MÄRCHENBILDER - Putting Opera Back In Metal

June 17, 2013, 4 years ago

By Kelley Simms

rchenbilder feature

The Romantic period (1800-1850) lives and breathes in the music of French Canadians MÄRCHENBILDER. The female-fronted, symphonic metal band from Montréal blend heavy metal with opera and classical music with dramatic results. The band’s name, which translates to Fairy Tale Pictures (or Images Of Fairytales), is derived from the four-part symphony piece of the same name, written by German composer Robert Schumann.

The Canadian triumvirate Märchenbilder, consisting of vocalists/violinist Julie Bélanger Roy, drummer Yanic Bercier (ex-QUO VADIS) and guitarist/keyboardist James Slainmann, dedicate its full-length debut release, Flickering Truth, to the work of composer Richard Wagner and writer Robert Jordan.

Bélanger Roy, who started playing the violin at the age of eight and singing opera at the age of 19, is classically trained and has her Masters degree in viola and is currently getting her Masters in opera. Bercier has a PhD in physics. Märchenbilder’s sound is unique with an international presence; classic European flavor mixed with modern symphonic elements. It’s a peculiar yet intriguing combination, and somehow it works.

“We are classically trained and it’s been in our blood for years,” Bélanger Roy said. “We lean towards famous composers that compose for a lot of soundtracks, and older German composers like Schumann. For metal, I’m a big fan of EPICA and everyone in the band likes TARJA as well. We were trying to do something that is more who we are than just copying bands. We wanted something that was very personal. Yanic brings the metal influences because he had been playing in Quo Vadis for 15 years and he’s a session drummer for a bunch of bands as well. We really have different influences, it’s a big mix. You’ll hear some folk passages here and there, too. When we formed, the concept evolved like crazy. We decided that this was the blend we were looking for.”

The violin, viola and cello are nice touches that blend well with the metal “band” aspect. Some samples are used to create the rest of the orchestra and the guitars comfortably add texture and compliment the band’s dramatic symphonic elements.

“What we have is a mix for the orchestra. A cellist (Chris Gratton) recorded his parts and I recored all the violas and all the violins for the orchestra as if I were a section, basically. Then we have some samples because it’s hard to find all these musicians (for the orchestra) that would necessarily love metal. All the strings section is all real instruments and the samples are all mixed low so you really hear the body of the instruments.”

Bélanger Roy has some pretty powerful pipes. Her soprano style adds nice dynamics and drama. She also utilizes a more relaxed and melodic vocal style which compliments her opera voice, and at times, it almost sounds like two different singers.

“We didn’t want to be limited by just an opera sound, we wanted to explore whatever came out of the songs. I have a very different voice in opera than just more rock-oriented. I have more of a soprano but on the low side, almost contralto, so you can hear it a lot when I sing lower. Whichever style fits the song better is how I sing it.”

Märchenbilder’s eclectic sound is catching on, too. The band continues to gain momentum by playing local shows, but  there’s also some desire to play overseas.

“An album is like a business card,” Bélanger Roy concludes. “We’re looking to continue to do shows in the U.S. and Canada, but we also have a lot of enthusiasm coming from France, Netherlands and Germany. There’s a big scene for symphonic metal and we believe we have something that can make it there.”

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