There’s only one week left until the release of “A Whole New World”, the new album from Bulgarian symphonic metal band Metalwings. For this occasion, we asked Metalwings’ founder, vocalist, viola and piano player Stela Atanasova some questions regarding the album, Bulgaria, her musical background and more.
MG: Stela, thanks for speaking to us! First of all, congratulations on your new album “A Whole New Land”! What are your feelings now that the release date – June 11 – is so close?
Stela: First of all, thank you very much for this interview. It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to talk to you.
As for the release of our new album – I already want it to be June 11th. I can’t wait for the album to come out and hear the opinion of our fans. I also hope that with this album we will gain many new loyal fans and followers. Of course, the tension is huge – less than a week left and a lot needs to be done. Thank God with the help of our press promoter Mike de Coene, I know that the press promotion is in safe hands and our album will get the attention it deserves.
MG: You combine classical elements with operatic vocals, which may sound pretty old school, but the album sounds really fresh, with a lot of powerful, dramatic and dynamic moments. How did you manage to achieve this sound? What was your goal with “A Whole New Land” soundwise?
Stela: Thank you very much for your positive opinion. This means a lot to me. It is true that combining classics with opera vocals already sounds old school, but when you do it with passion and are not afraid to use different elements or experiment, you will always sound different and fresh. There is a huge potential in this style of music and I am happy to be part of the world of symphonic metal.
In my personal opinion, all artists and bands must strive for constant development and change. We must constantly provoke ourselves to do what we are afraid of and never stop looking for new techniques and means of expression in order to make as real and beautiful music as possible.
The sound we achieved with our new album is not accidental – from the very beginning, when we started discussing the new album, I gathered the guys and told them what my vision was for it. I wanted everything to sound more complex. I wanted heavier guitars and drums, as well as much more epic orchestral tracks. Then I decided that in order to present our songs in the best possible way, we should mix and master them with already proven names. That’s why I chose Jens Bogren. I didn’t just want to release another album – I wanted to release one of the best albums of recent years, which will be listened to for years to come. And I am convinced that we succeeded. We are very pleased with the sound we achieved, thanks to Jens, and that our album sounds amazing as a whole concept in musical and dramatic terms. But of course, the best indicator of that is our fans, so I can’t wait to hear their feeling and opinion about our album.
MG: On the cover art of the album, we can see some animals and a little girl in some kind of post-apocalyptic world. What’s the meaning behind the art?
Stela: The idea is taken from a very old, black and white photo I have from my mother. Many years ago she received the photo from a Bulgarian prophet named Vlaycho. The back of the photo says that when all the animals live in peace, there will be no boundaries in the world. I decided that the symbolism and the idea behind this photo very accurately visualized our idea for the album “A Whole New Land”. With this album, we have taken a big step forward in our development and we have a great desire to present to the world a radically different concept in music.
After so many years of commercialization and digitalization that have honestly crushed real artists, we want to show the world that there is always sun after rain. Always after the apocalypse, comes salvation and insight. We bring change and we are not afraid to be what we are – a band of dreamers with a single thought in our hearts – to make the music we love and with it to give people real pleasure and enjoyment. Let the metal music come to life again and return the passion and will to live in people’s souls.
MG: The closing track on the album „Milo Moe Libe“ is in your mother tongue Bulgarian. I don’t speak your language but the song has a sort of tragic romantic vibe to me. What’s the meaning behind the lyrics?
Stela: The truth is that even though you don’t know our language, you managed to feel the energy of the song, thanks to the music. The lyrics tell the story of the Bulgarian soul, of our people. With this song, I want to make my people, as well as all the nations of the world, feel how fragile life is and that everything is in our own hands. The important thing is to believe that we can handle everything when we think and act together. It is no coincidence that I chose the solo instrument in the song to be a kaval – a very typical wind instrument for our region. The kaval part was played by a very talented kaval player – Georgi Dobrev. The kaval carries the soul of the Bulgarians and our lands, where there is both a lot of sadness and a lot of joy. My dear love (Milo Moe Libe) is not a beloved ones, but Bulgaria itself. I would like to see Bulgaria revived and exalted. We used to be a great nation. It is time to be reborn. That’s why this song means a lot to me and you have felt sort of tragic vibes.
MG: There’s also a song in Bulgarian on your debut album „For All Beyond”. Was it intentional or just a natural result of songwriting to have this one song with “exotic” lyrics for your international fans on each album?
Stela: In fact, the songs come to me on their own. I never start composing tendentiously. It’s just that the main theme sounds in my head and I understand that this song will be in Bulgarian. I was personally surprised by the positive reaction of our foreign fans to our previous Bulgarian song – Tujni Serza (Sad Hearts). It turned out that our foreign fans like our language very much and I knew that sooner or later I would write a song in Bulgarian again. But in this song, I really wanted to use the sound of the kaval, because it literally cries in the song and brings you that melancholy feeling that we Bulgarians carry. We rejoice, but always with a hidden sadness. I will be very happy for this song to touch both our Bulgarian and foreign fans again.
MG: Just like with your previous music videos, I really like the video for the first single „Monster In The Mirror“, the setting and attention to details… Can you tell me a little bit more about the shooting?
Stela: I’m so glad you liked the video. It was a truly epic production during pandemic times. But despite the difficulties, we actually managed to do something really good, for which I want to thank the whole team behind creating this video. The most beautiful moment was when we shot in one of the few preserved palaces in Bulgaria – the Euxinograde Palace. It was very difficult to get permission to shoot there because it is an object of national importance. Thanks to the fact that they liked our music, they allowed us to shoot in the palace. For the first time we are shooting with a professional actor who played the role of the monster – Krassimir Mitov. Maya Borisova painted two of the pictures for the video, as well as played the female role in the video. The post production was very difficult, but as I said, everything was worth the effort, because we showed the class once again and did not compromise with anything. And this, in my opinion, should be the goal of every artist – to do the best it is capable of and to present it in the best possible way.
MG: Do you plan to drop more videos for this album?
Stela: I hope we have the opportunity to do so.
MG: You’re not only the vocalist but also play the viola and piano for the band. Tell me a little bit more about your musical background. What came first? Singing or playing instruments?
Stela: Regarding my music background – I graduated from music school with viola and opera singing, after which I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer and electronic music. In fact, first it was playing the viola and piano, and then came my passion for singing. I always knew that one day I would sing and compose. I just let things sort themselves out when the time came. But the moment I created Metalwings, I realized that I was born and called to do that and I haven’t stopped for a second since it all started 10 years ago.
MG: How often and for how long do you practice? What takes the most time?
Stela: To stay in shape as a musician, you have to practice every day. Both, playing and singing. Sometimes I can’t do it every day because I work during the day, but I try to do it every time I have some free time. Separately, we play with the band at least twice a week. In general, it takes me the most time to compose and record the individual orchestral tracks, because I usually give the song to the guys when absolutely everything, such as lyrics, music, orchestral tracks is ready and then they start making arrangements for their own instruments.
MG: Last year, you celebrated 10 years on the scene. As a founder and composer for the band, can you remember the time you wrote or recorded the first Metalwings song?
Stela: Yes, I remember. The very first song I composed for the band was “A Wish”, but in its original version. Later, I changed it a lot and now it sounds radically different, but it was definitely the song for which I composed the first chords for Metalwings.
MG: Where do you see the band in another 10 years? Do you hope to be still performing and releasing new music?
Stela: I constantly see the band succeeded, playing on big stages and touring the world. This dream of mine is slightly delayed in time, because for an independent band like ours it is very difficult to break through on its own – not to say that it is almost impossible. But we do not stop dreaming and in the meantime we fight and work constantly for our dreams. Because the dreams do not come alone, on the wings of a white dove – they come with a lot of work, faith and passion. So, I see my band in 10 years right where it should be and certainly, creating and releasing new and new albums, because that’s actually our goal – to make music. To be uncompromising, not to sell for fame or popularity. Let’s stay true to ourselves and our fans. Everything else will happen when it should and in the best way for us.
MG: Thank you so much for your time, Stela. I wish you all the best for the album release.
Stela: Thank you very much for this heartfelt interview.