Interview with Madeleine Liljestam of ELEINE

Interview with Madeleine Liljestam of ELEINE
By Dark Juan

Hello, dear friends. It is I, Dark Juan. I trust I find you well and all preparing yourself for the festival of the birth of the False God’s equally false son? Anyway, I have been a good little soldier and behaved myself in my past few reviews, so our Lord and Master, mighty smiter, metal king and surprisingly tolerant editor (when faced with my rantings he is never less than gracious and understanding, notwithstanding just how many times I use the word fuck. Which is a lot) Sir Richard Tilley has taken off my leash and allowed me to emerge, blinking and shellshocked from his basement into the drab and reedy light of a gloomy British winter day. After several fortifying cups of Yorkshire’s finest brew, I immediately have cast about for devilry to commit, preferably indoors because this Hellpriest doesn’t like the cold, and I have been permitted to (in flagrant disregard of the panic and fear I caused myself the last time I spoke to somebody famous and popular – I am famously misanthropic and awkward around people. Clearly Rick and I have learned NOTHING from the previous experience) interview Swedish symphonic metal stalwarts Eleine, who have recently released an absolute STONKER of an album in “Dancing In Hell”. Add the fact it appears that I am suffering from puppy paralysis as the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover (no, there WON’T be more of that later) has settled happily next to me and is snoring gently and emitting the kind of smells that should be banned under the Geneva Convention and you will understand that this has made me utterly unable to move and has led to a period of lightheaded, bonehead confidence due to oxygen starvation (but pleasingly NOT paradoxical undressing)  which has led in turn to this collection of questions, of which the fabulous Madeleine Liljestam from the Scandinavian symphonic superstars is now obliged to answer.

Shall we dive in? After you…

Dark Juan: Greetings and salutations. I am Dark Juan, incumbent enfant terrible of Ever-Metal.com. Please do tell whom I have the pleasure of addressing today?

Madeleine: You are talking to Madeleine, the vocalist and one of the founders of ELEINE.

DJ: Thank you for consenting to be part of the nonsense I write and congratulations on a spectacular and wide-ranging record. Could you please tell me about the process of writing and recording the album? Who writes the lyrics and does the music come fully formed from the mind of one person or is it all a group effort? Also, even though it is a bit clichéd and overdone, who are your influences and musical heroes?

M: Thank you, and thank you for reaching out, it’s a pleasure. I’m glad to hear you enjoy our new album. I am very proud of its early success. You can never really know what to expect when releasing something new. But what you can do is create what feels true to you, and that’s the important part We write what we know, what we see and what we feel. There’s a huge piece of ourselves in this album, so it really warms our hearts hearing how appreciated it is.

Rikard and I write all the music/lyrics and we’re influenced by many various things. Games, movies, life. We get this question a lot and never seem to be able to give something short like naming a band or two. There are many bands that inspire us. I feel that good music is good music….and we listen to good music.

DJ: When I listen to Eleine’s music, although it is in keeping with the gothic/symphonic metal genre, I find it much more exciting because it appears to have a much harder edge (Rikard’s guitar work and vocals especially) than Nightwish, Within Temptation, After Forever and the like. Is this a conscious decision of the band or are there members who harbour a (possibly not so) secret love of extreme music?

M: Who said that symphonic metal can’t be heavy or even extreme sometimes? As I mentioned before, we only write and create what feels true to us. We’re going with the vibe we have during the time of writing, you know? I’m glad you like it, thank you very much. Yes, there is a heavier sound on “Dancing In Hell”, and it’s really not a surprise since we like heavier music. I mean, it’s certainly no secret that I myself enjoy listening to black and death metal. I would also like to add that although many seem to believe so, we don’t listen to other bands in our genre and try to write like them. That would be redundant and pointless since they have their sound and we have our own sound.

DJ: It appears to be becoming more and more difficult for bands to draw attention to themselves, especially during this current COVID unpleasantness, and to make a living from their music. What does Eleine do differently, in your opinion, which makes you stand out from the crowd?

M: I don’t think we’re the ones to answer that question, the fans and you should, right? We continue to work the way we’ve always done and I take it as a compliment that you actually ask that!

DJ: As I write this, I am watching Eleine videos, which are richly filmed and produced in a very lush fashion. How important is the visual aesthetic to Eleine, and who comes up with the concepts for videos, and does this transcribe easily to your live shows?

M: Very nice, thank you! We produce, direct, film and edit all of our music videos on our own. Rikard does most of the camera work and when he needs to be in frame it’s often I who film him. In editing it’s all Rikard with cutting things together and creating that extra depth with his mad editing skills. I of course also help out when he gets stuck and needs a second pair of eyes. The visual aspects are very important for ELEINE. I, myself, visualize so much in both stills and moving pictures when creating music. This extends into live performance and also music videos. Everything you see with ELEINE, is an extension of ELEINE and what we do. Choosing to have the sunset behind us in ‘Ava Of Death’ wasn’t a coincidence. Choosing to have the fire and some subtle facial expressions in ”Dancing In Hell” wasn’t either. there’s so much thought behind it all and I’m glad you like them.

DJ: Madeleine, obviously, you are a woman fronting a heavy metal band and the visual focal point of Eleine. You may not be aware that there has been something of a scandal involving a British produced heavy metal magazine recently displaying outrageous levels of misogyny regarding female musicians and using language and terms which a lot of others, myself and the ENTIRE staff of Ever-Metal.com included, found totally unacceptable. What are your experiences of reading or hearing about yourself in the wider press and have you found anything unacceptable or outright sexist? Have there been occasions where you have not been treated with the same respect as a male musician? How did you deal with them and what can us writers, reviewers and interviewers do to improve our coverage of women in metal?

M: That’s terrible! I am aware that idiots rage the earth, but I haven’t heard of that specific idiot. Well, since you bring it up – I do not appreciate reading that ELEINE is a ”female fronted metal” band. What the hell is that? It’s not like every band with men as fronts are called “male fronted metal” bands, right? “female fronted” isn’t a genre. I FULLY get the idea why you’d want to empower women. There is a lot of shit going on. But we are all humans. Sure, we can’t claim other than it’s a mainly man dominated world of metal, but at the same time it is so incredibly wrong to hear that some festivals book 5 bands with female front figures just because they need to hit their quota of equality. Bands should be booked because of their music and delivery when performing, not because of what’s between their legs.

A band is a band. Metal is metal. No matter sex, skin colour or whatever. Don’t judge a band before you’ve actually listened to their music. I can’t count the times I’ve recently heard: ”I usually don’t listen to bands with a female vocalist but hey, I was recommended to listen to ELEINE and now you have a new fan”. It’s GREAT that people go out of their comfort zone and listen to new music. It’s like I’ve said before…good music is good music, and crap music is crap music.

I stand up for humans and animal rights. Regardless of gender. We need to be equals in this. It really pisses me off to be put in a box that says ”Female fronted metal” and not even being given a chance to show what we got. Don’t get me wrong, you can of course call a man a man and a woman a woman etc. But instead of “outing” it with labels such as “female fronted”, just call them metal bands and add the actual genre.

But, as always, I know what we have, I know what we do and I am proud of it. Instead of seeing myself as a victim I’ve always chosen to switch it up a gear instead and make sure I make myself and our fans happy.

DJ: What news are you receiving about the reception of your latest album? I personally rated it as 9/10 and “Sumptuous, richly produced, expansively written and an essential purchase if you enjoy the beauty of female vocals offsetting metal power.” Are you getting many positive reviews?

M: What a great rating, thank you very much. The reception has been absolutely fantastic. I am deeply grateful for this. As I mentioned earlier, this album is a huge part of ourselves. I can’t thank everyone enough for buying it, appreciating it and sharing it <3

DJ: What do we have to look forward to from Eleine in 2021, assuming all the COVID restrictions are done with? This year has truly, truly sucked for live music and surely it has affected Eleine as well as everyone else involved with live music. Are you going to tour sooner rather than later or are you going to wait a bit longer for the sake of increased safety?

M: TOURING! My unholy Satan, I’m starving here. 2020 was rough for everyone and we need to work together to get through it. Even though the year was dark, there were shimmers of light. One very good thing was the release of “Dancing In Hell”, both for us and for our fans. It has been an absolutely devastating year in so many ways, but we will make it. From everything there’s something to learn. I’ve learned to have way more patience than I’ve ever had.

We will tour when it’s safe and allowed, of course. We care about our fans

DJ: Do you have anything to say to your fans and people just discovering Eleine? This is your chance to say whatever you wish about whatever you like!

M: We are aware that we wouldn’t be anything without the beautiful fans we have. We are grateful for each and every one. We have a really close contact with our patrons and our Patreon has also helped us out tremendously. Thank you all so very much, keep on buying music from your favourite artists and we’ll see you soon.

DJ: Please allow me to thank you very much for agreeing to spend your time answering these questions, and may I wish you every success for the future. I truly hope your new record brings you an outrageous amount of success. The only reason this wasn’t done through Zoom was because I am far too much of a coward, having scared myself rigid the last time I did that! Tack så mycket för din tid, jag hoppas att vi snart ses på en brittisk turné och lycka till och framgång för er alla. God Jul!

LINKS:

Read Dark Juan’s album review here:

Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Eleine – Dancing In Hell

Eleine – Dancing In Hell
Black Lodge Records
Release Date: 27/11/2020
Running Time: 50:16
Review by Dark Juan
9/10

Good afternoon from a remarkably quiescent Dark Juan Terrace. The hated yellow ball of fire in the sky is trying to pierce the gloom of a typical winter day in Yorkshire and I find myself reclining upon the chaise longue in the darkened second receiving room, ruminating gently about my life and what delights my recalcitrant young gentlemen are going to perpetrate upon me tomorrow when I go to work and do some wrangling… As I stare introspectively out of the window to gaze upon the full magnificence of the freshly washed Mighty Gothikpanzer and the recently applied MFP Interceptor decals on it (the black on black Pursuit Special from Mad Max is my dream motor, complete with massive Weiand supercharger, thank you please. Seeing as I have champagne tastes and lemonade funds, the purchase of a large V8 supercar will have to wait and the Gothikpanzer will just have to look ridiculous) you will find me listening to the latest release by Swedish symphonic metal band Eleine. Regular readers of my nonsense will no doubt remember that I reviewed Aeternitas recently, and I didn’t like it, finding it weak, derivative and mechanical. One wonders whether this bunch of worthy Swedes will fall into the same trap of listening to Tarja era Nightwish and then copying it lock, stock and barrel and basically turning in an entire album composed of variations of ‘Dark Chest Of Wonders’, or whether they dodge the pitfalls and turn in something of quality and interest.

Let us plunge neck deep into some Scandinavian gothic splendour and see whether it meets my lofty ideals then, shall we? After you… No, I insist!

My first impression on opening track ‘Enemies’ is that it has a fucking sexy guitar sound. The guitar is masterfully produced, being meaty and thick but retaining clarity and having a filthy dirty crunch to it. The keyboards are also superb, cutting through the mix with power but not overpowering the rest of the band and adding a mightily gothic overture to the overall sound. Vocally, lead warbler Madeleine Liljestam doesn’t have the strongest vibrato, but sensibly plays to her strengths and her similarity to a lower pitched Sharon Den Adel is to her credit, never overstepping her abilities and adding that touch of feminine beauty and power that this style of symphonic metal works so well with. The rest of the band are also very good indeed. Drummer Jesper Sunnhagen is a splendid tubthumper and the production on the drums is spot on, although a minor gripe is that the snare sound is curiously lifeless, but his double bass work is absolutely SPOT ON! He’s at his absolute finest on ‘Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies’, which enjoys some rapid double bass drumming and some excellent counter-beat work from the whole band. Guitarist Rikard Ekberg, as well as being a fucking good player, also has an engaging growl which is all the more effective for being employed sparingly. The vocal interplay between sweet female mezzo and acid-spitting growl is enjoyable and again not overdone.

So far, so good! Eleine stand head and shoulders over Aeternitas and are busily stomping the German pretenders into the dirt. This is gothic symphonic metal done right and doesn’t sacrifice heaviness for pomposity, and while I can hear Nightwish (they are going to be a pervasive influence in this style of metal, considering their reputation) in the sound of Eleine, they at least take in aspects of Within Temptation and After Forever’s more radio friendly output to serve us a polished, heavy and enjoyable album. In fact, I’d say Within Temptation are the major influence of Eleine’s sound, but Eleine are much MUCH heavier than that Dutch combo. This record isn’t just symphonic, it’s cinematic. It’s easy to close your eyes and imagine a sword, sandals and sorcery epic with Eleine as the soundtrack. This has now become an issue, my fecund and twisted imagination has now given me Madeleine clad in plate armour, dancing through wicked foes and dispatching them with grace and style with her sword, Rikard by her side wielding twin battleaxes, splitting enemy skulls in wide, blood spraying arcs, Jesper as a warrior archmage spitting ethereal fire from his fingertips and bass player Anton Helgesson swinging a blood soaked warhammer in a berserker rage as they wade through piles of orc corpses towards the dark and evil castle at the end of the mountain pass they are traversing… Fucking hell, I’m easily distracted and “blessed” with a vivid imagination…

So, this album is a bit of a banger then! And just to make it harder to rid myself of the mental image I have constructed of a warrior band slaughtering their way to glory, Eleine then unleash an entirely operatic and symphonic version of the ninth song ‘Die From Within’ at the end of the record as a bonus and that’s Dark Juan lost in fantasies of joining this band of Scandinavian marauders and sharing their glory as we slaughter our way to the very top of Fantasy World’s hero list in the name of righteousness…

Having pulled myself back together and dragged myself back to reality with the help of preparing some chicken and sweetcorn soup for the ailing Mrs Dark Juan who is reclining on her sofa of pain opposite me, I can tell you that the highlights of this record, for this Hellpriest anyway, are ‘Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies’ which is one of the most bombastic pieces of music I have ever heard and is almost Wagnerian in scope, the incendiary ‘Crawl From The Ashes’ and the gothically sumptuous symphonic version of ‘Die From Within’. To sum it all up, this is a damned fine symphonic metal record, bordering on battle metal in places with only a couple of compromises. I can’t help but think that with some training, Madeleine could become a truly spectacular singer of the calibre of Floor Jansen, and that the band rely on chugging a little too much in a couple of parts. Otherwise, fucking brilliant!

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Det patenterade mörka Juan-blodsprutningssystemet – or words to that effect) awards Eleine 9/10 for an excellent gothic symphonic metal record that smears Aeternitas all over the nearest wall. Sumptuous, richly produced, expansively written and an essential purchase if you enjoy the beauty of female vocals offsetting metal power. Tack, Eleine, för att jag fick älska symfonisk metall igen!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Enemies
02. Dancing In Hell
03. Ava Of Death
04. Crawl From The Ashes
05. As I Breathe
06. Memoriam
Where Your Rotting Corpse Lies (It says Lie on the blurb but I’m correcting it because it hurts my grammar Nazi head can’t cope with it…)
07. All Shall Burn
08. Die From Within
09. The World We Know
10. Die From Within (Symphonic Version)

LINE-UP:
Madeleine “Eleine” Liljestam – Vocals
Rikard Ekberg – Guitar and Growls
Jesper Sunnhagen – Drums
Anton Helgesson – Bass

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.