Metal Chick of the Month – Amanda Somerville

I hide you, I find you, I catch your fall…  I’ll be there when the lights go out…

She has already been involved with so many distinct bands and projects it feels like she’s a 100-year old veteran in heavy music, when in fact she’s just about to turn 39 years old. I’m talking about the unstoppable American vocalist Amanda Somerville, our metal chick of the month who’s not only a singer and songwriter, but also a vocal coach, being known primarily for her work with several renowned European Symphonic Metal bands such as Edguy, Avantasia, Epica, Kamelot and After Forever, and having also produced two solos albums and two solo EP’s so far, as well as a wide range of more underground acts like Aina, Trillium and Exit Eden. also, there are countless albums and songs from other artists in the world of heavy music where you can find the stunning Amanda delivering her beautiful vocal notes, only proving how professional she is and how much other musicians admire her talent and skills as a vocalist. Having said that, are you ready to get delightfully “lost” in the world of Amanda Somerville?

Born on March 7, 1979 in Flushing, a city in Genesee County in the U.S. state of Michigan, Amanda Somerville, whose full name is Amanda Somerville-Scharf, attended Flushing Senior High School, graduating a full year early and winning a scholarship for graduating with high honors to the University of Michigan in Flint, Michigan, where she majored in psychology. In 1999 she moved from the United States to Wolfsburg, Germany, working mainly in Germany and in the Netherlands. Her voice has a wide range, but she has said herself that her tessitura is in the alto range, and if you have no idea of what that means you can take a quick look at this short and sweet explanatory video HERE. On August 19, 2013, she announced that she was engaged to be married to After Forever’s former guitarist Sander Gommans, and the pair were married in July 2014; less than one year after their marriage, on January 8, 2015, the couple announced they were expecting their first child, who was born on July 17, 2015 and named Lana Elise Gommans, and now in January the couple and little Lana were joined by the identical twins Anya Jayne and Juliet Marlies (and you can expect to hear more from Amanda and her new babies through her official blog).

Amanda has started singing from a very early age in her life, having grown up in a very musical family where music was a very basic and essential part of life. Furthermore, not only she had that influence and inspiration at home, but she mentioned she also had very good music mentors at elementary school, learning how to read music and play the piano at a rather young age. In addition, she said she has always dreamed about becoming a musician, and that’s all she ever wanted to do. For instance, throughout her life she has always performed in talent shows, competitions and concerts, hosting karaoke, singing in cover bands and jazz combos to earn money while she was in university, and even doing some appearances as a DJ. However, albeit being famous worldwide for her participation in several metal bands and projects, Amanda said that when she started her career she was a solo artist directed to the Pop Rock genre with some American folk elements. It was only when she decided to record a single with her bass player and drummer years ago that she met German guitarist, bassist and musical producer Sascha Paeth, who at that time was related to her bass player and owned a recording studio. Both Sascha and German keyboard player and musical producer Michael “Miro” Rodenberg were at the spot, helped them set up everything and listened to them performing, until they asked Amanda if she wanted to do something together with them, opening the doors of heavy music for our stunning diva. And regarding her education in music and arts in general, she said she never really studied music in a formal way, nor was she classically trained in singing. Amanda mentioned that it was her grandmother who taught her how to read music and gave her the basic foundation that she still uses for composing until today. Furthermore, as a vocal coach she was able to work with several distinguished musicians, always being open to learn from her students and to face new challenges they might bring her, therefore growing as a musician and as a person.

Trying to list every single band and project Amanda was or is still involved in Heavy Metal might be one of the toughest tasks one can try to accomplish, as she has already written and recorded with several renowned acts like the ones mentioned in the beginning of this essay about our gorgeous American vocalist, as well as her solos releases (which by the way were primarily soft and elegant Pop Rock with some Hard Rock, folk and soul music influences) and a rock opera, among other distinct endeavors. Let’s start with her solo career, with the releases of the albums In the Beginning There Was… (2000) and Windows (2008), and the EP’s Blue Nothing (2000) and Never Alone (2003), with her upcoming album Conformity Challenged to be announced soon. You can have a listen at her softer and more graceful side in songs like I Miss America and Puzzling Rapunzel, from her debut album, and Inner Whore and Sometimes, from Windows, but that’s the lightest music you’ll find in this tribute to Amanda, as from now on it’s going to be pure heavy music flowing through her veins and vocals.

Her first venture in metal was her collaboration with German multi-instrumentalist Robert Hunecke-Rizzo (Heavens Gate, Luca Turilli, Kamelot, Rhapsody of Fire), co-writing the rock opera Aina, a Symphonic and Progressive Heavy/Power Metal project featuring a number of guest appearances including Glenn Hughes, Michael Kiske and Candice Night, where the concept and lyrics were written by Amanda herself. There was only one album released under the project, the 2003 opus Days of Rising Doom (which you can listen in its entirety HERE), and don’t expect to see anything new from Aina in the short or even long-term. After Aina, she made a similar collaboration with her husband-to-be Sander Gommans, providing vocals and lyrical concept for HDK (the acronym for Hate Death Kill), a Melodic Death/Gothic Metal project with whom she released the albums System Overload, in 2009, and Serenades of the Netherworld, in 2014. Do you want to bang your head to the music by HDK? Try the songs System Overload and Mortal Zombie, one from each release by the project, and see if you like this more ferocious side of Amanda.

Perhaps her most remarkable project to date is her partnership with the iconic German vocalist Michael Kiske (Helloween, Unisonic) on a musical project entitled Kiske/Somerville, also featuring Primal Fear’s own Mat Sinner on bass and Magnus Karlsson on guitars (who by the way are the two main songwriters of the project), and Czech drummer Veronika Lukešová. In 2010, the project released their debut self-titled album, followed by another full-length release named City of Heroes, in 2015. From their debut installment, you can enjoy on YouTube songs such as Silence and If I Had A Wish, and from City of Heroes you should take a listen at Walk on Water.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another very interesting project by Amanda goes by the name of Trillium, a Symphonic Metal band formed in 2011 in the Netherlands (where she currently resides), featuring some of her longtime fellow musicians Sander Gommans, Sascha Paeth and Michael “Miro” Rodenberg, having released in 2011 the full-length album Alloy. She described the music by Trillium as “more like an expedition with my musical family to explore and celebrate the metamorphosis I’ve gone through as an artist over the past several years”, while the name of the band “symbolizes a trinity because things are always showing up in 3s in my environment and there are a number of triads occurring in this project, as well”. And she went on saying that “the name of the album, Alloy, is symbolic and metaphorical. An alloy is a substance composed of two or more metals, or of a metal or metals combined with a non-metal, intimately mixed. It also means standard; quality; fineness and is an admixture, as of good with evil. I’m a Pisces, so I’m all about duality and combining known elements – sometimes opposing each other – to create something different. Though I’ve been working myself further and further into the metal scene, I still always feel the need to add an extra element to make it shine, bling, stand out”. From Alloy, you should check the song Coward, and if you like what you hear you can enjoy the full album HERE.

In 2017, Amanda joined a new project entitled Exit Eden, featuring four female singers from the rock and metal scene from four different countries, those being Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis, Serenity) from France, Marina La Torraca (Highlight Kenosis, Phantom Elite) from Brazil, newcomer Anna Brunner from Germany, and obviously Amanda Somerville. The band was conceived with the plan “to show the world that almost every classic song can be transformed into a solid metal-rock song”, a concept similar to Finland’s Northern Kings, releasing in 2017 the album Rhapsodies In Black, comprised of 11 metallic versions for some of the biggest pop and rock classics like Rihanna’s Unfaithful, Depeche Mode’s A Question Of Time, Shontelle’s Impossible, Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi, Backstreet Boys’ Incomplete, and Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart, with the stunning Dutch goddess Simone Simons also appearing in two songs of the album, Madonna’s Frozen, Adele’s Skyfall.

Apart from all those bands and projects, Amanda has also been involved with several iconic acts either live or as a guest musician in some of their studio albums. For instance, in 2008, she toured America with Dutch Symphonic Metal icons Epica, while Simone Simons recovered from a staph infection; she was also one of the live guest vocalists for Tobias Sammet’s metal opera Avantasia world tours in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016, where she performed both backing vocals and lead vocals for a few songs; she was featured on Douglas R. Docker’s space metal opera Docker’s Guild in 2012 in a duet with Goran Edman on the debut album The Mystic Technocracy – Season 1: The Age of Ignorance, and again in 2016 in the Flash Gordon Suite on the album The Heisenberg Diaries – Book A: Sounds of Future Past; and also played the part of the “Queen of the Nile” in an album titled The Book of Gates, by a metal opera project from the Middle-East named EON, produced by Lebanese guitarist Amadeus Awad. And the list goes on and on with Amanda lending her beautiful voice to several interesting songs recorded by bands like After Forever, Edguy, Lunatica, Serenity, Wolfpakk, Shaman, DesDemon, Hollow Haze, Sebastien, Soulspell, and many, many others.

When asked about her experience working with several renowned artists such as Alice Cooper, Ian Gillan and Eric Martin due to her role in projects like Rock Meets Classic and Avantasia, Amanda answered that working with all those metal icons is always a pleasure for her, as she always enters a new situation or project with a very open mind and loves to be surprised by those artists, not to mention she also said most of them are amazing human beings. In addition, when asked which musician or artist she would love to work with in the future, Amanda mentioned some important names in music such as John Fogerty, the mastermind behind Creedence Clearwater Revival; Grace Slick, an American musician and former model, widely known in Rock N’ Roll history for her role in San Francisco’s burgeoning psychedelic music scene in the 60’s, being the voice of bands like Jefferson Airplane and Starship; and as a solo artist she would also love to work with Paul Simon and Tori Amos. As you can see although those musicians listed by Amanda are not your regular metal icons, they do have a huge influence on countless metal artists and bands from different styles, proving once again heavy music is not and can never be isolated from the rest of the world of music.

Regarding her inspirations for her music and lyrics and her full creative process, Amanda said she doesn’t really have a “normal process” as far as songwriting goes, with her songs beginning sometimes as a chorus or a verse, sometimes as just the lyrics with the body of the composition coming later, and sometimes the song will come to her from start to finish in its entirety. She complemented by saying that as a songwriter, the lyrics are of extreme importance to her, and that her songs are always very emotional because she doesn’t believe in writing or performing anything that can’t make people feel along with her. All her songs are personal-based, talking about human struggles and relationships, whether it was something she went through, a dream, or inspired by someone or something, and all being “little windows” into the innermost workings of Amanda Somerville.

Last but not least, apart from all her projects and adventures in music in general, Amanda still found some time in June 2014 to be part of a German television show named Keep Your Light Shining, which aired from the end of May to June 2014 by ProSieben, singing the song Addicted To You by Avicii (and you can also see her personal message about the show HERE). She said she accepted the challenge because she enjoys getting out of her comfort zone, pushing herself to her own limits. However, the show had to make some special arrangements for her due to her touring schedule and other details, as she was only able to join their third show. Many people asked her why she was doing that, because she didn’t need it, but she said she actually wanted to participate on the show as a new experience for her. Moreover, despite the final result not being very positive for her, she said she wasn’t sad or anything like that as in the end she was the only member with a career while some of the others went backstage and cried their hearts out. What’s next for Amanda Somerville? Now with the twins she will probably take some time off from all her endeavors in heavy music, but I’m sure it won’t take long for us metalheads to have the pleasure of listening to her beautiful voice once again accompanied by some flammable guitar riffs and headbanging beats in another ass-kicking song, band or project.

Amanda Somerville’s Official Facebook page
Amanda Somerville’s Official Twitter
Amanda Somerville’s Official Instagram
Amanda Somerville’s Official YouTube channel

“I’ve never really been able to force a song. I don’t believe in doing anything contrived, especially when it comes to songwriting. I think it’s a blasphemy to one’s art. Music is my emotional outlet and I let it take me wherever it leads.” – Amanda Somerville

Advertisements

Interview – Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear)

Let’s get ready for Power Metal icons Primal Fear to “deliver the black” here in Canada next month with this exclusive interview with one of the best and most respected metal singers in the world, the amazing Mr. Ralf Scheepers. Metal is forever!

Ralf ScheepersThe Headbanging Moose: First of all, I have to say that the new Primal Fear album, Delivering the Black, is a true Heavy Metal masterpiece and it will be for sure one of the best albums of 2014. There isn’t a single moment of the album that’s not pure and direct metal, especially the kick-ass songs King for A Day, Rebel Faction, Inseminoid and Delivering The Black. How was the creative process of the album, and how were you able to come up with such fast and powerful music even after almost 20 years of the first Primal Fear album?

Ralf Scheepers: Thank you very much! I’m glad that you like it!

We are in the great situation to have 4 writing members in Primal Fear, so basically we come up with many different ideas for an album and put them together as a short list of which could be on the album and which might fit to the flowing of an album. This is also a very important key when you put an album together. This time Mat and Magnus were coming up with the basic playbacks of the tracks and we sat together and worked on vocal melodies and lyrics. For some tracks I have worked on the playbacks to find my ideas on it and some of them were written together, as mentioned before.

This is basically how we are working on every album.

THM: I’ve been checking the music charts and it seems that Delivering the Black is doing extremely well, especially in Europe and Japan, and of course the band is huge in South America too. However, it’s not that easy to find your music or many other Power Metal bands available in the stores here in Canada and in the rest of North America. How do you see this “cultural barrier” here in North America against many subgenres of Heavy Metal that are not Death or Thrash Metal? Do you believe the Internet is being of great help for bands like Primal Fear, Chthonic, Amon Amarth and many others to penetrate this quite conservative market?

RS: I don’t consider this as a cultural barrier rather than judging it by seeing the size of the continent and the fact that we all still have to struggle against the illegal downloads. So to answer your second part of the question: I see both sides. I see the possibility to promote yourself as an advantage and on the other side I see the illegal downloading as a disadvantage.

THM: Talking about German heavy music, the past few years have been amazing for most of the bands from your country. For instance, in 2014 we’ve already had really awesome albums from Primal Fear, Axel Rudi Pell, Van Canto, Iron Savior and Gamma Ray, last year we had one of the best Helloween albums of all time, there are also other excellent bands that are not Power Metal like Hard Rock band Motorjesus and Metalcore band Caliban, among others. In your opinion, what’s the secret for such a rich, diverse and creative heavy music scene in Germany? Is it just the beer, or is it something else?

Primalfeardeliveringtheblack2014

Album Review – Primal Fear / Delivering the Black (2014)

RS: It’s definitely the beer, yes! 🙂

Well I think we had the opportunity to jump into this genre as music fans in the 80’s, especially the NWOBH era was creating a lot of great musicians here in Europe…. It’s somehow learning by hearing. So if you had or have the talent to play the guitar or to play the drums or to sing, you change from a fan into a musician by yourself and that’s what happened a lot over here.

THM: Going back to the new album, there’s a very interesting partnership with the gorgeous Liv Kristine in the Japanese bonus track version of the ballad Born With A Broken Heart. How did you guys end up choosing her for this track? In my opinion, this version is more beautiful than the original one, so why didn’t you add it as a regular track instead? And after some stunning duets with Liv Kristine on the new Primal Fear album, Simone Simmons on New Religion, and Tim “Ripper” Owens on your solo album, who else would you love to record a Primal Fear or Scheepers song together on vocals and why?

Liv_and_Ralf

Liv Kristine & Ralf Scheepers

RS: The basic idea was to add a female voice to the chorus for this track, just as an interesting color and so we did that for the album version. For the Japanese bonus track we thought it would be a great idea to remix the track and use more of Liv’s input on it. It both worked out and we’re all happy about both results, for the album and for the bonus.

We never really plan those things in a long term rather than listening to the tracks we wrote. Sometimes we hear additional voices, male or female to add a different color to it. Sometimes we don’t see or hear the reason to do that.

THM: Regarding your solo album Scheepers, from 2011, you re-recorded a song from your Tyran’ Pace years, the excellent Saints of Rock. Why did you choose this song to be part of your debut solo album, and are there any plans for another Scheepers album soon? If so, is there anything you could share with us about it?

RS: As the idea for “Saints of Rock” came up from me back then in the 80’s I thought it would be a good idea to modern up the sound of this track on my solo album. It was so much fun to re sing this one and to do all voices of the chorus on my own this time. Back then Charlie Huhn (Victory) helped me out doing the choir.

There are no plans for another solo album. This year our focus is to tour the world.

THM: You’ve recently finished a series of concerts with the Rock Meets Classic Tour 2014. How did you get invited to be part of this project, how was the overall experience, who were some of the musicians there with you, and what were the highlights of the tour for you?

Rock Meets Classic 2014

Rock Meets Classic 2014

RS: As Mat Sinner is the musical director and co producer of this event he thought it would be a good idea to add some male voices to the already existing female choir. So he has offered me the possibility to join in and I did. In the second and third year I was alone as a male choir member and in the forth and fifth year Sascha Krebs (Musical artist) has joined in. It was and still is a great experience every year! To be on stage with some of my idols and stars from the 80’s music scene is simply an amazing experience! It’s great fun. Every night you hear those popular tracks combined with the classical sounds of strings, trumpets and trombones, it gives me shivers and goose bumps. It’s an amazing vibe and atmosphere on stage!

We had Ian Gillan, Lou Gramm, Paul Rodgers, Alice Cooper feat. Orianthi, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Lukather, Eric Bazilian, Jimi Jamison, Mick Box and Bernie Shaw from Uriah Heep, Steve Augeri, Midge Ure, Marc Storace, Dan McCafferty, Bonnie Tyler, Robin Beck and Kim Wilde with us. This is listed in no particular following.

THM: You’re not only the frontman of Primal Fear, but you also have your solo career, you’re part of different music projects such as Rocks Meets Classic, you’re a vocal coach, you provide singing lessons, you’re a microphone development consultant, you provide file processing, among many other activities, including your personal life where you have to take care of your son, work out at the gym etc. How are you able to manage all that? And what’s the advice you have for any artists and musicians that want to perform as well as you do on stage without losing track of all other things in life?

RS: I simply juggle duties and do not do everything at the same time! 🙂

Sometimes my focus is more on one thing and then again on the others when it’s necessary. To set priorities is the overall key to all this. I think as a grown up person you don’t need any advices to handle your life right? 🙂

Primal FearTHM: There haven’t been any Primal Fear concerts in Canada since 2010, and even before that there were only very few Canadian dates whenever the band came to North America. Now that you have a fairly bigger tour with four concerts schedule in Canada for 2014, in Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, what is the band preparing for your Canadian fans so eager to see you guys playing live again? Will there be any special songs in the setlist, or any other surprises at all?

RS: We are all looking forward to this and we are happy that there are more cities planned for Canada this year! In our existing setlist we have tried to add the most significant songs. On the other hand we also took care that there is a reasonable change in the flow of the songs of our live set.

THM: Which bands or artists (including all types of music) do you enjoy listening while at home with your family, at the gym or on the road? What about Canadian bands or artists, what are your favorite ones and why? And are there any new bands from anywhere in the world you would recommend us?

RS: When I have time to listen to other music I listen to every kinds of genres. I’m very open to all kinds of bands and songs with melodies. As I am not really up date what’s new at the market I am not able to recommend anything right now.

THM: Thank you very, very much for your time. Please feel free to send a final message to your fans here in Canada and to invite everyone to the Primal Fear concerts here. I’ll be there at the Mod Club on May 3 in Toronto to bang my head with some pure Heavy Metal, no doubt about that!

RS: As mentioned above we are looking forward to perform in more cities of Canada this year! It would be awesome if you all could join in for a show in your city and to rock out and hang out with us for a non alcoholic beer or two. 🙂

Primal Fear North America 2014 – Canadian dates

Primal Fear_NA_2014

May 1, 2014 – Quebec City, Quebec | Le Cercle TICKETS
May 2, 2014 – Montreal, Quebec | Foufounes Électriques TICKETS
May 3, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario | Virgin Mobile Mod Club TICKETS
May 11, 2014 – Vancouver, British Columbia | Venue Nightclub TICKETS

Links
Ralf Scheepers Official Website | Facebook
Primal Fear Official Website | Facebook