Metal Chick of the Month – Dagny Susanne

Malice, come closer to me!

The month of November in the Northern Hemisphere is always a synonym to colder temperatures and darker days, a sign that winter is coming and that all the happiness and warmth of the summer are long gone and will take even longer to return. Having said that, there’s nothing better than listening to some old school, menacing Scandinavian Black Metal to “celebrate” the Stygian season that’s about to begin, especially if it’s the Black Metal crafted by our metal chick this month, the multi-talented Swedish Valkyrie known as Dagny Susanne, the mastermind behind the top-notch extreme music project Nachtlieder. By the way, Nachtlieder is German for “night songs” or “songs of the night”. Do I need to say more?

Born on September 9, 1986 in Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden, situated in the province of Lapland, but currently residing in the multi-cultural Swedish city of Gothenburg where she moved about a decade ago, Dagny Susanne (whose real full name is Karin Dagny Susanne Hansson) mentioned she never had any friends who were into heavy music nor could buy any albums in her hometown because there wasn’t a record store there at that time, being “forced” to download music using Napster with a modem, which obviously made her discovery of metal painfully slow. Furthermore, growing up in Kiruna affected her personality and the way she currently sees things both in good and bad ways, but her interest in metal, in meeting musicians and starting a band motivated her to move to Gothenburg. However, nowadays Dagny feels a little nostalgic when talking about her beloved Kiruna, saying that not only it’s a beautiful and serene place, but it also inspires you to work, clearing your head and putting you in a good state of mind due to its calmness and distance from bigger cities like Gothenburg and Stockholm. For instance, just to give you an idea of how isolated Kiruna is, Luleå, the biggest town in the same region, is nothing more, nothing less than three hours away from it.

Since 2008, Dagny has been embellishing the world of extreme music with her Black Metal outlet Nachtlieder, being responsible for the songwriting, the lyrics, all vocal parts and pretty much all other instruments except for the drums, played in almost all her releases by her longtime friend Martrum (also known as Dödsdyrk, from bands such as Minion and Wicked). After the release of two demos in 2009 and a promo album in 2010, Dagny and her Nachtlieder became a much bolder and intense entity after unleashing upon humanity the full-length albums Nachtlieder, in 2013, and more recently The Female of the Species, in 2015, with the latter having the Biblical character of Eve, the female of the species, as the central character in the album’s narrative as mentioned in our review for the album. However, the original idea of the album was taken from the book “The Female of the Species”, by American writer Joyce Carol Oates, a collection of novellas about women committing different acts of violence for various reasons, slightly changing to the narrative about Eve after Dagny began to reference the phenomenon of “Satanic feminism” where Satan, a symbol for liberation, is also used as a feminist icon in her lyrics. In addition, Dagny said that, as she used to work in a public library, she reads a lot and that has a significant influence on her lyrics (but not on her music, thought), starting with small text fragments before coming up with what the lyrics should be about.

If you want to take a good listen at the music by Dagny and her Nachtlieder, I highly recommend you go to BandCamp, YouTube or Spotify to do so, being suddenly embraced by her visceral Black Metal such as in the excellent songs Eve, Beyond Death, Leave the View To the Rats and A Meager Escapism. The only “issue” with Natchlieder is that you won’t be able to find any live material or footage online, as Dagny hasn’t been able to form a full-bodied band yet. She obviously wants to perform live some time, but there are a few barriers to that such as the availability of musicians in her circle of friends that would be willing to play her music, and if those musicians would be reliable enough to replicate her music to an acceptable level to her.

Prior to becoming Nachtlieder, our Swedish black metaller was the bass player for Gothenburg-based Death/Black/Thrash Metal band Wicked from 2006 to 2010, having recorded with them a demo titled Chaos in 2007, the single Gospel of Sickness in 2009 and the split album Abominations, Chaos and Bestial Warfare in 2009 together with the bands Adokhsiny, Land of Hate, Надимач and Wargoatcult. She mentioned that she learned a lot from that time as it was her first extreme band, in special about arrangements and the role of the bass guitar in a band. The band unfortunately disbanded after their lead singer moved out of town with his family, but all three members are still friends and try to meet as much as possible whenever they’re in the same city. Apart from Wicked and obviously Nachtlieder, you can find Dagny in a couple of bands and projects as a guest musician, being the bassist and guitarist for the 2016 album Winds of Transilvania, by American/Swedish Black Metal project Nattsvargr (led by American vocalist Noctir); and doing some vocals and violin for a German Ambient Black/Doom Metal band named Black Autumn.

Dagny also has a very interesting (and obviously strong) connection with Black Metal from her homeland, having discovered the genre in her teens and consequently listening to Swedish bands for hours and hours, in special her favorite of all, Dissection. For instance, she mentioned that Dissection’s first gig after guitarist, vocalist and main songwriter Jon Nödtveidt (R.I.P.) got out of prison was the first big concert she ever went to. When asked about the general concept of cold and dark winter days being the reason why Scandinavian Metal is so unique, our Swedish diva said that there are of course bands that succeeded in portraying the extreme conditions and contrasts that exist in the northern parts of Scandinavia through their music, but that you can also see a significant difference between the metal scene in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Furthermore, when asked what defines Black Metal as a genre, Dagny said that when she wrote her bachelor in musicology about Black Metal she tried to identify the elements that define the music, finding that certain intervals were used both in chord progressions and melodies, therefore making Black Metal a music style for her no matter what the lyrical content is. For example, she said that if Black Metal is all about Satanism as several people think, then a band like Immortal, one of the biggest and most influential exponents of the genre, wouldn’t be Black Metal.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As usual, I love to know about our metal girls’ opinions about women and sexism in the metal universe, and Dagny has a strong position about those topics, especially for playing a music style vastly dominated by men. First of all, she mentioned that gender isn’t the only thing that matters, citing other details such as age, profession, place of birth and residence and ethnicity, among others, as reasons why different people doing the exact same thing will certainly receive very distinct feedback from the society. However, she said she has already faced some not-so-subtle sexist comments directly to her face such as “chicks can’t play”, as well as the feeling of not being fully respected by guys whenever she was the only woman in the group. In addition, she said that although she doesn’t know for sure why the number of one-woman Black Metal bands is extremely low compared to one-man Black Metal projects, she feels that it might be due to the different networks between men and women and the conscious and subconscious differences in social sex. “From the day we’re born we’re not encouraged to do the same things and this includes the music we should listen to and perform and the instruments we should play”, said Dagny. Also, she thinks the well-established expression “’female-fronted metal” (which I confess I end up using quite often i my reviews and discussions) doesn’t really make sense at all, like the term “female vocals” instead of “clean vocals” when the singer is not a man, and that applies to Nachtlieder as very few people would associate those expressions with the type of music she plays.

As any musician in our modern-day society, Dagny also has to deal with illegal downloads of her music, but she doesn’t see those as a huge threat to music in general as many others do. She said that the biggest trouble for artists like her concerning illegal downloading is that they can’t keep track of their listeners, and knowing who her listeners are and that there are people out there who appreciate her music is always a boost to her creative process. She thinks that people who can afford it should prioritize paying for their music consumption, and the ones who can’t pay for it should at least be part of an informal “marketing campaign” by sharing the bands’ Facebook and BandCamp pages, leaving positive comments on YouTube, among other small but meaningful acts. The only thing that really bothers her in this case is when an album leaks before the release date, as she finds that really disrespectful towards the hardworking labels and artists. Furthermore, Dagny also considers the way music is shared by fans on the internet extremely positive for independent artists like herself, saying that for example fan initiatives like the Facebook community Death Metal Girls and the YouTube series The Female Vocalists of Extreme Music are great options for headbangers who want to broaden their knowledge of female artists in metal.

Lastly, one might think that a musician like Dagny, coming from the northernmost part of Sweden and playing the ominous Black Metal by Nachtlieder, must draw most or all of her inspiration in the night, but in reality that’s not what happens to her during her creative process. Dagny said she’s inspired by her instrument and what she’s playing at the moment, with the calm and relaxed feeling from the middle of the night being of course something she loves but that due to her working schedule is not something she can fully enjoy anymore. For instance, one of my favorite songs from The Female of the Species, the fantastic Nightfall, was written at night and had parts of its lyrics inspired by the first part in the Arnold Schoenberg opera Pierrot Lunaire, also known as “Moonstruck Pierrot”. I guess everyone reading this tribute to Dagny has already gotten “moondrunk” in life, feeling dizzy or lightheaded after staying awake for an entire night, but of course very few of us are capable of delivering such vibrant and captivating music by ourselves like this high-skilled woman who left her hometown, the distant city of Kiruna, to conquer the world of extreme music with her undisputed, raw and totally awesome Black Metal.

Nachtlieder’s Official Facebook page
Nachtlieder’s Official YouTube channel
Nachtlieder’s Official BandCamp page

“My own purpose with feminism is not to blame the trouble in the world on a specific group of people, but to raise the questions. Make people think about how they treat others and why. It’s all about recognizing human value, in the metal scene, but most of all outside of it. I’m certainly responsible too and no one is without flaws. We’re all products of the societies we live in.” – Dagny Susanne

Advertisements

Album Review – Nachtlieder / The Female Of The Species (2015)

The Swedish Valkyrie of Black Metal returns with her aggressive night songs to tell us the spiteful story of Eve, the female of the species.

Rating5

IVR048_NACHTLIEDER_The_Female_Of_The_Species_1500pxThere couldn’t be a more suitable name than Nachtlieder for the Black Metal storm spearheaded by the skillful Swedish multi-instrumentalist Dagny Susanne. Nachtlieder is German for “night songs” or “songs of the night”, an epitome of the music found in The Female Of The Species, which is not only the brand new release by this talented Valkyrie from Gothenburg, Sweden, but also a concept album that will tell you the resentful story about Eve, the female of the species.

Unleashing her fury upon mankind since 2008, our female warrior has clearly expanded her horizons and aggressiveness from their debut album in 2013, evolving from feelings of desolation, loneliness and misanthropy to a much bolder and controversial theme. “The Garden of Eden is decaying,” she says, “and Eve’s sudden revelation of desolation and mortality has grown into spite. Stepping barefoot in the soil, she finds her path under the frozen leaves.”

In Malice, Come Closer, an incandescent Black Metal aria with hints of Atmospheric Doom, Dagny proves within less than two minutes how powerful women can sound in extreme music by offering the listener stunning sinister growls and sharp guitar riffs. And sounding even heavier and darker, Nightfall disseminates a sense of sorrow and despair that darkly reeks in the air, with lyrics that couldn’t be more Black Metal (“Stillness, sinister, crystal clear awakening / Open hands in a wordless prayer / A chilling pulse violently beating within / The silent horizon”) and a precise drumming by Martrum (by the way, drums are the only instrument not played by Dagny in the entire album).

IMG_3658-1Including elements of Doom Metal and Blackened Doom, which end up making it sound more obscure than raw Black Metal, Fatale keeps the album at a good level of quality, with highlights to its mesmerizing and diabolical riff; and if you enjoy faster and more extreme metal music, the amazing Lonely Mortal, a very well-crafted chant where Dagny shines brighter than a lonely star on a deadly winter night, will satisfy your most devilish cravings. Then, Eve gets back to a doom-ish sonority, a nefarious song with stronger keyboard notes by Dagny while the beats by Martrum get a lot more rhythmic.

You’ll need only a few seconds to know Silence And Devastation is going to be a blast of old school Black Metal from start to finish, not to mention how interesting it is to notice the way Dagny blends riffs and keyboards into one unique “entity”. Following all that heaviness we have the somber Cimmerian Child, with its grim rhythm and low-tuned riffs. Moreover, as “Cimmerian” relates to members of a mythical people who lived in perpetual mist and darkness near the land of the dead, the lyrics in this tune are spot-on to depict the result of their inbreeding (“Follow a path toward the light / Through the dense dark forest / Pretty little one / Brush the thorns from your cloak”). At long last, the album wouldn’t be complete without its title-track The Female Of The Species, closing the album in the most obscure and violent way possible. This is not only a thrilling 8-minute Black Metal opus, but also an excellent display of what our multi-instrumentalist diva of darkness is capable of and the direction her music might probably follow in her future releases.

In short, although The Female Of The Species might be considered by many as a raw Black Metal album, there’s a lot more than that offered by Nachtlieder both musically and thematically speaking. In case you want to know more about the Swedish Valkyrie of Black Metal and her distinct music, she can be reached directly via her Facebook page, and if you’re eager to relish the vindictive story told by Dagney in The Female Of The Species through her rampant and enthralling songs of the night, you can find it for sale at her official BandCamp page, as well as at the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp page or official webshop.

Best moments of the album: Nightfall and Lonely Mortal.

Worst moments of the album: Fatale.

Released in 2015 I, Voidhanger Records

Track listing
1. Malice, Come Closer 4:20
2. Nightfall 4:34
3. Fatale 4:14
4. Lonely Mortal 4:39
5. Eve 5:16
6. Silence And Devastation 3:58
7. Cimmerian Child 4:34
8. The Female Of The Species 8:25

Band members
Dagny Susanne – vocals, all instruments
Martrum – drums

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