"I love the silence of opera and the madness of metal!"

Emmanuelle Zoldan, the frontwoman of Sirenia, met with Dark Divas online to discuss the new album, metal, opera, and the pandemic.

Ursula von Dark Divas


11. Feb 2021

Emmanuelle Zoldan

Your tenth studio album "Riddles, Ruins and Revelations" (released on February 12, 2021) is your third as the singer of Sirenia. How has the collaboration changed since the first album?

Emmanuelle Zoldan: I've learned a lot at Sirenia over the past years. I originally come from classical singing. I had to get used to some things first. Metal is different from opera. I had to adjust my singing. I had to change the way I move on stage and get used to the technical equipment. As an opera singer, you sing without a mic, without an in-ear system. Also, the band and I have really grown together in the last few years. We learn a lot from each other; everyone brings something to the table. So, we like to work together and try something new.

You love wordplay, especially alliterations – the last two albums were called "Dim Days of Dolor" and "Arcane Astral and Aeons." The new one is "Riddles, Ruins and Revelations." What Riddles, Ruins, and Revelations are you referring to?

Emmanuelle: (laughs) That's a big riddle – only Morten knows the answer to that. Seriously: Morten doesn't talk much about the choice of titles or the meaning of the lyrics. He likes to leave the interpretation to the fans. I think that's a good thing. My guess is that the title might be a reference to certain beer brands (laughs). No, I honestly don't have a good answer to that. I can only share my interpretation with you. For me, the title means that only from the ruins, from the ashes, can something new and stronger emerge – like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The entire album, for me, is about transformations. This album is something new, a transformation. It shows a new face of Sirenia. Revelations and transformations, from my perspective, arise from life experience. That's my interpretation.

The recordings took place mostly at Audio Avenue Studios in Stavenger, Norway. Morten Veland, your mastermind, mixed and mastered everything on his own. How was the recording process for you?

Emmanuelle: I went to Norway. It is very important to us that we are all together when we start the recording process. We recorded in France, in Marseille, before. That wasn't possible this time. The process is: Morten brings the arranged songs. I then show him how I would interpret them. Together, we work out the best version.

The sound of the album is unique – the 1980s are clearly audible (like in "Into Infinity"), electronic influences run through it – and then a singing saw appears in "December Snow." There are many style breaks. How did you deal with them vocally?

Emmanuelle: It was very exciting for me – in a positive way. I'm always happy when I can explore or try something new with my voice. I particularly like it when music and singing show how versatile they are. Technically, it's not a problem for me. But it's great and exciting when completely new things are tried – as it was with this album.

I tried to pinpoint a favorite song for myself on "Riddles, Ruins and Revelations" – it's difficult. What about you?

Emmanuelle: I feel the same – it's particularly difficult with this album. Actually, I change my favorite song almost daily, every time I listen to the album (laughs). But if I had to choose one, it would be "We Come To Ruins." It's a multifaceted song, with a lot of color and atmosphere, bringing together various styles.

Back to the 80s once again: The last track on the new album is a cover of the 80s hit "Voyage Voyage" by Desireless. Why was this song chosen?

Emmanuelle: Why this song? That's another riddle (laughs). Morten loves this song. "Voyage Voyage" was also a huge hit in Norway in the 80s. And when we're on tour, it's a song that's always on the playlist. As soon as Morten hears this song, he's in a good mood. But: Nils (Editor's note: Nils Courbaron, guitarist for Sirenia) and I, both coming from France, initially found Morten's idea a bit strange. We couldn't imagine how this hit would sound in a symphonic metal version. But when the song was presented to us arranged in Morten's style, we heard that it could work. When we had the final recording, we collectively said that the song had to be on the album and not just as bonus material but as a standalone track. But cover versions are always more challenging in my view than new songs. Because the expectations are high; everyone knows the song. So, you have to stay true to the original without simply imitating it but giving the song your own sound.

In December Snow, you speak French, your mother tongue, whereas your lyrics are typically in English. Would you be interested in recording a full symphonic metal album in French?

Emmanuelle: The entire album? I love the French language; I find it beautiful, poetic, and musical. But a whole album in French, I don't know if I would want that. I like English, especially in singing. Considering Sirenia is an internationally known band, it's essential for us to use a language that everyone can understand. But we did have a song in French on the last album (Editor's note: "Nos heures sombres" or "Our Dark Hours").

Morten (Veland) is your mastermind, making decisions alone—how does collaboration work for you?

Emmanuelle: It works well. I've been working with him for a long time. We've known each other since 2003. Sirenia is simply Morten's project—he's very creative and has a lot to say as an artist. As a creative person myself, I could be frustrated because I'm not more involved in this creative process. But I'm not. Why? I have other projects where I can express that. With Sirenia, I can understand Morten's approach. As a composer who has everything ready in his head, he knows exactly how it should sound. It's almost impossible to involve others in this process.

You have a classical singing background and are known as an opera singer in your native France. What are the biggest differences for you between performing on the opera stage and with Sirenia?

Emmanuelle: The most significant difference is that in opera, I don't need a microphone or in-ear monitoring. There, I have to transport my voice without amplification. In metal, you need all that. So, I have to use my voice differently. Another entirely different aspect is the audience. You won't see headbangers in the opera. I like both—the silence of the opera and the madness of metal. I wouldn't want to miss either. If I had to choose, I couldn't.

Some people might say opera and metal don't go together. What's your perspective?

Emmanuelle: I know many people, especially in the classical field, think that way. For me, it's not true. There are many bridges, parallels, similarities between genres, and I believe bringing seemingly incompatible things together is always enriching.

Normally, I would ask when you're going on tour. That's currently not possible. What does it mean for you to release an album in the midst of a pandemic?

Emmanuelle: That was a significant challenge. We had to constantly adapt. Dates had to be postponed, plans changed. It was exhausting. At the same time, we can be proud because, despite Corona, we managed to release a new album. We poured our hearts and souls into it. For me, it's a very special album. It has become something special—I'd say it's really "tasty."

Corona makes life particularly difficult for musicians and artists—how are you coping with it?

Emmanuelle: It's really tough. When you decide to dedicate your life to music, you want to perform. You want to stand on stage in front of an audience; you want to be with the band. All of that is currently impossible, and it's really hard. For me, it feels like something has been amputated. This weekend, an opera performance was streamed. I performed in this way for the first time. It was horrible. I missed the audience, the energy of the audience. That was sorely lacking.

But I also see the positive aspects. It was a chance for us to focus on things we didn't have time for otherwise. I worked on my vocal technique, among other things. And: I dedicated myself to other creative projects—writing, composing, and painting. I discovered new facets of myself.

But, of course, we are very much looking forward to being back on stage.

You are the frontwoman, and three men surround you. Female singers and musicians are becoming more present. But the industry is still male-dominated. What would you wish for as a woman in the industry?

Emmanuelle: I wish for even more women in this business. That would be great. And: I wish for women to be perceived even more as genuine, serious musicians and not just as beautiful and sexualized figures on stage. Of course, a woman's presence is essential. It can also be sexy, but that sexiness shouldn't be the focal point. What should be seen is what we can do musically. But I think we are on the right track.

What advice would you give to young female musicians?

Emmanuelle: I would say to every woman: Be yourself, say what you have to say, express what you have to share with the world, and don't be afraid to be an artist.

We have come to the end—what would you like to say to us and your fans?

Emmanuelle: We look forward to sharing the new album with you. And: We can't wait to take the new songs to the stage.

Thank you for your time and the conversation, Emmanuelle!

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