Rising from the realms of the American progressive heavy metal scene, Karyn Crisis‘ Gospel Of The Witches have come out with their first full-length album tilted “Salem’s Wounds”. Having worked on various exceptional projects before, Karyn Crisis and husband Davide Tiso have come together to create a musical experience like nothing before! Released in the month of March under Century Media Records, this album has been rated highly by fans and critics alike.
Metal Wani writer/correspondent Vaishali Jain recently caught up with Gospel Of The Witches vocalist Karyn Crisis. Here is how the chat proceeded –
Greetings from Metal Wani, Karyn! First off, we would like to congratulate you over the successful release of your first studio album titled “Salem’s Wounds” with Gospel Of The Witches. How are you feeling?
Thank you so much, Metal Wani! It’s been a very long road from the inception of this album to the listenable end product, and it’s been a very rewarding journey from start to finish! I’m feeling very proud and grateful. It was awesome to have so much fan support from the start of this as a crowd-funding campaign, and then to have support from Century Media as well, to get the album out to a greater public. It’s also been wonderful to have so many fans post their photos of their cds and vinyls on their turntables onto our Facebook page. I love to hear how people are connecting to the songs!
You guys also released an official video for the song titled “The Alchemist”. You must have received several responses from friends and fans alike. What are some of the best reactions you have gotten so far?
Yes, people really love “The Alchemist”, they really connect to the emotional expression there, as well as my melodic vocals. Many people tell us they listen to it on “repeat” and just can’t stop!
You started this project with your husband Davide Tiso, after staying a part of Ephel Duath for more than three years. Was it an emotional ride for you during the move from one band to the other? How did you cope with it?
There wasn’t a sudden move from one band to the other. Davide and I had already been working on GOTW ideas before he began writing the last Ephel Duath ep and full length. It was a matter of coming into focus for each project. Both projects’ music is highly emotional, but in completely different ways. Davide is a prolific composer, and he seems to become even more effortless about writing distinctly different compositions…he is so highly focused when we writes, at the same time open to the emotions of the music, that the music really flows from him, distinctly, depending where his focus is. For me it was a different process-because he wrote the lyrics for ED and largely created the vocal patterns, so I had to just physically get my voice in shape. I have a larger creative hand in GOTW music and vocals. I think the ED recordings helped prepare me for studio again with GOTW and the writing process by making me sing out-loud again after many years of silence.
The album with its astonishingly powerful yet enchanting vocals, unrivalled riffs and beautifully hemmed drumming, lays a very strong foundation for the band to build up on in the next few years. The album is a gem when it one comes to talk about its recording and production. Can you tell us more about how these two processes?
The album writing process began with just Davide and myself. Being that he is such a prolific composer, he’s always ready to go, and with a force. I’m not a musician. The way I write songs, or add to the writing process, is to first be able to see the songs and album as a concept in my mind’s eye, like a short film. I tried to describe this film to him, which I didn’t see as a complete concept for a few years. At the beginning I wanted him to create an atmosphere form within a darkened forest: spells, hands in soil, herbs, coiling plants, vespers and spirits..serpents…a witch connecting with her natural tools.
So I used a lot of visual language to express to him, lots of feelings..and all this time he was growing with me in this direction. He has a tremendous capacity for pouring epic emotions into his playing, and his songs are more like stories and experiences than just “songs” …so once I had the overall concept floodgates opened..when I was naturally wanting a song about a specific ritual or color of light or intention, he intuitively created it all on his own..like telepathy.
The music was written as layers of guitars, an occasional effect here and there. Goddess of Light had electronic drums written by Davide, but other than that, he presented things to me without drums. This was a huge change for me, because for 13 years in Crisis, I responded to the drums to create all my vocal patterns and rhythms..I only listened to guitars for an atmosphere or vibe. I was like a drummer myself, in a way. So with these GOTW songs, I had to start with no drums at all, which is perhaps how I came up with choir vocals..they set a percussive back line, like chanting, which is also present in occult ritual: the magical voice, the power of repetitions, to act as a mantra, to draw you in. The songs can be unyielding rhythmically, and I wanted them to be that way: you are confronted by the tempo, where it takes you emotionally, and you either feel the movement or you resist that inner pull .
Once the songs were all fleshed out, we then passed them to the drummer for him to create his parts. The vocals really determined much of the rhythm to begin with, and it was important that the drums not interfere with those patterns.
According to you, which song was the most challenging to record?
The truly interesting thing about this album is that the recording process went super smooth, very quick, and without any hitches! I’ve never experienced a studio recording of this type. Usually they are stressful, time seems to run out, things go wrong…but this time around I spent more time worrying about recording my vocals than I did recording them. Working with Jamie king was such a pleasure-he’s a gentleman and a true master talent at what he does. The way he has his studio set up is for maximum performance. Davide also went into studio and recorded his guitars 8 hours straight each day. It was mind blowing. He just powered through everything after he and Jamie picked the guitar cabs and sounds. He even felt himself go out-of-body and watched himself playing guitar from behind himself during the recording of “Mother.” It was very intense; lots of powerful energy, but smooth. This album really wanted to be made!
Since your fans and reviewers know you from both Crisis and Ephel Duath, they have compared your vocal styles in the different projects. According to you, how are the vocals of Gospel Of The Witches alike to/different from your past groups?
There are elements that are identifiable as “Karyn Crisis;” being a great range of vocal textures. However, in GOTW, I remain in one vocal style for longer periods of time before changing. There are entire versus sung in melodic “clean” vocals, there are entire passages in a textured, “power” type vocal, there are also entire choruses of heavy vocals. Additionally, instead of doubling my own heavy vocals, as I did in the past with Crisis, I doubled my voice and added a third voice: Ross Dolan. I wanted the heavy parts to feel thicker, and even more deep and masculine. I also explore my feminine vocals much more in GOTW, and in fact there are a couple songs sung fully in clean vocals.
Apart from “The Alchemist”, I personally loved the tracks “Ancient Ways”, “Mother”, “Pillars”, “The Secret” and “The Ascent”. How did the writing process for these songs come along? Also tell us about the different influences that also came into play while writing them.
Davide wrote a lot of material for the album. It would come in phases. “The Secret” and “Pillars” came from an earlier phase, along with “Salem’s Wounds.” Our influences are rather insular: we were trying to capture what we experienced in Tuscany, Italy, and how to express that natural world and its secrets in music. It all came together for me when I saw, in my mind’s eye, a sort of short film of a scene: a dark and brooding evening sky with clouds moving quickly over the walled remains of an old cathedral that had been largely destroyed. The Ancient history before it was build was set free and beginning to whisper its secrets. This visual experience led to the song “Salem’s Wounds.”
Next I worked on “Mother,” and envisioned a period in ancient times where women were being burned at the stake and I was a follower who could smell the burnings in the air. In the visual, I saw myself running to the fires, unable to help, but declaring my devotion to the Wise Woman who’d taught me so much.
Each song had a visual, imaginary story in my mind, and that’s where it begins for me. During this process, I realized I wanted to do something more with my own vocal range by using a more feminine approach at times, and I also wanted a thicker chorus effect at times. My own range can only go so deep, so I decided to ask Ross Dolan of Immolation to sing on most of the songs to add that masculine anchor.
Talking about lyrics, this album is one of the strongest that I have seen coming out so far this year. Can you tell us more about the lyrical inspiration behind this album? And do you plan to stick with the topic you write about or will the fans come to see some experimenting in your future works?
GOTW first came together between Davide Tiso and myself. In 2008 we met in Tuscany, Italy, for the purpose of recording my solo album, which we had worked on through the internet prior to my arrival in Italy. The guest house we lived in there was haunted by a Spirit named Aradia, who’d been a teacher of Ancient Ways in Italy. She taught me all of the occult material that’s in the album. This was a life-changing event, and the album would not be recorded at that time. Instead, we spent the month traveling around Italy, then came to the U.S. with the intent of re-writing the album and putting a band together. So the lyrics reflect all I learned about a variety of Ancient Ways: the rituals, beliefs..It was very important for me to have a sonic atmosphere that expressed the truths of magic.So the album would have to be a devotional work to the Italian Witches and Druids and Longboards, and sonically it would have to contain all the magic rites and rituals, the ashes of the fires and religious battles, and all the light that keeps shining through this lineage in modern times. Most importantly, this album is an expression of love: for all the Great Mysteries are received and revealed through the heart center.I wanted to offer anyone listening a feeling of empowerment through love and feeling re-connected to the natural universal wisdom that is our birthright to know.
According to you, which is song has come out to be the strongest?
That’s a tough call for me to make! I can’t choose just one. “Mother” for me is so emotional it gives me chills. “The Alchemist” is emotional in a completely different way that opens my heart right up. “The Ascent” to me has an ancient occult feel to it for me, and I feel the magic searing through it each time I listen to and play it. I love “Howl at the Moon” for its doomy-but-forward-moving march and its soaring middle passage..
The album’s artwork is breathtaking! Can you tell us what inspired the imagery?
Thank you so much for the kind words! The artwork is not focused on simply the feminine, but the Goddess. The Goddess, like the God, is an example for each of us of what we can achieve when we balance the masculine and feminine energies within each of us. Doors to knowledge and empowerment can open. This is not about “men and women” but energies. Female energy being about reception (of knowledge, wisdom and the Mysteries), healing, nurturing and creativity, and Male energy being about action, planning, manifestation.
The front cover was my tribute to the channeling process that is part of Witch culture ritual, a parallel of the common Buddhist artwork seen: the bronze statues of Buddha standing on top of a lotus flower; the lotus representing the crown chakra opening to infinite Universal wisdom.
For the Witch, Fire is part of her ritual of raising energy and opening to the infinite Universal wisdom through her rituals and Mediumship practice. So I wanted to draw a parallel there: the connection so Universe through channeling a Goddess through the ritual of Mediumship involving raising energy through fire, song, dance, and other processes.
If you were to describe the atmosphere of the Gospel Of The Witches jam-room on any casual weekend in three sentences, what would they be?
GOTW rehearsals aren’t very casual. The members live in different states (New York and California), so when we are together we make the time count! Because the songs are musically intense, rehearsals are very focused and physically demanding.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you over being mentioned as one of the “Greatest Extreme Vocalists Of All Time” by Decibel Magazine. How do you feel about the mention?
Thank you once again for your kind words! It was an unexpected honor to open Decibel and see myself on the list. I am aware that my vocal style is not for everyone, and is quite unique. To find myself on a list like that was very cool.
After all the admiration “Salem’s Wounds” received worldwide, you guys must have already started planning out the band’s future. Is there any new material you guys are working on?
Yes, we are already working on the next album. We’ve been playing shows on the east coast, and we just completed a 3 day video shoot for a new song video as well. The band really wants to tour, so we’re looking for tours as we speak.
Can we see you in India anytime soon?
That would be amazing, I hope so!
Thank you so much for talking to us Karyn! We wish you all the best with your future ventures. Your fans down here in India would love to hear from you! Do you have message for them?
Thank you for your support! I’m happy to hear there’s music fans in India who listen to all sorts of music! Your ancient culture is wonderful and it’s an influence on many of us here in the U.S.!
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