Empress - Interview
After I have already reviewed the upcoming album "Tales of Knights and distant Worlds", it's time to also get to know the nice ladies and gentlemen of "Dreamslain" from the far north of Norway a bit more personally. In order to better understand the good and very complex album and its background story, but also to introduce the band to the readers, I sent them a few questions, which they answered very quickly and in detail! Thanks for that!!
Hello everybody! First of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview. You are still a relatively unknown band and will release your first album "Tales of Knights and distant Worlds" at the end of January. Maybe you can introduce yourselves a little bit to the readers?
Hi. Thank you for conducting this interview with us. Dreamslain is a trio, consisting of Anna Loppacher on piano, Hammond organ, bass pedals and synthesizers, Daniel Paulsen Figenschou on drums and Igor Jakobsen on guitars and vocals. We play epic metal combined with progressive rock.
Your album is very diverse, both musically and also in terms of instrumental selection. What instruments did you use for the recording? How long have you been playing them?
The album "Tales of Knights and Distant Worlds" is the result of our collective effort, bringing in all our diverse musical backgrounds and preference for different musical genres and subgenres, like classical music, 70s progressive rock, Norwegian black metal, Gothenburg melodic death metal, classic heavy metal, folk and dark metal. From the start of the band we have wanted to write complex songs, with solos on all instruments including drums solos as part of the songs instead of breaks between songs, and a focus on both melody and heaviness.
All songs are written with drums, keyboards and electrical guitar, by jamming them out in the rehearsal room. This way the songs are written the way they are performed live, with bass being handled as bass pedals by Anna. We don't use backing tracks, so at our concerts it's what we 3 can perform live, which again allows us to extend solos if the inspiration strikes.
In studio, we have added a bass guitar to strengthen the low end of the guitars, as well as a rhythm guitar to fill out the sound a bit. In addition some parts that are handled by the guitar live have instead been recorded on banjo, 12 string guitar or classical guitar.
Anna is a classically trained piano player that expanded to organs and synthesizers upon joining in 2013. She started playing bass pedals in 2018. She was able to include the use of bass pedals rather smoothly as she had experience with church organs, aiding her father as registrant during her childhood.
Daniels drumming started after listening to Metal Records for quite some time, and expressing a desire to one day learn to play the drums. This was quickly turned into a reality, as Igor had access to a rehearsal space with something that resembled a drumkit, at least in the name. And after having not touched a drumkit since music class in 10th Grade, Daniel was starting at absolute level zero, and slowly taught himself around the drums in the coming years. Even though there were many ups and downs over the years, Daniel just kept going and has come a long way after that first time he anxiously crawled behind that first drumkit.
Igor has taken guitar lessons since childhood, forming his first band in 2005, including various projects with the participation of Daniel. While playing metal, the guitar lessons he took were mostly in blues or classical guitar, adding to the way he composes guitar parts for Dreamslain.
The choice of instruments points in a certain direction in terms of your inspiration from other bands. In my review, I suggested that you were influenced by a pretty wide range of bands - what are your biggest influences on Dreamslain and why?
Dreamslain has a very wide range of inspiration, and often the inspiration isn't about trying to emulate a sound or a way to play riffs, but rather the way the bands write their music.
One clear and prevalent inspiration is Uriah Heep. Not only in the use of Hammond organ in the band, but also inspiring several parts of our songs. Their song 'The Magicians Birthday' has inspired the switching between drum and guitar solos on 'The Fall of the Elven Lord' and the start of 'Shadow Warriors' both in lyrics and the introduction of a calm scene that then is broken up by the introduction of the songs antagonist.
Another inspiration is Gary Moore, who's influence on the guitar solos is mostly about melody and a certain blues feel on heavy songs rather than emulating Gary Moore licks or riff writing.
Black Sabbath is an inspiration for many bands, so also for us with the use of scales, the tritonus both in 'Shadow Warriors' and 'Tale of the Copper Guard'. It's most prevalent in 'The Fall of the Elven Lord', where we have a slow tritonus riff and verse. We also have taken after Black Sabbath in writing songs with many different riffs, rather than a "verse and chorus" - structure.
With piano and church organ there is of course a big influence from classical composers, particularly S. Rachmaninov and J.S. Bach. The grand organ solo finale on 'Tale of the Copper Guard' is inspired by Bachs fugues, however much less complex as it still had to fit a fast passed rhythm section. The Rachmaninov influence can be heard in the wide chord progression on the heaviest part of 'My Mask'.
We are also inspired by Manilla Road in making songs both very heavy and very melodic at the same time, as well as in writing long epic song.
Daniels drumming is mainly inspired by Emperor, Immortal and Kataklysm on the extreme parts, while the softer parts draw upon Toto, a band which he got Igor into as well. (Gary Moore was already a shared favorite of Igor and Daniel before they started playing music together).
There is of course a lot of extreme metal influence in the band, both from the Gothenburg scene and the Norwegian scene. In addition there's influence from NWOBHM-bands like Judas Priest and Saxon, as well as other bands with fantasy themes like Blind Guardian, Cirith Ungol and Rhapsody.
Blind Guardian and Dark Tranquillity in particular were the initial inspiration behind having melodies on guitar or keyboards also on vocal parts. Of course, many other bands do that as well, but it was with those two bands we heard it first.
Was it planned from the beginning that you would record such a diverse album, or did you add more ideas during the writing process that weren't planned from the beginning?
All songs were written before we started to record them, and most songs, except 'Cosmonautics' and 'Tale of the Copper Guard' were also tried out live, and we had seen that they had a flow that made sense to us (although admittedly, singing the whole 14+ minutes of 'Tale of the Copper Guard' is harsh on the voice).
Mostly we get the ideas for a song when we start working on it, and a song can be written in as little as 2 rehearsal sessions or be reworked several times before we feel we are happy with it. During the recording, it was more effect parts that were added, like the whispering voices on Shadow Warriors, that obviously will not be part of the live performance unless we get the audience to be our choir.
Lyrically, it's primarily fantasy themes. If I'm right, 'He Who Rises in Force' is about the Simarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, and also the other lyrics tend more in the fantasy direction. Where do you take your lyrical influences from? Are these rather fantasy authors or do you also have influences from "real life"?
We actually have 2 songs inspired by The Silmarillion, with 'The Fall of the Elven Lord' telling about the battle of Fingolfin and Morgoth. Out of 8 songs (not counting the bonus instrumental), 4 are about fantasy themes, while 'Cosmonautics' is about the USSR space program. 'Ownership Denied' is about combating stalking and sexual harassment. The songs 'My Mask' and 'Knights of La Mancha', while using from fantasy imagery is about facing the challenges of fitting in in the real world. 'Tale of the Copper Guard' is set in a fantasy setting that Igor wrote for tabletop and later live action roleplay, while 'Shadow Warriors' is not connected to any particular fantasy setting. Lyrical influence is hard to pinpoint, but is taken from both fantasy books, poems and fiction novels, as well as the lyrics of other bands, current events and self-experienced situations.
In the past you already had some concert experiences with some Norwegian bands like "The Duskfall", "Circus Maximus" or "Dominance". What were your plans before the corona pandemic turned all our lives upside down? Have you already played concerts abroad?
We actually did one of our first concerts abroad, playing 2 shows in Switzerland in 2016. We were able to do this as Anna is from Switzerland and we managed to get invited to play at the 40 year anniversary of the local record store in her hometown. Adrian Seeberger of Old Town Record Store was very helpful to us, and if you ever find yourself in Lucerne, you should buy metal records from him! You can even find Dreamslain CDs in his store: both our EP and the upcoming album when it is released the 29th of January.
We were planning to play again outside Norway in 2020, both wanting to go back to Switzerland and also to try the German scene, which we have a very positive experience with having attended several festivals there. We were also getting some radio play in UK and were therefore hoping to get some shows there.
Given the situation, we were fortunate enough to be able to have 2 shows in our hometown, Tromsø, with seated audience and present the 2 songs we hadn't performed live before. The 2nd show we played with a local black metal band named Apokosmos, who you can find on YouTube.
Let's come back to something else. I have already had some contact with Igor, who told me that Tromsø is a wonderful place to see the northern lights. He also told me that in winter there is no daylight for about two months. What the heck do you do during that time besides watching the northern lights?
Play and record metal. Except we all still have day jobs to attend.
There is actually a lot to do in the dark winter months. Traditionally it was months with good seasonal fishery, where those that farmed in summer switched to small boats and braved the open seas. In modern times, it's still a lot of commercial fishing, but also winter sports, culture festivals and concerts to attend. It's also the perfect time to sit by the fireplace and enjoy the coziness, an activity that has its own word in Norwegian (now we've ruined the brutal metal image of Norwegians for you).
Finally, I have two questions. First, what are your top 5 albums of the year? And secondly, what is your hope for 2021?
It's hard to name top albums, as there are many great albums and some can't really be compared with others, but are great in their own way.
One of the releases we've enjoyed the most this year is by the Norwegian progressive metal band Moonscape (https://moonscape.bandcamp.com/).
In addition we have greatly enjoyed the art rock and shock rock of Ward XVI (https://wardxvi.bandcamp.com/) who have released an album this year and are now putting out an acoustic Ep as well.
Ayreon also came with a great album, Transitus, this year. We were also very happy that the cult metal band Cirith Ungol had a great comeback with the Forever Black album, as this is a band that has been great inspiration for us. Deep Purple, which is of course a band that any band with Hammond organ is fond of, also released a very solid album with Whoosh!.
Our hopes for 2021 is of course to play live! Realistically, we hope to do shows in Norway. Maybe, if the vaccination goes swiftly, one could consider shows outside Norway, possibly in Switzerland and Germany in late 2021, but 2022 is more likely.
Do you have any final words for our readers?
We want to thank Michael Baier and MetalBite for conducting this interview, and we hope all of you will check out our album! We also hope we will be able to play live for you at some point, but with the situation being as it is, we will have to get back to those plans at a later date.
Meanwhile, stay safe and listen to metal!
Thank you very much for the interview, stay healthy and have a great holiday and a happy new year!!!!
- Asphyx - Necroceros - Jan 22
- Hulder - Godslastering: Hymns Of A Forlorn Peasantry - Jan 22
- Grabunhold - Heldentod - Jan 22
- Flood Peak - Fixed Ritual - Jan 22
- Cyttorak - Revered And Reviled Above All Others / Cyttorak - Jan 22
- Aethyrick - Apotheosis - Jan 22
- Endezzma - The Archer, Fjord And The Thunder - Jan 22
- 0-Nun - The Shamanic Trilogy - Jan 22
- Les Chants De Nihil - Le Tyran Et L'esthète - Jan 22
- Coffins - Defilements - Jan 22
- Ewigkeit - Depopulate - Jan 23
- Altered Dead - Returned To Life - Jan 25
- Dipygus - Bushmeat - Jan 25
- Devotion - The Harrowing - Jan 25
- Yoth Iria - As The Flame Withers - Jan 25
- Hell-Born - Natas Liah - Jan 26
- Kriegsgott - H8 4All - Jan 26
- Aonarach - Aonarach - Jan 29
- Tribulation - Where The Gloom Becomes Sound - Jan 29
- Dreamslain - Tales Of Knights And Distant Worlds - Jan 29