by Shane Lange:
The vampire mythology popularized by Bram Stoker over a hundred years ago has, until recently, given male characters the spotlight as both protagonists and villains. However as tastes change the vampire mythology also continues to evolve: from literature to film, and now from film to music. Australian metal act As Angels Bleed takes the vampire as its principal point of reference, and vocalist Avelina De Moray – who is both a musician and a talented visual artist – uses her lyrics and digital illustrations to realize an alternate interpretation of the mythology that could very well create a new vampiric icon. While preparing for today’s release of their self-titled debut album, De Moray took a break to discuss the album’s recording, her illustrative work, Florida, vampires, and zombies.
A lot of preparation has gone into the making of this album – how long did you work on it before taking it to Audio Hammer for mixing? Maybe a better question is, when did you decide the songs were ready?
That’s a great question. Von and I have always been under the opinion that songs are pieces of art, and, as art is never finished but merely abandoned, I guess you could say that’s what we did: Von and I had spent a solid year producing and reworking the songs, and we decided it was time to share these tracks with the world, and started to look for someone who could handle the illustrious task of mixing the 130+ track monster that was our debut album.
Describe your songwriting process – do you and Von (Lehman, guitarist and husband to De Moray) sit down together to write, or how does that work? [The band is rounded out by Jack Savage (bass), April Noele Byrnes (keyboards), and Frankie Macri (drums).]
Pretty much, we usually start with guitar, searching for a cool guitar riff or vocal melody which we then build upon, but we also like to have the lyrical concepts before we start writing a song. This definitely helps us decide what kind of tempo and vibe we might need to portray the musical story the lyrics are telling.
Usually, the strongest vocal melodies pop into my head from outta nowhere, usually so quickly that I have to grab my iphone and record the melody before I forget it. It really does feel like its being feed to me via some freaky alien portal from some higher musical creature……maybe an alien vampire. (lol)
Album Review for As Angels Bleed
The first few seconds of the Australian band’s debut self-titled album are all it takes for their hard-hitting vampiric metal to sink its teeth into the listener and possess one’s immortal soul. With truly mouth-watering production values, its subtle flourishes of symphonic drama, exotic Eastern influences, impassioned vocals, and top-notch songwriting nominate it as an early contender for debut of the year. Two years in the making, the material underwent continual refinement at the band’s home recording studio before mixing at Audio Hammer Studios in Florida (August Burns Red, Devildriver), and the effort shows – this is truly impressive work, dripping with enough bloody passion to make even Peter Steele blush. Highlights include opening track “Sinfully Yours”, the epic arrangements on “Lumiere”, and a solo en par with K.K. Downing on “Beautifully Decayed”. High energy, heavy chugging riffs, and superior songwriting make this one worthy of eternal replay.
You’ve been working with and recording these tracks in the studio over the past couple of years. Similarly, reworked versions of some previous paintings will appear within the pages of your limited edition version of the album (a leather bound art book) – so, do you use a similar process for your visual art as you do for songwriting, continually shaping each piece as a work in progress?
With my graphic art, I try not to rework things too much. Once I’m a the point where I’m happy to release an artwork, I’ve usually spent anywhere from 10 to 30 hours on the piece, I guess you could compare this to the time spent on the production and arrangement for our songs, only on a much simpler scale of course.
A part of the artwork that I find quite tedious is the mass amount of work that is needed to complete an artwork once the initial creative foundation has been visualized.
In a few hours, I will come up with the entire concept, roughly working the background, foreground, highlights and digital detail etc., which, for me, is the most fun and rewarding process. I’m so fluent with Photoshop I can think up anything and let the program and my Wacom tablet be my weapons of choice to express my creativity. Von often tells me that I move so quickly in Photoshop, it looks like I’m possessed by the devil when using it, I kinda like that.
I have been using the program for over 10 years now.
You’ve had some vocal training along the way, which included operatic techniques – what was that like? Did you enjoy it?
It was like opening a door into another universe of singing. I had no idea that a few operatic techniques and different warm-ups could change my voice so much. I definitely enjoy the new freedom I have, and look forward to adding my new vocal style in the songs that the band is currently writing for our second album.
Metal is one of the genres of music that is known for having a predominantly male fanbase – obviously there are female metal fans as well, and female metal musicians too (you’re not the only woman in the band, which is nice to see!) – but overall in the genre there is not yet an even split between genders – does that pose any challenges for women in the genre, whether for you specifically or for women collectively?
I don’t think so. When you’re good at what you do, nobody really cares whether you’re male or female, especially in metal. Metalheads like good music, and both men and women tear it up on the metal scene worldwide. Within Temptation and Nightwish, who are two of my favourite bands both have female singers, and if anyone has seen Within Temptations ‘Black Symphony’ DVD it is clear that they are one step away from world domination.
It’s refreshing to have a second female in the band; it gets me away from all the macho chest beating & testosterone fueled misogynistic competitiveness.
“What is not reflected in the song titles, or even the lyrics, is each song’s vampiric nature” – elsewhere you’ve noted that As Angels Bleed is a sort of soundscape or soundtrack to your visual work – what elements of the music give it a vampiric feel?
It’s definitely the mood that the music emits, I mean; the entire album sounds like it could be the soundtrack for the next Underworld movie. Songs like ‘I Drown’ & ‘Bloody Kisses’ have been produced with a lot of soundscaping and electronic elements similar to those that we we’re hearing in other gothic/vampire movies which have since inspired us.
It’s like, 6 months prior to the creation of our album, we were unknowingly taking in all the imagery and soundtracks from our favorite horror movies, and this, in turn, helped lead us down the path to creating and producing our album. We’re very proud of the fact that this album has been entirely self-produced.
I can’t exactly put my finger on what element makes this album have a vampiric feel, but quoting a line from one of my favorite Australian movies (The Castle) seems rather appropriate in summing this up “It’s just the vibe of the thing”.
Recording has been an ongoing process for the past year and more – going to Audio Hammer Studios in Florida for mixing must have felt like a real vacation! – You’re from Australia; was this first visit to the U.S.?
I was lucky enough to have traveled to the U.S with family when I was little, and have very fond memories of visiting theme parks like Disneyland, Knottsberry farm, Yosemite national park and Alcatraz Jail in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, almost ten years later, I really didn’t get to do much sight seeing second time round. Von and I had a fantastic day at Universal Studios in Orlando, and 4 days in Hollywood before the mixing of our album started in Sanford, Florida.
You looked pretty comfortable outside Audio Hammer, it’s a very quiet, rural setting – are you from a smaller town, or did you grow up in a city? Did you see any alligators around Audio Hammer?
It was hard to be anything but relaxed in that environment, I mean, you’re basically secluded and surrounded by nature, it’s really a very pretty location for a studio. We’d walk round to Jason Suecof’s studio in the evening and be chased by squirrels along the road that was completely engulfed by trees, making a kind of eerie tree canopy tunnel, which at night, was totally spooky and resembled something out of a Tim Burton film. The few times we were game enough to walk to Jason’ at night, I was sure any moment a horse drawn carriage would appear and whisk us off to Count Dracula’s castle. Alas, that did not happen, but the environment was defiantly conducive of such thoughts.
A little earlier that day, Von and I had wondered quite a bit away from the studio, hoping to enter the Black Bear sanctuary which had a trail we were told was cool. Anyway, it was closed the day we decided to check it out, and on the way home, this massive black creature was stalking us. No shit, it totally freaked us the fuck out. I even caught it on film. The animal was pretty far away but resembled a bear. It just stood in the middle of the road about 100 meters away, starring straight at us like prey. We bolted back to the studio and never went walkabouts again.
That night, Mark Lewis and Eyal Levi (mixers) told us that some Black Bears had had been sighted roaming the area. This explained why they would always drive between studios (even though they were a 2 minute walk apart)
The night walking soon stopped after that story.
P.S Didn’t see any alligators, I was rather disappointed. We saw some people that look like bears. No joke. Is that rude? Lol.
Not only does February mark Women in Horror Month, it’s also the month of Valentine’s Day. Generally speaking, do romance and horror complement each other well, or does that only work with vampire stories (i.e., we don’t see many zombie love stories)?
You’re right, I can’t recall any zombie love movies, though I might be wrong. I’d have to ask Oliver Fogwell from ‘Our Last Enemy’ who did guest vocals on our album that question, as he’s right into zombies like I’m into vampires.
I think horror and romance is a beautifully eclectic pairing which makes the idea of romance-based plots in movies bearable. Your normal ‘run of the mill’ romance movie is not my cup of tea, but throw in a bit of blood, immortality, fantasy, sensuality and a love story , and you have yourself a winner.
I’m of the opinion that vampire movies like Dracula and Underworld are love stories, presented in a creative, palatable way that’s a little left of field. That’s what makes them work. It’s a clever spin on the ‘traditional’ love story.
To answer your question, pairing romance with any sub genre is always going to work, as everybody wants to fall in bloody love. When you pair romance and vampires, you get exactly that, Bloody Love. It seems that Vampires and horror compliment each other especially well, as vampires are classically portrayed as beautiful, sexy, confident creatures, to which the audience can fall in love with themselves, and the leading lady can fall for in the movie. Who wants to fall in love with a zombie that has brains oozing out its ears and its skin torn off?
Don’t get me wrong, I like zombies too, but necrophilia is just not that sexy.
The one thing that ties all of your work together is vampires – how do you feel about all the zombie stuff out there lately (e.g. The Walking Dead TV series)?
I love that show, I’ve really gotten into all three series and enjoy the gruesome zombie makeup and special effects. HBO are airing such great shows these days! Can’t wait for the next installment of True Blood. I’m also a massive fan of the Resident Evil movies, Mila Jovovich makes me wanna kick some Zombie butt!
You’ve written that, “There are very few movies where the main vampire has been female, besides the recent Underworld trilogy, and a few movies from the 60’s and 70’s.”
– Except for Selene in the Underworld series of films, we haven’t seen a female vampire character really popularized yet (excepting, perhaps, Bella Swan of Twilight) – to date, no single female character has had the same level of appeal/exposure as, for instance, Rice’s Lestat character, or Stoker’s Dracula. Why do you think that is?
Is it that the females demographic are the ones into vampires, so the authors and movie directors cast the leading vampire role as a male? I’m not sure. But I do know that it was totally refreshing to see the Underworld movies have strong female vampires in both. Selene and Sonja make excellent on screen vampires.
You have tattoos yourself – did you ever consider becoming a tattooist?
Never. I think if I ever wanted to give it a try I’d be quite good at it. I’m kinda one of these people that’s very hands on and likes to learn things on their own, so it would be a good challenge for me, but life is short and precious, and I have my eyes set on the world’s stages and making more music with my band.
Obviously vampires inspire your creativity, through your art and your music – but you also have an impressive work ethic and a great mind for business – you’ve expanded your vampire imagery from prints to t-shirts, and from t-shirts to a range of clothing and accessories – so, who or what inspires you in the business sense? Do you enjoy the business side of your creative enterprise?
Haha, another great question. As soon as my business is large enough to employ a wide variety of staff so I can be relieved of the utterly boring, but essentially necessary daily tedious tasks that I am forced to endure, I AM ALL OVER THAT SHIT.
I can’t say someone specifically has inspired me from a business point of view, I just do what I need to do, and try to introduce my products and art to new interesting people, brands and stores to help expand my business.
I have been a little slow releasing new products over the last 6 months. I can definitely feel the transition of my Avelina business being pushed to the back a little whilst I unleash my band upon the world.
I forsee that new products might be limited to artworks being released onto canvases, or new t-shirt designs for As Angels Bleed.
I’m confident that even if my attention leaves my business whilst we take this new and exciting journey with As Angels Bleed, that new and old fans will still enjoy what I have created so far, and keep that endeavour alive.
What’s next? Tours, videos, art books, new projects, etc.?
The bands priority for early 2013 will be the video clip for our song Bloody Kisses, the release of our limited edition art book, which I will be getting back to right after I finish this interview, and of course lots and lots of shows.
2013 is set to be a very big year for AS ANGELS BLEED, and I encourage anyone that has a love for vampire, or who enjoys music from similar bands like Within Temptation, Lacuna Coil, Type O Negative, HIM and Nightwish to check out my band’s music. Your immortal soul will thank you.
Avelina De Moray’s art is also the inspiration for Eavan Derbyshire’s vampire makeup tutorial video, which accompanies DarkMedia’s interview with the talented makeup artist here.
This interview is part of DarkMedia’s official Women in Horror Recognition Month coverage! Stay tuned for more interviews, articles, and special features, right here on DarkMedia.com.