Metal Chick of the Month – Dianne van Giersbergen

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You will die for my love tonight!

When you think about the Netherlands, the first (if not the only) things that come to your mind are probably prostitution, drugs and those famous wooden shoes. However, you should forget about all that touristic bullshit and start admiring the true wonders of that picturesque European country: their female Heavy Metal singers. It’s amazing how many talented girls can be found in such a small country, as for example Anneke van Giersbergen (Agua de Anneke, The Gathering), Sharon den Adel (Within Tempation), Charlotte Wessels (Delain), and our last Metal Chick of the year, the stunning soprano Dianne van Giersbergen, frontwoman of Dutch Progressive Metal band Ex Libris and German Symphonic Metal band Xandria.

Dianne was born on June 3, 1985 in the village of Liempde in the Netherlands, about 100km from the capital Amsterdam, but currently resides in the city of Dordrecht, close to Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the country. Her beautiful and potent voice started to be defined and polished really early in her life: when she was a kid, Dianne used to listen to many pop female singers such as Whitney Houston (R.I.P.), which developed in her a true fascination for the human voice and, at the age of four, her parents gave her as a birthday gift her first singing lessons. In the following years, she had several other music teachers and sang in different choirs.

In the year of 2005, this long dark-haired beauty began her studies in Classical Music at the ArtEZ School of Music with singer Elena Vink, and also became a trainee at the Nationale Reisopera. Besides her classical Music studies, in her free time our gorgeous soprano also braved the worlds of popular music and musical theatre. Finally, in May 2009, Dianne graduated from her studies with distinction, and her newly acquired Bachelor’s also worked as the admission for her Master studies, when she improved her technique to have classical and metal music mixed together. Not only that, this nonstop diva also attended composition courses, wrote poems on behalf of composers, and was the chairman of the New Artez Student Association group of master students. We have to admit this is a very respectable resume, which makes me wonder if she somehow has part of the DNA from Iron Maiden’s “multi-man”, Mr. Bruce Dickinson.

Moving on to her career as a Heavy Metal singer, Dianne has been with Ex Libris since their beginning in 2003, and has already recorded the demos Drawn (2005) and Medea (2011), and the full-length albums Amygdala, in 2008, and Medea, now in 2014. In one of her interviews, she explained the reason for the name of the band.  “An Ex Libris is used to indicate ownership of products of a craft-guild and can come in different forms like a seal, stamp or a brand. You could say that by naming the band Ex Libris we would like to brand our products as our own.”, she said. In case you have never heard the voice of Dianne with Ex Libris, here are a few songs to make your day a lot more pleasant: From Birth to Bloodshed, A Mother’s Lament, Love Is Thy Sin, and Dawn Of Sugars.

In October 2013, Dianne was chosen as the new frontwoman for Xandria, replacing German singer Manuela Kraller. She made her live debut with Xandria in November 2013 during a Spanish tour, and has recently recorded her first album with the band, entitled Sacrificium. You can for example check her astonishing voice beautifying Xandria’s music in the very enjoyable song Dreamkeeper, from Sacrificium.

Besides that, she was a guest soprano for Polish Symphonic Power Metal band Pathfinder during their Blood Aliance Tour in 2011, and in December 2013 she was a guest vocalist during one of the concerts from Dutch Symphonic Gothic Metal band Stream Of Passion, when together with lead singer Marcela Bovio they performed the duettino Sull’aria, from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”, and one of Stream of Passion’s own songs. And, of course, you can always check all her other projects and videos on her official website and also on her official YouTube channel.

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A woman so talented like that could never have a bad taste for music, and this can be easily seen on her awesome list of favorite bands and artists, which includes music icons such as Nightwish, Dream Theater, Tarja Turunen, Devin Townsend Project, Anneke van Giersbergen, Anathema, System of a Down, Dire Straits, and many more. And before you ask about it, despite having the same last name as Anneke, those two divas are not related at all. “We share the same surname but are very different in voice type and vocal techniques. I like her style though.”, Dianne said during an interview. Not only that, she also listens to a lot of classical music (mostly choir pieces, songs and opera), with Wagner, Rachmaninoff, Zemlinsky, Berg and Verdi being among her favorite composers.

In terms of cinema and literature, Dianne once again showcases a splendid cultural background by mentioning among her favorite movies masterpieces such as Braveheart and Lord of the Rings (and anything from masters Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton), great TV series like Breaking Bad and Lost, and everything from one of the greatest and most mysterious writers of all time, the unparalleled American poet Edgar Allan Poe. Add to that the fact that she loves French food and red wine, and there you have a perfect European “milady”!

Last but not least, Dianne even said once that she would love to have an alto (or contralto) voice for a day. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, just for your reference the female voice can be divided into three categories: alto, mezzo-soprano and soprano, with the alto being the lowest standard female voice type (you can see a very good explanation of all types of voices HERE, including a perfect example of how an alto sounds like). But even after reading all that information about voice types you didn’t really get it, don’t worry: I’m pretty sure that, as long as our Dutch princess Dianne keeps singing Heavy Metal, your metal heart will keep beating delightfully.

Dianne van Giersbergen’s Official Facebook page
Ex Libris’ Official Facebook page
Ex Libris’ Official Twitter
Xandria’s Official Facebook page
Xandria’s Official Twitter

“Smile and you will be rewarded.” – Dianne van Giersbergen

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Album Review – Xandria / Sacrificium (2014)

Listening to this album is far from being a sacrifice. Quite the opposite, it’s a true pleasure.

Rating4

CoverChanging the lead singer of any band has always been considered a very a bold move, and when the music genre in question is Heavy Metal the impact of that change is even more significant due to the loyalty and connection all diehard fans usually have with the most “traditional” members of the band. In other words, this change can be a very welcome breath of fresh air to the band’s musicality in some cases, or a complete disaster in others depending on how much the voice influences their music direction. Fortunately for German Symphonic Metal band Xandria their choice for the band’s new lead singer, the very talented Dutch soprano Dianne van Giersbergen, ended up being better than anyone could have imagined, which can be verified in their excellent brand new album Sacrificium, the sixth in their career.

Dianne, who is also the frontwoman for Dutch Smyphonic Metal band Ex Libris,  replaced German singer Manuela Kraller (who was with the band from 2010 to 2013) just before the recording of Sacrificium began, which made fans really apprehensive of what would happen with the band then. It’s also the first with bassist Steven Wussow, and add to that “the choir of the sacrificed” by the PA’dam choir (from the Netherlands) and some narration by American singer Amanda Somerville and Mark Burnash, and the amount of changes and new elements compared to their previous records is even higher. However, as aforementioned, it’s all for a very good purpose.

To begin with, if Sacrificium, the 10-minute epic track that opens the album, is not the most awesome “business card” Dianne could offer us, then I have no idea what could be. Xandria seems to be in very good hands (or voice) now based on what we can see in this song: after a symphonic intro, it turns into great and fast Power Metal, with Dianne’s voice sounding gorgeous when blended with more modern riffs. Moreover, the good rhythm variations and breaks, the “movie soundtrack” chorus halfway through the song and all solos make it easy to follow the “story” being told, turning it into an instant fan favorite. Nightfall, the second track of the album, keeps the energy level up. It is definitely another top moment of the album with its choir intro, heavy riffs, beautiful vocals and chorus giving the song an epic touch, and it will sound amazing live without any doubt.

Then we have the semi-ballad Dreamkeeper, which despite its more melodic riffs and delicate lyrics (“I will send a dying rose / For you all to be close / To its scent that has never been”) is not really an exciting song, and Stardust, where Dianne’s voice is nicely complemented by some Progressive Metal elements; but it’s the next song, The Undiscovered Land, which really helps elevate the overall quality of the album: this “medieval” ballad has some sort of “Lord of the Rings” intro that works pretty well, an awesome instrumental, and of course another brilliant vocal performance by Dianne. Sacrificium goes on with the pure Symphonic Power Metal song Betrayer, which takes the album back to a stronger and faster sonority, and Until the End, a “video-game” track that albeit not bad, sounds too generic compared to the rest of the album.

xandriaThe last part of Sacrificium is composed by a sequence of shorter songs with a very traditional approach, where the goal seems to be showcasing Dianne’s skills as a soprano. Come With Me is a very rhythmic Symphonic Metal tune with a chorus full of emotion, which can also be said about the next song, Little Red Relish, and Our Neverworld, a smooth ballad with heavier passages. Finally, we have the totally boring Temple of Hate, the worst song of all, and closing the album we have one last ballad, the melancholic and captivating Sweet Atonement, another lesson in singing by Dianne, who puts so much passion in her voice it’s hard not to get thrilled with her performance.

In summary, Sacrificium is a highly recommended album for all types of female singers (not only Heavy Metal), or for lovers of bands with female vocals, but it might be too much sometimes for more traditional metal fans. I myself was going to give it a 3.0 mainly because it’s not the most creative album in the world, but the choir, all the narrative, and especially the addition of the stunning Dianne to the band were so amazing it actually deserved a 3.5 in the end. Only time will tell if Dianne will be able to balance her career between Ex Libris and Xandria, but for now I’m impressed with her abilities as a musician. And what can I say about the album art? It’s not only beautiful, but would it also be a message to their oldest fans saying the band’s music has been reborn like a phoenix from the ashes? At least one thing we know for sure: listening to Sacrificium is not a sacrifice at all, but a very delightful experience.

Best moments of the album: Sacrificium, Nightfall, The Undiscovered Land and Sweet Atonement.

Worst moments of the album: Dreamkeeper, Until the End and Temple of Hate.

Released in 2014 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Sacrificium 10:21
2. Nightfall 4:02
3. Dreamkeeper 4:36
4. Stardust 4:00
5. The Undiscovered Land 7:34
6. Betrayer 6:15
7. Until the End 5:47
8. Come With Me 3:46
9. Little Red Relish 4:39
10. Our Neverworld 3:51
11. Temple of Hate 5:59
12. Sweet Atonement 4:20

Band members
Dianne van Giersbergen – vocals
Marco Heubaum – vocals, guitar, keyboard
Philip Restemeier – guitar
Steven Wussow – bass
Gerit Lamm – drums