Metal Chick of the Month – Nicole Ansperger

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One last silver kiss before the last string decays…

We’ve already had some incredible vocalists, guitarists, bassists, keyboardists, drummers and even a saxophonist here at The Headbanging Moose among our metal chicks to properly celebrate the power and importance of women in heavy music, but never a musician like the one selected to conclude the year of 2016. Can you think of anything more unconventional (and charming) than a stunning female fiddler playing kick-ass Heavy Metal? That’s exactly the case with German bombshell Nicole Ansperger, a high-skilled mistress of Celtic Folk fiddling known for her contributions to different groups and projects such as Swiss Folk Metal band Eluveitie, German Folk Rock group Paddy Goes To Holyhead, German Folk Punk band Across the Border and German Neo-Classical Metal orchestra Haggard.

Born in 1981 in the beautiful city of Stuttgart, Germany, our talented fiddler said her strong passion for playing music came to light after listening to the music by Italian composer and virtuoso violinist Antonio Vivaldi, famous for his highly-acclaimed series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons. At the age of 6, she became a student of violinist George Moradian, who knew exactly how to help her develop her style and utilize all her natural potential, always by practicing famous pieces by masters such as Vivaldi and Bach and adding her own style to those. Then, at the age of nineteen, instead of becoming part of an orchestra she ended up joining her first Folk Rock band, learning then how to do improvisations, her true passion in music. Nicole never really thought about following a career playing the violin, it was just a hobby for her at first, but since 2005 she has been involved in so many bands, projects and concerts that she was able to turn music into her main profession.

Due to a guest visit with the famous band The Hooters, she was discovered by German Folk Rock band Paddy Goes To Holyhead in 2005, later joining Folk Punk band Across the Border in 2008 and recording two albums with them, named Loyalty (2009) and Folkpunk Air-Raid (2011). In addition to that, she played several concerts with German Symphonic Metal band Haggard in 2013, such as the one and only Wacken Open Air. You can have a good time listening to her solid performances with those bands on many YouTube videos, such as Across The Border’s Loyalty, Fucked Up World and Übers Meer / Rio Reiser, as well as Paddy Goes To Holyhead’s Far Away and Great Song of Whiskey. Apart from those bands, she also played violin in the 2006 album Fairy and the Dragon (a project of Jo Naumann from Paddy Goes To Holyhead), she was a guest violinist in the 2014 album Wegweiser, by Swiss Melodic Death/Folk Metal band Abinchova as you can witness in the excellent tune Flaschengeistand she also played violin on Winter’s Judgement, by Italian band Misteyes, from their 2016 album Creeping Time.

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However, it was in 2013 when she became a member of Eluveitie that she finally conquered the world of heavy music, replacing Meri Tadić on the violin and cello on December 11 of that year, having recorded with those Swiss metallers the singles King (her solo on this tune is simply superb) and The Call of the Mountains, and the full-length album Origins, all in 2014. And in case you want to see one of her violin solos with Eluveitie, I suggest you take a listen at this soulful one announcing her first full gig with Eluveitie. When asked about how she was invited to join Eluveitie, Nicole said she was at a concert and met a guy who knew the band, who then asked her if she would be interested in playing with them. Obviously, her answer was positive, and the guy got her in contact with Swiss multi-instrumentalist Chrigel Glanzmann, the mastermind behind Eluveitie, to whom she provided some of her demos. I guess I don’t need to say how good those demos were and what resulted out of that, right? Sadly, due to her family situation, our talented fiddler had to leave Eluveitie on August 3, 2015, as it became impossible for her to be on the road with the band constantly. The departure was very harmonious, though. “Unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult to manage personal obligations and take care of a family alongside a life of constant touring, and Nicole’s priorities are with her family – where they should be. We are parting amicably and would like to thank Nicole for the good times and her musical contribution. It’s been an honour to share stage and studio with such a talented musician!”, commented Eluveitie, while Nicole complemented saying that “this certainly doesn‘t mean an end to my musical career. Music will always be a very important part of my life and who knows – maybe we‘ll see each other again one day.” And guess what? It didn’t take too long for Nicole and Eluveitie to meet again. For our total delight, she rejoined the band in the middle of 2016, already playing several summer festivals with the band, including the always fantastic Wacken Open Air.

When asked about her biggest challenge from all bands she has already played in her career, she mentioned the time she played with Haggard, mainly the first few gigs like the very first one in Mexico, when she had only one week to practice the entire set and hadn’t met anyone from the band before. And although she has played most of her career in Germany, she said she still wants to visit lots of different countries, naming Australia as one of her desired destinations. Finally, before you complain that I haven’t mentioned her biggest idols in heavy music, here they are to conclude this tribute to the talented Nicole! When she was a teenager, she mentioned she used to listen a lot to old school bands such as Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, switching to more contemporary and intricate groups like Opeth and Dream Theater in recent years. Well, no matter what, we have to admit our gracious Nicole has indeed an amazing taste for music.

Equipment
Diamo Carbon Violin
Viper 7 String Wood Violin
Acoustic Violin with Magnetic Pickup
Accoustic Cello Rouen 2008
Audioprotect/Vision Inear

Nicole Ansperger’s Official Facebook page

Album Review – Caliban / Ghost Empire (2014)

A decent Metalcore album from one of its biggest exponents in the European scene.

Rating6

Caliban_Ghost EmpireWe all know Germany is a very Heavy Metal country, with tons of important names such as Gamma Ray, Helloween, Kreator, Primal Fear, Destruction, Doro, among others, and almost all of those German bands have something in common: a very traditional approach in terms of their musicality. However, in the middle of this “cradle of tradition” there’s a band called Caliban playing a completely different type of music that people like to call Metalcore or Melodic Hardcore. Even being a band so different from their countrymen, they managed to survive through the years and gained a respectful legion of fans (you might have already seen some YouTube videos of their “Wall of Death” mosh pits in their live concerts), and now in 2014 they’re launching their 9th studio album, called Ghost Empire.

If you’re a very traditional Heavy Metal fan and do not accept anything different from what was done in the 80’s or 90’s, do not even waste your time giving Caliban a chance. What they do is more like the contemporary American Heavy Metal, with some similarities to bands like Five Finger Death Punch or Killswitch Engage, but I would say their music is a little bit more melodic than those. The first track of the album, called King, is a very good example of their modern heavy music, with singer Andreas Dörner doing a pretty decent job with his guttural vocals. It’s a good song for mosh pits, albeit I don’t like the clean vocals from Denis Schmidt at all. The next track is quite weird: Chaos – Creation starts really heavy then becomes kind of pop, but at least the riffs keep the energy high; on the other hand, Wolves And Rats is 100% heavy, especially its vocals and drums, and sounds good for some circle pits.

CalibanThe next track, nebeL, which has Bastian Sobtzick (from the band Callejon) on vocals, is a pretty cool song with an interesting chorus, while I Am Ghost has the best start of all songs and pretty heavy riffs, but gets really boring after a while. Devil’s Night has some cool lyrics and vocals and is one of the highlights of Ghost Empire, as well as yOUR Song with its awesome rhythm. These two songs should work well live and will probably be included in their future setlists. The same cannot be said about the next few tracks:  Cries And Whispers is the fastest song of the album, but the chorus sucks so bad it gets boring; Good Man is just a generic song that doesn’t make any difference to the album; and I Am Rebellion has a horrible smooth chorus. These songs explain why many diehard metal fans hate this type of heavy music with all their strength.

Fortunately the next two tracks put the album back on track: Who We Are is a lot better than previous tracks, especially due to its excellent heavy riffs; and My Vertigo is another “mosh pit” song that will please all fans of the band and even some people that know nothing about Caliban. The deluxe edition of Ghost Empire brings a very weird song called Falling Downwards, with Matt Heafy (Trivium) as guest vocalist. Matt kind of saves the song, in other words, without him it would have been the worst track of the album by far.

Last but not least, one of the best things in Ghost Empire is the album art, especially because it’s done by hand (and not by the use of a computer) and totally connects with the album name and its musicality. Maybe someone who is more into this type of heavy music would have given the album more than 2.5, but for me it lacks that punch only traditional Heavy Metal has. I wouldn’t mind checking Caliban out live at a festival here in Canada, but it’s far from becoming one of my favorite new bands.

Best moments of the album: King, Devil’s Night and yOUR Song.

Worst moments of the album: I Am Ghost, Good Man and I Am Rebellion.

Released in 2014 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. King 4:02
2. Chaos – Creation 3:30
3. Wolves And Rats 3:59
4. nebeL (feat. Bastian Sobtzick) 3:11
5. I Am Ghost 3:46
6. Devil’s Night 4:23
7. yOUR Song 4:26
8. Cries And Whispers 3:55
9. Good Man 5:07
10. I Am Rebellion 4:21
11. Who We Are 4:09
12. My Vertigo 3:15

 Deluxe edition bonus track
13. Falling Downwards (feat. Matt Heafy) 3:48

Band members
Andreas Dörner – lead vocals
Marc Görtz – guitar
Denis Schmidt – guitar, clean vocals
Patrick Grün – drums
Marco Schaller – bass guitar

Guest musicians
Bastian Sobtzick – vocals on “nebeL”
Matt Heafy – vocals on “Falling Downwards”