“Unfinished” is the name of SHIELD OF WINGS’ first full-length album. We missed the EP “Solarium” that was released in 2011, but the single “Wetland” that came out on January 7th of this year, and the beautiful official music video that accompanied it, aroused our curiosity. “Unfinished” will be out on February 11th, so it’s time to introduce the band and get to know a little more about the debut album. And this time, we did not just interview the two female vocalists. No, we had all band members answering some questions!!
INTERVIEW BY: Henk van Nieuwenhoven
Let’s go through the band’s history. The band name, SHIELD OF WINGS, where did it come from?
PATRICK EULITZ (DRUMS): That is a tale difficult to tell. I can’t speak of the intent behind the origin, but the name was chosen by James and approved by the rest of the band at the time in 2005. Prior to being chosen for the name of the band, I believe it was considered as a particular song’s title.
SHIELD OF WINGS was formed in 2005, but the first EP “Solarium” was released in 2011. That is six years of doing…?
JAMES GREGOR (GUITAR/VOCALS): We spent most of our time aiming to perform songs live in our local scene at that time and far less effort polishing the songs of the band’s first era to be recorded. It was a different time, and the satisfaction of playing live music was our focus. There are actually a handful of songs recorded from 2005-2008 that are out there in the world. Hopefully never to surface online! Hehe…
Though the mastermind behind Nightwish, Tuomas Holopainen,
has been an inspiration to me, I do not find myself aiming to
intentionally emulate the band’s sound.
– JAMES GREGOR –
SHIELD OF WINGS’ first female vocalist was Grace Meridan. Why did she leave in 2012?
PATRICK: Technically, James was the first vocalist of the band and then our first female vocalist was an old friend, Megan Leone. Regarding Grace’s departure, the band members mutually agreed it was best to part ways.
After the departure of Grace, there’s another hiatus until 2019 when you report back on your Facebook page. What happened in between?
JAMES: The members of the band at the time all had important pursuits outside of the band involving family, education, and career. Over those years, though, I had not halted writing. The 10 songs chosen for this upcoming album were selected from around 40 songs or partial songs that were written in that time period.
Another year later, Aliyah joined SHIELD OF WINGS. Where did they find you and what have you been doing until then?
ALIYAH DAYE (LIVE KEYBOARDS/SUPPORT VOCALS): I met James online due to similar musical tastes in 2014. Though I am from the midwest (USA) originally, at that time I was living in Los Angeles and singing with some bands out there (Inheritor and Tainted Throne). Ultimately, my time with those projects ended and I moved back to the midwest. I grew closer to the SHIELD OF WINGS band members and ultimately they decided to invite me to join the band.
At the end of 2020, lead vocalist Lara completed the line-up and she went straight into the studio to record the lead vocals. How was that for you?
LARA MORDIAN (LEAD VOCALS): After I joined the band, I recorded a round of demos first and I had completed recording vocals for the album by the end of 2020. The whole experience was a lot of fun and I will remember it well for the rest of my life.
Where was the album recorded and how long did it take you to finish it, including the mixing and mastering?
JAMES: The album was recorded in two home studios including my own home and the vocals were tracked at a professional studio. The interrupted recording process of 2020/2021 along with mixing and mastering took around two years.
Original bassist Jeff Olsem left SHIELD OF WINGS in 2020, but can he still be heard on the album or did his replacement Alex Luke re-record all the bass playing?
PATRICK: Jeff certainly had some influence with the initial spin on the bass direction, but James performed the final arrangements for the album prior to Alex officially joining our troop.
The album is titled “Unfinished” and was originally scheduled to be released in the first half of 2021, but will now be out on 11 February 2022. What caused the delay? Covid?
ALIYAH: Covid was somewhat of the reason, as we were in the middle of vocal sessions and they had to be paused for a few months. Also, when Jeff departed from the band, James had to take up the gauntlet to learn and refine the bass parts to record them for the album.
The cover art shows a baby on a straw bed, a bird holding a bright star, two figures, one playing on a flute and one holding a spear and a peace leaf and two persons bowing with blood on their hands. Looks like a biblical scene, but not the one we know from the Holy Book. In combination with the title “Unfinished”, how would you explain the cover?
LARA: James is the one who created the idea and initial sketch for the artwork, but I think each of us sees our own messages from it, as we wish for others to do. There is the representation of rebirth in the art. I see a forest being cleansed by fire, a great bird carrying the sun as the newborn reaches up for it, and two mere humans bowing, with their offering to the ever unfinished cycle of it all.
James, you are a Nightwish fan, something that can be heard back in your songwriting. Do you have the sound of Nightwish in your head when you write a song? Which period of Nightwish do you like most, with Tarja, Anette or Floor?
JAMES: Though the mastermind behind Nightwish, Tuomas Holopainen, has been an inspiration to me, I do not find myself aiming to intentionally emulate the band’s sound. There is a large spectrum of music that inspires me. If I must choose a favorite Nightwish era, the time of “Century Child” and “Once” are held closest in my heart.
The first single and music video off the album was for “Wetland”. Why this one and what is the song about? Lara, it must have been difficult especially for you to crawl through the water during the recordings?
LARA: We thought “Wetland” would be a good first single due to the more anthemic chorus and structure of the song. It was also a favorite for a few of us. The water was very cold and smelled like rotten eggs. As soon as I got into the water there was basically a clock ticking for how long I would be able to stay in there due to the temperature, so we had to try our best to get the takes right the first time around. But it was pretty exhilarating! I’m sure I looked real funny driving home with mud all over my face, wrapped up in blankets, and my hair covered in swamp muck.
Aliyah, you play keyboards and do all the harsh vocals on the album. In the studio, that wasn’t such a problem as you recorded them separately. But how difficult is it to do both on stage?
ALIYAH: We will have to see as we have not yet been on stage with this lineup! 🙂 It is certainly a bit of a “pat your head and rub your belly at the same time” situation, but in rehearsals it has felt very natural. I am very excited to perform on stage, as this will be my first opportunity to perform both harsh vocals, and keys in a live setting.
The second single and lyric video is for “Mind Of Myth”, again shot with beautiful natural scenes. However, it shows only Lara and Aliyah walking in a forest. So the rest of the band took the day off? 😊
ALEX LUKE (BASS): Since James shot and edited the video, despite not being onscreen, he actually put more time and effort into this production than anyone else. For this video, the band wanted to emphasize the lyrics and vocals, so we decided to go with a simpler production rather than a full-fledged music video. We wanted the viewers to be able to focus on the lyrics, rather than be distracted by our superbly attractive and charismatic rhythm section.
How would you describe the sound of SHIELD OF WINGS and with what bands would you compare yourself when somebody asked you that in an interview?
PATRICK: Symphonic, dynamic and authentic, along the lines of Kamelot, though with female vocals. I suppose we would also appeal to those who are into bands like Epica, Nightwish, Xandria and the late Delain.
In your genre of symphonic metal, with what band(s) would you like to tour through the United States and Europe to promote “Unfinished”?
JAMES: Kamelot would be a great fit in my opinion, we opened up for them once years ago. And though we might not be the most similar band, I would love to open for Ensiferum or the mighty Equilibrium as well.
LARA: A dream come true would be big names like Nightwish or Kamelot of course, but I would also love to tour with other symphonic metal bands such as Wintersun, Seven Spires and Blind Guardian.
Future plans, given that Covid will still be around for the rest of the year?
ALIYAH: We have many more plans for videos and would love to make them for every song on the album if it were possible. But we will see about that. Since the USA is pretty open, live shows are also on the radar. If we’re unable to perform shows, then James will dive writing for the next release!