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23rd June 2014
Finnish symphonic metallers Amberian Dawn experienced a few changes in personnel towards the tail-end of 2012, including the departure of original vocalist Heidi Parviainen and subsequent recruitment of her replacement, Päivi "Capri" Virkkunen. With Capri's wider vocal range in terms of pitch, power, style and profundity of emotion, the band wasted no time at all in showcasing her singing talents with the release, in 2013, of 'Re-Evolution', a compilation of older Amberian Dawn songs but with newly recorded vocals. And, earlier this year, they completed work on a brand new studio record, the quaintly titled 'Magic Forest', which is set for release this summer on their new label home, Napalm Records. Metal Discovery spoke to the effervescently amiable and good humoured Capri a couple of weeks before the album's release to find out more about what is, effectively, a quintessential symphonic metal masterpiece...
METAL DISCOVERY: Hi, how you doing?
CAPRI: I’m fine. It’s raining here in Finland and it’s quite cold, but…
(Capri on writing lyrics for Amberian Dawn's new album, 'Magic Forest')
"I didn’t have pressure at all because the ideas of those lyrics come from listening to every song, eyes closed, and time after time, and I don’t think of lyrics or themes beforehand at all."
Amberian Dawn - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Jarmo Katila
Interview by Mark Holmes
MD: We have 25 degrees and bright sunshine at the moment, so unusual for England.
CAPRI: Ohhh, I’m so jealous! [Laughs]
MD: Congratulations on the new album. It’s one of the best sounding symphonic metal albums I’ve heard in a long time. How pleased are you with how it turned out?
CAPRI: Well, we are all very, very pleased how it turned out. We had a great supporting production team with Tuomas [Seppälä] and Mikko P. Mustonen, and it was really the first time in Amberian Dawn’s history we had that production team. And I think we had so much fun doing this album, and the atmosphere was very, very relaxed and we laughed a lot. So I think it was a great process from the beginning, for me.
MD: I gather you used one of the online crowd funding platforms to partly fund the album, and you started recording it before you got the deal with Napalm?
MD: At what point in the process did Napalm come on board, and how did that deal come about?
CAPRI: Well, this question is something I don’t really know how to answer because Tuomas, he’s the one who deals with this stuff. But he told me that we didn’t have a record deal when we started to work on ‘Magic Forest’, and we decided to try raising funds using crowd funding but we didn’t get all the budget we needed, but we still got enough to get the project started. I really don’t have the exact time it happened but I think we had management that helped us with getting a new record deal. I’m not sure… you’d have to ask Tuomas!
MD: For this album, these are the first set of lyrics you’ve written for the band so did you feel any pressure to come up with all the ideas, and themes for all the songs?
CAPRI: No, no, not at all. I’d been writing before but only for myself, and this is the first time I’d written something for public, for an audience. But I didn’t have pressure at all because the ideas of those lyrics come from listening to every song, eyes closed, and time after time, and I don’t think of lyrics or themes beforehand at all. I don’t have any pressure because I know the right story for the song will, somehow, come out. I have total freedom for writing and there is no-one else who tells me what to do or what to write about. I think, for me, writing lyrics is just I let the music speak to me and I really don’t decide what to do. Maybe it could be just one word or some flashes of pictures that start to ring in my head sometimes… [Laughs] I think it’s always the music that tells me which way to go so no pressure at all! [Laughs]
MD: I guess the music is quite cinematic with the big symphonic element so it could easily be a film score, and that conjures images in your head the whole time?
CAPRI: Yeah, it’s like a five minute movie.
MD: The title track on the album seems to be about pure fantasy and escapism but is there any symbolism in there that’s supposed to be connected to the real world?
CAPRI: Well, well… ‘Magic Forest’, that’s pure fantasy but there are some songs which are real or true, but I’m not sure if I want to say which ones! [Laughs] ‘Magic Forest’, that was the first song I wrote lyrics for this album… when I listened to the first ten seconds of the song, I started, right away, to imagine a beautiful, dark haired, evil witch singing with a high voice, like “hey, you little songbirds”, and then I just needed to write it down. Tuomas, he loved it, the idea that I can sing operatic and maybe a powerful voice during the same song. And ‘Magic Forest’, that’s the story about ‘Hansel and Gretel’…
MD: So I presume the ‘Magic Forest’ is not magical in a good way because you keep on singing “run for your life”, like, get the hell out of there, sort of thing?!
CAPRI: [Laughs] Yeah!
MD: The video for the track looks amazing, so was that good fun to do that?
CAPRI: Yeah, it was a really, really great two days. We were in the forest, at night, and we were cold… I think it maybe took seventeen hours for everything to be filmed in the forest. My fun part was when I was playing that red-eyed witch because everyone thought it has to be one of the guys. But, yeah, it’s me! [Laughs] I had so much fun. I didn’t have to look beautiful… those two little girls, they were really scared of me! And those girls, they were incredible; I don’t know how they created the scary feeling and the atmosphere looking at their faces, because they really looked scared.
MD: If they were scared by how you looked then that’s probably genuine fear, not acting!
CAPRI: Yeah, they were!
MD: Is there likely to be any other videos from the album and, if there were to be, which track would be your personal favourite to choose to do a video for?
CAPRI: Well, I think my choice would be the last track, ‘Green-Eyed’. When I heard the melody for the first time, I just loved it; without lyrics, I just loved that music. And immediately the line “I’m sorry” came in my mind and the lyrics started to form because the music reminded me of a rolling ocean. I think, for me, the story had to be a wistful story… I think this would be visually beautiful. So, I think my choice is ‘Green-Eyed’.
MD: It sounds like you already have the video in your head as well!
CAPRI: Yeah, yeah, I do! [Laughs]
MD: On ‘Memorial’, there’s a duet you do with Markus Nieminen and his operatic voice really brings out the epic feeling of that song, which is already an epic sounding song, so was that originally written with female and male voices in mind?
CAPRI: Yeah, it was. When Tuomas composed it, it was for both, female and male. And the story behind the song came from… when I first heard the song, I heard “farewell, my queen”, so it was easy to write lyrics for that song. One of the male parts sounds kind of majestic and I think the choice of the singer was easy because Markus had a duet with Heidi on one of the previous albums. Yeah, and I was at the studio listening to the recordings when Markus sang and it really sounded majestic, and I had goose-bumps. He had a powerful voice when he sang that song and I think he did it like I had it in my head.
MD: When I first heard the track, the image I had in my head was of this big, older, Pavarotti kind of guy but then I saw picture of him online and he’s nothing like that at all!
CAPRI: Yeah! [Laughs]
MD: There’s a really good flow to the album as well and, obviously, as you mentioned, the big majestic sounding, down-tempo finale with ‘Green-Eyed’. So did the track order come naturally or was there much debate amongst you all as to how the songs should be ordered?
CAPRI: No debate at all, I think the track order came naturally, but I was secretly hoping that ‘Green-Eyed’ would be the last track because the line “I’m sorry” makes a perfect closer for the album, in a twisted way, when you have forty minutes of music and then the last line, “I’m sorry”!
CAPRI: I think it’s quite funny! [Laughs]
MD: Definitely. It’s a great number to end with because it’s such an epic sounding track. A more down-tempo way to end the album, but as epic as it can be.
CAPRI: Yeah.