The Austrian symphonic power metal band Visions Of Atlantis have had wholesale lineup changes, with drummer Thomas Caser the lone remaining member from their last studio album, 2013’s Ethera. Vocalist Siegfried Samer has been in the band for a few years now, with he and fellow singer Clementine Delauney making their VOA debut on the 2016 EP Old Routes – New Waters. Samer fills us in on some even newer band members, their new album, touring, his all-time favorite power metal bands and other topics.
Chad Bowar: How did your newest members Herbert Glos and Christian Douscha come to join the band?
Siegfried Samer: Herbert is also the bass player for my other band Dragony, and we both know Christian from the Vienna metal scene, where he plays in Lolita Komplex, a J-rock/metal inspired band. When we were in need of live musicians for several shows in the past years as our previous members couldn’t make all the shows due to professional and personal commitments, I contacted them and they first joined as live session musicians, and now as new permanent band members.
What led to the nearly five year gap between full-length studio albums?
The original plan that our band leader and founding member Thomas Caser (drums) had in mind was that with the new lineup announced in 2013, Visions of Atlantis should go “back to the roots” to the style the band played on its early albums, notably Cast Away and Trinity. Therefore, fellow founding members Werner Fiedler on guitars, Mike Koren on bass and Chris Kamper on keyboards were brought back in. That “vintage” lineup were to also compose the new album.
We tried for a while, however over time it became clear that with their commitments in their day jobs and also with their families, it would be too difficult to manage the songwriting and touring life with a band like Visions of Atlantis, which is why in the end our live session members came into the band as full-time members now. For the songwriting of the album we ended up working very closely with our producer Frank Pitters, who was responsible for most of the musical arrangements of the new album, while Clémentine and I worked on the lyrics and vocals.
Describe the songwriting process for The Deep & The Dark.
As already indicated, the musical aspect was handled mostly by Frank, and Clemi and I took care of the lyrical and vocal aspects. It was a quite cool process, as Clemi came up with most of the ideas and themes behind the lyrics, and we subsequently worked them out together. We also invested a lot of time in the pre-production in the studio with Frank, determining which vocal lines would work best for both Clemi and myself, and so we ended up with a record that I feel plays to both our strengths, and especially enables Clémentine to showcase her impressive range and talent.
You and Clementine were both part of 2016’s Old Routes – New Waters EP. Did that experience make the recording of the album smoother?
Absolutely. Even though for the EP we only recorded previously existing material – which is always a challenge in and of itself, as fans will be familiar and will always love the original versions – it gave us a good idea of how our voices would work together, and also how we would harmonize when working on a project together. But the recording process went great, and it definitely got even better when working on the new, all-original album The Deep & The Dark!
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
I would say working on the lyrics with Clemi, as we both put a lot of time into this, to both convey the messages we want to transport and also put them into a fitting lyrical costume, if you will. And of course the recording of my vocals was also quite interesting, as it’s the first time for me where I was not the main focus vocally, but took on more of a supporting role in many aspects. But that is quite cool, and vocally for me actually more challenging as it is more important to stick to your lines, and there is not much wiggle room for vocal “excursions.” (laughs)
Is there a lyrical theme or thread?
Not a particular singular theme, but each song deals with either personal experiences or general observations of today’s world, and some of the problems we are facing. However, with a band like Visions of Atlantis, it’s also still a lot about escapism from that real world, so we still tried to clothe all these messages into lyrical corsets that still evoke a sense of mystery, exploration and the unknown, and leave some room for personal interpretation through every listener.
With so many new members, how has the band’s sound evolved from Ethera?
It’s definitely an evolution forward and somehow backwards at the same time. The main plan musically was to go back to the roots of the band, which means to employ a lot more classical type of vocals as were used by Nicole and Melissa on the early albums, while at the same time packaging that approach with a contemporary sound. Visions of Atlantis celebrated its first successes at a time when genre greats like Nightwish and Epica had their big breakthroughs, so those bands’ early works are a definite inspiration for The Deep & The Dark. Ultimately, the album ended up being maybe a bit less focused on those purely classical type of vocals, but instead on a very broad mix of vocal approaches from Clemi that showcase how versatile of a singer she really is. That’s something she hasn’t been able to show that impressively in her previous projects, so I think that’s a real big plus of this album.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
We absolutely want to reach out to the fans of the early days of Visions of Atlantis, and our hope is that we can not only capture them again, but also gain a whole bunch of new fans with the new album. Obviously, we would like to top the reception that the previous albums received, and to make this a very strong comeback for Visions of Atlantis. I know every band always has to say this, but I really think these are some of the best tracks that Visions of Atlantis ever recorded, and it will be worth it to check out the whole album!
You did a video for “Return To Lemuria.” How important are videos these days?
I would say very much so! Back in the heyday of MTV, only the really big bands were able to afford video productions (but well, back then they also actually COULD afford it!), but meanwhile, just like music production, also videos have become more available to a broader spectrum of bands. And nowadays, as YouTube is one of the primary sources for people to discover new music, and a myriad of bands is vying for the audience’s attention, it’s particularly important for a band to stand out not only sound-wise, but also visually. Of course, even today it’s hard and costly for bands to put out videos, but even lyric videos like we did for “Return to Lemuria” are much more appealing to audiences than just, say, a still image of the cover artwork with the song on YouTube. Obviously, a full live-action video clip is even better, and we will release one very soon for the official “The Deep & The Dark” single!
You have some European tour dates coming up. Any plans for a North American tour?
North America would be awesome. Visions of Atlantis played a tour there many years ago, supporting Epica, and we did 70,000 Tons of Metal two years ago, but it’s always hard for European bands to tour the States, as this type of music is not that popular stateside, and it’s difficult to get big enough crowds to come to the shows to finance the costly overseas touring. But maybe we get lucky, and we are put together on a package with some other great European bands, and it works out for a few dates in the US!
With so much material, how do you put together a setlist, and does it change from show to show?
We’ve not really changed up our setlist much over the past years; up until now we’ve of course been exclusively playing old stuff, focusing on the first three albums actually (with only one song from Delta in the set), to already get the audience in gear for the “return to the roots” that was planned ever since Clementine and I joined the band in 2013. Now for this upcoming tour, we will of course focus a lot on the new material. We’ve been exclusively playing Visions of Atlantis covers now long enough! (laughs)
How do you approach singing the older songs that you didn’t originally record?
Obviously we feel more comfortable with the new material now, as this suits both our voices much better than the previous songs, as Clémentine’s natural range is strongest in a little bit lower register than full-out soprano, and my voice is considerably cleaner and higher than Mario Plank’s more rough and modern metal approach. So the old material sounds quite different with us on vocals, which is to be expected, and might even alienate some fans.
So far, the feedback has been very positive however, and especially Clemi’s fantastic take on “Winternight”, the ballad from Cast Away, for which she also recorded a video with renowned director Patric Ullaeus, received some great reception from the fans, and it’s also been a favorite at our live shows. But I think the new material will work even better for us, and should give the fans finally a real impression of what this new lineup of Visions of Atlantis is all about.
Your other band Dragony released an EP last year. Are there plans to record a full-length?
Yes, actually we are in the middle of pre-production of the new album, with about half of the songs already done! We also did a quite successful crowdfunding campaign for the album, which should help us greatly in the production, especially when it comes to nice-to-haves like full-on orchestration and video clips. The new songs are some of the strongest we’ve ever written, and I can already say that it will be a more than worthy successor to Shadowplay. Expect the new album to be out around September this year!
Who are your all-time top 5 favorite power metal bands?
1. Avantasia, 2. Virgin Steele, 3. Hammerfall 4. Ayreon, 5. Kamelot.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
The beast bands: Battle Beast and Beast in Black! Definitely love that retro ’80s sound mixed with very straightforward pop-metal songs!
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I hope that a lot of people will go out and get the new Visions of Atlantis album The Deep & The Dark, and I also hope that many fans will turn out on the upcoming European tour together with Serenity, as part of the “Symphonic Metal Nights” tour! And I also hope we can make it back to the US really soon, hopefully playing Prog Power USA some day, or return to 70,000 Tons of Metal once more, which is always a blast! Thank you for the interview and we hope you enjoy The Deep & The Dark!
(interview published February 15, 2018)