Angel Nation – Aeons to ComeThursday, 12th October 2017
Angel Nation began their introduction to the world with their first release, Tears of Lust, in 2014. Of course, it wasn’t ‘Angel Nation’ but EnkeliNation at that point. The band has come a long way in the last three years. They’ve changed their name, signed with a label [Inner Wound Recordings], and vocalist/founder Elina Siirala started a new gig as the singer of Leaves’ Eyes last year. Joining in with an already established band is going to bring in some new fans [such as this scribe] as they do some research, but one would like to think that the strength of an album like Aeon should be enough to bring in plenty of fresh faces.
Aeon daftly incorporates symphonic metal, rock, and varied influences to the table in a way that makes it feel refreshing. Siirala’s operatic range also gives the band an edge, carrying plenty of raw power, but also raw emotion when it’s called for. So we had a chat with her to discuss the events listed above, having her mother play violin on one song, and an update on the next Leaves’ Eyes record.
Dead Rhetoric: What was your goal for Angel Nation when you first formed it?
Elina Siirala: To be honest, there wasn’t really a goal. It wasn’t really a decision like, “Let me start a band, and do this and that.” I was going through a pretty difficult time in my life back then – it was actually my former teacher that really encouraged me to start writing again. I used to write music all the time. I wrote a few songs and it felt really good. I wanted to do something a bit heavier, but I thought my voice didn’t suit it [laughs], but I just did it anyway. I think the first songs were “Changeling” and “Last Time Together” – those were the starting points for me. After writing those, I felt it would be cool to play them live. I had some friends who were musicians, and it just kind of became a band from there. So there wasn’t really a structured plan to it.
Dead Rhetoric: As the founder, how much of the songwriting for Angel Nation do you do?
Siirala: I do all of the songwriting – that’s kind of why I had started the band. I love writing music and trying new things; being free within the genre. If I feel like just doing a certain kind of song, I just do it. Of course, with this album I had a lot of help. Unfortunately our guitarist Shadow, who then left the band almost a year ago now – he wrote a lot of the guitar parts. He was involved heavily this time, much more than with the previous album [Tears of Lust]. I think the guitar parts are much more interesting and there are a lot of little hooks in the guitars, which I like. We also did all of the pre-production arrangements together. So it was kind of like two of us [this time]. I always kind of do the main writing and then we work on it together.
Dead Rhetoric: So how do you feel Aeon compares to your debut, Tears of Lust?
Siirala: It has a bit more complexity to it in the way of guitar and drum parts. We spent a lot of time doing pre-production. I have also been bolder in using styles and sounds. For example, “Enough is Enough” is kind of like an ‘80s anthem type of song. “Breathe Again” is completely different. It was kind of a mix of styles, which I like. My voice kind of binds it together I think. It’s fresh and nice just to try new things. Someone told me that they found this album more melodic, which really surprised me in a good way. I don’t know what that means, but it’s always a little difficult to judge your own [work]. You are so close to the songs that you can’t hear anymore. I can’t say any more things about them [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: in terms of your own approach, as you move forward, do you want to try to keep that diversity and view it in terms of what you want to do at the moment?
Siirala: Of course, it’s good to have a certain recognizable sound. You don’t want to suddenly do hip hop or something. But I think it’s nice to evolve. I don’t want to write the same songs all the time. I think it’s boring. When you are the writer, you always repeat yourself a little bit, even if you try not to. So I think the style will always be there. I’m really open-minded. If the guys want to give me some ideas, it would be great to do a bit more work together. We’ll see how it goes. If it fits my voice and if it fits the style, I’m all for it.
Dead Rhetoric: I really enjoyed the video for “Burn the Witch.” Could you go into the idea that you were trying to put across with it?
Siirala: First off, I’m glad you liked it. I don’t really want to talk about the personal side – the lyrics and where it came from. But what we really wanted to bring across with the song was that the whole modern world, with social media…it’s consuming so much of people’s lives nowadays. It’s almost like people don’t communicate in real life anymore. They live in this weird world that is not actually real. It has a lot of illusions and it’s so easy to hide in it. Some people also feel very lonely, even if they have lots of friends on social media. They are kind of glued into their devices all the time. That was the idea of the whole video. The whole audience being into their own world of phones and laptops. So it’s almost like a modern day witch hunt in that sense.
Dead Rhetoric: I thought it was kind of cool that the people only start talking once their devices break down.
Siirala: Yeah, we wanted to bring across the idea of music and us as a band breaking it down – live in the moment and actually see the people around you.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you also talk about the cover art for Aeon?
Siirala: It was done by Jan Yrlund, who is a very good Finnish illustrator. The idea that we had, from ages ago – do you remember the picture “City in the Sky?” It was photographed somewhere in China. From the pollution and the reflection [of it], it made it look like there was a city in the clouds. I sent that picture to him and asked if we could do something like that that reflects Angel Nation. Something quite modern. He suggested having some sort of figure, so I asked for something robotic, a hybrid of an angel. So that’s how it came together. I think he did a great job.
Dead Rhetoric: I know the band switched the name [from EnkeliNation] before the album came out and you’ve signed with Inner Wound Recordings – are you pushing to get more worldly recognition?
Siirala: The name change came about a year ago, that was when we started introducing it and pushing it. It was a long process and we really thought about it – considering the plusses and minuses. Unfortunately it was so difficult for people to understand or pronounce the name…or remember it. We were losing a lot of promo because people just couldn’t really understand it. But it was understandable [laughs], Finnish is not the easiest language. Of course, when it comes to getting more recognition – when someone creates music, that’s the goal. I hope people will like the album, and many people will hear it – so yeah, definitely!
Dead Rhetoric: I know this is probably a difficult question, but do you have any favorites among the tracks, personally?
Siirala: It’s always in the way you think about it, in which one is a favorite. I do like “Enough is Enough.” For me, it has a great energy. It’s fun to play and fun to sing. I also like “Burn the Witch” a lot. That is really difficult [laughs]! I really like them all, but in different ways I would say. Maybe if I have to just pick one, I really like “Wonder Who You Are” as well. It’s a different kind of song. It’s a bit more power metal-y and quite riff-y. It’s fun to play as well.
Dead Rhetoric: What was it like having your mother [Merit Palas] record violin for one of the songs?
Siirala: It was great actually. It was very short notice that we had to make the ballad [“Music Plays”] happen. I was adamant that we needed to have a real violin, or there wouldn’t be a violin. But I really felt that it needed the violin because it was in my original idea of the song – to have a dialogue between the vocal and the violin. Then I just kind of said to my mom on the phone, “Oh it would be really good to have a violinist.” She said, “Well, what if I come there and do it?” I said, “Really?” So she just came to visit me and we recorded it at the same time. It was fun! I think it turned out really well.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that your role in Leaves’ Eyes will bring some new fans in for this release?
Siirala: Of course – that goes back to what you said about recognition before. If anything helps to hear the music and hopefully like it…that’s the side effect of everything that I’m doing. If that’s the effect, then great!
Dead Rhetoric: Does it take some effort to balance two different bands or do you feel it works out pretty well?
Siirala: In a way, it kind of worked out really well because we were in the recording process a little bit earlier. I managed to get all my recordings done. The schedule has been fine so far. Next year we will have to see with all of the gigs. We’ll just have to plan and schedule and communicate, and see how it works. Now that the album is out, it would be nice to play live a little more. We are playing in December a little bit. Next year, [we’d like to] do as much as we can.
Dead Rhetoric: I know you teach music as well – what challenges and rewards are there with teaching music lessons?
Siirala: I’ve been teaching a lot during the past 10 years. A little bit less now because I’ve been so busy. But it’s great because I’ve had so many different kinds of students. Everyone has their own voice and challenges. You also have to challenge yourself and think about what is going to work for one person. Like, “How am I going to explain or help with this person with their challenges?” When you really work and get results, and see the happiness, it’s a really nice feeling. I was just teaching this week again and it was really nice. They also like to sing everything. I think [my last student] was singing Unleash the Archers. It’s really interesting. I sometimes discover new songs that I absolutely love that I didn’t know about. It’s great!
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that as you’ve dipped your toes more into the metal scene, has that changed the type of student that you get, or is there a wide variety?
Siirala: I think it’s a pretty wide variety. Maybe people check my videos and hear what kind of voice I have, and what kind of music I sing. But it’s not really [important] – you can still teach. Maybe I can’t teach growling [laughs]. But people have come up to me with completely different voices, and men as well. So it’s a lot of variety, and it’s nice to have that too.
Dead Rhetoric: I do have to bring up the one Leaves’ Eyes question – is there anything you can say about the new album at this point?
Siirala: It’s being mixed at the moment. I would say that it follows in the steps of King of Kings in terms of lyrics and music. There’s the symphonic side – choirs, orchestras…there’s a lot of native instruments used again as well. A lot of folk influences, just as in the past. It’s a variety of those kind of symphonic songs, folky songs..there’s a ballad as well.
Dead Rhetoric: We started with the beginning of the band and goals, but do you have any goals at this point that you’d like to see Angel Nation accomplish in the next few years?
Siirala: At the moment, I’m looking at short term goals with everything, but of course, we would love to see more people being aware of our music – hearing it and liking it. We would love to be playing more. For smaller and newer bands – it’s definitely not easy in the music industry. I can’t really say anything specific, but we wish whatever other band wishes – a successful album that people like and buy, and then they come see us at the gigs.
Dead Rhetoric: So what is coming down the road in the next six months or so?
Siirala: The album will be out on October 27. After that we do a little tour in December. We are playing in London, then we go to Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Germany. We are really looking forward to that. Next year, we will see how it goes. We have to start planning now, and as I mentioned before – there’s a lot of scheduling and planning and hopefully everything goes well. I think it’s going to be very busy next year [laughs], in every way!