Burden Of Life interview about The Vanity Syndrome
Congratulations for your wonderful new album The Vanity Syndrome!
My very first impression about the album was it’s a really brilliant concept album. It’s just like a movie which contains full of catchy melodies beyond my expectations. I felt the album broke the wall of Melodic Death Metal genre. How would you describe the latest Burden Of Life’s music style with the new album?
Kötty: First of all: thank you very much, we appreciate it! You are totally right with both your assumptions. „The Vanity Syndrome “ is indeed a concept album which tells a complete story from start to finish. And we ourselves neither consider it a pure „Melo-Death“ release. All in all we do not care too much about genres or categorizing music. It may make it easier for some listeners to find music you like but for me as a composer and for us as a band it is nothing but limiting. There are so many different ideas and styles intertwined within the album's music, as I am not only a fan of Heavy Metal music but a music enthusiast in general. My tastes range from acoustic to electric music and there are only a few genres which I absolutely cannot stand. And as far as I know all of our band members are open to many different styles of music. So I will not invent a new fancy genre to describe our music. After all it is Heavy Metal music spiced up with everything we think could fit our songs.
As I mentioned above, everybody can easy to find out The Vanity Syndrome as a huge concept album, and I feel like it’s a kind of “Inner struggling drama” which guide to the scary ending. Can you tell me the outline of the concept?
Kötty: You are right again! Beneath the main plot, which is a nice little love story gone bad with a few fantasy elements added into the mix, lies a very personal story about a man's inner struggle with himself and also his environment. The “obvious story” concerns a man who is unhappy with his love life as he feels he is nothing but being hurt again and again. So he decides to quit loving and caring for people. He achieves this with the help of a demon and soon he is as cold inside as he wished to be. After some time however he realizes how unfulfilling this way of life is and goes insane. He then tries to become a normal person again and asks the demon for help once more. Well I do not want to give anything away, but as you already said, the ending is not really a happy one. The “story between the lines” is something I don't want to give away for it is very personal and I think it ruins the opportunity to interpret the story any way you like. Everyone should find their own solution to this puzzle.
Why did you decide to make a concept album?
Kötty: It is something I always wanted to do because I think the idea of repeating certain melodies or lyrical fragments within different songs really tightens the album's flow. I am still a defender of albums as opposed to releasing single songs or this whole download craze that's going on, where people pick their two or three favorite songs from a record and delete or do not even listen to the rest. It might also stem from my love for movie soundtracks where character themes and repeated sections are a must to establish the protagonists, feelings etc. There also was a long story I wanted to tell and instead of cramming it all into one song and butchering it, I decided to make it a whole album.
The songs in the album are absolutely sync each other via the lyrics, dramatic effects and melodic links between the songs with some same refrains in the different tracks. Well, can you explain each of the songs one by one?
Kötty: Thanks again! Sure I can, but if it's ok with you I will concentrate on the music because examining the story as well would just take a little too long.
Vanity's Overture: This little introduction sets the mood for the album which, after all, is about an unjustified conflict between two people.
Delusive Egomania: In contrast to “Veracity” on our first album we decided to kick off the album with a classical fast-paced tune in the vein of “Your Ruin, My Relief”. This mostly works well I think and we did not want to scare people away with one of the more complicated songs which are to follow, especially in the album's second half. It's a good song to get comfortable with the album's overall sound and feel. It was also the last song finished for the album.
Cardiac Catharsis: The album's running order and concept called for another rather straight-forward song in this spot so I came up with two or three riffs which weren't too complicated or anything and just had this feel somewhere between uplifting and creepy. The way the vocals are sung in the chorus are a little different than usual to suit the story and the character here and the song's ending is one of our most “doom metal” moments ever.
Praise The Loss: This one is by far the oldest song on the album. We played it live as early as summer 2011 and for a long time it was our only indicator what was to come concerning musical ideas and conceptualization. Looking back it served us pretty well as a blueprint for our future musical adventures as it is by far more progressive than anything we did up to 2010's “In The Wake Of My Demise” EP. The songs outro also marks the first appearance of the “Heartchor”, a real-life choir which we used on a few of the album's songs, something I always dreamt of doing.
Dead Inside: This is the most thrashing song we did yet and also the shortest full song we ever recorded clocking in at a mere 3:12 min. Nevertheless it fits the album perfectly I think and it has some cool innovations like the first blastbeats we ever used and a cool “Slayer-Breakdown” in the middle of the song. The subtitle “The Severance Cantata Pt.I” indicates that this song and the next one belong together, because lyrics-wise they tell the same story through different eyes.
Our Union's Eulogy: Definitely one of my favorites! As you may have guessed this is a very special one as it features a guest vocalist (Jennifer Kothe, a wonderful singer from Berlin) and not one line sung by me. Musically it is a fairly simple “power ballad” type of song but features one of our best guitar solos ever (played by my Guitar bro Michael). As the Cantata's second part it features the female lead character's view as opposed to the guy's perspective in the first part. This experiment was a big success and it strengthened my will to try out new things again and again.
Dissolutio Vanitatis: This little interlude serves as an introduction to the album's second half as well as the following song. This is an a capella song which features only the “Heartchor” and lyrics in Latin which fit the baroque feel of the music perfectly I think. Again, an interesting experiment which turned out perfect.
Enslaved By Liberty: In the second half the album gets fairly more progressive and “Enslaved By Liberty” is only the first step. After the rather slow ballad and the floating interlude this swaying song gets the album back into motion again. Musically and Lyrically there are some parallels to “Praise The Loss”, as both songs deal with the protagonist's new-found coldness and how he feels about it at different stages of his life.
Beyond The Breaking Point: Without a doubt the most insane song we ever did. It may seem a little random after the first listen but I think after a few times you can really get into the song. It also contains a little jazz part in the middle with a real trumpet. We decided to do this relatively last minute during one of our last rehearsals before entering the studio. Apart from that we have some more female guest vocals, blastbeats, odd-time-meters, key changes, gunshots, marching drums and some really kickass riffs.
Rightful Salvation: Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, this is by far the longest song we ever did. It contains many references to some of the earlier songs and, obviously, it is also the story's climax. The song also contains a little bass solo, which I thought was a nice touch as many bass players are often overlooked in modern metal bands nowadays. Furthermore “Rightful Salvation” serves as the middle-piece of the album's final suite which also includes the songs before and after this one. We liked the idea of connecting these songs to form a grand finale and thought it would really fit a concept album.
Vanity's Crown: The epic, massive closing track. I mostly like it when the last song of an album gives you something to think about and has a melancholic touch to it and I think “Vanity's Crown” does a good job at that. Not only with its lyrics but already with the music itself. The second half of the song's guitar solo is a medley composed of all the other song's main melodies while the accompanying lyrics summarize the album's events which was a nice touch to wrap up the whole story.
I hope this gives you a little insight into the song's workings. For more information you can also check the album's accompanying booklet which features more detailed liner notes to all of the songs.
I remember you told me in my previous interview that you’d keep using clean vocals in the future. So, was it natural for you that there are more clean vocals in The Vanity Syndrome than past releases?
Kötty: Yes it absolutely was! After we got a great response for the clean vocals on “Breathing The Soil” I felt reassured to keep on using them. I am more comfortable with my singing voice than I was a few years ago and I also felt that using different vocal styles adds much more depth to the music. It gives me more artistic freedom to express myself and get different emotions across to people and it would feel limiting to only growl and scream all the time. Apart from that I am a huge fan of good singing so I also wanted to take a shot at it.
Basically, I get bored for long-length songs but I really like Rightful Salvation in the album with much dramatic processions. Why did you make such an extra-long song?
Kötty: Thank you very much! Well, when we started to think about the idea of a concept album I immediately though that it should have a huge epic longtrack as the story's climax because then you can really dive into the storytelling aspect of a song, have many different sections, many different riffs; a real rollercoaster ride so to say. Still it was quite a challenge to keep this song coherent and we went through a lot of drafts before we settled on the final version. Listening back to it now I am really happy with the way it turned out. Maybe next time there'll be an even longer one? Or only 4-minute-pop-metal songs? Who knows … ;)
Who did make the awesome cover art?
Kötty: A young and very talented artist from our home country Germany called Jennifer Wüstling is responsible for this amazing and stunning piece of art. She also designed the artwork for “Executing Empires”, the latest album from our buddies “The Last Hangmen”. When they presented their album cover I showed it to the rest of the guys and said: “We found her! Let's ask this girl if she can draw us something equally amazing!” So we did exactly that and it turned out to be a really smart decision. We told her roughly what we wanted to be in the picture and she turned it into this great painting. Visit her homepage (https://www.izaskun.de/) for a lot more cool stuff! (I am a huge fan of the flying turtle picture!)
Did you sign with the record label for the album lately right? Did you feel your situation/environment change with it?
Kötty: Yes we signed with Firefield Records for this album. Up until now the album's only been out for less than 4 weeks so it is hard to say how big the effect of a label backing us really is or will be. Also we are still waiting for reviews and opinions regarding the album so we will see what comes up next. However we are very excited to finally be working with a record label. It took us a long time to get there but now never having given up pays off.
Can you tell me your upcoming activities this year? Are there a lot of concerts coming up?
Kötty: Well compared to our past years as a band there already have been a lot of shows this spring which was really awesome. We have also a few other really cool things planned but it is a little too early to spread the news so stay tuned and check our home- or facebookpage from time to time.
I can tell you there’s Burden Of Life fans in Japan as well :) So, Please give some message to them.
Kötty: Hey to all of you Burden Of Life enthusiasts way over there in Japan! Thank you very much for listening to our music, we appreciate it! If it is ever possible we would love to come to Japan and play some shows there. So let's hope for the best and keep on rocking! All the best Japan! And special thanks goes to you Kumi for your endless support and sacrifice for us and all the other bands! You ROCK!
Check the brilliant song Delusive Egomania from The Vanity Syndrome!!!