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Serenity

Een paar weken gleden bracht de Oostenrijkse symfonische metal band Serenity hun vijfde studio-plaat ‘Codex Atlanticus’ uit, een concept-album over het leven van Leonardo Da Vinci. Daar het alweer een behoorlijke tijd geleden was dat we met Serenity-mastermind Georg Neuhauser hadden gesproken en daar ook ‘Codex Atlanticus’ een zeer goed album bleek te zijn, werd er contact gezocht met het Serenity-kamp om een en ander toe te lichten met betrekking tot de nieuwe plaat. Georg Neuhauser bleek om een of andere reden niet beschikbaar te zijn en dus werd bassist Fabio D’Amore degene die onze vragen van een passend antwoord mocht voorzien…

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder prog / sympho metal

Hi Fabio, the last time Lords Of Metal spoke with Serenity was for the 2008 release ‘Fallen Sanctuary’, so we have a bit of catching up to do! What did the ‘Fallen Sanctuary’ release and its successors ‘Death And Legacy’ (2011) and ‘War Of Ages’ (2013) do for the band both from an artistic as well as a commercial perspective?
Hey there! Yeah, it's been a long time! We for sure got the chance to release two great albums in the market and tour really much during 2011 to 2015, four years where we could travel the whole European continent and where we also touched the U.S.A. in 2012! Very intensive years, that lead Serenity's music to new fans, new frontiers and increased our fan-base! Artistically speaking, we refined, defined and developed our sound to a more “bombastic” sensation, but consolidating our trademark pretty strongly.

In 2012 founder Mario Hirzinger decided to leave the band. What were his reasons for doing so and how were you able to fill the gap that he left behind?
Mario had the idea to leave this business for some years, and then he made his decision, although we always knew it would have happened. He felt our musical direction wasn't the one he was initially aiming for and he also preferred to step out of touring. But we for sure split up in a friendly way, and we were also glad to have him writing some lyrics for both ‘War of Ages’ and the upcoming ‘Codex Atlanticus’! He's still part of the Serenity family! Franz-Josef Hauser is the fill-in keyboardist, he has been touring with us since the very first times Mario wasn't able to tour. Whenever we get the chance to have him on tour, we're pleased to have him on board!

In that same year the French female vocalist Clementine Delauney joined Serenity. What was the idea behind adding a female vocalist to the band and what was the reason that Clementine was selected for the job?
We had her touring with us since 2011 after we had a collaboration with Lisa Middelhauve and we needed someone else for the following ‘Out of the Dark’ tour, later the same year. We had a great time together and we started talking about the new album in 2012, I think we were in the U.SA, and some interviewers were already asking if she would have permanently joined the band. I guess our choice came spontaneously and both parts wanted to give it a try…

It was kind of surprising for me to hear that Clementine has left again and that she wasn’t replaced. Why did she leave the band and don’t you feel the need anymore to incorporate female vocals into Serenity’s sound?
It was just the end of an era, a period of time where both parties decided to stop. We simply turned the page and we went back to our roots, and be a male-fronted band, with some female guest vocals in the future, as we've always been doing!

Also your solo guitarist Tom Buchberger left the band in 2014 and was replaced by Chris Hermsdörfer. What was the reason Tom left and how did you get Chris in the band? What is the musical background of Chris?
Tom has also had some difficulties to tour, since 2011, and Chris stepped in and filled-in the job that time already, when he was still a member of Visions of Atlantis. We felt really good on stage and personally that every time Tom wasn't able to make it, we always called him. So our choice was pretty natural once Tom told us he didn't want to continue with the project, for personal problems and to stay closer to his family. Chris has a very special and different musical background than Tom, but this didn't change anything into our sound, in a negative way. I guess we made another step ahead, as an evolution.

Now finally the fifth Serenity album ‘Codex Atlanticus’ is brought to market. When did you start with the actual preparations for this album and how did the song writing process look like this time?
Yes, ‘Codex Atlanticus’ is released since January 29th, through Napalm Records and we are all really excited about that! We didn't have much time left due to our touring activities, and we had to work as a real team, spread in three different countries and in different studios. The “vector” of all our material was Jan Vacik, our producer at Dreamsound Studios in Munich, who was in charge to collect our ideas, develop his own ones and re-arrange everything that was coming his way. Then we added the great job of Lukas Knoebl from Graz, Austria, who arranged our newest orchestras, and then we had the final result in our hands!

What was the game plan that you had in mind when starting to work on ‘Codex Atlanticus’ as predecessor ‘War Of Ages’ raised the quality bar quite high? Did this put any extra pressure on you during the song writing process?
Nope, no extra pressure I think. The most important thing was to deliver a new, fresh and powerful Serenity album, trying to bring as much freshness as possible and trying to increase our actual potential, both as musicians and as vocalists. We went to a slightly different direction than with ‘War Of Ages’, where Clementine was also an important factor and we moved to a more solid and guitar-based work, yet really melodic and epic at some point. We can be really satisfied of what we've accomplished with the new album!

Have you re-used any old material that was still in the vaults or did you start from scratch for this new album
As far as I remember, all songs were brand new and worked from the very beginning for ‘Codex Atlanticus’.

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The name ‘Codex Atlanticus’ suggests a concept story and if I’m not mistaken the lyrical story is about Leonardo Da Vinci and conspiracy theories. Is the album a true concept album and if so, can you elaborate about the story told?
Yes, exactly! This album is based on the historical character of Leonardo Da Vinci. But it is not a real concept album, in the “progressive” way of its term, and there's no real musical connection between the songs, nor a time-line link between the lyrics. We built up a sort of diary of his life, and we talked about his feelings and sensations during completely different periods of his existence.

Is the album artwork in any way connected to the lyrical content of the album and if so, in what way? Who was responsible for the great cover artwork?
Yes for sure!!! We tried to insert all the elements we have been writing about in the lyrics. You'll also find some of these elements in our upcoming videoclips too! Gyula Havancsák at Hjules Design And Illustrations took care of our brand new artwork, and as you said, the outcome looks great!

Musically the album shows a lot of variety and a strong focus on great melodies and bombastic elements. Was this an intentional move to support the album story of did this happen quite naturally during the song writing process?
I think it came definitely in a natural way. There's for sure a combination of the theme behind and the music, and I think this is a really good result. It is not forced or adapted.

Although you no longer have a female vocalist in the band, you use guest musicians like Amanda Somerville to name just one to fill that gap. Why do you still use female vocals in your music as you don’t have somebody in the band who can perform those on stage?
We actually have Tasha on stage with us since years, and also in our latest tours, she has mostly been with us, singing all the female parts.

How did you get teamed up with Amanda Somerville and Natascha Koch for the female vocal parts and how do you feel about the actual end result?
We've already worked with Amanda back in 2010, during the recordings of ‘Death And Legacy’, where she sang on ‘Changing Fate’. We immediately thought of her as a “special guest” on the album as Tasha is part of the family since years and took care of choirs on ‘Iniquity’ and sang on ‘Sail’, one of her songs we included as bonus tracks. The results, in both cases, were outstanding!!!

At first the song ‘Iniquity’ was released as a lyric video, which seems to be quite common nowadays. Do you believe in the concept of lyric videos and what was the reason to choose for ‘Iniquity’?
We had the idea in cooperation with Napalm Records, and as you said, lyric videos are nowadays pretty common, and we thought ‘Iniquity’ could have been a perfect “appetizer” before the release of ‘Follow Me’ as first single and first videoclip. The feedback has been great so far!

Just a few days ago a “real” video was released for the song ‘Follow Me’. Why is a video clip still important for a metal band and why the choice for this song for the video?
The importance is to see the band in its own “environment” and to bring the people to what the album atmosphere is. I think this is the main reason, as well as an obvious promotion.

Who was responsible for the creation of the video and what do you want to express with it?
We built up the video and storyboard with two young and talented guys, Ralf Leitner and Laurin Gausch, who took care of the shooting. We wanted to present the album and give our fans and listeners the right context and way to approach and enter a journey into ‘Codex Atlanticus’, giving all the elements of Leonardo's life and beginning of his “issues” caused by his studies.

What are the biggest differences and/or improvements when comparing this new album with ‘War Of Ages’?
I think it is not correct to compare the two albums, but I'll still talk about evolution and move forward to different territories, but still remaining Serenity! I guess the main difference is on the concentration on our original male-oriented vocals, as well as having also Fabio on lead vocals on two songs, being ‘Sprouts Of Terror’ and ‘Spirit in the Flesh’.

What are in your opinion Serenity’s best moments on ‘Codex Atlanticus’ and why?
Honestly, I wouldn't be able to pick up just a few moments!! The album is strong from the beginning to the end!

Have you written and/or recorded more material than the tracks that are to be found on the CD? If so, which ones and what is going to happen with them?
We tried to insert all material we had, and some tracks became bonus, as in different editions and different markets/territories, like Japan.

You will be doing a co-headlining tour with Xandria the coming period. How do you feel about the fit Xandria – Serenity and why a co-headlining tour?
It is not the first time we play shows together and I think the package is strong!! We always noticed the fans like this show! Both bands have more or less the same CV, experience and fan-base in the scene, and I find it perfect as double-headlining tour.

What other plans to you have for the next six to twelve months?
Touring as much as possible and hoping ‘Codex Atlanticus’ will blow everyone's minds ;)

Serenity has been steadily growing in the scene during the last couple of years, but what ambition level do you have with the band? When will your mission be accomplished?
If we would ever feel accomplished we wouldn't be real musicians, nor professionals. We will have to grow and grow till the end of days! Ambition is what keeps us alive, together with very modest and ground-earthed behaviors. Compromise is everything.

Fabio, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there any topic that we didn’t cover and that you would like to share with our readers?
I think we touched pretty much everything! Thanks a lot for giving us this chance! See you on the road!!

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