AINA - "Amanda Somerville, Aspiring Metal Bitch..."

January 20, 2004, 15 years ago

By Carl Begai

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It's easy to dismiss Aina - Days Of Rising Doom as just another attempt to cash in on the trend of mix-and-match metal productions. What gives this particular metal opera serious credibility, however, is that it was composed, arranged and in large part performed by producers Sascha Paeth, Miro, and Robert Hunecke-Rizzo, best known for molding and enhancing the sound of bands like Kamelot, Rhapsody, Angra, After Forever and Epica. Of course, every epic musical saga needs a brain, and in Aina's case the concept and lyrics were written by singer/songwriter Amanda Somerville, an admittedly non-metal Detroit native currently living in Wolfsburg, Germany. BW&BK; sat down with Somerville to discuss how she came to be involved with some of metal's finest to bring the tale of Aina to life.

"Well, it started with Sascha getting a call from (Transmission Records label boss) Hans van Vuuren saying he'd like to have a metal opera," says Somerville. "He didn't have a concept or any singers in mind, he just wanted something big. I knew Sascha through working with him and Miro on my own CDs and doing some vocal stuff with bands like Edguy and Epica, and he called me up and asked me if I'd be willing to write a concept and lyrics for a metal opera. I couldn't say no, because these kinds of opportunities only come around once in a lifetime. It was 18 months of hard work, a real challenge, but it was also a hell of a lot of fun."

Of course, she had to earn her metal stripes in the eyes of the man bankrolling the whole thing.

"Once I'd started writing the story I sent it to Hans for approval, and he thought it was great but he said that he and his wife could really tell that a woman had written it. I was like, 'What the fuck is that supposed to mean? You want metal, fine, I'll give you metal...' and I wrote 'The Siege Of Aina' with lyrics about 'ripping through the maidens' and other gory things (laughs). I was like, 'Ha! How's that for a girl?'"
"Because I wasn't into the metal thing, I really had no idea at all how Aina would sound in the end,"

Somerville adds. "As I wrote the lyrics I would email them to Robert and include a guide as to how I pictured the mood of the song, the movements of the music; dreamy and ethereal here, dark and foreboding there, and so on. So, I didn't really have a big hand in the music or choosing the singers - I left it open for the other guys - but I did some of the vocals and arranged the Trinity Boys Choir performances."

Writing the story for Aina, Somerville used other metal operas (she's not naming names) as a guide for what not to do in creating an epic musical tale. She admits her pet peeve was the excessive use of Latin to create an atmosphere, and thus decided to invent her own language to enhance Days Of Rising Doom.

"I guess using Latin gives the music an ethereal, mystical kind of feel, but I think it's so boring that everyone uses it, so I decided, fuck it, I'll make up my own language, something that's representative of the people I'm writing about. Sascha and Robert totally doubted that we'd be able to get the boys choir to pull it off because they (the producers) couldn't pronounce the Ainae language for jack shit (laughs). If you listen to the demos on the bonus CD, you can hear Robert mispronouncing everything. It was really funny because, typical man, he would never call me to ask questions if he wasn't sure about something. I heard the demos and I was like 'What is this? Why didn't you ask?' and he just answered, 'So?' The kids in the choir, though, they were great; they nailed it right from the start."

So, the questions remains: are you a metal fan now?

"Well, I'm really happy with the way the album turned out (laughs). I don't know if I'd say that I'm a metal fan now, but I think what was interesting about doing Aina was that we didn't come up with something typical of the metal genre. Having worked with Edguy, After Forever and Epica, I really like this kind of metal with the orchestral influences. I'm not a hardcore metal bitch (laughs); not yet, anyway."

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