Marianna Lukianova, lead singer and guitarist of the Russian band Vesssna, is this week’s first guest on Metal to the Bone. She shares her story in music, her personal preferences on a vocal level, the band’s debut album, her point of view on the term ‘female fronted metal‘ and many more.
Marianna, welcome to Metal to the Bone! Let’s start talking about the new video and single from Vesssna, what can you tell us about the song in terms of sound and lyrics?
As for the sound — I can pick two most exciting moments: the use of real flute, which gives somewhat of a folkish atmosphere, and also my classic rock solo, more in a style of «Guns’n’Roses» rather than gothic bands 🙂 In addition, I like our decision to use male back vocalist. Turned out to be a nice duo. Regarding lyrics — it’s full of narcissism. In this song, the female protagonist dreams of an aesthetically pleasing death while she is still young and beautiful (preferably at the same time with her beloved one). She dreams of being great, leaving a trace in people’s memories, so that hundreds would mourn her when she’s gone.
In the video, it’s more complicated than that. In it, the modern alchemist resurrects long gone, demigod queen from the grave in sands, which is worshiped by the strange creatures in masks.
About the band’s debut album, what can you tell us? What can you tell people who want to listen to the material for the first time?
I wanna say that there are no cliches that common for gothic-metal albums. Also, our sound more of a hard-rock with elements of prog and art-rock. I think, for a foreign listener the most unusual thing would be that it’s in Russian. But I think that my voice sounds much more powerful in my native language. I write all the lyrics myself, and it helps me to better pass my emotions than it would be done in English. I know that for some people, this adds some charm, but for many, the use of an unknown language can sound weird. I think you should focus on vocal melodies and music in general to get the overall tone of the album. Even if you don’t understand the words, maybe through music you’d get that atmosphere of solitude. Many songs on this album are about losses, breakups, and attempts to move on, to forgive and forget.
From the public who have already heard the album, what kind of responses or criticisms have you received about the debut?
Responses were different. One says: «voice is too loud»; the other: «voice is weak.» Someone said that our music is very complicated to grasp, then I read somewhere that «music is way too simple for that kind of voice.»
There’s a lot of gothic and dark aesthetic fans among our audience on social media, but at the same time, Russian site «gothic.ru» refused to publish the announcement, saying that «it is not related to gothic, that’s just ordinary metal with female vocal.» I don’t want to argue with anyone 🙂 I’m just glad that listeners liked the recording quality. Also, I saw a lot of reviews about people liking some folk elements in our music.
Let’s look at your journey through music, how did you get started in this industry? How did you get to know Metal music? Did you have academic training?
I began listening to heavy music with the most typical bands — Metallica, Iron Maiden, Russian heavy metal band Aria. I was eleven years old at the time. Later I moved to alternative and indie music, but when I started to take guitar lessons, around fourteen, I also started to communicate with heavy metal fans a lot. And my guitar teachers were giving me a lot of songs from classic rock and heavy, so I got back to the metal crowd :-). At seventeen, I seriously got into doom and gothic. All my first successful attempts at playing in bands and perform were related to doom metal. Around eighteen, I began to actively write music myself, more in a gothic style, and intended for male vocal. I created a band, that in 2005 was given the name «Fright Night,» which lasted quite long. I tried to find a female back vocalist because two voices are more interesting than just a male vocal, but we couldn’t get along with any of the girls, so other band members asked me to try to sing myself. That’s how I started to sing. I was nineteen at the moment and never got any vocal lessons before. After that, I began to take lessons on pop vocals, but that was very difficult for me. I studied for a couple of years, making very little progress until I finally made a decision to switch to academic vocals. To my surprise, it was easier for me to sing like that, although I had to relearn everything. Later I even got a bachelor’s degree in academic vocals.
From your creative process, how does this stage manifest itself in your life?
I teach guitar nowadays, and my love for metal music, obviously, influences the repertoire of my students 🙂 And of course, it affects my look. While for shootings I prefer more of a fantasy outfit, for daily life — something more rockish.
If you had to choose your favorite vocalists, who would they be and why?
Although I studied academic vocals, I like brutal and rough female voices. I love «Flowing Tears» very much, and both of their vocalists — Stefanie Duchêne and Helen Vogt. Also, I like «Madder Mortem» and their singer Agnete M. Kirkevaag. Out of more moderate and opera-like voices, I like «Katra.» Among male singers — Fernando Ribeiro of «Moonspell,» Torben Wendt of «Diorama,» Vincent Cavanagh of «Anathema.»
How is the Russian metal scene in terms of female participation in metal?
In Russia, it is a quite popular thing — a metal band with a female singer. Among instrumentalists girls are rare, but present. In general, bands with female vocalists play power, folk, or gothic metal. They probably make up the majority of the Russian metal scene. I think folk metal with female vocal is the most popular nowadays here.
‘Female Fronted Metal’ is a highly criticized metal label for its use, what do you think of the use of this concept?
I think some people get attracted simply by the name of the genre. Because it is pleasant not only to listen to music but also to look at beautiful singers on stage and in videos. And this is reasonable and fair. Thus this genre becomes more popular by default. On the other hand, because of that, many people think of female-fronted metal as pop. On top of that, more often than not, female singers do not write music nor lyrics themselves and are just beautiful covers to attract more listeners. There are far fewer collectives where girls are composers and songwriters. Of course, people think that women’s art is something superficial and shallow-minded, and it’s hard to fight those stereotypes.
Songs that you listen to a lot during this time of pandemic?
As I said, I like «Madder Mortem» and listened to their «Far From Home» many times. Also listened to «Evergrey» a lot, especially «Solitude Within.» Listened «Nera Nature — Precious Now.» Probably these songs were played the most.
It can be a very general question but I have to ask you (laughs), what is the best thing about listening and playing metal for you?
I like the energy of this music. And mostly it’s positive energy. Even if the band sings about death and despair. They’re doing it genuinely, gracefully, and musically. I like to think of myself as a metal guitarist and vocalist because I’m becoming a source of this energy for others. And this motivates me to get better.
What’s the next step with Vesssna?
As of right now, we have just started recording our next album. The writing is completely done, we just need to make all the ideas sound good in the studio. Also, I have some ideas for our next video — it will be a part three of the adventures of the «mythical creatures.» I would really want to perform more, including abroad, but right now, it’s all complicated. So we will focus on content creation.
And finally, something you want to share with the readers of Metal to the Bone?
Well, this is my first big interview for a foreign site, and I’m glad that this is a Latin-American site. I know that we have a lot of fans on Facebook from Latin America and that people there are interested in the Russian metal scene, even though we sing in a weird language and have a different culture, and after all, we’re on the other side of the world! It looks like the number of metalheads in Latin America is way more than anywhere in the world. And I’m so touched that my music also generates an interest there!
By: Jesús Córdoba