Eleine – The Legion RemainsThursday, 3rd August 2023
Symphonic metal covers a broad spectrum of styles these days. For those that love the heavier side tempered with the right melodies, hooks, and cinematic-oriented aspects, Swedish act Eleine are mandatory to add to your record collection. Their latest album We Shall Remain sees the group venturing on a new label with Atomic Fire Records, ready to take the globe by storm. Already a favorite with most of the staff at Dead Rhetoric, we felt it was necessary to catch up with vocalist Madeleine Liljestam and guitarist/vocalist Rikard Ekberg in this free-flowing conversation. It was fun to banter about the discography, their recent North American tour, thoughts on merch cuts by venues which hurt touring bands income streams, how social media and sites like Patreon and Twitch have helped their community engage and grow – plus so much more.
Dead Rhetoric: We Shall Remain is the fourth studio album for Eleine. Where do you see this set of material sitting in the band’s discography – and do you believe the extra downtime away from normal live touring/festival activities allowed the band to dig deeper into the songwriting/ production details to make this your strongest effort to date?
Madeliene Liljestam: Well, no, I wouldn’t say that. It gave you more time to do that, but I don’t think we did that. We had so many things to do. No gigs because of the pandemic, but we kept ourselves very busy. We had to survive because we are full-time musicians, so we had to be creative. We started our Patreon page, we started to stream live on Twitch.
Rikard Ekberg: With that said, this is actually our best album to date. That was a good thing.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released four singles – two visualizer videos plus two proper videos for “We Are Legion” and “War Das Alles”. Can you discuss the importance of properly representing Eleine across this visual medium – as you both take proper care behind the scenes beyond your regular duties for what the followers see in these clips?
Ekberg: The representation of the band. We want it to be like a little teaser of how our live performances will be. As you might have noticed, we don’t have much of a storyline. We have full on metal performances, right into your living room, or watching it on YouTube.
Dead Rhetoric: Is it a challenge to figure out what songs are going to be the best singles from a record?
Ekberg: Oh yes. If it were up to us, we would like to put out everything as a single. We feel very strongly for every song, no song is a filler. No song is put on there to say, oh we need to put on another song. This is what we created; this is what we put there with the thought behind it. We work very hard on these songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Does it become a balancing act to figure out how much orchestration to put behind the instrumentation for these songs?
Ekberg: As always, we try to create what feels right. That balance.
Liljestam: Usually we do the songs, and then Rikard will work on the orchestrations. That is why we’ve always said we are different from other symphonic metal bands because we are more riff-based. We are not relying on the orchestrations, that is something to add to create the cinematic vibe that is one of our most important influences, movie scores. It’s not that we base the actual song on the symphonic arrangement.
Dead Rhetoric: At what point during the songwriting process do you try to map out who will handle what parts vocally? Is it a trial-and-error basis, or do you know who will do what part?
Ekberg: We never know. When we get to the point where vocals come in, we find that this needs this or that. Clean or growl. Sometimes we feel that maybe I should do this part, and I’ll try it out – it sounds like crap, so Madeliene you do it (laughs).
Liljestam: And we’ve had it the other way around. There is like growling, it’s not because it sounds cool – it’s because it serves a purpose for the song. Some of the songs don’t have growls, they will have male clean vocals. “We Shall Remain”, it’s only me on clean vocals. It just felt right.
Dead Rhetoric: Nestor Avalos handled the cover art again – and he has worked with the band since the All Shall Burn EP in 2019. How does the process work with the cover theme between yourselves and Nestor – and what do you enjoy most about his work over the years?
Liljestam: Usually it starts from me creating a basic idea, whether it’s poorly drawn or a photoshop project, basically. It always happens, when we start to talk about the artwork, usually you have an image in your head. I put it down in like a drawing, creating a mock up. I present this Nestor, talk to him about it, what we want to see, and he comes back with a draft, and we work from there together. It’s a very interesting process. Dancing in Hell we did together as well, and then the EP All Shall Burn. We have based a lot of things on photos. It’s a match between a photo and drawings, and I really like that – as it gives things a little more depth. We’ll see ultimately who we want to work with in the future as well.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you discuss the lyrical content this time around? It was a bit of a unique situation compared to the last album, going in a completely different direction, correct?
Ekberg: How do you feel about that?
Dead Rhetoric: In essence, the last album was a bit more aggressive as far as the lyrical content, where this album seems a little more positive and uplifting…
Ekberg: This is very cool, because you are the second interviewer that has said that. Really, honestly, we didn’t reflect upon that until the first interviewer said it. It’s true. Let me briefly tell you about Dancing in Hell. It wasn’t about being in your own personal hell, it was about fighting your own way through your own personal hell, whatever that may be. We Shall Remain is the continuation from that. Very naturally, we didn’t plan it, it just became that. When you have beaten your own personal hell, there is an aftermath. You can’t just sit back, relax, and everything will be fine now. Because if you forget about your battles and your struggles, it is bound to repeat itself. You have to fight. The lyrics within We Shall Remain, they glance back sometimes in “Promise of Apocalypse” and “Suffering”, they glance back on the heavier, darker stuff. There is so much empowerment in We Shall Remain, as we were at that point ourselves in our lives also. Not because of the pandemic, but because of the realization that we came to that had happened years ago.
Dead Rhetoric: You are now a part of the Atomic Fire Records roster after being on Black Lodge for the last two albums. What made this move attractive to you, and do you believe this will improve the profile of the band on a global scale due to their knowledge of the genre plus worldwide promotional/distribution reach?
Ekberg: I believe every time a band leaves one label to work with another label, it is for the aim to make it better. With that said, once again, it felt right.
Liljestam: We didn’t have any more albums left in the contract with Black Lodge. They were interested in continuing with us, but we had been in touch with Atomic Fire, and they are very passionate. They created Nuclear Blast back in the day, they worked so hard, and they love metal music. There are no hard feelings with Black Lodge, we just felt something more with Atomic Fire. And they are so caring, we work well together. It’s very interesting to see the results, since this is our first full-length album with them.
Ekberg: So far, it feels like family.
Dead Rhetoric: Your first North American tour with Moonspell seemed to have been a successful endeavor, as we witnessed ourselves, with fantastic crowd reactions. It was a costly trek financially, however, with the fans coming through via a GoFundMe campaign to help offset some expenses, like the tour bus. Touring costs have obviously skyrocketed, and with that in mind, how do you manage the daily duties and keep expenses down?
Ekberg: Wow, man – that’s a heavy question! We did start a GoFundMe campaign, which we reached- we are so thankful for everyone who contributed – but it’s a fraction of the actual costs. Crossing the Atlantic for a band from Europe going to North America, it is an investment. Many sit and wait, maybe a label will pick me up. You have to take the risk to reap the benefits.
Liljestam: If you don’t get the job, create your own. Building a company or a band as well, it’s the same thing. It takes so much investment, and if you go into this business nowadays specifically, and think that things can just happen, someone will unlock a door, it won’t happen. If you are out there, you have a band, and feel like you can’t afford this, take a look at your life. If you have a full-time job, you can’t spend the salary on everything you want to do that’s not related to the band and expect the fans to support you. You need to be aware and ready to sacrifice because it’s about investments. It really pains me sometimes when I see this happen, very frustrating. Since 2014, we have been living on the minimum to have a roof over our head and food on the table.
People often talk about how they don’t have that much money, but they don’t have that much money that they think they would want to or deserve to have. We didn’t start a GoFundMe because we all have full-time salaries and not spend a dime on Eleine.
Ekberg: We also made it very clear, regardless of how things turned out, we would be going over to North America. I have seen some bands put out there that help us make this goal become a reality, otherwise we won’t do it. You need to believe in what you do to the extent that you can visualize yourself that if you were in that position to lose it all, but it was worth it.
Liljestam: If you are not ready to do these kinds of investments as artists, then this is not the business for you. Maybe you should be employed. It takes a lot to do this.
Dead Rhetoric: The practice of some live music venues taking a cut of a band’s merchandise earnings has been an issue in the US for a long time, depending on the venue of course. Is this something you’ve experienced, and what steps can a band take to avoid having their earnings nickel and dimed away?
Liljestam: This is something that we’ve experienced in the US, yes – but it’s something that also happens in Europe. To everyone out there that has a venue and you are taking merchandise fees, I’m going to be very kind here and not curse, but truly, I really hope you sleep badly, every night. It’s such a cheap way. Come on, if you have a band at your own venue, work harder. This topic can really piss me off.
Ekberg: Some need to make something happen, some take the opportunity to make it happen. As Madeline said, it takes an investment. You can’t take away the profit from your attraction. That makes other attractions not want to come to your venue. You need to find extra ways to make that extra income. Do not take away from your attraction.
Liljestam: You are basically shutting yourself down if you continue to do this. It’s really stupid. The way to solve it: refuse! I’ve been having fights with people, at the venues, tell them to piss off, because they have been so rude. This topic, even if you mention anything at all, they get very defensive. They know that they are doing something wrong. If you imply that we can discuss this – no, no, no! This is how it is! Do your thing, we’ll do ours- and together we are a team. I’m happy that people like Dark Funeral and Devin Townsend have been highlighting this issue, fighting the fight. All small bands need to do this as well. We are here for the fans to give them a good show. If they want to have a good memory from that night, and bring merch home with them, we’ll make that happen. If one venue won’t welcome you back, they will dig their own grave.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you as a band need to do in order to reach the next level in music, and how do you define success in the music industry?
Ekberg: If you can do what you love, and what you love is music, then you are successful.
Liljestam: I don’t know what the next step would be to make us more successful. I would love someone to tell us. Just continue to go with our gut feelings like we always have since the start. Learn from what we’ve been through – we have worked with the wrong people as well, and we learned from it.
Ekberg: Keep on doing what feels right, and it will feel good. If you do what doesn’t feel right, it will feel bad.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of symphonic metal in mainland Europe versus other parts of the world? Do you believe there is enough diversity and strength in numbers between the older artists and new, up and coming artists to keep the scene healthy/vibrant for years to come?
Ekberg: I believe that people should create music that feels right to them and get inspired by others of course but not copy others. That is how you get diversity.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel humanity is handling the effects of coming out of a prolonged pandemic? Do you believe there will be a greater appreciation for entertainment, live music, and the fine arts as a result that may have been taken for granted in previous years?
Ekberg: Only time will tell. It’s hard to say. Let’s get back to that question in…. seven years! (laughs). Let’s keep this question until the next album release, maybe we’ll have a better answer by then.
Dead Rhetoric: Madeleine has also made numerous guest vocal appearances with artists like Liv Sin, Mortemia, Nanowar Of Steel, and Opera Diabolicus among others. Are there specific criteria that take place when it comes to how and why you make these guest appearances – and does this give you a chance to stretch your abilities to the benefit of Eleine in the end?
Liljestam: Whenever someone is reaching out and asking for it, I usually say it doesn’t matter who it is. If it’s something that I like, then I will do it. If it’s something I can stand for. I want to stay humble, and I want to say I am not a money grabber, I just want to survive. I do things with heart and passion for respect of the art and music. If I will do something and agree to it, it has to feel right. These requests felt right. I know there are other people that discover Eleine through these guest vocal appearances. It is fun for our fans to see us guesting on other tracks. It’s for them to discover others, it’s a two-way street. I really like it; it gives you some inspiration as well for what you do yourself. I appreciate it.
Ekberg: It’s very honoring also. I’ve done some guest appearances, and I look forward to the one where someone asks me to sing – so far, nothing (laughs). One day, one day. It’s very cool though, the one you did with Mortemia.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider some of the career highlights with Eleine at this point?
Liljestam: One of the best gigs we had was pretty recently, that was a special guest to Nightwish in Stockholm. It was a career highlight.
Ekberg: A great night, a sold-out venue, 4,500 people.
Liljestam: A special vibe, that even would have been there if there was only 500 people. It was a very special vibe, an appreciation for music.
Ekberg: When we played Sweden Rock Festival in 2022. That was so great. There were a lot of people that were there for the love of music, to experience something new. Some to experience a band they knew. The most spectacular part for me is that was the first time we’ve ever used pyrotechnics. That was very cool and terrifying at the same time. Looking forward to the next time. A huge highlight was to get over to North America for the very first time this year.
Liljestam: Japan was one as well. There are many beautiful memories.
Ekberg: If we switch from highlights to game-changers, a game changer for us was connecting with fans even deeper. The Eleine Legion is most important to us – without the legion, there would be no Eleine. We are grateful that Patreon is there – we take it seriously. People are connecting across the Atlantic, it’s amazing. When I started my Twitch stream in April 2021 and Madeleine started hers in June 2021. A bundle of game changers and highlights of our careers.
Dead Rhetoric: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success in life? Or do you have a favorite failure of yours that happened when it comes to your music career, and how did you end up pushing through?
Ekberg: A failure can mean so many things to a person. It is very individual. It is through failure you learn; you learn to push on. I can’t say we’ve had failure within our career.
Liljestam: We did a tour that our booking agent put together, and we kicked him out mid-tour. We were supporting another band, and it was absolutely not right for us. It wasn’t right for us to work with this guy. I wouldn’t see this as a failure, because one thing leads to another. We also learned to trust our gut feelings. We have to listen to it earlier on. The older you get, the less you care about some things, what other people might think about you. It’s important to just push through. I am happy we did that. It’s hurtful, but business is business, and you cannot take it personally. If you have done a bad job, and you take it personally, that is your problem. We have not invested ten years of our adult lives to try to please someone else and their ego. Failures so to speak we have learned a lot from. Situations where you just need to make a choice. I see it as hard lessons. The investment and sacrifice comparisons.
Ekberg: Failure is a wide spectrum. Disappointment when you expect something from someone else that could be seen as a failure for you. It’s an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to push through it.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for anything related to Eleine or other musical activities over the next year or so?
Ekberg: We have a couple of festivals now coming up. This fall we have a European tour, supporting Pain and Ensiferum. That will be a kick ass tour. We have other stuff that we can’t really talk about coming up. Until then, people can follow us on social media platforms.
Liljestam: And we will do our best to be back in North America as soon as possible.