Edenbridge – All Paths Lead to Shangri-LaSunday, 14th August 2022
Symphonic metal veterans Edenbridge have a well-established discography and following as they close in on their 25th anniversary as a group in 2023. The eleventh studio album Shangri-La allows the quintet to flesh out their trademark sound by painting outside influences seamlessly depending on the needs of the track on hand. The combination of cinematic/orchestral flourishes, semi-operatic/clean melodies, plus catchy hooks and epic arrangements from time to time ensures a dynamic effort that the listeners will treasure through each successive playback.
We reached out to main songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Lanvall and vocalist Sabina Edelsbacher to bring us up to speed on the new record, video/single choices, how the pandemic didn’t necessarily effect the workload for the band, special memories playing in China, Brazil, and the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise, the challenges of meeting fan expectations versus their own, plus what’s in store for 2022 and 2023 so far for the band.
Dead Rhetoric: Shangri-La is the eleventh and latest studio record for Edenbridge. Being a part of the process since the beginning of the band, how has the process evolved when it comes to the songwriting, compositions, and performances that you capture album to album? Do you find that the expectations and final output are easier or more difficult to achieve the deeper into the discography you’ve established?
Lanvall: Well, yeah that’s a good question. I am always writing the songs for the band, at a certain point Sabina came in to write the lyrics. We started that back in 2016. When it comes to the expectations of the fans, it’s always a bit difficult. I don’t write for the expectations of the fans; I write for myself. I think when I am happy with the song material, then I think the fans can be too. Otherwise, it would not make sense in any case if I was just writing for the sake of the fans.
In terms of development, of course you always lose fans, but you always gain new fans. Most of our fans are quite loyal I would say over the years. This is also evident through our crowdfunding campaigns, which attracts new fans all the time and go along with the established fans. It’s always a process in which band you are currently into.
The differences… I think our sound is more or less established. You would recognize us from note one when listening to us. We always try to incorporate new moments, new inspiration, new elements into our sound. This time, in terms of songwriting, we have a couple of catchier songs back again like “The Call of Eden”, and the other two singles “The Road to Shangri-La” and “Somewhere Else but Here”. We also incorporate new stuff like “Savage Land” which is quite an atypical ballad for us, and a song like “Arcadia (The Great Escape)” is quite different, and the opening song “At First Light” brings in new elements with the gospel elements and these Pink Floyd-esque parts. I think there is a lot to discover on the new record, I’m totally happy with the new stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: You collaborate again with Erik Martensson of Eclipse, W.E.T., and Nordic Union in a duet for “The Bonding (Part 2)”. Discuss the work behind this song, and how you approach the vocals in this type of track to get the most out of yourself and Erik that translates so well to the listeners?
Lanvall: I had the first six or seven minutes to “The Bonding (Part 2)” composed when I came to the point that I saw some similarities in terms of the structure of the song and the build of the song, which reminded me of part one. As it is always nice to have duets, with the song established we asked Erik if he could guest again. He asked me when, where and how – and that was really great to have him back on the album. “The Bonding (Part 2)” is even more of a duet than part one – we have more harmonized vocals; it was great to continue the story. I gave Erik total freedom in terms of his parts – I gave him some demos, but in the end, he came up with some great melodies and they were overwhelming and far better than we expected. It was a nice outcome.
Sabina Edelsbacher: It’s an amazing feeling to sing with this great partner anytime. He had the role as the mind, he always wanted to understand how he could come into the bigger picture. He gives me goosebumps when I hear his work.
Lanvall: In terms of this composition, it’s quite easy because this heavier part, Erik had to take – he has a hard rock, heavy metal voice singing in his terms. That was clear he would do that – in the end it was more of a question-and-answer thing where Erik started and Sabina was answering in the orchestral part. It was not that difficult to split the roles, it was a real duet that was going on in the end.
Edelsbacher: I tried to sing that part very softly, and different to Erik’s part. The first time, I had a long part on this one, I worked it out so that it sounds great. It’s a new kind of thing to try out, expressing my voice in a different way.
Lanvall: We were able to cover about two and a half octaves of Sabina’s voice through this album. It’s quite an amazing range she offers on this album.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it an easy process to pick “The Road to Shangri-La” and “The Call of Eden” for the video tracks from the album? How do you think the video shoots/treatments went – do you believe the visual medium is very important to get across your ideas to listeners on a global scale, given the style of metal you play?
Edelsbacher: Videos are very important nowadays.
Lanvall: Everything is going with a visual aspect. “The Call of Eden” was pretty clear it would be a main single and video. When we signed to AFM Records, they intended to do three singles and videos up front before the album release.
Edelsbacher: When we wrote the lyrics for this last year, I had the video in my mind. I worked out the lyrics with these pictures. The pictures grew during that time, the idea was to make it like the way that we did.
Lanvall: “The Road to Shangri-La” was the second single, or “Hall of Shame” was a possibility – but we thought it would be hard to make the story work for a video. I think we made the better choice; it has 250,000 views since it’s release, which is pretty good as it’s a combination of a lyric video and a performance video. It also tells the story of the album; it presents the story of the album.
Dead Rhetoric: In a previous interview we did with Lanvall for the previous album Dynamind, he mentioned that Sabina you tend to achieve your best moments in the studio late at night. Have you ever thought about why that is – and do you find you have to be in the proper frame of mind for your best delivery and melodies within Edenbridge?
Edelsbacher: Ah yes, that’s right (laughs). I still do it like this. And it works. We have the studio, and we can do it when I have the best feeling. Mostly it comes when I think the song is ready, everything is okay – just one more time. It’s really relaxed and then it’s a perfect thing at midnight.
Lanvall: It’s a bit different than maybe in other people’s cases. Other singers may be recording a verse or a chorus line, but Sabina does most of the song through or certain parts all the way through. At a certain point, her voice ends up getting a dark vibe, and there I know we are pretty much there. Then it’s quite easy to edit the stuff, most of the time I just have to listen to the last three or four takes, and everything is there. It’s a long recording time, but then the editing time is a lot less.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the band handle the change in momentum when the pandemic shut down all festival/touring avenues in March of 2020 – and do you believe that people will come out hungrier and more appreciative of live shows/entertainment in general due to the last two years of little interaction in that regard?
Lanvall: The pandemic, it didn’t have a big impact on our part for the album. I always work for one and a half to two years in terms of arranging, composing, and recording for each album. The only thing that changed is we had a tour planned for April and May of 2020, and I also had a world live premiere of my symphony which I wrote for a big orchestra and choir. This was of course not possible. Three weeks into March 2020, I focused my mind on not being able to play live, and I focused on getting back into songwriting for the new record. Without it, I would not be sitting here talking to you about this album as I would still be in the songwriting process at the moment.
The thing is people are hungry for live shows again. Of course, this may be a problem because everyone will want to tour, there will be an overflow of bands right now. It’s getting more and more difficult, because the bigger bands are blocking the venues with more dates, and it’s difficult to get those dates. At the moment we are planning a tour of Europe in February and March of 2023. Let’s see how things go.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you say are some of your proudest moments in your musical career – either within Edenbridge or other projects, recordings, live performances?
Edelsbacher: Proudest moments? There are a lot of great moments. To play big stages in Korea, great moments on tour. When we met people at festivals. The last thing with Edu Falaschi at his orchestra show in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was in May of 2019 – we were in China from there in the autumn. It was a busy and great year. It was the first time I played with an orchestra on stage, and we would like to do this with Edenbridge one time.
Lanvall: There are several great moments. In 2019 we played a big festival in China, the Chinese tour as well. We have also played 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise two times. The world premiere of my symphony as well, which I performed in June of last year. It was really great.
Dead Rhetoric: Having the opportunity to tour with Edenbridge not just across mainland Europe but into areas like Russia and China, what are some of the special takeaways and experiences that you have being in these territories and bringing your music to those audiences?
Lanvall: I think it’s always great to play in markets where you haven’t played before. Also, learning the culture and exploring the countries where you are. It’s always good to have some local guides, who know the special restaurants far away from the tourist sites, the good ones where the local people will go.
Edelsbacher: It’s a beautiful thing to not just be there as a tourist, as we can look behind the stages.
Lanvall: We are not the guys that stay in the hotel, we want to see the people there, the cultural aspects of each city. You are doing your job, playing there, but also you are on holiday. You can combine those two things – Sabina and I would usually take a few extra days and after our Chinese tour for instance we stayed for one week in Hong Kong and explored that country. After the 70,000 Tons of Metal festival, we stayed in Florida and went to Disneyworld and Universal Studios which was great. I think that’s always good to open your mind – it also comes back in inspiration. If you always see the same places, being at the same cycle, you don’t get fresh inspiration.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges the band faces at this point in time? Is it a balancing act between what you want to get across as musicians and successfully pacifying the expectations of the long-term fans and followers?
Lanvall: Hard to answer. As I said before, it’s a constant process, and you cannot please everybody with every album. We will always find fans that will like one album more than the other. The thing is that if you asked our fans, I would imagine every album at some point may have been their favorite depending on who you ask. The point is, you have to let your energy flow with each album and if you make your mind up too much up front it becomes too constricting. Let it flow and see what the outcome is in the end. I need to be 100% satisfied with what I am delivering.
When I look back in our history, every album was the best that we could do at a certain point. I wouldn’t leave out one album. I know that in 2004 Shine was the best we could do and in 2010 Solitaire was the best that we could do. This pleases me.
Edelsbacher: We are happy with the older ones, and we like to listen to the old records, sometimes.
Dead Rhetoric: Is it a challenge to come up with an ideal setlist for Edenbridge, with all the albums at your disposal?
Lanvall: That is a challenge with eleven albums. I always try to focus on the newest one because I think we would like to promote that the most. You have to play some old fan favorites – “Higher” will always be the last song, the encore we do. It’s not easy of course. I’m trying to focus more on the new stuff, as this is what the band is about nowadays. The old stuff, it’s not easy to incorporate songs from every album even with a ninety-minute show. It’s pretty much impossible. For The Chronicles of Eden Part 2 album, we asked our fans about their favorites. What was interesting, “Paramount” seemed to be our second most popular song and we started incorporating that song into our new setlists. It’s fun to play, everybody is rehearsing for themselves, and we will soon be back together.
Dead Rhetoric: When you feel overwhelmed or you have lost your focus, what types of things do you like to do to regain perspective?
Lanvall: In my case, I go out in nature. I do a lot of skiing in the winter, which is my absolute favorite sport. I am big into motorsports as people know. I’ve followed the sport for over forty years, I do a lot of carting myself. Being in the mountains is very good for me to regain my energy.
Edelsbacher: I like to be in nature, open my mind on the sea. Of course, being together with friends. At home in our house, I like to be there as it’s a little paradise. I love the landscape. The last year we lived in the city, and we have changed our place from ten years ago.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Edenbridge over the next twelve months to support this new release?
Lanvall: We are planning to tour Europe in early 2023. We will have a show soon in Switzerland. We can’t predict too much in the moment, as we don’t know where everything is going. We are active in planning. I will be editing the symphony, we recorded it with a 64-track audio recording. That will be a big work for the autumn. In modern times, you can’t make too many plans, we will enjoy the day and looking at things day by day.