From the very first moment I’ve heard about Ignea’s upcoming album “The Realms Of Fire And Death”, I knew I had to talk to their vocalist Helle and learn even more about the whole thing. Besides the fact I had high expectations from this Ukrainian oriental/modern metal quintet music-wise, I was completely mesmerized by the album concept and overly excited to find out more about the way Helle grasped the theme of fire and death and brought it to life through her lyrics. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, find the details on “The Realms Of Fire And Death” here, and get the album when it drops on April 17 (it’s truly amazing!). And, of course, read my talk with Helle below.
MG: Helle, you’re about to drop a new album “The Realms Of Fire And Death” on April 17. As many bands are postponing album releases, did this current situation caused by coronavirus pandemic affect or threaten the album release in any way?
Helle: We know that many bands postponed the release of their new albums because of the coronavirus outbreak and all the consequences it causes. It’s the choice of the bands and their labels and we totally respect it.
However, “The Realms of Fire and Death” will be out on April 17, as planned. Even though we might get not enough traction for it, as if it could be during better times, we will still do it. Simply because we know that our listeners have been waiting for new music from IGNEA for so long. We cannot bring them down!
We also received lots of pre-orders and are endlessly grateful to our supporters. The only thing that is currently threatened by the pandemic is touring. But we hope that it changes in the upcoming months, cause we already have European tour dates booked and cannot wait to hit the road again.
MG: “The Realms Of Fire And Death” truly comes as a full package with a cool concept and accompanying tales. I wouldn’t even call it an album but art. Sometimes you listen to an album and you’re done with it after the first listen. But this one is different. All those little details, connections, figures and symbols… Was this the hardest material to create for you, considering how much work and time you must have invested in it?
Helle: Thank you! I think that “hardest” is a wrong word. But, compared to our previous music, we definitely nurtured this one most. It’s a very well-thought piece, from lyrics to the sounds and music. It’s our first concept album, the first album where all the visual side (artwork, merch, logo, videos etc.) correlates with music. The first album to which we took time to prepare and polish demos before entering the studio.
Even though it took us lots of time and efforts, it’s the best music we’ve created so far. And we cannot wait to share it with everyone!
MG: I see more and more bands choosing the path of concept albums these days. What do you think is so fascinating about them and speaks to artists that much? Is it perhaps the fact that you need to offer more these days to satisfy and captivate listeners?
Helle: I can tell that perhaps concept albums are easier to present and promote, so it can be a reason why the bands tend to do it nowadays.
But what I loved most about doing the concept album is that you create a world and you’re surfing it while writing music, words… It’s more than just putting together songs that are not connected to each other. My day job is also related to texts and I’ve been writing as long as I remember myself. So, story-telling is something that captivates me and the listeners as well.
MG: You’ve worked on the album for three years and dropped the opening track „Queen Dies“ in 2018. Was this the song that started the whole new chapter for Ignea?
Helle: Our music is written by Evgeny, our keyboardist. He’s constantly working on something new, and even now, he’s already created 1/3 of the next album. So, “The Realms of Fire and Death” has been in the works for 3 years, indeed. We released “Queen Dies” earlier in 2018 because we were about to hit the road with Butches Babies and Kobra and the Lotus, and we needed something fresh to release. Initially, “Queen Dies” was supposed to be a part of a small 3-piece concept EP. But then we thought that it would be better to come up with a full-length album.
But yeah, “Queen Dies” marks the new chapter for sure! It’s also the first track on the album.
MG: The album contains three parts that come together through the theme and various perspectives on fire and death. I appreciate how different yet intertwined each part/tale is. What was the creating process of these three tales like? Which one was the most fun to work on?
Helle: It all came out naturally, at the stage of writing lyrics for the songs. I cannot remember the point when I figured which concept I’d like to stick to, but the entire process was very interesting. Sometimes I was dreaming of certain things, some parts came to me when I was taking a shower or reading a book or something. You cannot predict that!
My favourite part was the last one — about how gods of fire gave people the sacred flame and people disappointed them by using it to kill each other and, I especially loved the idea of substituting fire with electricity.
Overall, it was a challenge for me to write about fire and death and yet not in a direct, usual way, you know.
MG: For the first time, you decided to record a song in your mother tongue. Lyric wise, what’s more challenging for you? Writing lyrics in English or Ukrainian?
Helle: Actually, we’ve been performing “Чорне Полум’я” live together with “Queen Dies” since 2018. So if someone was at our shows back then, they’ve heard it. Initially, this song was in Ukrainian. The idea of the title, language choice, and music belongs to Evgeny. I came out with the rest. I also chose very archaic Ukrainian words that people no more use these days, and it added some power to it, I believe.
MG: So the Ukrainian version came first.
Helle: The Ukrainian version was the first one and we added the English one already at the album production stage. Because I was singing it in Ukrainian for a long time, it was very strange to make an English version, and the demo was very bad… But when I entered the studio, it just flew from my mouth so naturally. It has a totally different vibe but I loved it a lot.
MG: Speaking of “Чорне Полум’я“, I was really excited to hear the song and I was not disappointed. It sounds really amazing. Any chance of doing more songs in Ukrainian in the future? Perhaps even a full album or EP? I, personally, would love that as this is probably my favourite piece on the album.
Helle: I think that we’ll stick to English as our primary language but we’ll definitely create more songs in Ukrainian, because sometimes you listen to the instrumentals and you just hear Ukrainian there, you know. Also, we were very pleasantly surprised that lots of our listeners are particularly waiting for this song and we’re very flattered that they want to hear IGNEA music in our mother tongue.
MG: Musicwise, the album features some new elements. You more and more lean on the side of modern metal rather than traditional oriental/symphonic metal. I must say that I really enjoyed this shift towards electronic sounds. It gets you on a whole new level. How do you look at this progress? Was this necessary for Ignea’s evolution or just a little experiment from your side?
Helle: It was always hard to describe our genre even for us… For example, the previous album was more oriental and symphonic but if you listen to our first EP “Sputnik”, it has lots of electronic elements. Modern sound is something we’ve always had, so it’s also nothing new. Also, we cannot tell that the next record will be in the same direction. I think, by this album, everybody understands that we experiment a lot, and we definitely won’t stop. But we wish that our experiments are organic, authentic, and evolving for IGNEA.
MG: The album also features Eivør cover, “Í Tokuni“. Was the lyrical part and mastering Faroese challenging for you? If I’m not wrong, you’re learning Norwegian at the moment. Have you also taken a closer look at Faroese as a whole or studied just for the cover purposes?
Helle: Yes, I’m learning Norwegian indeed, and it actually didn’t help, even made it worse 😀 Because lots of words are similar in written form but they’re pronounced absolutely differently, so I had to force myself to get away from Norwegian. But I enjoyed singing it so much, it’s almost like a mantra for me. And there’s also some kind of throat extreme vocals which I’ve never done before and it came out naturally for me from the first take. It’s like I’ve always done that.
I discovered Eivør last year and I was listening to this song on the loudspeakers, Evgeny was nearby. I thought, this song is nordic but has a bit of oriental vibe so it would be cool to cover it. And, suddenly, Evgeny suggests to do a cover! So, it was destiny. We wrote to Eivør to get a permission, and this is how it came out.
MG: You call to various gods and goddesses associated with fire on “Gods Of Fire”. Among all, you mention Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, Japanese goddess Fuji, Norwegian god Logi as well as Slavic god Svarog. How deep are you interested in all these mythological waters? What branch of mythology are you fond of the most?
Helle: I’ve been interested in mythology since the very childhood. But I cannot call myself an expert. For me, it’s more about the vibe and different worlds, not about science or history. In my belief, each person has its god/gods, just like each country has a president or monarchy. I cannot explain that, but so far, this is how I see it. If I could, I would include much more gods in the song but it would be too long!
MG: Besides music, you’re also a writer. You’ve published a book of poems and often share your creations with your supporters on Patreon. For me, this truly goes hand in hand with your music and gives this added value to Ignea. When did you discover your love for writing? What inspires you the most?
Helle: Words were always easy for me to put together. I started reading and writing at a very early age, and, for some reason, it’s always been easier for me to write rhymed pieces, poems, or lyrics. The book of short tales accompanying this album is actually the first fiction prose I’ve ever written. And I loved it so much that I’m trying to write something else at the moment. I’m even watching some courses at Coursera and Masterclass.com now that we’re all in quarantine.
I’d say that whatever I’m trying to do — write music, paint, do some hand-made stuff, I’m just best with words. And maybe I should really master it more and more. As for inspiration, I get inspired most by travelling and seeing new places, new people. So, I’m really hoping that pandemic ends soon and I’ll be able to travel again.
MG: Last one; the next music video will be for “Jinnslammer” and it should be out this month. Are you once again working with Maria Goruleva? I honestly hope so. You make a great team.
Helle: Yes, we’re working with Maria again because she’s extraordinary and we cannot even imagine working with anyone else. The shooting was in November and the video is still in production. Most likely, it’ll be released at the end of April or start of May, after the album release. This song is about revolution and the shooting was happening at a historic location in Kyiv, with old Soviet mosaics and stuff. I can’t wait to share it! But “Jinnslammer” will also be out as a single first on April 10 on streaming platforms, so make sure to check it out!