Dianne Van Giersbergen is the current singer of both symphonic metallers Xandria and progressive metal band Ex Libris. Ex Libris have already released their second album Medea this year, and ahead of the release of Dianne’s first release with Xandria, Sacrificium, she took some time to speak to Swirls of Noise about both bands and the upcoming tour:
Hello Dianne, and thanks for taking the time to answer questions for Swirls of Noise. You’ve recently became the new singer for Xandria. How did this come about?
When Manuela decided to part with Xandria to follow a different path in music, Xandria was already recording the first takes of “Sacrificium”. For this album the band decided to work with Dutch producer Joost van den Broek who recommended me to the guys. He was familiar with my work with my Dutch progressive metal band ‘Ex Libris’ and also with my studies of the classical voice, including the cross over between classical music and metal , at the conservatory, and thought I might be a good match.
You’re also the singer of Ex Libris, as well as a vocal coach. With Ex Libris having released the brilliant Medea earlier this year, and the equally amazing Sacrificium from Xandria being released next month you’re certainly a very busy lady. How will you manage being in both bands?
It’s all a matter of good planning and respect between all parties. Xandria and Ex Libris are very supportive of each other! They both know the blood, sweat and tears it takes to reach a certain level, the devotion it takes and hopes and dreams you have to stay focused on.
The first thing I did when Xandria asked me to be their front woman was call an ‘emergency band meeting’ with Ex Libris. There I explaned what was asked of me and if they would support me in this adventure. With their support I could very happy say ‘yes’.
Though both bands may be in the ‘Female Fronted Metal’ genre, they are very different from one another: composition wise, vocal wise, perform wise, etc. It it because of this that I feel that I can be the leading lady to both. In my opinion it wouldn’t be fair else wise.
How did you find playing songs from the Xandria back catalogue, and how does it compare to performing songs you’ve written yourself?
Oh I love singing the old Xandria songs, but only when they are in between the “Neverworld’s End” or “Sacrificium” songs in the set. The older songs have very smooth vocal lines that ease my voice, let my voice calm down after a heavy song or let it regain strength. The older songs are vocal wise (!) much more alike to popular music, the newer songs are more alike to classical music.
How has the reaction from Xandria fans been to your joining the band, especially taking over from a popular vocalist in Manuela Kraller?
I have nothing to complain about the way I have been received by Xandria’s fans and followers! There have been so many, many nice reactions that I feel very welcome. Of course there are also people that miss Manuela, that’s only fair. I too really like her voice on “Neverworld’s End” and was a bit sad when I found out she left the band. I hope she really finds her way with the musical path she has chosen.
Having joined a long established band in Xandria, is there anything you’ve learned from the new experience?
What I have familiarised with is the way Xandria works as a band. They are more experienced with touring then me and use these experiences to their knowledge. This excites me and I am very eager to learn more about it.
How involved were you in the writing of Sacrificium, was a lot of it already written, or did you get to start from scratch? And how does the writing process compare to that of Ex Libris?
When I joined the songs were already written. We were able to make some minor adjustments to the vocal lines though so that they match the colour of my voice better. Next to that I had to honour to write 2 lyrics for the album: ‘Little Red Relish’ and ‘Sweet Atonement’.
With Xandria all songs are written by Marco Heubaum. He has a clear vision of which direction Xandria needs to go, what the fans long from us and where our capabilities lie.
The way Ex Libris composes their songs couldn’t be more different. Our music is really a mixture of 5 musicians coming together, mixing their talent, skills and ideas and through that create music that is unique to us. It is often said that there is no other band that can be compared to Ex Libris and I think the secret to that is that our composition style.
Ex Libris have a large storytelling aspect to their music, how do the lyrical themes of Sacrificium compare?
I think the best comparison you could find is in the two lyrics I wrote: ‘Little Red Relish’ and ‘Sweet Atonement’. These lyrics are, like all Ex Libris lyrics, written from a first-person point of view which enables me to become the person in the lyric. Singing my own words will of course come more natural to me then singing those that are written by someone else, simply because they might not be your choice of words or vision. But that doesn’t mean that the lyrics written by Marco will not be interpreted to their full extend by me.
Betrayal from Sacrificium is a real gem of a track, and one of my favourites from the album, combining an incredibly heavy sound with powerful symphonic elements. As a part of your masters degree you wrote your thesis on the combination of the two styles of music. What is it you think that works so well about the fusion of the two styles of music?
I think classical music and metal music share a richness in many aspects of the art which makes them perfect to blend together. But classical music can also be blended with many other music genres. There is such an amazing history there we can all benefit and learn from.
Having studied classical music, do you have a favourite composer, or composition?
Though I do not have one favourite composer or composition, I can tell that I am mostly fond of the classical period between 1800 and 1900, where the romantic area and impressionism takes play.
I have to say that your voice is absolutely fantastic. Do you tend to draw influence more from classical music or from metal, and who would you say are your main vocal influences?
I have researched my own voice during my 7 years of study at the conservatory but also with the many singing lessons I had leading up to my studies. When I was younger I was a big fan of Whitney Houston and later on Tarja Turunen. Today I look back at these singers in admiration. To say they influence me would mean that I try to copy them and with that overrule all that I learned about my own capabilities.
Musicians tend to evolve their style and tastes over time, are there any artists that have come about recently that you’ve been really impressed by?
Well yes! The most recent musician/album I discovered was Kristoffer Gildenlöw and his album ‘Rust’ Kristoffer is, I think, mostly well-known from his work with ‘Pain of Salvation’ and shows a way different side of himself with this album but I promise you it is superb!
A lot of singers and bands in the symphonic metal style come from the Netherlands, including yourself. Is there something special about that scene which produces so many great artists?
Haha to be honest, I have thought about this myself but have not yet found an answer.
You’re coming to play two shows in the UK with the incredible Stream of Passion. Are they a band you’re looking forward to touring with?
Of course! Next to being good musicians they are also really nice people who I support and admire in what they stand for. I’ve visited their release show last Friday and was blown away by the energy they have on stage!
Sacrificium will be the first album you’ve performed on with Xandria. Are you excited to play the new songs on the tour?
We really look forward to start our “Sacrificium” tour this May! We will be performing both news and older songs. Fans may expect new songs, our hits from the ‘Neverworld’s End’ CD as well as some of the older songs with especially ‘Ravenheart’ that will have its 10th anniversary this May.
Having performed at last years Dames of Darkness festival in the UK with Ex Libris, you’ll be back this year to play with Xandria. How do you find performing to the English crowds?
I was totally overwhelmed last year! The first time Ex Libris crossed the channel was one big success and I cannot wait to revisit the festival with Xandria! Though we must keep in mind to bring enough merch with us, last year you guys totally cleared out Ex Libris’ merch booth!
Thanks again for the time Dianne, I’m looking forward to seeing Xandria in London. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’d say let’s start the countdown because it won’t take long anymore before Xandria will come to rock the island!
Xandria’s Sacrificium is released May 2nd. Find Xandria on facebook here, and listen to Dreamkeeper:
Ex Libris’ Medea was released January 18th. Find Ex Libris on facebook here, and listen to A Mother’s Lament.
Thanks to Andy Turner at Napalm Records for setting up the interview.