Image © SellaBand 2007
Image © Sellaband 2007
Manda Ophuis Interview (2008)
(21 January 2007) Forming in 2002, Dutch four-piece Nemesea toured heavily with symphonic metal act After Forever for a year, this attracting attention from label Ebony Tears, with whom they released their debut album Mana at the close of 2004. Tours in the Netherlands and Belgium followed in 2005 before the time came for the band to begin recording follow-up album: 2007's In Control (SellaBand (Holland) 8717853390128, 2007). Discussions with major labels hinted promise of Nemesea signing a deal and setting to work on said album, yet a twist emerged when the band announced they would be joining Dutch crowdsourcing website Sellaband. A project with an aim of giving power to the fans, who contribute towards the financial funding of the band as they invest, through their personal belief in a band's abilities, such contributions that eventually allow the band a producer, studio and A&R to promote their own album.
Nemesea stormed past their own personal target, raising over 50, 000$ and through such incredible support from their fan base, were able to release In Control in June of 2007. An album difficult to pigeonhole inside one easily achieved genre or label. It's an album carried by the voice of band founder Manda Ophius, whose vocals have a drifting, immersive effect when entwined with the dark trance pulses, fiercely distorted guitar and driving rhythm section that form the sound of In Control. Manda isn't afraid to break out into a more forceful, aggressive vocal style when the music rises in intensity, look to the explosive choruses for examples of such an increase in her vocal 'dominance'. The ten songs on the album are short, sharp bursts that heavily feature electronic elements and thrive on hook-laden, anthemic choruses, in an album that, despite holding an experimental edge, is accessible and easy to grasp upon first listen.
Haunting waves of electronics build towards surging trance and gritty guitar riffs in opener "No More". One of the heavier tracks on the album, it sees Manda's despairing yet determined vocals at their most edgy, as she blares above the chaotic, hard-hitting instrumentation, screaming: "You won't let me go. Right now you should know, I'm no longer yours" in a memorable chorus. Simplistic in structure, it's a solid introduction and ideal indicator as to what's in store in the remainder of the album. The following title track "In Control" is a slightly weaker effort than the previous "No More", relying on the same dance-like keyboards hovering in the background as Manda delivers distorted vocal whispers that soon launch into a soaring chorus, before "Home" picks thing up with one of the stronger tracks on the album. Engulfing electronics coat softly sung vocals in darkness, keyboards echoing in the distance as Manda takes centre stage with a haunting, powerful performance.
"The Way I feel" breaks away from the electronic-infused rock for a moment, presenting a delicate, moving ballad featuring a duet between Manda and guest Cubworld. [Who also gained success through Sellaband] Cubworlds breathy, world-weary vocals provide the perfect contrast to Manda's serene delivery, his weakened strains duel with Manda's emotive acceptance as the two dance within one another's melodies, the subtle notes of a piano and strum of an acoustic the only initial company as you picture these two torn-apart lovers pleading for the other to understand how they feel. A definite album highlight. The punchy "Lost Inside" sees a return to the aggressive style of before. Warped keyboards, vocal effects and a bridge that flashes between the most trance-like moment on the album to its heaviest all feature in an interesting, yet slightly 'familiar' in structure track. "Like The Air" easily locks into a steady groove, Manda making this song her own as her vocals rise higher until a brief guitar solo breaks things up nicely, whilst closer "Never" opens with zapping beats and chugging guitars, shuffling drums holding together fast-paced verses, again featuring an energetic, hook-laden chorus.
Did Nemesea feel pressure to deliver to the fans who gave them such a chance as the one Sellaband provided? Most certainly, but with In Control they weren't afraid to experiment. Moving away from the symphonic metal palette they produced on debut album Mana, In Control incorporates a blend of electronic keyboard work and rock/metal instrumentation, as rippling waves of trance merge with the crash of drums and distortion of electric guitar in an intriguing mix. As a whole, the ambitious Dutch outfit manage to pull their ideas off successfully as their music, despite aiming for innovation, thrives largely on its simplistic song structures and catchy choruses, delivered with skill by the talented Manda. It's an album extremely easy to get into and despite some tracks being admittedly stronger than others, In Control is without doubt an enjoyable listen. Additionally, the chance to see these songs in a live environment would be one not to turn down.--Jim Hall in Derby, England