September is the Chuck Norris of months. This is a fact not an opinion. Keanu Reeves was born in September, Martin Freeman was born in September. Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen King and Tom Felton were all born in September. And most importantly, I was was born in September.
Today, however, we turn our faces towards a September-born (figuratively) album. Vintersea, Oregon’s Progressive Metal band, released their new album ‘Illuminated’ on the 27th of last September (2019). We at FemMetal had the pleasure to listen to and write a review about ‘Illuminated’. We also had the chance to chat with Vintersea’s own September-born (literally) vocalist, Avienne.
You can jump straight to the interview by clicking the ring of power on the right. (This will make sense later on)
‘Illuminated’ is a 6-tracks album extending over 39 minutes of pure well-written and sensationally performed music. Here are three things we loved about it.
1. Progressive down to the core
Progressive Rock and Metal are probably my favourite sub-genres. The whole idea of being progressive in any form of arts, whether it’s classical music or Metal or a painting, is to elevate the work by adding elements from remote approaches to this form of arts in a way no one has done before, replacing for example traditional techniques in Rock with ones from Classical music or Jazz. These efforts have yielded many successful sounds, such as that of Pink Floyd and Genesis in Rock and Symphony X and Dream Theater in Metal. Other bands came after them influenced by that same sound the formerly mentioned bands have made, and labelled themselves as ‘Progressive’ Rock or Metal. Although the latter’s sound was true to the label of ‘Progressive Rock’ or ‘Progressive Metal’, most of the times it wasn’t actually true to the definition of the progressive movement in arts. ‘Illuminated’, however, is progressive down to its core. No borders exist for any of the songs. The album knows no rules and no directions and you can never expect what will come next. This musical elevation can be loudly heard in the first track Spawn Awakening that opened the album in a classical Death Metal style, lately breaking that border into a more melodic sound, then bursting again. Illuminated, the song, Befallen, and Old Ones are among my favourite examples of how progressive Vintersea’s style is.
Some bands refrain from naming their albums after a single on it so the other songs won’t be jealous (songs have feelings). Illuminated is a song that is so good that even if it wasn’t the name of the album it would identify it for the fans. It is so good that we can even make a mini-list of things we like the song Illuminated just like we’re doing for the album. What the hell! Here are three things we loved about the song Illuminated!
2.a. The Epic Beginning
Illuminated has one of my favourite intros for a song: the calm soothing melody that explodes into a heavy riff accompanied by Avienne’s wonderful vocals.
2.b. The quality AND quantity
The song is rich in terms of quantity of elapsed time, being 7 minutes long. However, there is not an instance during which you feel an annoying redundancy or additional riffs used to stuff up the time to make the songs longer. It is a 7 minutes song that claims your interest and keeps it for 7 minutes!
2.c. The gorgeous music
Like other songs on the album, Illuminated has a collection of gorgeous riffs and melodies. These melodies, however, are on a new level of greatness on that song.
Now we can carry on with what remains from the list of things we loved about the album!
3. Avienne’s Voice
Well.. to make things simple, when she sings clean vocals, you are free to measure Avienne’s voice in octaves or ranges or whatever you want. But when she goes full force into the growling parts, the only way to measure is the Richter scale. Honestly Avienne performs on this album with one of the most interesting voices I’ve heard. It’s not only because of all that power in her growling, nor because of the beauty in her vocalising and clean singing, but the contrast she creates when she is singing with an angelic tone at an instance, and then suddenly unleashes hell into your ears, makes it quite impressive and remarkable. Crack of Light is probably the song on which Avienne’s great vocals were most showcased.
One thing we think would have made ‘Illuminated’ even better is some interlude tracks, maybe just short instrumentals. They might seem pointless to some people, but they would have added some breaks between the awesomeness of a track and the next one.
We usually address our recommendation to certain fans that love certain styles. Today we can freely recommend this album to anyone who likes good music. This album would go straight to your heart whatever your musical background is.
Here are the average of the ratings that were placed by the FemMetal Team.
|Cover Art (10%)||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐||10/10|
Jad: Hello Avienne. It’s great to talk with you. How are you and the other Vintersea members?
Avienne: Hello, Jad! I’d say we’re all pretty dandy. Band wise, we are gearing up to play in Corvallis where the band was formed at Bombs Away on December 7th, and have a music video in the works.
Jad: You recently released a new album called ‘Illuminated’. How are you feeling about this album?
Avienne: I still jam to it just as hard as when we were writing the music! I think we found our “sound” in the first album, The Gravity of Fall. With Illuminated, we went in with a clear vision of what the album is going to be about and how we wanted it to sound like. It was an arduous process at times because each of us have a perfectionist streak and we wanted to deliver the best sound and product possible, but it was also immensely gratifying when each song we wrote on the album became the band favorite at one point or another.
Jad: How would you describe Vintersea’s music to people who haven’t heard you yet?
Avienne: BIG AND BRUTIFUL. “Brutiful” is a term we like to use to describe something that is brutal yet exudes a sense of beauty. As far as genres go, I think we fit into the progressive melodic death metal category. There is so much to unpack in the music as we really do go all over the place, so you really have to give it a spin if you haven’t yet!
Jad: We know artists always have that part of their work that they are proud of and excited to see the reaction of the fans to. Which song or songs on Illuminated can we say you feel like that about?
Avienne: That’s tough to answer as each track has its own vibe and personality. But if I had to pick, one of the tracks I’m excited about is “Crack of Light”. I love the emotive journey it takes the listener on, and it showcases the “big and brutiful” sound that we strive to go for. It’s also a banger to play live!
Jad: Last April we had an event at FemMetal where we interview fans of some bands. Vintersea fans were represented by Candice. She said her favourite part of seeing you live is ‘seeing people’s minds explode when you get to the harsh vocals part’. And that’s really interesting because there are much wider opportunities to learn clean singing, like special schools and endless tutorials online. But how did you learn to sing harsh vocals that good and find that perfect formula combining it with your clean singing?
Avienne: First of all, thank you for the kind compliment! It’s something that I started doing because I wanted to scream along to my favorite bands at the time. There was a lot of trial and error when I was developing that “sweet spot” in my technique. One of the things I did was study recordings of myself singing so I could develop what I liked, and look for areas of improvement. I came from a singing background, and did a capella in college. I still use those traditional singing techniques alongside my harsh vocals.
Jad: You were born and grew up in Malaysia. And because I also live in an Eastern country I know how harder it is to discover Metal or Rock here than in Europe or America. So how did you discover Metal music and who were the bands and artists that drew you to it?
Avienne: I didn’t have Bandcamp growing up, so the music I listened to as a child either came from the radio or MTV. The day I flipped over to MTV and happened to watch Linkin Park music videos during their Hybrid Theory days, I knew that it was the genre for me. I was around 7 years old at the time.
Fast forward more than a decade later, I had an obsession with looking for heavy music to listen to after listening to the “Long Live” album by The Chariot. At the time, some of the bands that fueled by obsession was The Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried and Me, and Converge. I didn’t do sports or visit the beach often, but I did do a lot of surfing on Bandcamp, which I am very thankful for when it came to developing my music taste and finding lesser-known bands.
Jad: I’ve been told you’re a big Lord of the Rings fan, and being a member in the Tolkien Society I can’t let this go. So first I’d like you to take a look at this meme I made and tell me what you think? 😉
Avienne: My first thought is “I’m not worrrthy!” I’m highly flattered to see my name next to the Lady of the Wood. 10/10 meme, I must say.
Jad: I’m going to ask you now some short nerdy questions with the theme of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
You are Frodo, and you’re tasked to go all the way to Mordor to cast the one ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Who would be your Samwise Gamgee?
Avienne: My Samwise Gamgee will be none other than my dear friend and VINTERSEA guitarist, Riley Nix. Travelling to Mount Doom is quite the journey, and if I hop on his back, it would take less time to reach the destination because of his large stride since he is 6’10”. I mean, c’mon, there was a reason why the Uruk Hai took Merry and Pippin to Isengard on their backs! Not only that, he will fit right in when passing through Bree while I hide behind him. Riley and his excellent communication skills will come in handy when encountering different Middle Earth peoples. Lastly, Riley is a great friend, and I can count on him for not being too frustrated with me while my mind is being corrupted by the Ring.
Jad: If you live in Middle Earth, would you be in the peaceful green Shire, the glorious city of Minas Tirith or somewhere else?
Avienne: I would love to live deep in the peaceful and cozy Fangorn Forest with the ents. First of all, I won’t need to yell at any kids to get off my lawn. The ents are wise, patient, and respectful, so they overall seem like chill folk to live with. I heard good things about the nourishing Ent-draught and how it made the Hobbits taller, and I will gladly take all the help I can get in that area. I would also like to spend my days pondering the whereabouts of the Entwives with the Ents.
Jad: Are you more like Eowyn, the brave shields-maiden, Galadriel, the wise and powerful queen, or Arwen, who sacrificed immortality to be with the one she loves?
Avienne: All the women mentioned are beautiful and intelligent in their own right. I would have to say that I am most like Eowyn. I dance to the beat of my own drum despite receiving criticism for doing so. Even as a child, I had an affinity towards “boyish” things, and received criticism for liking certain things (like metal music). I also often felt “caged in” and was discouraged to do certain sports and activities because they weren’t thought of as suitable for girls. Like Eowyn, I’ll always try to find a way to do things I want to do.
Jad: Finally, as a woman that sings with such power, what advice would you give to girls and women around the world that suffer from misogyny and sexism?
Avienne: My advice is to acknowledge that misogynists and sexists are there, but don’t give them any fuel to their hateful fire. Don’t turn their hate into your hate. Focus on what makes you happy. If you focus on yourself, not only you will be happier in the long run, but your happiness and success will annoy the haters. It’s a win-win situation!
Jad: Thank you for the interview Avienne! Always great to talk with talented and hard-working artists such as yourself.
Avienne: Thank you for the wonderful and nerd-fuelled interview!