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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Metal Chick of the Month – Ailyn Giménez

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Come sleep with me, I’ll set you free…

The name Pilar Giménez García might not make a lot of sense to you, especially if you’re not a fan of Symphonic/Gothic Metal. It might even sound like a name extracted from a Mexican “telenovela” for some people. However, when I say the stage name of our metal chick this month, you’ll probably connect to her and, of course, to her beautiful voice: please welcome the stunning Spanish singer Ailyn Giménez, or simply Ailyn.

Ailyn was born on May 29, 1982 in Esplugues de Llobregat, in Barcelona, Spain, a place so close to the Camp Nou stadium that many famous players such as Piqué and Iniesta reside there. She is the current female vocalist of Norwegian Symphonic Gothic Metal band Sirenia, and her story prior to becoming a professional lead singer for a Heavy Metal band is quite unique in comparison to many other female singers from both metal or non-metal bands.

However, before we talk about her path to stardom, let’s first focus on her beginnings, in other words when Ailyn was “just” Pilar and started her career in the world of music. Our Catalan diva started singing in school when she was around 11 or 12 years old, when her music teacher inspired her to sing by playing her the song Hero by Mariah Carey. Ailyn immediately fell in love with the song and Mariah’s voice, and from that day on she started trying to sing like her, something easy to notice in the pop/romantic songs Tu Voz Se Apagará and Una Flor En La Tempestad. As hard as it’s to believe, this blonde girl shaking her booty is our Ailyn!

Then at the age of 15 she started her musical career, studying solfege and classical singing at The Albéniz School of Music, with her professional debut taking place in 2002 in Cornellà de Llobregat, also in Barcelona, Spain, in an annual benefit fashion show the city held to raise money for Alzheimer’s sufferers. As weird as it might sound, her first music contract was as part of an Anime/J-Pop/J-Rock group named Charm, with whom she released an album entitled Konnichiwa, in 2003, before parting ways with the group and starting to invest in her solo career in 2004.

Things started to get really interesting for her in 2007, when she was chosen as one of the members of the “young team” in the Spanish version of X Factor, where in the four episodes she participated before being eliminated she sang Pop/Rock classics such as Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and Evanescence’s Bring Me to Life, among others. Almost at the same time, her sister was looking for metal bands to add them as friends on the once useful MySpace, and that’s when she got to know Sirenia. They really enjoyed the dark and heavy music played by Norwegian multi-instrumentalist and composer Morten Veland and his crew, and as if by magic, a month later the band sent Ailyn an email asking her if she wanted to audition because they needed a new singer. Check her performances in songs such as The End of It All and Lithium (her cover version for one of Evanescence’s most famous songs), and you’ll understand why she was called to be the smooth female voice of Sirenia.

In the beginning of 2008, our Spanish beauty headed to the wonderful country of Norway for a couple of auditions with Sirenia, before being selected as their new female singer in April 2008. Since then, Ailyn has recorded four full-length albums with Sirenia: The 13th Floor (2009), The Enigma of Life (2011), Perils of the Deep Blue (2013), and earlier this year the excellent The Seventh Life Path, as well as the singles The Path to Decay (2008), The End of It All (2010) and Seven Widows Weep (2013), and of course started touring around the world with the band. Moreover, it was during one of her first tours with Sirenia that she had the most memorable show of her life, at the always awesome festival Masters Of Rock, in 2008. According to Ailyn herself it was not because of her performance (as she was very nervous): she mentioned this specific concert was special because it was her first big show with Sirenia, and because she was able to enjoy all the energy and grandiosity of the festival.

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Besides her career with Sirenia, Ailyn sang the song Needle Bites from the album Rejected Gods (2014), by Greek Symphonic Metal band Enemy of Reality, recorded additional vocals on the song Furia de Libertad from the album Argia (2014), by Spanish Symphonic Power/Gothic Metal band Diabulus in Musica, and female vocals on the songs The Chevalier and Prayer from the album Death & Legacy (2011), by Austrian Symphonic/Progressive Power Metal band Serenity. In addition, she performed live with German/Norwegian Symphonic Metal band Leaves’ Eyes at their 10th anniversary show in Wieze, Belgium in 2014., and she is also scheduled to take part on the Metal Opera album The Great Lie by Melted Space in October this year.

However, maybe none of her accomplishments as a metal singer would have been possible without the influence of Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation in her life. It’s not that she has ever been part of the band or anything like that, but it’s known that all her passion for heavy music started one day while she was watching TV and they played a video from Within Temptation, letting Ailyn eager for more of their music and of the music by any other band with a similar sonority. Of course, that led to Within Tempation’s lead singer Sharon Den Adel being one of her biggest idols in music, among other names such as Jared Leto (30 Seconds To Mars), Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman. Moreover, when asked about which artists she would like to sing with, our metal babe said she would love to perform a duet with  Roy Khan (ex-Kamelot), an amazing choice in my opinion.

Obviously, just as any other regular person in the world, Ailyn has her personal hobbies, including some very relaxing activities such as reading, drawing and sewing, especially sewing her stage clothes for her live performances with Sirenia, and of course she truly loves listening to music. Another interesting fact about Ailyn is that she has a condition called heterochromia iridis, meaning she has two different eye colours, one eye (right) is brown and the other eye (left) is green, which in my opinion only makes her even more attractive. And on a final note, one might ask how a Spanish woman named Pilar Giménez García ended up being called “Ailyn”, a Chinese name, and the answer to that is quite simple: not only she has always been attracted to the Asian culture, but mainly because Ailyn means “true love”. Do I need to say anything else?

Ailyn’s Official Facebook page
Sirenia’s Official Facebook Page

“Since I was a kid I dreamt about being in the music world, and as I grew up I dreamt about being part of a band, so I think my dreams have been accomplished. Of course I’ve got many dreams, but only time will tell if they become true or not.” – Ailyn Giménez