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

Album Review – Delain / The Human Contradiction (2014)

Very symphonic, professional and pleasant. That’s the new album from Delain.

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coverIf the only Heavy Metal band you know from the Netherlands is Within Temptation, and especially if you are a fan of their work, you have to listen to the new album by Dutch Symphonic Metal band Delain, named The Human Contradiction. The band was formed in 2002 by former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, which explains all the similarities between his current and his former bands, and the gorgeous redhead singer Charlotte Wessels, another good example of how talent and beauty always walk hand in hand in the Netherlands.

Delain might not be that new, but it seems that the quality of their music and overall production has achieved a higher level with The Human Contradiction, with all instruments sounding pretty clear and Charlotte’s voice being very polished and strong. Moreover, if the band has already toured so many different countries with their previous records, I believe this time their music will take them to even further places, which is something they deserve due to all their hard work to produce high quality heavy music.

Talking about each track of the album, we have an excellent beginning with Here Come The Vultures, a 6-minute song (which is a bold move to open an album nowadays, as the attention span of people doesn’t seem to go over 3 minutes) with a beautiful intro by Charlotte Wessels and dark and heavy riffs that work pretty well to warm us up for the rest of the album; and Your Body Is A Battleground, the first track to feature Finnish bassist Marco Hietala (Nightwish), who does a great duet with Charlotte and makes me wonder how good this song will sound live if he joins the band for a few concerts. The lyrics to this song are also an interesting and effective part of it (“Any disorder? / No restriction / Too hard to handle? / No hesitation / For your protection / Just an injection / We’ll write you a letter / The younger, the better”), making the overall result even better.

delainStardust showcases a good duo of drums and keyboards and has an excellent chorus, while My Masquerade, despite its more commercial approach (especially the chorus), is another good song from the album. Then come Tell Me, Mechanist, featuring Dutch musician George Oosthoek (Celestial Season, ex-Orphanage) doing guttural vocals in another great duet with Charlotte; and Sing To Me, another good song with Marco as a guest musician, although not as powerful as the first one.

The last songs of the regular version of the album are Army Of Dolls, an average song with its “80’s dance music” intro, which might sound better live; the beautiful Lullaby, a more gothic track with dense riffs, atmospheric keyboards, and Charlotte kickin’ ass on vocals one more time; and The Tragedy Of The Commons, featuring Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy, ex-The Agonist), a very symphonic track where Alissa’s characteristic guttural vocals add a lot of energy to it.

Although the regular album is relatively short, if you purchase the special edition you’ll put your hands on a lot of excellent extra material, including songs like the beautiful ballad Scarlet, excellent live versions for some of the bands old songs and even of the new My Masquerade, which sounds a lot more powerful live, and unique orchestral versions for two of their new songs. It’s surely the wisest choice if you’re a fan of Delain’s music, or even if you’re just starting to know the band better.

To sum up, The Human Contradiction is a very consistent and pleasant album, perfect for fans of Symphonic Metal with female vocals. And if the band is performing live in your town this year, don’t miss the chance to check them. It’s an awesome choice for taking your boyfriend or girlfriend and enjoying together some good heavy music from a non-arena band, which is something we really need to support nowadays.

Best moments of the album: Here Come The Vultures, Your Body Is A Battleground and Lullaby.

Worst moments of the album: Sing To Me and Army Of Dolls.

Released in 2014 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Here Come The Vultures 6:05
2. Your Body Is A Battleground (feat. Marco Hietala) 3:49
3. Stardust 3:56
4. My Masquerade 3:43
5. Tell Me, Mechanist (feat. George Oosthoek) 4:51
6. Sing To Me (feat. Marco Hietala) 5:08
7. Army Of Dolls 4:55
8. Lullaby 4:54
9. The Tragedy Of The Commons (feat. Alissa White-Gluz) 4:30

Special Edition bonus tracks
10. Scarlet 4:36
11. Don’t Let Go 3:56
12. My Masquerade (Live) 5:02
13. April Rain (Live) 4:45
14. Go Away (Live) 3:42
15. Sever (Live) 4:54
16. Stay Forever (Live) 4:31
17. Sing To Me (Orchestral Version) 3:41
18. Your Body Is A Battleground (Orchestral Version) 3:20

Band members
Charlotte Wessels – vocals
Martijn Westerholt – keyboards
Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije – bass
Sander Zoer – drums
Timo Somers – guitar

Guest musicians
Marco Hietala – clean male vocals
George Oosthoek – death growls
Alissa White-Gluz – clean female vocals & death growls

Album Review – Within Temptation / Hydra (2014)

As the name of the album says,  Within Temptation show all their “heads” with an interesting mix of Symphonic Metal, Pop, Rock, Rap and other musical variations.

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CoverLess symphonic, but a lot more eclectic: that’s a good definition for Hydra, the brand new studio album by the Dutch Symphonic Metal band Within Temptation, with so many special guests that it makes me wonder if they asked Pitbull or J-Lo for some tips on how to sell more albums. Anyway, 39-year old Dutch princess Sharon and keyboard player Matijn were responsible for almost all songs, all full of different elements from other musical genres, and it’s even hard to keep calling what the band does as Symphonic Metal after listening to it.

I’m not sure if the diehard fans of the band will enjoy it due to all the new stuff added to the music, but one thing I have no doubt about: the professionalism and talent of all members of the band. Hydra doesn’t have a single moment where it sounds amateur, showing how much the band cares about the final result of their material, and that becomes 100% clear with the opening track, Let Us Burn, an awesome start with its symphonic atmosphere, excellent keyboards and chorus, and Sharon’s voice as beautiful and potent as ever.

The next track, Dangerous, has an interesting duo on vocals with Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage) together with Sharon and a more Heavy Metal approach, while And We Run, despite following a similar formula with rapper Xzibit on vocals, sounds too pop for me, but might be interesting for part of the fans. The next song is also the best track of the album undoubtedly: Paradise (What About Us?), featuring the one and only goddess Tarja Turunen with her unique perfect voice, has some great guitar solos and was born to become an instant hit. Not only that, this amazing song also has a music video made for our pure delight, with a “green” message against technology and, of course, all the beauty of Tarja and Sharon together.

Hydra continues with the semi-acoustic Edge Of The World, a beautiful song where Sharon shows a smoother side of her voice, and Silver Moonlight, another strong moment of the album with a very enjoyable pace and with the keyboards giving it all that special atmosphere. The next song, Covered By Roses, lacks creativity and it’s one of the albums weakest tracks (despite Sharon’s performance being beautiful again), followed by another nice song, Dog Days. The regular version of Hydra ends with the good song Tell Me Why with its strong chorus and keyboards, and Whole World Is Watching, featuring Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), a nice ballad but nothing special if compared to the other songs of the album.

Within-Temptation-2014However, if you acquire the digital premium or the deluxe album box version of Hydra, the total running time of the album goes up to over 90 minutes of music with all the bonus tracks. There’s a bunch of cover songs and alternate versions, including the music video for Paradise (What About Us?), but the best one by far is their version for the song Radioactive, from the American alternative rock band Imagine Dragons. This version is way better than the original (which by the way is not bad), and the same can be said about Summertime Sadness, from Lana Del Rey, and Dirty Dancer, from Enrique Iglesias.

The album art is simple but very effective, representing well the Hydra and what the band is delivering with the album. Regarding the musicians, as I previously mentioned, they’re all very professional and know what to do with their instruments, but it’s impossible not to get addicted to Sharon’s voice and “forget” the instrumental parts sometimes. And yes, she will be the “Metal Chick of the Month” one day for sure.

To sum up, Hydra might not be a wonderful album, but it’s pretty consistent and a good choice for the road, the gym or anytime you don’t want to get too heavy. Don’t worry, Within Temptation is still Symphonic Metal, and it’s totally entertaining to see how they were able to add so much unusual stuff to their music without losing their identity. Maybe Hydra will grant them the so desired ticket to stardom, who knows?

Best moments of the album: Let Us Burn, Paradise (What About Us?) and Silver Moonlight. Among the cover songs/bonus tracks, I would say Radioactive is the best one by far.

Worst moments of the album: Covered By Roses and Whole World Is Watching.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast/Universal Music

Track listing
1. Let Us Burn 5:31
2. Dangerous (feat. Howard Jones) 4:52
3. And We Run (feat. Xzibit) 3:50
4. Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja Turunen) 5:22
5. Edge Of The World 4:55
6. Silver Moonlight 5:17
7. Covered By Roses 4:48
8. Dog Days 4:47
9. Tell Me Why 6:12
10. Whole World Is Watching (feat. Dave Pirner) 4:03

Digital Premium/Deluxe Album Box bonus tracks
11. Radioactive (Imagine Dragons cover) 3:15
12. Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Rey cover) 4:07
13. Let Her Go (Passenger cover) 3:44
14. Dirty Dancer (Enrique Iglesias cover) 4:15
15. And We Run (evolution track) 5:41
16. Silver Moonlight (evolution track) 6:05
17. Covered By Roses (evolution track) 4:43
18. Tell Me Why (evolution track) 5:00
19. Paradise (What About Us?) (feat. Tarja Turunen) music video – iTunes Premium Version 5:51

Band members
Sharon den Adel – vocals
Robert Westerholt – guitars, vocals on “Silver Moonlight” and “Tell Me Why”
Ruud Jolie – guitars
Martijn Spierenburg – keyboards
Jeroen van Veen – bass guitar
Mike Coolen – drums
Stefan Helleblad – additional guitars

Guest musicians
Howard Jones – vocals on “Dangerous”
Xzibit – vocals on “And We Run”
Tarja Turunen – vocals on “Paradise (What About Us?)”
David Pirner – vocals on “Whole World Is Watching”