Xandria is best known for their famous video for the track, "Ravenheart", off their second album of the same name, released in 2004. The video and song are considered to be a classic of the female lead metal genre. After listening to their new album Neverworld's End and hearing Manuela Kraller sing, I thought it would be great to get a female perspective from the new vocalist of Xandria. I was lucky enough to find her as willing to help tell the story of Neverworld's End!
SoT (Mark Johnson): Welcome to the Sea of Tranquility, Manuela! We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule promoting your new album Neverworld's End and rehearsing for your tour, to take some time out to answer some questions for your fans here.
Manuela: Thank YOU! Itīs a pleasure.
SoT - Xandria has been on the metal scene since just before the turn of the century. They have had a few female lead singer changes, but have maintained excellent progression as they have evolved. How did Manuela find the opportunity to join the band?
Manuela: Xandria have been searching worldwide for a new singer since February 2010. I decided to apply in autumn 2010. They had many good applications, but in the end they chose me for their new singer and I am veeeery happy about their decision. ;) I had to come to an audition, we had rehearsals and the boys asked me many questions, because they wanted to make sure, that this time the singer will stay in the band. ;) And I will, for sure, because this is the music I always wanted to do!
SoT - What hints or advice would you give to aspiring singers wishing to join a band like Xandria in the future?
Manuela: It is hard to give a good advice, because I think what made me the singer of Haggard and Xandria was next to my voice, much luck. Of course I trained my voice a lot since Iīve begun singing that was also important for having the possibility to join these bands. But sometimes you have to be in the right place with the right people and faith gives you a hint. ;) My advice for young singers would be: You should exactly know what you want, never give up, train your voice, get in contact with people, who have already reached what you wanna reach and ask them to support you. Sometimes it is good to ask for help, you donīt have to do everything on your own. I always thought I have to do so, but in the end it was a good friend of mine who twice encouraged me to apply for Haggard and Xandria. I donīt know where I would be now without him. Perhaps Iīd work as a teacher and dream of a singing career instead of living it.
SoT - Tell us about your background as a singer in church and gospel choirs, along with your creative work with Nagor Mar (now "Forty Shades") and Haggard, and then describe what you hope to achieve with, Xandria.
Manuela: I began singing in a choir in Finland and when I came back home I started singing in a local gospel choir ("Sprightly Soul Singers"). The first time I was there I had to sing in front of a singing teacher,(opera singer), and she immediately gave me solo parts to sing. I was a bit surprised, but solo singing felt very natural for me from the beginning. It was fun. :) A few months later this teacher became my singing teacher. She taught me classical singing and after a short time I had already sang solo in church. I love to sing in churches, īcause the acoustics there are amazing! From time to time I still sing in gospel choirs, even if I have not much time for this. Gospel means something very special to me, because it reminds me where my origins are, where I learned singing and where I met amazing people. We shared this wonderful music and a wonderful time and I am very thankful for that.
In January 2008 I joined my band from Switzerland "Nagor Mar", (now called "Forty Shades"), and shortly after I became a member of Haggard. Haggard offered a totally new world for me, especially on tour, which was a completely new experience for me. I felt that this was the right way for me and if possible I wanted to do something like this all my life. I got to know many great people within the band and also outside and visited countries where I have never been. It was incredible! I still think a lot on these times and when I do so it puts a smile on my face.
At the end of 2010 I joined Xandria and here I finally feel like home. This is what I wanna do musically, every single day. :) I have a few wishes concerning Xandria: like Gerit one of my wishes is to have a gold record on my wall;) Another aim is to play once at the Wacken mainstage at night with thousands of people listening to Xandriaīs music. And to do a world tour, that would be amazing!! But I think all of these dreams are possible, I am very optimistic. ;) And not to forget: making people happy with the music we make, thatīs the most important thing of all!!
SoT - What is your favorite song, your favorite vocalist and artist of all time?
Manuela: There are soooo many, but I select 2 songs that I have listened to more than to any others:
1.) Nightwish: Ghost Love Score
2.) Evanescence: Bring Me to Life.
My favorite artists are Tarja Turunen and Amy Lee, surprise (laughs)
SoT - Great choices! Hope to someday interview both of those fantastic singers. Can you describe your hometown and region, Bayerisch, Gmain, Germany.
Manuela: Nature, silence, mountains, cows (laughs)
SoT - Napalm Records is one of the best metal record companies in the world. What has been your experience working with the label, so far?
Manuela: Everything is well with them; they are supporting us in a really good way, perfect for us!
SoT - Ok, let's talk about Neverworld's End. Describe the feeling of singing your first bars of your first Xandria song.
Manuela: I consider "Ravenheart" to be the first Xandria song I ever sang, because it was the song for the first concert with Xandria at the "Classic Meets Pop". When I performed this song for the first time on stage it was a great feeling! The first Xandria of "Neverworldīs End" was "Valentine". I loved this song from the very beginning because it is so powerful and it fits perfectly with my voice.
SoT - How much did you participate in the lyrical composition and song development of Neverworld's End?
Manuela: Most of the material already was written when I joined the band, so there was not so much left for me. Of course I had to sing in the demo versions and I talked a lot with Marco about song structures, vocal lines and lyrics. I added my own lyrics to the song "A Thousand Letters" and together with Marco for "Call of the Wind". For the next album Iīll have more possibilities to add in my own creativity and I am really looking forward to this, because to express myself through music is one big reason for me to make music.
SoT - Which is your favorite song to sing on Neverworld's End?
Manuela: Thatīs very difficult to say, because I really love every single song on this album. Every song has its special atmosphere that I love to sing out.
SoT - A Prophecy of World's to Fall, is an incredibly strong opener. I think you read what I wrote about your singing, so how do you control the delivery of your vocals so precisely?
Manuela: I like Prophecy a lot! To sing precisely it is necessary that you have a good vocal technique and that you know how your voice reacts in low as well as in middle or high notes passages. I think there is still a lot to learn for me in singing, but "Neverworldīs End" came out pretty well and I am satisfied with the result.
SoT - In Valentine, released on Valentine's Day, you do an awesome job in the video, (which was released with the single). How much fun was making the video?
Manuela: It was fun, but at the same time it was damn cold. ;) It was my first video shoot so I was pretty excited. But in the end all went well and we are all happy with the outcome.
SoT - Forevermore delivers the softer side of your vocal. How much fun was that, after the two power openers?
Manuela: Perhaps it doesnīt sound like that, but it is a difficult song to sing, not because of high notes, but because of the big difference between verses and refrain. The verses have to be sung very, very, soft and the refrain has to be very powerful. So this was not easy, but it became one of my favorite songs on the album.
SoT - Euphoria is another album highlight because it includes some of your best singing. What is your favorite part of the song?
Manuela: The refrain, I love the melody and the staccato choir and the soft part after it.
SoT - Blood on my Hands includes some great operatic vocals. Was it as fun to sing as it is to listen to?
Manuela: Yes, it was. In the studio we made a lot of fun while I was singing this song, because the refrain is such a great hymn and Marco and Corni also sang to it just for fun.
SoT - Soulcrusher really brought out your dark side. How much fun was it to bring that song to life...on stage? The way the song seems to end only to roar into a crushing monster of an ending full of massive vocals and crushing drums and guitars. That had to be fun to sing to.
Manuela: We havenīt performed this song live yet, but I am looking forward to doing so.
SoT - The Dream is Still Alive is another one of my favorite tracks. In my review I wrote, "That sigh you give sounds like you sang the album from beginning to end". In reality, the drama surrounding this song probably provided more inspiration. It sounds like some difficult notes and momentum to maintain?
Manuela: Thank you for that compliment, if it sounds like this than I did a good job. Itīs an important song for us, because it was not easy to go on for Xandria without a singer for a long time and now that I am with them we can say "The dream can go on".
SoT - The Lost Elysion deals with ancient folklore. What are some of your favorite stories? Did they inspire you to sing this or any other track on the album?
Manuela: I donīt have favorite folklore story. Lost Elysion is about the paradise we have as a child and that we lose the more we grow older.
SoT - The Call of the Wind is another absolutely brilliant track. How did you prepare to reach the heights you did on that song?
Manuela: Reaching high notes is not very difficult for me, because I am a high soprano. But before studio sessions I trained with an opera singer who showed me how to get the high notes more easily.
SoT - A Thousand Letters was inspired by your grandparent's story. Do you wish to tell the full story? Do you sing backup or are there supporting singers?
Manuela: In this song I have done all background on my own. The story is about my grandparents and about the love they shared. It is about the time when my grandfather had to leave his home for the war. It is about the 2nd World War and how the love of my grandmother gave my grandfather strength to finally return home. This song is a very emotional and personal one for me and it helped to get through sadness when my grandparents died. Somehow I have the feeling they live on in this song...
SoT - Cursed is another excellent Celtic inspired melody. I agree that the track takes on a pirate like feel. What do you think about when you're singing a song like this?
Manuela: Yes, pirates is the right word, because we always have the "Pirates of the Caribbean"-feeling when we play/sing this song.
SoT - The Nomad's Crown, the album closer, is one of the best closers I've heard so far this year. Knowing that India is your favorite Xandria song, this must have been a lot of fun to help bring back that Eastern influence.
Manuela: Yes, it was and I especially love the Ah-choir and the staccato choir in the end!!
SoT - Can you tell us about your future tour plans for the Neverworld's End tour?
Manuela: At the end of March and in April weīll go on tour with Epica and Stream of Passion and I am really looking forward to it! I canīt wait to perform the songs live and to see many fans on tour!
SoT - Say hi to Marcela and the Stream of Passion guys for me. I am a fan, and have interviewed her a couple of times. Is there anything else you would like to add that I did not cover in the interview?
Manuela: I hope we can come to the US soon and perform the songs for YOU!! Would be awesome! And I hope people in the US will love our album as much as we do. Kisses to the US people!
SoT-Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us. We at the Sea of Tranquility wish you and Xandria much success with the launch of Neverworld's End and all that you do in the future. We fans will be watching your star rise!