"When you love something, you give it your all and do it to the best of your ability"
Sabrina Valentine Cruz answers our questions about their recent album, their tour with Evergrey and Need and the writings of H.P. Lovecraft among many more.
First of all, I’d like to congratulate you for "Decennium", your latest effort. It’s a very interesting attempt to expand your musical horizons. So, how do you feel now about the album and all the hard work you’ve done for it and which are the first reactions you are receiving?
I think “Decennium” is being received very well, it's definitely the hardest album musically for all of us to date. We wanted to challenge ourselves to grow and I believe we have.
Since I am listening to your music for quite a long time, I found that in your new album there is a different approach in your music direction. The more thrash elements are almost gone and the Blind Guardian influences are stronger than ever before. So, I am wondering, did you aim for that result or it came as a natural progress of your songwriting skills?
We had many goals with the new album, the greatest was to do Power Metal the way it was intended to be and give fans something to be proud of. Blind Guardian is definitely an obvious inspiration, and rightfully so... They have inspired us all for many years in so many ways.
You’re an American band but you have a more European sound, since you have more in common with bands like Blind Guardian, Helloween or Stratovarius. How do you explain that, since you are not the only U.S. band that playing in that ‘European’ way of power metal?
It’s just the style of music that we love. When you love something, you give it your all and do it to the best of your ability. We do not go out of our way to clone the "European sound," it's just something that we get compared to, though to us it is a positive and wonderful comparison.
I was impressed by your performance in the new album. Your voice is better than ever and you clearly help the compositions to reach their potentials. Could you tell us a few words about your singing approach and your main influences as a singer? Maybe among them are Hansi Kursch and Sharon den Adel?
This album in particular was very challenging for me. It is definitely the hardest I have yet to accomplish. I've had to do a lot of music "voice" studding to attack some of the hardest parts. A major help to me on this part was also Jim Morris of Morrisound. I've been influenced by so many singers that exactly who you hear in my inflections is probably more that accurate. Floor Jansen was one of the biggest since there are parts that I personally believe that if she wasn't around to teach through her own music, I wouldn't know how to attack certain parts. Hansi of course, especially for "In the Walls." Jim Morris said to me "I believe this is definitely something Hansi would be proud of."
If I am not mistaken, with your new album you are celebrating your tenth anniversary as a band. Could you single the best and worst moments in this journey until now?
I'll start with the worst because there is only one thing that made this hard for me and it's what I refer to as the sandpaper phase. Sometimes when you’re learning new territory and techniques it can be very challenging and uncomfortable. I encountered this when learning to sing the new material. But the best moments followed when suddenly I could achieve what was so hard at first. My favorite moments where the looks of complete astonishment of the guys faces when I reached some of my biggest hurdles. It's still a challenge no doubt, but each time I sing it.. I get a little better every time.
Also, this is your first album with Napalm Records, which is an important step forward I think. How did you decide to collaborate with them?
We were approached by Napalm when we were on tour with Stratovarius and Amaranthe a few years ago and since then we kept in contact. Once we decided to go solo and do things on our own first just to see if the "math" theory would work, we then continued the prospect of becoming a Napalm band. We did amazingly well by ourselves via the support of our fans and Kickstarter, but there are still things that only a well know record label can do for a band. We are very proud to be on the Napalm roster and look forward to seeing what may come of the relationship.
Your lyrics and, of course, the name of the band are mainly influenced by “A Song Of Ice And Fire” by George R. R. Martin. I have to say, though, it was the Lovecraftian touch of “In The Walls” that attract my attention the most. So, which is your favorite moment from the “Rats In The Wall” story of H.P. Lovecraft?
S: I'll let Kevin answer this because this is something that he loves very much.
K: My favorite moment from one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, Rats in the Walls, would have to be when the protagonist realizes what has been going on underneath his family's estate. He is basically driven insane and begins to speak in tongues. It's a very thrilling conclusion and kept me on my toes while reading. It also creeped me out quite a bit, which is always cool.
You have a stable lineup for years. So, I suppose this stability is helping you having the best results in recording and touring processes, since you are more like a bunch of friends that playing the music they love?
You said it perfectly. We are bandwagon hippy clan of friends that just love to play music and cook together. But most of all this is a family, these are my brothers and I couldn't be more proud than to have the honor of living my dreams it's them by my side.
You are hitting the road, along with Evergrey, Need and Ascendia. What are your expectations about this tour and what’s your opinion about these bands? You know, Need is one of Greece’s better acts…
I try not to have expectations, more like hopes. So far the tour is going well and all the guys are not only very talented but helpful. We are just a few days in and the team work is something to be admired. I'm looking forward to seeing all the bands grow each day and the lifelong friendships that will come from it.
Since we’re talking about tours, do you have any interesting or funny story from your touring experiences?
I think the constant "funny" thing is that since I made the burger slippers/earrings a thing, it's almost the focal point of every conversation with fans after shows. Even funnier is the sadness people have over the loss of my slippers, they lived a long life and succumbed to over use and ware and tare lol.
Could you name me a few records that you’re digging this period of time?
I'm currently rotating all the Avantasia albums, Angra's Sacred Garden, our album because I use it for constant practicing purposes... and Evergrey.
Sabrina, thank you very much for your answers and I wish the best for you and the band. I hope we’ll have the chance to see you in Greece in the future. Close this interview as you want…
Thank you so much for the opportunity to have an interview with you and your readers, I appreciate your fanship and also hope to one day come to Greece. I hear the food is amazing and the views are nature’s purest works of art.