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InterviewsDol Ammad - A new Sound, A New Genre

Posted on Wednesday, June 22 2005 @ 00:17:14 CDT by Duncan Glenday
Progressive Metal Dol Ammad'new record Star Tales lies at the intersection of symphonic metal, classical and electronica. It's an unusual sound, and with the rich keyboards and the big choir on every track, there's a pomp and grandiose vibe to it that recalls the ambitious soundscapes of Rhapsody and Therion.

Dol Ammad's Thanasis Lightbridge spent time with Sea Of tranquility's Duncan Glenday discussing the new record.

Read on, and Click here to see our review of Star tales

Duncan Glenday – Sea Of Tranquility: Are you familiar with the Sea Of Tranquility webzine?

Thanasis Lightbridge – Dol Ammad: Yes of course! Sea of Tranquility is in my list of respected webzines and I was actually asking from my label to send a promo to you some months ago!

SoT : I'm thrilled to hear that! Thanassis, for those readers not yet familiar with Dol Ammad – can you give us a brief overview of the band?

TL : Dol Ammad is an exciting new team of people producing unique music combining elements from many musical genres but mainly tries a cooperation between the electronic, the metal and the operatic worlds. We released a demo CD in 2002 and now with the inclusion of drummer Alex Holzwarth in the project we've released our debut album Star Tales through Black Lotus Records.

SoT : Where does the name "Dol Ammad" come from?

TL : It comes from the computer game "Descent 3" but actually means "Castle of Columns". It is a combination of a Tolkien and a Palestinian word.

SoT : Star Tales is a very ambitious album, with huge soundscapes and - of course – the choir that I thought defined the music. Who are the band's main musical influences? And yours?

TL : Yes, you are true the album is very ambitious and needs a lot of time to grow into you. Many things are revealed if you allow Star Tales to evolve inside you. Of course the choir and the plethora of synthesizers and sounds define the music. I write all the music in Dol Ammad and my musical influences are mainly from the electronic and the metal world with musicians and bands like Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Orbital, Future Sound of London, Ozric Tentacles, Symphony X, Angra, Dream Theater, Bal Sagoth, Emperor ... and really many more. I'm bulimic when it comes to music and I listen to any good music regardless of genre!

SoT : There's no lead vocalist in Dol Ammad - at least, not in the traditional sense. Was that deliberate? And do you think that's something you might change in the future?

TL : It was indeed deliberate and it's something that I enjoy a lot since there is now so much more space for the music and for the magical sounds of the choir. The choir will always be the main "singer" in Dol Ammad. However, there may be some lead vocals in a song in the future in the sense of maybe a guest appearance and only if it would be necessary for the song.

Dol Ammad's 12-part classical choir
Comprising members of one of Greece's best youth choirs

SoT : Isn't the choir a very expensive luxury? I hate to insert a business-type question into a discussion about art - but do you feel it's cost-justified?

TL : We mainly work as a team of friends and not as a team of hired musicians. There are huge costs in Dol Ammad in general since I maintain a personal studio where we do all the recordings and rehearsals and since I also have all the expenses of the band.

SoT : You guys are just starting out - what methods are you using to get your message and your music out there?

TL : We're using both the traditional methods through our record label's promotion and the more modern internet method of promoting your music. We have a full track and lots of samples in our website and try to reach many people around the world. I really believe that the music should do all the talking and promotion for itself and I like to believe that especially in this field of music the "word of mouth" is still working perfectly and since we offer something fresh and original in such an art-filled package we may attract some adventurous music seekers. However I may be too naïve with all this downloading-mania going on in the world today!

SoT : How have the band's sales been in the USA vs. other parts of the world, and where are you the most popular?

TL : I'll have the first sale figures by the end of the month and I'm still not aware of the actual numbers of the CD-sales. But I'm told that USA together with Holland, France and Japan show the biggest interest in Dol Ammad so far.

SoT : Sounds like you have good coverage! Speaking of promotion - you're generally marketed as a "metal" band. I hear some metal in your music, but as I inferred in my review, there are also other sounds – and in fact perhaps not really that much metal. None of us like labels, but as a writer I have to tell people - in words - how your music sounds. So which shelves would you prefer to see your CD stacked on in the record shops?

TL : I think that since the rhythmic base of the music is heavy metal with fast drums and rhythmic guitars and since we are signed up with metal label and we feature a well known metal drummer it should be placed in the metal department! However you are very true and the music is very unorthodox to the metal principles and it has much more things inside it than just heavy metal music. I think our self-created label "Electronica Art Metal", which is now permanently next to our logo, is the best way to quickly describe the music and to intrigue a potential listener of what he might find inside Star Tales and Dol Ammad.

SoT : When I wrote my review of your CD, the first two comparisons that came to my mind were Rhapsody and Therion – to some extent,that was obviously because of the choir. And when I read other peoples' reviews, they drew the same comparisons. What other bands do you compare yourselves with?

TL : A reviewer once said that Dol Ammad are Vangelis on steroids! [Laughs] I think that was the best way to describe it! Well if I had to compare us with some bands I would combine Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis with Bal Sagoth and Nightwish and a little of Ozric Tentacles and Orbital.

SoT : And speaking of Rhapsody – and I'm sure you get asked this question all the time – did the inclusion of Alex Holtzwarth impact the style of your music at all? Or was it perhaps the inherent similarity of your music to Rhapsody's style that helped you attract him?

TL : You know it's funny, I like Alex's drumming a lot more in Sieges Even, yet we managed to have him play the drums like he does in Rhapsody! It was logical however, since the Dol Ammad music is powerful and epic and since also we didn't have enough time to explore his powers more. He was given a lot of freedom however to play his own way through Star Tales

SoT : How well known is Dol Ammad in Greece? Are you guys making a big impact at home?

TL : I wouldn't say that we make a big impact but all the major metal media showed their positive support in Dol Ammad. Unfortunately most of the general music and other media here in Greece waste their time and money with tasteless local singers who sing rubbish fake-greek-traditional-fake-pop music in local clubs where people go to show off their cars and cell phones and get drunk while they spent all their hard-earned money throwing flowers (previously used in funeral services!) to these "artists" or breaking plates on stage! [Laughs] So pathetic!

SoT : What keeps you busy from day to day, and how do you spend a typical day when away from Dol Ammad?

TL : Most of the day I try and like to be involved with music and I am locked inside my studio. Apart from Dol Ammad I am preparing two more music projects that in some way will be interconnected with Dol Ammad and which I am sure will surprise the Dol Ammad fans! However since I have to raise money for all these activities, I also have to work as a survey engineer. Let's hope that I can someday make it just with music! Apart from that I rarely go out and I can say that my personal life is non-existent! I mainly watch lots of movies or try to find some time for a video-game or two.

SoT : Are all (or any) of the members of Dol Ammad fulltime musicians?

TL : Most of them have to do something else in addition to their music activities since there is so little money in that field. I think our bassist tries to make it just with DJ-ing in clubs and also in playing to 2 more local rock bands who give some shows here and there. There are some individuals in the choir who also strive to make it just by working as soloists in the Opera of Thessaloniki, my home town. But in general, as I mentioned earlier, the cultural state of Greece is severely degraded and there is tiny support given to worthy art-events and individuals.

SoT : Besides your own record - what would you say were the best albums of the past year or so?

TL : I enjoyed the latest albums from Ayreon, Kaipa, Threshold, Nile, Karl Sanders, Therion, Rhapsody, Nightwish, Meshuggah and also, from the more electronic, the new works of Lemon Jelly, Laurent Garnier, Four Tet. There is a lot of good music going on today. All you have to do is keep your mind free and don't follow any self-proclaimed-music-messiahs!

SoT : There's obviously a very heavy dependence on keyboards in your music. Tell us about the gear you use, and what setups you used to create the various effects.

TL : I love synthesizers! It is one of man's greatest inventions and it is a constantly evolving and upgrading concept. Their history is really amazing and their development is truly in parallel motion to the development of music in general. I use mainly digital keyboards but I've always wanted a true analogue one but couldn't afford it. There are many virtual analogues synths out today as are some great software synthesizers and samplers. There is also a lot of debate going on with these software synths gaining the ground over hardware ones and at the same time suffering from piracy due to the ongoing download-mania mentioned before. I think that the balance will be restored in the near future as we see some "hybrid" synths that feature the good parts of both worlds. I currently have my eyes on one of them and I hope I can get my big-greasy-fingers on one of them as soon as possible! ;-p I wouldn't want to go on praising big synth companies, everybody knows who they are and that they make great gear but I am a big fan of a smaller company named Novation. Their "Supernova" virtual analogue synthesizer was amazing and I am in contact with the company waiting if they will produce the 3rd line of Supernovas. Their 2nd model was truly amazing and took over the synth world. I am sorry I can't keep my mouth shut when it comes to synths…

SoT : No problem! [Laughs] I have friends who are keyboard nuts too, and spend every spare dollar on classic analog systems. Back to Star Tales - judging by the song titles, it seems to follow a theme, or a concept. Tell us about that.

TL : The only concept is the space theme and astral-mind-travels. There is no particular story that is going on in the album. Each track is a different portal into alien adventures waiting to be experienced by the listener. Writing lyrics was one of the hardest things I had to do. I am not that interested in lyrics generally in music.

SoT : In my review I made the comment that although the music struck me as strong, lush, full, and technically solid – but added that "there isn't much emotion to be found here". Do you think that was a fair statement?

TL : I don't know… it depends on the meaning of emotion in music. And also there are so many forms of emotions. I for one feel that emotion in music comes from certain melodies that "touch" me in a certain peculiar way and I believe that Star Tales is crammed with melodies. I think you refer to the emotion that is created by the performance of a solo human voice and in that way it is true that there is no regular singing in the album.

SoT : Well - instrumentals can also be very emotional. Anyway - it also struck me that the guitar work seemed to be held way back in the mix. Why was that?

TL : The base of the Dol Ammad sound is and will be the synthesizers and the choirs but this doesn't mean that we'll hide the guitars in the mix. They're just not in the foreground. All those years synths were used as the background in rock and metal music so now is the time for their revenge!

SoT : [Laughs] Your cover art is striking - very vibrant colors, mixed with spacey images of nebulae and stars and so on. Tell us about the cover artist, and what you were trying to convey with the cover art. And did the band have much input on the cover art?

TL : We were trying to portray this sense of hidden power and positive energy that Dol Ammad represent together with the psychedelic-space-mind travel style that characterizes Star Tales. The artist's name is Brian Exton, he lives in Scotland and he's basically a fractal artist dealing with posters and trance music. He's a very talented individual and I believe he's also making his own trance music as well. I met him by accident and was immediately convinced that he was the one for Star Tales.

SoT : I'll look out for his music! back to Dol Ammad. All those big keyboard and choir sounds must make live shows a challenge - do you play live at all?

TL : No we haven't yet played any live shows and it is something of the future. We have in mind something very different from a typical metal live show but it would take lots of time and money.

SoT : What's your favorite moment on the new album?

TL : My favorite moment was seeing it on the selves of the music-stores! It was a dream coming true after lots of work and sacrifices. Seriously now if you mean my favorite moment from inside the music of the album…I can't really say since I enjoy all of it. It depends on the mood I am in and on the moment. Some times I like some effects here and there, sometimes some epic and soothing melodies. Lately I enjoy the last track "Mission Butterfly" a lot. I think it concludes the CD perfectly and I especially enjoy the choral parts in it.

SoT : What's next for Dol Ammad - a new album? Perhaps a tour?

TL : Yes, we've started all the preparations for recording our second album which this time will be more of an aquatic-sea-journey but of course again with spacey and psychedelic elements. There'll be some additions and alterations in the choir because of some people not being able to make it to the recordings and also there's a possibility of a guest appearance in one song. Regarding a tour, as I said earlier it is still very difficult for me to support something so expensive. We'll focus on the second album now and see what the future will bring. We're also working on a video-clip for the song "Eclipse (Corona of the Sun)" but it's been delayed a bit for various reasons.

SoT : Plenty to look forward to - keep us posted, Thanasis. Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us! The new album is great, and we hope it helps accelerates your penetration into the world market. Take care.

TL : Thank you also for this great interview and support in Dol Ammad! We wish you, your readers and all the friends of "Electronica-Art-Metal" all the best and keep searching and supporting great music!

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