Metal Chick of the Month – Elina Siirala

The heat that licks my skin, it takes me high…

Brothers and sisters of metal, let’s all get together to praise our metal chick of the month of April 2018, the stunning Finnish soprano and vocal coach Elina Siirala, better known for being the founder and frontwoman for English Melodic Metal band Angel Nation (formerly known as EnkElination), and for joining German Symphonic/Viking Metal act Leaves’ Eyes as the second female vocalist in the history of the band, replacing the iconic Liv Kristine. Having said that, are you ready to know more about such talented musician, and obviously head into the battlefield side by side with her?

Elina was born on October 27, 1983 in the Finnish capital Helsinki, being the second cousin of Tuomas Holopainen, well known founder and keyboardist of Nightwish. And let’s say that music truly runs in her veins as her whole family is comprised of musicians, not to mention she’s the third generation of teachers, with her passion for singing having started at a very young age when she was only 5 years old. Both her parents are teachers at the renowned Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and her brother works as a professor in Munich, which means there was a lot of singing, playing and listening to music in her life while she was growing up. One funny story about her passion for music was that she basically begged her parents to start violin lessons, even building her own violin out of a piece of wood and rubber bands. She ended up playing the violin for seven years and also learned how to play piano by herself, but in the end singing was always what she loved the most in music.

After taking singing lessons at the age of 17, Elina got into the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki two years later, completing a Bachelor’s degree in classical music and performing in operas and concerts during that period, and after finishing her studies she decided to broaden her knowledge by moving from Helsinki to London, England, where she spent another year studying contemporary styles such as Rock & Soul (a very challenging one vocally speaking according to Elina herself), a course that also included a lot of performing by the way. In addition, throughout all those years of study, she was also a music teacher and wrote a lot of music, which culminated in 2011 with the creation of her own band EnkeliNation. As a matter of fact, her move to London was the true catalyst of her love for heavy music, with some hard times in her personal life being a source of inspiration for her music and lyrics.

In regards to her career with Angel Nation, as aforementioned it all started in November 2011 when she formed the band under the name EnkElination, with the band’s name being a play on words featuring “enkeli”, which is the Finnish word for “angel”, and also her own name “Elina” in the middle, changing the name to Angel Nation in 2016. Elina was initially joined by guitarist Shadow (Empyreal Destroyer, Stand Aside, Shadow Venger), playing the local London scene and developing the band as a live act while going through several lineup changes during the band’s first few years. Angel Nation also played a few important European festivals such as Bloodstock Open Air, Lankafest and The Dames of Darkness Festival, having released so far in their career the three-track, download-only EP titled Never Ending in 2012, and the albums Tears of Lust, in 2014, and Aeon, in 2017, as well as a couple of singles. Currently comprised of Elina on vocals and keyboards, Sonny Antoniou on the guitar, Julia B Cadau on bass, and Lucas Williamson on drums, Angel Nation play classic, straightforward Symphonic Metal, and you can enjoy their stylish music on their official YouTube channel, having the pleasure of listening to Elina’s powerful vocals in songs like Last Time Together (also available as an acoustic live version), Do It Anyway, and Tears Of Lust, as well as other live videos and special announcements.

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During one of the concerts where Angel Nation worked as a supporting act, Elina came up to the attention of Leaves’ Eyes, being invited in 2016 to join the band to replace their departing singer Liv Kristine. And she started touring and recording with Leaves’ Eyes immediately after joining the band, including a tour with Leaves’ Eyes alongside Sabaton in the United States in 2016 (while at the same time still managing and fronting Angel Nation), and some very unique concerts like the one in Indonesia where she sang in front of 21,000 people despite the heavy tropical storm that hit the venue before the gig, and a small but fully packed venue in Belgium that she considers one of the hottest shows she’s ever done, feeling like a sauna on stage. Since Elina became the new frontwoman for Leaves’ Eyes, the band has already released a handful of singles; an EP titled Fires in the North, in 2016, which includes an original song (also presented in acoustic format) and three re-recorded songs from the band’s 2015 album King Of Kings; and now in 2018 their first full-length album with Elina on vocals, entitled Sign of the Dragonhead. You can have a very good time together with Elina and Leaves’ Eyes by listening to excellent songs such as Edge of Steel, Across The SeaFires in the North, Jomsborg, and Sign Of The Dragonhead. When asked about her favorite songs by Leaves’ Eyes, our dauntless Valkyrie mentioned Take the Devil in Me (from the band’s 2010 album Njord) and Sacred Vow (originally from King Of Kings, but re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) as two songs she would definitely add to her personal playlist, while Edge Of Steel and Swords In Rock (both also from King Of Kings and re-recorded with Elina on vocals for their EP Fires in the North) might be the ones she has the most fun playing live.

As previously mentioned, our Finnish diva has also been a vocal coach and teacher since she was 19, as during her years studying classical singing there was a a large variety of subjects such as music history, music theory and also music teaching, giving classes and lessons about breathing technique, vocal exercises (vocal placement and projection), stylistic awareness, repertoire, and stage and performance technique. Elina mentioned that she really loves teaching and that it’s been a pleasure for her to have already had many different students over the years, saying it’s at the same time challenging and rewarding. Of course, having to balance between Angel Nation and Leaves’ Eyes together with her vocal coach and teaching activities is not an easy task, with very little free time left, something she has to manage by scheduling and planning well in advance. Furthermore, she mentioned in one of her interviews that whenever she has some free time, she likes seeing her friends, watching movies and relaxing, also saying she doesn’t really have any time for hobbies. And to stay in shape on and off tours, Elina said she has an active lifestyle, practicing all kinds of sports to keep her fitness up, and while she’s on tour she said that being on stage is already a good workout for her, always resulting in her losing some weight.

Lastly, when asked about her biggest idols in music, and singers she admires and that inspired her in any way, Elina said that she really likes female singers such as Dutch goddess Sharon den Adel (from Within Temptation) and Whitney Houston, as she enjoys all kinds of styles, while her favorite male singers are Spanish tenor, conductor and arts administrator Placido Domingo, who she used to idolize when she was a teenager, and the one and only British icon Freddie Mercury, her all-time inspiration as a singer. Anyone who admires Mr. Freddie Mercury already deserves our utmost respect, and when that person is as talented, energetic and hardworking as our unstoppable Finnish banshee Elina Siirala, things get even better and more epic.

Elina Siirala’s Official Facebook page
Elina Siirala’s Official Twitter
Elina Siirala’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official Facebook page
Angel Nation’s Official Twitter
Angel Nation’s Official Instagram
Angel Nation’s Official YouTube channel
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Facebook page
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Twitter
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official Instagram
Leaves’ Eyes’ Official YouTube channel

“I think it’s amazing how much emotions music can awaken in people, how it can change your mood and bring back memories. It’s the perfect way of expressing myself as an artist and sometimes writing songs is almost like therapy that helps you through hard times. Compared to other instruments I’ve played, singing is definitely the most personal for me as I’m actually the instrument and I get to express everything through my own voice and of course lyrics.” – Elina Siirala

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Concert Review – Cannibal Corpse & Behemoth (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015)

If you want to live in the bitter cold of Toronto, you have to kill or become.

OPENING ACTS: Tribulation and Aeon

cannibal corpse_behemoth_winter tour 2015If you live in Toronto or anywhere nearby you know how bitterly cold the past couple of months have been. For instance, I personally don’t remember when we had temperatures above the freezing mark (or even above -5°C) for the last time, and it looks like February 2015 is about to become the coldest month in the history of Toronto. Well, nothing better than a hotter-than-hell extreme music night to warm up the hearts of lots of headbangers in the city, right? The venue chosen for this awesome gathering was the always welcoming Phoenix Concert Theatre, where friends wearing the T-shirts of their favorite extreme bands and even a group of girls with their well-crafted corpsepaint were able to enjoy some beers together, headbang like motherfuckers and especially slam into the circle pits.

The bands chosen to liven this mini-festival up were the excellent Swedish Death Metal bands TRIBULATION and AEON, both raising the flag of Scandinavian metal really high with their ferocious performances. If you truly love extreme music but have never heard of either Tribulation or Aeon, I kindly ask you to please go check these two bands: you’ll be surprised with how good they are. The first band was Tribulation, playing a very technical and progressive Death Metal permeated with elements from Black and Doom Metal and singing about darkness, horror, vampires, death and all other of those “beautiful” themes. In case you want to know more about this great Swedish band, my suggestions are the songs Beyond the Horror, Rånda and When the Sky Is Black With Devils, masterfully executed by this four-piece act in front of an avid Torontonian crowd.

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Aeon @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

After a short break it was time for Aeon to deliver their infernal music, blasting everyone’s ears and necks with each and every song played. Lead singer Tommy Dahlström is a beast on vocals (and you can easily notice he’s a huge fan of Cannibal Corpse by his stage performance), perfectly vociferating the violent lyrics of all songs of their brutal setlist, with highlights to the opening song Satanic Victory and also to the amazing Kill Them All and Blessed by the Priest. In addition, how can I describe the performance of drummer Emil Wiksten? That guy is like an unbelievable human stone crusher behind his drums so fast and precise he is, which added a lot of power and fury to the band’s performance. As I said, go after the music by Tribulation and Aeon as quick as the blast beats by Emil!

BEHEMOTH

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Behemoth @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

It was around 8:45pm when the iconic Nergal and his horde of darkness hit the stage with an incredible concert, both in terms of their ominous music and their unique theatrical performance, and it’s amazing how they were capable of delivering so much content in such a limited space. Still promoting their most recent album, the impeccable The Satanist, which even after one year of its release it continues to astonish me, Polish Black/Death Metal masters BEHEMOTH proved why they’re one of the most influential and portentous groups in the world of extreme music.

Although they didn’t play the best song of The Satanist in my opinion, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”, the songs selected from the album were just as superb live, with highlights to Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer and Ben Sahar. Older classics also helped keep the audience mesmerized by their obscurity, such as Chant for Eschaton 2000 and Slaves Shall Serve. However, I believe almost everybody will agree with me when I say they simply kicked all possible asses with the already classic O Father O Satan O Sun!, a song that live sounds even more grandiose than its studio version, augmented by the band’s special satanic attire worn during its execution. This might sound stupid for a lot of people, but Behemoth performing this song at the Oscars would have been beyond spectacular. Unfortunately, the world and all mere mortals that live in it don’t seem ready for Behemoth yet.

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Behemoth @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

Also, it’s undeniable that Nergal is a true Extreme Metal leader and he’s passionate about what he does, and consequently he had almost all eyes staring at him during the whole concert, but the other band members are also wonderful and skillful musicians who help Nergal achieve the level of excellence he has in his mind for the band. Who didn’t enjoy the performance by bassist Orion, who looked like an even more devilish version of Gene Simmons’ stage persona The Demon? And what about the dark riffs by Seth or the rhythmic drumming by Inferno? What an awesome band, and if you missed them this time, may Lucifer have mercy on your soul. Or not.

Setlist
1. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
2. Conquer All
3. Ben Sahar
4. Decade of Therion
5. Messe Noire
6. Ov Fire and the Void
7. At the Left Hand ov God
8. Slaves Shall Serve
9. Chant for Eschaton 2000
10. O Father O Satan O Sun!

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

CANNIBAL CORPSE

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Cannibal Corpse @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

In order to properly close the night and pulverize anyone or anything that was still alive after Behemoth, Death Metal titans CANNIBAL CORPSE arose from the crypts of hell to transform the entire venue into their own “skeletal domain”, obviously promoting their most recent album, the visceral A Skeletal Domain. If there’s one thing that I love about Cannibal Corpse is the fact that they’re a band that always moves forward, despite having a solid past which they could live on forever like many classic bands do. All their latest albums are brutally superb, and technically speaking they’re getting better and better year after year.

Their setlist was an awesome mix of old classics and newer songs, including almost one track from each one of their albums, from Eaten Back to Life (1990) to last year’s A Skeletal Domain. Mosh pits and pure headbanging erupted with classics such as A Skull Full of Maggots, Demented Aggression, Make Them Suffer and The Wretched Spawn, while the selected songs from their new album for this tour, in special the great Sadistic Embodiment and the steamroller Kill or Become, intensified even more the hurricane that was happening on the “dance” floor.

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Cannibal Corpse @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

Moreover, anything I say about the band members will just be pure repetition of common sense: they are all really talented musicians that love Death Metal above all things (well, Corpsegrinder said he loves pussy above all things), and that translates into pure electricity when they’re performing on the stage. You can barely see Alex Webster’s face, but he’s there delivering the most intricate bass lines you can find in extreme music, while Pat O’Brien and Rob Barrett keep firing their evil riffs and Paul Mazurkiewicz his nonstop beats. And as I always say, Mr. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher is the face of Cannibal Corpse and the one to give life (or death) to the band’s gory lyrics while headbanging like a fuckin’ chopper in a way only he is capable of. Besides, seeing him scratching himself with one of Paul’s drumsticks due to an incontrollable itch in the middle of his back, and you know he’s not a small guy, was priceless.

When Cannibal Corpse played their last two songs, the unparalleled classics Hammer Smashed Face and Devoured by Vermin (my top Cannibal Corpse song of all time), they turned the whole venue into a fuckin’ monstrous mosh pit with absolutely no place to hide, showcasing how awesome those songs are. But do you think anyone in the audience complained about it? There were so many smiles and so much sweat everywhere when the show was over I’m pretty sure the fans of the Corpse cannot wait for them to storm Toronto once again and heat up our chilly winter with their perfect Death Metal. Fire up the chainsaw!

Setlist
1. Scourge of Iron
2. Demented Aggression
3. Evisceration Plague
4. Stripped, Raped and Strangled
5. Kill or Become
6. Sadistic Embodiment
7. Icepick Lobotomy
8. The Wretched Spawn
9. Pounded into Dust
10. I Cum Blood
11. Make Them Suffer
12. A Skull Full of Maggots
13. Hammer Smashed Face
14. Devoured by Vermin

Band members
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – vocals
Pat O’Brien – guitar
Rob Barrett – guitar
Alex Webster – bass
Paul Mazurkiewicz – drums