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Eleanor - Interview, April 2013

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    Posted: 16 Apr 2013 at 12:25pm
Eleanor - masters of melancholyThe Japanese melancholic Gothic metal band Eleanor released their second album Breath Life into the Essence in March, and album which truly bridges the band's Japanese cultural background with the European metal music they grew up loving. Due to its massive melodicism, the album should have a broad appeal to fans of both melodic music and dark music. We had a chat with guitarist and songwriter Ippei J. Malmsteen and lead vocalist and lyricist Shiori Vitus who discuss the band's style of music, the lyrical concepts on the album, and the power of the guitar. In addition, they reveal why they chose to sing exclusively in Japanese on Breathe Life into the Essence and offer their view on why melancholia is so appealing in music. Fans of Gothic metal should definitely read this interview, and, if you are interested in the Japanese metal scene in general, then you should seize this opportunity to become acquainted with one of its finest members.

First of all, congratulations on the release of your brilliant second album Breathe Life into the Essence.

Ippei: Thanks a lot. Due to the effort of the band members, and support from our staff, guest players and many others, we were able to create a piece we are proud of. The album, we believe, turned out as one that doesn't have the weaknesses commonly seen in Japanese bands.

What can the metal-loving community expect from the album?

Ippei: We adopted a delicate artistic touch inside coarse metal, and a heavy tune with a sad melody that can be hummed. Listeners will be able to find uniqueness in this album, similar to the metal they listen to, and yet somehow different. This is due to the fact that although many members of Eleanor grew up while being strongly influenced by European metal, our identity remains Japanese, and we were always surrounded by a Japanese culture.

You describe your own music as Gothic metal. In which way, would you say, is the music on Breathe Life into the Essence Gothic?

Ippei: When thinking of words that would express Eleanor to people who have never heard of us, we called ourselves a melancholic Gothic metal band, because we thought it a simple way to appeal our existence. In spite of the fact that we call ourselves a Gothic metal band, it is difficult to say whether that is an accurate expression. We ourselves admit that we are slightly altered from the course of Gothic metal. However, the Gothic metal fans in Japan have still always given us warm support, and we perform regularly at an event in Tokyo called 'GOTHIC METAL GODDESS'. Moreover, Eleanor has been influenced by Gothic metal, and bands that have passed through the genre, or participate actively in the Gothic metal scene.

Ippei J. Malmsteen demonstrating the power of the guitarThe music on Breathe Life into the Essence is very melancholic. What is it about melancholic music that attracts you as musicians?

Shiori: 'A tune that echoes inside the heart' depends totally on the receptive, and senses of value are infinite. A pop melody line that is catchy and lyrics that are rich in meaning and hold a message make the receptive listener happy, gives him/her courage, and is therefore accepted by the majority, as music that is long loved by many.  Our music can be stated as positioned on the opposite side, like black and white. We believe that the darkness we hold inside, and depressive thoughts become the drive and essence of a work of art, and by creating music of that kind, we glimpse ourselves and are able to confront the grief in the world surrounding us. Therefore for us to be fascinated by melancholic sounds is a completely natural reaction.

Breathe Life into the Essence is a very guitar-driven album - especially compared to many other Gothic metal releases where the keyboards are very dominant. Is the focus on the guitar a conscious choice?

Ippei: We prefer the use of guitar to increase depth in sounds, because we believe that, that is what metal is, and find it most appealing. The reason is as simple as that. However, we do use the keyboard in some parts. Besides the keyboard, on this album we had a violinist perform as a guest. By constant use of the keyboard, solemnity does increase, but on the other hand, the metal element decreases. Moreover, many bands make use of this method, and we wanted to avoid doing the same.

Melody is another central component in your music. How important is melody to the type of metal music that Eleanor plays, and to metal in general?

Ippei: Constructing tunes by connecting melodies that best seep into the heart, and using sounds that move us, is how we create our music. Not only on the vocal lines, but on all the instrumental parts we think the melody is a very important factor, and among all this the vocal lines are the most vital. Even if the rhythm, guitar or any part of the instrumental parts is sliced away, the tracks will still maintain their form as a composition. That is the amount of weight Eleanor places on the melody lines. For instance, the riffs of the black metal band Dark Funeral that make use of tremolo, I find very melodious and appealing. The existence of a glistening and beautiful melody, almost but not completely buried inside the noise, is what we think to be the significance of melody inside the metal genre.

Shaori Vitus - the voice of EleanorShiori Vitus' singing is quite expressive. How important is her voice to the sound of Eleanor?

Ippei: The songs of Eleanor exist owing to her singing. Without her voice, and her presence, we could not make a statement concerning Eleanor, nor continue with our activities. Between the 1st album and the release of our latest one, the band went through a hiatus that lasted for a period of years. This interim was of her proposal. During this hiatus she certainly must have pressed herself, in order to improve her ability of expression.

Are there any specific tracks on the album that are particularly important to you, or which you are particularly proud of?

Ippei: For me personally, the track 'Mourning'. A track I wrote imagining the scene of myself looking down on my funeral. I expressed this image to Shiori, and requested her to write the lyrics. To create a melody that has feelings is an extremely difficult process, and always a challenge. This track was a success in that certain sense. One track that we think will be a candidate for favorites, is the track 'Fatal Movement', which we also made a PV out of. A certain individual kindly commented that it is a track in which "Blackmore's Night meets Iron Maiden".

The 'Fatal Movement' promo video - enjoy!

Eleanor's first full-length album A Circle of Lament was released in 2008. Is Breathe Life into the Essence different from the first album, and do you feel that you have developed as musicians and songwriters in the period of time between your first album and your second album?

Ippei: There have been advancements in recording techniques, and we have improved our sound production.
In the 1st album, almost all lyrics were done in English, whereas in our new one, all lyrics are written in Japanese. We take this positively, since no other bands are doing this. We always want to be an evolving presence. Many people have commented that we have improved drastically since our 1st, however we are not yet in a position to say ourselves that we have actually developed. In order to achieve such a stage, there still seems to be a long way to go.

What was the writing process like for Breathe Life into the Essence?

Ippei: It was a constant repetition of labor and joy. For many years I continued the process of concentrating solely on writing melodies. However, I could only wait for that certain moment where a phrase that strikes a string inside springs to mind, and not only wait passively, but constantly make efforts for that moment to arrive.

Is there an underlying concept behind the lyrics on the album?

Shiori: There is no consistent concept. However, we do not write message songs, nor straightforward love songs. If anything, we try to use abstract words to express things like instantaneous feelings, or scenery we have viewed. Almost all lyrics are based on personal feelings, and it is rare to write with a fiction or imaginary story in mind. However, 'Mourning' was an exception, with lyrics based on the image of a funeral procession. The lyrics were written therefore with the concept of staring down from the sky, watching the scene of my own corpse.

The lyrics are in Japanese. Is there any particular reason why you have chosen to sing in your native language rather than in English?

Shiori: For listeners outside of Japan, we thought it better to use English, and in our previous work lyrics were done in English. However, in English it is difficult to express the feelings included in the lyrics, and there was a sense of merely tracing the words. Therefore, in order to portray the mental image in mind, and sing more emotionally, lyrics in this album were all done in Japanese.

Are there any particular bands that serve as major sources of inspiration to Eleanor?

Ippei: Sentenced, Amorphis, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Anathema, The Gathering, Trouble, Novembre, Entwine, Negative, Katatonia, Dimmu Borgir, In Flames (early stages), Dark Tranquility, Emperor, Cathedral (early stages), Kreator... there are so many other bands that writing them all down is impossible!

Beathe Life into the EssenceMany of our readers are probably not familiar with Eleanor. Could you give us a brief outline of the history of the band?
Ippei: The band was formed in 2005, in the second biggest city in Japan, Osaka, by members of the pioneer of Gothic metal in Japan Norma Jeanne, and the hardcore/melodic death metal band Smash the Brain. In the year 2008, the debut album A Circle of Lament was released. After a certain period of hiatus, the line-up presently is Shiori Vitus on vocals, Ippei J. Malmsteen on guitars, Nao on guitars, Lupin on bass, Shark on drums, and Jet Rumi on backing vocals and chorus. Nao is also the guitarist in the dark core metal band Insense. Rumi is also the main vocalist in her other band. We began working on the album from the year 2012, and released it this year, 2013. On the album Koh from the folk/Viking metal type band Bellfast, also performed as a guest singer.

Where does the name Eleanor come from?

Ippei: We can list up several sources. For one the ring of the word in itself is pleasant, it is also used as a track title by the Beatles ("Eleanor Rigby"), and it is a name familiar around the world. Moreover, the fact that we are a band with female vocals. However, the greatest source of the name is a song title from The Gathering.

Are you planning on touring in support of the album? Any chance of experiencing Eleanor live outside Japan?

Ippei: We are planning to tour around the main cities of Japan. Besides Japan, we are negotiating to participate possibly in a festival upcoming in Europe. The music we play originates in Europe, and we have heard that from there it spread out throughout the world. We are interested to know what kind of reaction we will receive at the center of this genre of music, and try ourselves out there.

Where can Breathe Life into the Essence be purchased, and where can those who want to know more about Eleanor go for information?

Ippei: Please visit our website at The site is mostly in Japanese, but there is a page in English. There you can purchase the CD free of postage charge. With an 'obi' attached that collectors might like.

Once again, congratulations on a brilliant Gothic metal album, and thanks for doing this interview.

Ippei: Thank you very much for interviewing us.

Shiori: Thank you, whoever is reading this, for staying with us to the last of it.

Ippei: By being questioned with so many deep inquiries, it was a very good chance to relook into the mental interior. We would be very glad if this interview helps to become an opportunity to spark interest in the Japanese band, on the remote side of the metal world, Eleanor.

Edited by Time Signature - 06 May 2014 at 10:29am
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