Metal Chick of the Month – Vibeke Stene

vibeke01

You make my tired heart sing, Vibeke…

I guess I don’t need to say that lots and lots of Gothic/Doom Metal fans got extremely excited back in June 2013, when our metal chick this month announced through her official Facebook page that she was finally coming out of her retirement to reignite her brilliant music career in Heavy Metal. I’m talking about one of the most beloved female singers of all time in heavy music, Norwegian soprano Vibeke Stene, known for her unparalleled contribution to making Norwegian Symphonic Gothic Metal band Tristania a true reference in Gothic Metal history.

Daughter of Steinar Stene and Sissel Bø Stene, Vibeke was born on August 17, 1978, in the municipality of Sokndal in Rogaland county, Norway, about 450km from the capital Oslo. Her personal life and her career seem to walk hand in hand, becoming even the same entity sometimes, as she’s been fully involved with music and singing since she was a little girl. For instance, at the age of three, our diva already performed for people that were not part of her family, evidencing how much she loved music and starting to build her successful career as a singer.

It was at the age of thirteen, when she started taking singing lessons after she moved to Stavanger (about 100km from Sokndal), that she got interested in classical singing, taking lessons until the age of 23 in order to become her own teacher. By the way, not only Vibeke is the owner of a unique vocal range and an incredible charisma when she’s performing live, but she also became a teacher, studying music and giving singing lessons in Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo.

In regards to her professional career as a singer, it’s more than obvious that she left her deepest mark and became a huge heavy music idol during her years with Tristania, which was actually the very first band she joined in her life. Speaking of which, when she was 18 years old Vibeke was invited to join Tristania after attending a live concert of the band, and although she was initially supposed to be only a guest musician in their first demo, she ended up becoming a permanent member due to her incredible performance. The other members of Tristania mentioned in some interviews that Vibeke wasn’t into Gothic Metal before joining the band, but a lot more into Classic Rock and Heavy Metal, which of course didn’t prevent her at all from perfectly blending her voice with the band’s musicality. Furthermore, her performances with Tristania were so good and so powerful it’s quite impossible not to associate the band with her name even today, and it’s hard to imagine Vibeke singing in a band that’s not Gothic or Doom Metal.

Her awesome career as Tristania’s female singer includes the demo Tristania (1997), the full-length albums Widow’s Weeds (1998), Beyond the Veil (1999), World of Glass (2001), Ashes (2005) and Illumination (2007), as well as the singles Angina (1999) and Sanguine Sky (2007), two live albums, two compilations and three music videos, including the eerie official video for the excellent song Libre and the more than pleasant Equilibrium (which can be seen at the end of this text). All those albums are really good and sound very professional, but in my humble opinion the best one by far is Widow’s Weeds, where Vibeke’s smooth voice and Morten Veland’s harsh vocals, together with a very melancholic and obscure sonority, make this album a must-have in the collection of any fan of high-quality music. Songs like Evenfall, Pale Enchantress and My Lost Lenore are those things that deserve to be included in the “never before, never again” music category.

Vibeke and Tristania always had an outstanding live performance together. For instance, they were the headliners of the 4th edition of the Metal Female Voices Fest, which happened in Wieze, Belgium, in 2006, where they shared the stage with other great bands such as Theatre of Tragedy, Delain and Xandria. I had the pleasure to see them live twice with the goddess Vibeke on vocals during their World of Glass tour in January 2002, and in March 2005 during their Ashes tour, and in both occasions it was impossible not to be impressed by her voice and moves during the entire concert.

Unfortunately for all the fans of Tristania, Vibeke left the band in February 2007 first to finish her university degree, and also because she didn’t like the music direction the band was taking. And despite all the rumors about her replacing the one and only Tarja Turunen when she left Symphonic Power Metal band Nightwish, as both left their former bands almost at the same time, Vibeke was the first one to publicly confirm she was not going to be the new singer for Nightwish nor would ever be. However, we can say Tristania was not the only band in Vibeke’s life: she was also a guest vocalist in three tracks (In the Realm of the Midnight Sun, My Dark Reflections of Life and Death and Under Eternal Stars) from the 2000 album Journey to the End of the Night,  by Norwegian Gothic Metal band Green Carnation; guest vocalist in the interesting song Suspended Time, from the 2007 album Solar Soul by Swiss Industrial Metal band Samael; and more recently, Norwegian Electronic band Plutho released the song Queen of Broken Hearts, from their 2011 album Bob, You Don’t Wanna Go There!, which features Vibeke’s guest vocals. However, according to the group, this was recorded back in 1999, which means Vibeke was still officially “retired” when the song was released.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although Vibeke still owes all her loyal and passionate fans her once promised solo album, at least we’re glad she’s back to the world of heavy music with her unique voice in the Extreme Metal project God of Atheists, by Norwegian musician Asgeir Mickelson, including musicians from Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Zyklon, among others. This project is still in the making, but should be available sometime in the second half of 2015. In addition, we’ll also be able to see her acting really soon, as she’s making her theatre debut on stage at Kilden in Kristiansand in October, playing the title role in a play entitled “Skammens Gissel” (or “Hostage of Shame” in English).

Vibeke has mentioned more than once that her biggest influences in music do not only come from the bands and artists she enjoys listening to, but also from all the people she’s been doing music together with since the beginning of her career. Besides that, among some of the greatest voices in her own opinion, we have many exceptional artists such as American diva Tori Amos, Icelandic singer and actress Björk, the unparalleled English “chameleon” David Bowie, American singer Tom Waits and American avant-garde artist Diamanda Galás. Our Gothic Metal countess also said in her interviews that she’s extremely critical to whatever she’s doing and she’s never satisfied if the final result is not the best she can provide, and I believe this is something we can always expect from Vibeke due to her strong character and all the perfectionism that emanates from her it doesn’t matter which band or project she’s involved with.

Talking about her personal life, our beautiful soprano loves doing what pretty much every normal person does too, which includes reading a book, travelling, spending time with her family and friends, and enjoying a good beer. Nonetheless, despite loving doing opera, mainly because she can sing and act at the same time, she said she just hates listening to it in her free time. Maybe that’s because while she’s listening to opera that means she’s not singing. Add to that her perfectionism, and it ends up making total sense: who can offer us a better operatic performance onstage than Vibeke, right?

If you’re one of those people who have always thought Vibeke had dark brown or black hair, you might be surprised to know that she’s actually a natural blond. She has however dyed her hair throughout the years, probably because dark hair has more to do with Gothic and Extreme Metal, and also because it looks like almost all blond Scandinavian girls simply love to have black hair. Finally, just as a complement to her personal profile, Vibeke is already a mother of two: she had a son in the summer of 2007, and a daughter a few years later. It’s still too early to know if both kids will follow their mother’s steps in life, but if they inherit at least 1% of her talent and charisma we can rest assured Norway will keep providing the world some dark and melancholic high-end heavy music.

Vibeke Stene’s Official Facebook page
God of Atheists’ Official Facebook page

“To sing is to be able to use and take control of your whole body to make the right sound, and not only one kind of sound, to dare to use all your weird thoughts and be able to tell something while you are singing. It’s art.” – Vibeke Stene

Advertisements

Metal Chick of the Month – Dianne van Giersbergen

dianne01

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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