Sometimes you stumble across a debut album from a band you had never heard of before and you just think “wow, this is really good!”. It happened to me with M.E.L.T from Taiwain and it recently happened again with German symphonic metal band LYCANIA. The first introduction with this band came when they released a lyric video for the title track of their debut album, “My Kingdom Come“, followed by the second single “Dark Halls Of Oblivion“. I just hád to know more about LYCANIA, so contact was made, questions and answers flew back and forth over the internet and this is the result of the interview that I had with singer Sarah Gorzelitz.
INTERVIEW BY: HENK VAN NIEUWENHOVEN
HERZLICH WILLKOMMEN SARAH, IS THIS YOUR FIRST INTERVIEW REGARDING THE RELEASE OF LYCANIA’S ALBUM “MY KINGDOM COME” OR HAVE YOU DONE MANY BEFORE THIS ONE ALREADY?
Hi and thank you for giving me this opportunity! I’ve done one interview before for Powerplay Magazine, so this is my second one.
LET’S HAVE A LOOK AT THE BAND’S HISTORY. LYCANIA STARTED IN 2015 AND WAS FOUNDED BY YOU, SARAH GORZELITZ, ON VOCALS, JULIAN KÖRNER-SCHUCHARDT ON GUITAR AND PETER LENZ ON KEYBOARDS. IN 2016 YOU RELEASED AN EP “MY EMPTY PAGE”. NOT MANY WILL KNOW THIS EP, BUT ALL THE SONGS ON IT ARE ALSO ON THE DEBUT ALBUM. DID YOU USE THE OLD RECORDINGS OR DID YOU RE-RECORD ALL OF THEM FOR “MY KINGDOM COME” TOGETHER WITH THE OTHER TRACKS?
The songs have all been re-recorded and have changed quite drastically. The most striking change is probably that on “Dark Halls Of Oblivion” we now have the amazing Thorsten Schuck of Neopera guesting, which took the song to a whole new level. But, as our keyboarder puts it, all the older songs have aged like fine wine!
THERE IS A SEVEN YEAR GAP BETWEEN “MY EMPTY PAGE” AND THE TWO SINGLES “MY KINGDOM COME” AND “DARK HALLS OF OBLIVION” (BOTH 2023) FROM THE NEW ALBUM. THAT PERIOD ALSO ENTAILED A FEW LINE-UP CHANGES. WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY IS BASSIST FELIX SCHMIDTMANN, WHO CAN STILL BE HEARD ON THE ALBUM, NO LONGER IN THE BAND?
A lot has happened since, mainly due to personal circumstances. You see, when we started out, we were all still in university or doing apprenticeships. That entails several things, for one, our previous drummers either had to move somewhere else for work or just didn’t have the time to continue the band. And of course, our financial means were very limited. Now that most of us have a stable job, we were able to finally take on this full-length record and give it everything it needed. I think if we had tried this earlier, it would simply not have been as good as we were lacking means to make it the best it could be. As for Felix, this is actually a mistake on the Metal Archives that since should have been fixed. Felix is still in the band and hopefully will be for a long time!
YOU RECORDED THE NEW SINGLE “DARK HALLS OF OBLIVION” WITH, AS YOU ALREADY SAID, NEOPERA’S BARITONE THORSTEN SCHUCK. BUT NOT JUST HIM, ALSO SWEDISH VOCAL TEACHER DAVID ÅKESSON CAN BE HEARD ON BACKING VOCALS ON MANY SONGS ON THE DEBUT ALBUM. WILL GUITARIST DANIEL ENGSTRÖM DO THESE VOCALS LIVE?
Daniel would of course be a great choice as a fellow Swede, but he will be preoccupied with growling. So our solution is to have David’s vocals as well as the choir in a backing track and have Peter do some additional backing vocals. Thorsten’s vocals will also be done by Peter. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about this, but we also may or may not have planned to have Thorsten on stage with us for a performance as well.
THE ALBUM OPENS WITH “SCRIPTORIUM”, AN INSTRUMENTAL TRACK THAT REMINDS A LOT OF BANDS LIKE NIGHTWISH, EPICA AND DELAIN. THEN “THE LONE POET’S BALLAD” SETS IN WITH THE FIRST VERSE: “WRITE, ERASE, REWRITE / THAT’S THE WAY IT GOES / WHY WE CAN’T REWRITE OUR LIVES / THAT’S AN ANSWER NO ONE KNOWS”. ARE THERE CERTAIN PARTS IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO REWRITE IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE?
That’s a tricky question! I would say probably not. I strongly believe that most, if not all, of what we do and what happens to us leads us somewhere in life and I’m happy with where I am right now, which I do consider a very privileged position, of course. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think differently temporarily and really wish something would have gone differently sometimes. But in hindsight, everything that happened led me to who I am today and I appreciate that.
“DARK HALLS OF OBLIVION” SOUNDS A LOT LIKE IMPERIAL AGE. THE VOCALS ON THIS SONG ARE VERY SIMILAR TO THOSE OF JANE ODINTSOVA AND ALEXANDER OSIPOV. HAVE YOU HEARD ANY SONGS BY THIS BAND? IF YOU DO, CAN YOU COMMIT TO THIS RESEMBLANCE?
Imperial Age have been on my “I need to listen to this”-list for way too long. I have heard a little bit of their music, but really only bits and pieces. So the resemblance in this case is purely coincidental.
THE MAJOR PART OF THE MUSIC ON “MY KINGDOM COME” WAS WRITTEN BY PETER LENZ, WHILE YOU DID ALMOST ALL OF THE LYRICS. THOSE OF “MAJESTY OF MADNESS” GO VERY DEEP. “THE MAJESTY OF MADNESS SO LURING / CASCADES OF TEARS TO ESCAPE FROM THIS EARTH / A PATH TO A DREAM WORLD WHERE MY THRONE IS TALL / FOREVER ASCENDING BUT CRAVING MY FALL”. WHERE DID YOU GET THE INSPIRATION FOR LYRICS WITH SUCH A PROFOUND SENSE OF POETRY? DID YOU STUDY ENGLISH LITERATURE BY ANY CHANCE?
You got me there! I have actually studied English and German literature and work at a school teaching English and German. As far as inspiration goes, the lyrics for the album were inspired by all the facets that being an artist entails. All the good and all the bad. “Majesty Of Madness” deals with the fact that a lot of artists struggle with their mental health. The song wants to show the dichotomy of being trapped in your own mind that’s seemingly out to hurt you, but at the same time, there’s something mighty about being completely absorbed in that mind where you can “rule” as you please, if that makes any sense. The outward world just fades away somewhat, and out of that, art can be born. Of course, I do not want to overly romanticize mental struggles though. They really suck.
“LUST FOR A TALE” IS A SONG WHERE YOUR VOICE (APART FROM THE HIGH- PITCHED “AAAAHAAAA” AND IN THE CHOIR) CAN ONLY BE HEARD ON THE LAST VERSE WHERE YOU SING: “COME TO LIFE NOW OR YOU’LL WAKE UP TO A WORLD / WHERE EVERY TALE IS TOLD / AND EVERY STORY’S SOLD”. WERE THE LYRICS ON THIS SONG WRITTEN BY YOU OR SOMEONE ELSE?
The lyrics for this one were also written by me. When I finished them, I told the others that I thought that a lot of growls would fit this one well and to just go ahead and do with the song what they thought was cool. For a while, I used to sing Peter’s part of clean vocals in the chorus as well but a bit before the recording came up, he asked me if it was okay if he tried to sing it and we agreed that it fits the song very well.
“I wasn’t exactly what you would call a natural when it comes to singing and it took a lot of work to get somewhere on this path”.
– SARAH GORZELITZ –
SPEAKING OF THE CHOIR, THERE’S A 10-HEADED CHOIR TO BE HEARD ON THE ENTIRE ALBUM. WHO WERE IN THERE?
A lot of different people! There’s some parts of our families, friends and colleagues of ours, but also fellow metal musicians, like Regina, the former singer of the split-up band DüsterLust, Sophie, who’s the singer of the folk/ambient band HULD and Fabian, the drummer for our fellow symphonic metallers Conspiria.
“STANDING ON THE EDGE” IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITES ON “MY KINGDOM COME”, FOR IT HAS A GREAT INTRO AND THE WHOLE SOUND REMINDS ME OF ANOTHER FAVOURITE BAND OF MINE, ASKARA FROM SWITZERLAND, WHO ALSO USE TEMPO CHANGES LIKE ON THIS ONE. BESIDES, THE USE OF THE CHOIR IN “STANDING ON THE EDGE” IS JUST SUBLIME. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE TRACKS?
It’s always difficult to choose a favorite track among your own ones, I think. I really love “Dark Halls Of Oblivion” because I’ve been a fan of Neopera for quite a long time before I got the chance to work with them as a lyricist and still, having Thorsten on the same song as me feels completely surreal. But I also have a very soft spot for “As Beauty There In Shackles Lies”. First of all, I love the heaviness of the composition and the vocal lines, but most of all I feel very deeply about the lyrics. The song is about a time when I had lost my ability to sing and through several surgeries didn’t know whether I would ever be able to sing again. The lyrics and songwriting capture my frustration and despair, and it makes me very emotional to have this song on the album with my voice on it, proving that after all, I made it.
I WOULD NOMINATE “MY EMPTY PAGE” AS BALLAD OF THE YEAR. IT HAS ALL THE CRITERIA A BALLAD MUST MEET, FROM THE SYMPHONIC PARTS WITH BEAUTIFUL VOCALS TO VERY EMOTIVE LYRICS AND A TAILORED GUITAR SOLO. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT “MY EMPTY PAGE”?
Thank you so much for the kind words! I do enjoy listening to “My Empty Page”, and of course I also like singing it! The thing about ballads is that my voice is more exposed than during other songs which is equal parts challenging and rewarding.
“UNCROWNED” STARTS WITH A BASS LINE, THEN THE CHOIR, DRUMS AND GUITARS SET IN. BUT WHAT INTRIGUES ME MOST ARE THE LYRICS. IN YOUR OWN WORDS, WHAT IS “UNCROWNED” ABOUT? IT’S NOT AUTOBIOGRAPHIC AS YOU SING: “I AM NOT AN ANGEL / WAS NOT THE PERFECT QUEEN / NOW AN EVIL SHADOW / IS WHAT’S LEFT OF ME”, I HOPE? 😊
I think every autobiography has some space for interpretation to it (laughs). But seriously, “Uncrowned” is about the feeling of being rejected. For example, if you’re an artist and your work has been received quite well, it can still happen that your fans turn on you because they don’t like something you did or a new direction that your art takes. But the song can be read as any other situation of rejection as well and shows the feelings of the lyrical I that turns away from people and wants to show them “I don’t need you, I’m fine on my own”, but deep down is very hurt. With that, “Uncrowned” goes into a similar thematic direction as the title track “My Kingdom Come”.
THE LONGEST TRACK ON THE ALBUM, “THE MEMORY REMAINS”, IS ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL BALLAD WITH FANTASTIC USE OF THE CHOIR, A SENSITIVE GUITAR SOLO, MANY TEMPO CHANGES (INCLUDING A PIANO END WITH VOCALS ONLY) AND YOUR HIGH, OPERATIC VOICE. WHERE DID YOU LEARN TO SING LIKE A SOPRANO?
It took me a while to fall in love with this vocal style. I remember seeing “Amaranth” by Nightwish on TV when music TV channels were still a thing. I was intrigued and bought the album, “Dark Passion Play”. I remember not liking it one bit because I had set out to buy a rock album and not an opera recording. When I got more used to the music, I delved into the older Nightwish albums and as you can imagine I really disliked them because of the operatic vocals. But somehow they grew on me more and more until I decided that this is what I’m going to learn. I wasn’t exactly what you would call a natural when it comes to singing and it took a lot of work to get somewhere on this path. In 2012, I started taking lessons with my singing teacher at a music school. She studied classical singing. I still take lessons with her to this day and have had lessons with Thorsten Schuck occasionally as well. I always say if I could learn it, everyone can! (laughs)
WE LET CLOSER “AS BEAUTY THERE IN SHACKLES LIES” FOR WHAT IT IS, SO HERE’S A FEW MORE GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ALBUM. “MY KINGDOM COME” WAS MIXED AND MASTERED BY SEVEN SPIRES GUITARIST JACK KOSTO. HOW DID YOU GET HIM TO DO IT AND WHAT EXTRA’S DID HE ADD TO THE SOUND OF LYCANIA? WHO WAS THE PRODUCER AND WHO DREW THE COVER ART?
Yes, Jack did everything between mixing, mastering and producing. He gave our home-recorded material that special something and made it sound the best it can. Daniel and I are the admins for the Seven Spires fan club “The Seventh Brigade”, so we knew the band since earlier and heard about it quickly when Jack started to offer his mixing and mastering services. Since we like the sound of his other work a lot, we asked him and he immediately agreed. The cover art was drawn by Ukrainian artist Yulia Zhuchkova. We love her work and Daniel and Peter had already worked with her for their other project Lost Dawning. If anyone is interested, do check her out on social media!THERE WILL BE AN ALBUM RELEASE PARTY “BLOOD MOON SYMPHONIES” ON OCTOBER 21ST WITH OPENING BAND COVEN CALL IN MAINTAL, GERMANY. ARE YOU GOING TO PLAY THE WHOLE ALBUM THERE OR DO ANYTHING ELSE SPECIAL THAT DAY? WILL THERE BE MORE CONCERTS ALL OVER EUROPE?
Yes! We’re very much looking forward to this! We are going to play all of the songs on the album, not necessarily in the same order. I am not allowed to give a lot away yet, but I can say that there might be a mystery cover in addition to our own songs and we may or may not have a special guest on stage with us! So it might be worth visiting Maintal for this occasion. Of course we will be selling and signing CDs and merch as well. Regarding concerts all over Europe, I can only say that we’d love to! We’re looking into opportunities to play more shows, so if anyone has a suggestion, absolutely shoot us a message on our socials!