Symphonic metal has grown in popularity in recent years with the emergence of bands such as Sirenia, Nightwish and Within Temptation, to name a few. Symphonic metal bands generally incorporate a death or doom metal sound and complement it with a variety of orchestral instruments such as violin, cello, keyboard, etc. These bands are typically fronted by a female vocalist but are often accompanied by harsh male backing vocals such as death growls.
Märchenbilder and Gone in April are a couple of up-and-coming symphonic metal bands currently located in Knoxville, TN; although they are from various parts of the world including Germany, Canada and Italy. Both bands feature some of the same members, including the lovely and multi-talented vocalist Julie Bélanger Roy. With an incredible range of vocals, Roy is also a highly-skilled violinist and violist, and currently working on her master’s degree in opera (she already holds a master’s degree in viola performance).
Märchenbilder – Flickering Truth
Märchenbilder, which is German for “Images of Fairy Tales,” was created in 2009 by James Slainmann (Composition/Orchestration/Guitars/Keys & Effects) and Julie Bélanger Roy (Vocals/Violin/Viola/Recorder & Lyrics), who wanted to create a symphonic metal ensemble, combining heavy metal with orchestral music. Their musical inspiration was the works of 19th century German composers. In 2010, drummer Yanic Bersier joined the group and they began recording shortly after. Their debut album, Flickering Truth, was released on May 30, 2013.
- Julie Bélanger Roy – Vocals, Violin & Viola
- James Slainmann – Guitars & Keys
- Yanic Bercier – Drums
- Chris Gratton – Cello
- Chicco Parisi Lalonde – Bass
Roy listed the band’s main influences as a mix of three categories:
- Soundtrack: Hans Zimmer, Howard Shore, Danny Elfman and John Williams.
- Metal: Dimmu Borgir, Nightwish and Black Sabbath.
- Classical music: Wagner, Beethoven, Schubert, R. Strauss and Malher.
I recently had the chance to speak with Roy and get her input on this exciting symphonic metal band.
Why symphonic metal?
Both James and I are trained classical musicians, it’s been in our blood for years. (James has his Master’s degree in film scoring I have my Master’s in Viola performance and will soon have one in Opera) We found a way to blend our love of metal and classical music together. Yanic joined us and completed our sound with his technical drumming. Both classical music and metal share a deep intensity which we believe blends naturally.
What sets you apart from other symphonic metal bands?
The orchestra in Märchenbilder plays a lead role in the sound of the band, and is front in the mix. All the strings in the orchestra were recorded by Julie (violin and viola) and Chris Gratton (cello) to keep a very natural sound instead of relying solely on samples or keyboard.
The structures of the songs are generally complex, including numerous meter key changes and varied melodies.
What kind of reaction are you getting from fans?
We have a lot of positive reactions coming from the symphonic metal community, from Europe, North America and South America. They like the big orchestra sound and the operatic vocals as well as the energetic drumming.
Märchenbilder’s music also appeals to a wide range of people who are listening to all types of music.
What does the future hold for Märchenbilder?
Märchenbilder’s next steps include international live performances to support the debut album. The debut album, Flickering Truth, was released on May 30th 2013. We are now planning for shows in Europe and North America within the coming year.
Gone in April – We Are But Human
Gone in April was also formed in 2009, created by guitarist Felix Schumacher and drummer Yanic Bercier. They soon added Julie Bélanger Roy and Italian bass master Chicco Parisi to complete the lineup. It took them two years to complete their debut album, We Are But Human, which was released in 2011 to much acclaim.
We last saw Gone in April October 2012, at the Valarium where they put on an amazing show. June 6, 2013, we got the opportunity to cover their show at NV Nightclub, where, once again, they put on an amazing performance- a blast of sweet symphony melded with thrash/goth metal.
Talented drummer Yanic Bercier is also the owner and sound engineer at WaveTransform Studios in Knoxville, TN. When Gone in April released their debut album, We Are But Human, in 2011, it was engineered and mixed by Bercier at WaveTransform Studios, and then mastered by Tom Morris at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, FL. Bersier also works as a Systems Engineer designing nuclear medicine scanners for the Siemens corporation.
The current lineup for Gone in April is as follows:
- Julie Belanger Roy – vocals, viola, violin
- Felix Schumacher – guitars
- Chicco Parisi – Bass
- Yanic Bercier – drums
- Julie Belanger Roy – vocals, viola, violin
- Marc Gingras – guitars
- James Slainmann – guitars
- Daniel Shifflett – Bass
- Yanic Bercier – drums
The touring lineup is slightly different from the recording lineup with uber-talented guitarist Marc-André Gingras, who is also a guitar instructor and bassist Daniel Shifflett, who is also a bass instructor. James Slainmann is the guitarist (and much more) for Märchenbilder and he is also a composer for film music. The incredible guitar solos from Gingras were definitely one of the high points of the show for me.
I got a chance to speak with the extremely skilled, technical drummer Yanic Bercier to find out a little more about Gone in April.
How do you think fans feel about symphonic metal in general?
I think symphonic metal fans are very passionate about the genre. They are very open to various symphonic styles. For example, Gone In April and Märchenbilder are 2 bands with completely different symphonic musical styles, however, both can be categorized as symphonic metal. The style is open to very technical composition, as well as to simple composition. As a musician, this makes the genre very exciting because there are no limits. There can be very aggressive passages, and very mellow passages, which allows musicians to push their limits.
From what I have seen, Knoxville fans may not have been exposed to a lot of symphonic metal in the styles of Gone In April and Märchenbilder. There is much curiosity and interest in the 2 bands within the east TN region. People who attend shows are either metal fans or listeners of the classical genre. The live shows really seem to stimulate the fans; the stage contains musicians with classical instruments, musicians with contemporary instruments, a dense/rich sound (due to orchestral sounds), with diverse pieces with the energy of a metal band.
What’s coming up for Gone in April?
For Gone In April, the next steps are to continue doing international live performances. As you might know, Gone In April traveled to Bangalore, India (Asia) last October to perform at the Great Indian Octoberfest, where Gone In April and Children Of Bodom were the metal headliners for the 3 day festival. In the past few years, that festival welcomed 60 000 fans. Performing at these festivals requires much preparation due to international travel. I find these performances very gratifying. In addition, Gone In April is working on material for a new album which the band is very excited about. More news to come soon.
Laura Shloush – guest vocalist for “Since You Are Gone”
I must say, one of the highest moments of the show was Gone in April’s performance of “Since You Are Gone,” which featured local radio DJ and aspiring death metalist Laura Shloush as a guest vocalist. This performance provided a dark, intriguing contrast as the operatic vocals of Roy combined with the death growls of Shloush to create a symphony of brutality.
Shloush had this to say about her performance:
So yeah, that was my first real stage performance ever. No joke. I’ve been waiting a long time to showcase them and have been working on my vocals for about 8 years now. And I was absolutely flattered when Yanic Bercier had asked me to perform guest vocals on one of his songs. “Holy shit. The drummer of Quo Vadis is asking me to do some harsh vocals. DOES NOT COMPUTE. ERROR. BLUE SCREEN.” Everyone in Gone In April is an amazing musician, so performing with them was a grand honor. After watching the concert footage a few dozen times, I think tonality-wise, I was higher than hoped to be. But I think the audience responded pretty well. Either way, it was an amazing experience. I hope to do it again soon.
You can hear Laura Shloush every Monday at 10pm on The Funeral Directory.