it didn’t. It’s not on this EP but Will and I wrote a song together about coming together and experiencing live music again after the pandemic. It’s also an encapsulation of how the band came together, we were all stuck in our own company and had more time than ever before. So I thought about using that time to get the band started.

Daniel:  Precisely, me and our guitarist met online from the very beginning. I think it was just before the pandemic and we started writing stuff. We met at my place in Sweden where we jammed and wrote a lot of things. Then it was later during the pandemic where we enlisted everyone else, mainly because we had a gig booked and we didn’t have any members so we had to figure that one out. We were offered by the place our guitarist works at to support Stormwarrior, a German Speed Metal band, we went around looking for people to do that so that’s how we got the band together. I think Phillipa was with us before that but the rest we enlisted afterwards. 

Was this the intended release date for the EP?

Daniel:  What we did was record everything and we said we would set a release date once we have the recordings finished. This was because we didn’t know how long it would take to record and how long it would take to get the equipment. We originally wanted it released sometime in the summer like in August as we had another gig sort of planned which didn’t happen because of a lot people cancelling and it wasn’t easy during COVID. It was postponed because of restrictions and figuring out how to record an album from four different countries.

Phillipa:  For many of us, it was the first thing we had recorded as well so it took time to learn how to go about doing that and get the technology down.

One of the things we do at Rock Out Stand Out is spread the message of mental health awareness. Personally for you both, what’s the most important lesson you have learnt in regards to mental health?

Phillipa:  I’ve figured out over the past two years that I had the symptoms of ADHD and have done for my entire life. A lot of the process of recording this EP was having to explain to my band mates how it manifests and they’ve been so kind with it. Sometimes it means taking a long time to get recordings done because of perfectionist tendencies and getting overwhelmed with the whole thing. It’s a slow process but I am hoping by the time we get to recording more things or getting treatment for it, that will make things easier because I don’t want my own mental blocks to get in the way of the rest of the band. It does help having super understanding band mates. 

It’s been brilliant finding out why my mind works the way it does; particularly why I get stuck on things and finding it hard to stay focused. When you’re spending all of your energy on just functioning day to day, it makes it hard to keep up with things you are passionate about.

Daniel:  I mean I don’t struggle a lot in that capacity. Everyone has their own thing; for some it’s functioning differently and then you also have some that has something that makes things difficult like anxiety and depression. I’ve never been diagnosed with anything but that’s one lesson I have learnt is that there are different ways of functioning. Personally I had a lot of trouble focusing on things that I wasn’t invested in and especially retaining information, I have a hard time remembering things even when I want to. 

For example, it took me until I was twelve years old to learn how to tie shoe laces; which is strange because I didn’t struggle with other simple things. It’s an important lesson to remember that we all work in different ways; with the majority, you can find out what makes them tick and get the best working relationship out of it.

Stress is also something to talk about, I am in two bands and I still have my one-man band that is a combination of all the influences I talked about earlier. I also work part-time and study that includes regular meet ups for exams, that can be a handful because I assume it’s the same in the UK instead of academic, it’s a beaurecratic mess. There’s a lot to figure out with how courses work and with of that, it’s easy to shut down and not be able to do anything. Even if you don’t have a condition, you can still struggle when you’re overloaded.

What do you like to do to unwind when you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Daniel:  It really depends what you’re overwhelmed by, like usually for the most part, music helps a lot. I wholeheartedly enjoy it, we talk about our musicianship and what we do. At the core of it, we are music fans and that appreciation is always there. A lot of the time, a good album can help a lot; it sometimes may not help all the way, it very rarely make things worse.

Phillipa:  Something I find that really helps focus my mind is puzzles and especially cryptic crosswords. If you’re someone who overthinks everything and can’t focus because your mind is in too many places at once, having a difficult thing like that hones overthinking as it were. You’re given a little clue to overthink and it quiets everything down a bit. Cryptic Crosswords and coffee.

Is there anything you think we can do more off as family members, friends, work colleagues so people feel more comfortable sharing what conditions they have and if they’re struggling?

Phillipa:  The most important thing I would say is taking people seriously. It’s easier said than done, the most comforting thing is when something goes wrong and you’re trying to explain it’s to do with a condition you have and someone responds with “I understand, you don’t need to apologise”. If someone close to you has a mental health or neurodiverse condition, reading up on it can make a huge difference. Being able to understand someone else’ mind makes it easier to get a long with them.

Daniel:  Exactly. I would say my best tip is that a lot of it is understanding that people work differently, so going back to what I said earlier. So broadening your view to co-operate with other people.

Phillipa:  Even within the band, we have different ways of working. Will is the one who likes to work consistently a bit at a time whereas I have this ambush predator kind of brain which is putting everything off until the last minute and then have a last minute frenzy productivity. I think some people find that stressful seeing someone isn’t starting stuff until there’s pressure. I feel bad about it as there isn’t much I can do about it.

Daniel:  I think we’re all guilty of some kind of procrastination. Peter is a typical musical genius, for him it doesn’t matter and he does everything in a second and it’s done. Don’t know how he does it. Our bassist Marjolein [Slaman] as well but the rest of us have some sort of procrastination in us in one way or another.

Going back to literature and fantasy, which five people would you go on a quest with?

Daniel:  My band members [laughs] I mean that would be a great one. 

Phillipa:  I absolutely love travel documentaries so someone like Simon Reeve as he can point out all the interesting places to go. 

Daniel:  Karl Pilkington will also be a great travel companion, particularly if you’re enjoying yourself a bit too much and you need to be grounded. One of the Monty Python crew, Michael Palin would also be a great choice.

Phillipa:  At least one member of Twilight Force and they’ve got to be in costume.

Daniel:  Also Hansi Kürsch from Blind Guardian. He would be great to chronicle everything.

Phillipa:  He would be the designated bard of the group when we sit down for a camp fire.

Daniel:  Blind Guardian are a huge influence on us two. Me and our guitarist met through a Blind Guardian fan group so there is that deeper connection too. 

Phillipa:  I think that’s how I met Will too.

Daniel:  If we go to fictional characters, there are so many good ones. Someone from the Tolkien world would be amazing.

Phillipa:  If you want to bring one of the Warrior Cats with you, definitely one of the medicine cats then if you get ill or injured. 

Daniel:  Definitely Geralt of Riveria from The Witcher and someone from Dragonlance, it’s an eighties adult fantasy.

Phillipa:  I also think bringing in a Disney protagonist as Disney films always have happy endings so you’ll know you’re not coming to serious harm that way.

Do you have a message for listeners and Rock Out Stand Out Readers?

Phillipa:  Thank you for taking the time to listen to us and we hope we can bring more of it in the near future.

Daniel:  Thank you so much for reading this, paying attention and supporting us. Buying the EP, it’s available both digitally and on CD via our Bandcamp! If you like any of the bands we have mentioned or just fun power metal, dragons and fantasy then give the EP a listen.

Thank you both for speaking with Rock Out Stand Out today.

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