''We’re all just humans with also hard times in life''
Started her musical career as the singer for Norwegian gothic metal band Trail of Tears, then onto Sahara Dust who are well-known as Epica nowadays, and currently the singer of her own band Imperia and solo project Angel. Helena Iren Michaelsen is one of the most interesting singers I’ve heard when first getting in to the metal genre, from her amazing vocal techniques in songs such as “The Calling” and “Darkness”, to her deep and touching personal lyrics in “Angelchild” and “Missing You”, while being supported in powerful symphonic and gothic metal instrumentation.
As Imperia is now approaching their next album dated for a 2019 release, I wanted to take an opportunity to ask Helena how is she and the band are feeling at the moment with the long-awaited album nearing in, and questions regarding her solo project, her past musical engagements, and the ability on sharing her personal stories to the world.
“Hello Helena and happy holidays! Welcome to your interview with Lyrical Spell Magazine, how are you?”
Helena: “Hey Joshua, I'm doing very well thank you, I hope you to are doing great too. I had a wonderful time with recordings, writing lyrics, and just being creative which I really love to do, at the same time also spend some quality time with friends and family which I think is very important. Unfortunately, you see less and less of that nowadays since mobile phones, computers, and social networks by the internet have gotten more important for some than spend time together in real time, and that I find sad actually.”
“I am doing very great thank you! So, Imperia are on their way to a February release of the 5th studio album titled ‘Flames of Eternity’, is the group excited?”
Helena: “We’re super excited and nearly can’t wait, hehe! First comes the first single releasing on 09.01.2019 with a lyric video, then we'll release another single before the album release as well. The band have agreed that this is the album we did so far is the most happy with so that’s makes us even more excited how the singles and album will be received out there. I hope it will be received in the same way that we feel about it. ☺”
“I hope so too! How did the band come up with ‘Flames of Eternity’ as the album title?”
Helena: “The title name of the CD may have a different meaning for each and everyone in the band if you know what I mean. But for me when I came up with the idea -eternity-, a word that had to do when you meet someone you given your heart to completely, and then the heart stays there and what came after of boyfriends, was then halfhearted in a way and felt like something was missing all the time.
In July during the recordings, me and that person mentioned met again as he recorded my vocals and the flames of love and passion bloomed up again like never before from both sides, so now we are very happy together and can feel and enjoy love with a full heart and soul without anything missing. That is something you only can experience once in a lifetime if ever experienced it at all. So for me, that is the meaning behind the title ‘Flames of Eternity’, and its very special, like a pearl in the deep sea.”
“Interesting use of the word, following up on the name reveal the band also put out the album cover. Is there any story behind the art?”
Helena: “When you see the cover, it has an eternity symbol and a flame inside, and under it you see a broken hourglass and old things. So time-past, eternity-flames, meaning love and passion all in one on the cover, and the flames are so warm that you can see it nearly melts the symbol sign of eternity.
Another great and deep art made from Jan Yrlund and I personally think is very special and describes the title very good.”
“Indeed it is now that you explained it to me. What do you think the will listeners expect from the album; will it be different from your previous release in terms of sound and lyrics?”
Helena: “Yes, the songs on this album just have a different atmosphere in a way. A couple of very emotional ballads and it’s less lyrics about the past this time, and more lyrics for the days while I recorded the vocals and present time but each and every song is really emotional, deep and some of course dark as my past has been very at times. For example, ‘Scars on her Soul’ is a very personal dark song for me when talking about that, then you have the song ‘Mother’ in piano version, which is a song I wrote to my mother after she had been murdered by her boyfriend in 2004. More songs to mention of course, but instead of tell the background to them all the lyrics are that clear that is easy to understand and feel what they are about and I will tell more later. ☺”
“I'm terribly sorry to hear about you mother, please accept my condolences, but what a beautiful tribute and explanation. Are there any songs you think fans should look forward to?”
Helena: “’Invisible Tears’ is a very beautiful epic song which also have guest violin player on it, and ‘My Crying Heart’ is a very touching ballad. The first single ‘Fear is an Illusion’ has also grunts in the vocals which I also did some on the previous album ‘Tears of Silence’ on ‘A Screaming Heart’, but even more on this album. Every song has it’s own special thing cause of the different atmosphere and deep emotions. ‘Unspoken Word’s is a love song that is very special for me.
So I'm excited to see which songs turn out to be the listeners favorites. ;-)”
“And is there a single or a music video release soon?”
Helena: “Yes, the first single will be out on 09.01 with a lyric video, and a second single with a music video.”
“How about touring, shows, and festivals where you hope to perform? I hope to see you in the states!”
Helena: “There is some shows already in the works but we have prioritized to focus on the single releases and music videos at the latest time. So after the album release on
22.02.2019, we will start to plan gigs and live shows and we really hope to play in the states too, it would be a great experience, plus of course be an honor seeing your wonderful
“It would be really great experience to see your performance for me too! Okay, so aside from Imperia, you also have your own solo project called Angel, is it still active?”
Helena: “Yes, I'm still having project Angel also. The plan is after the album release of Imperia is to start working and put more focus to that, make and release ‘A Woman's Diary – Chapter 2’.
I’m really looking forward for that.”
“So there’s guarantee we will be expecting news on ‘Chapter 2’ after the Imperia's release?”
Helena: “Yes, not too long after. We’re really focusing now on the Imperia singles and album release first, then start our work on ‘A Woman's Diary – Chapter 2’. But I already have lot of song ideas already in the meantime of the other things around Imperia.”
“I'm curious, why is the project called Angel but use the image of the Devil in the promo shoot and album cover?"
Helena: “The reason for that is that the record label I was on back, Black Lotus Records from Greece, had this plan for clothes, etc., and already ready when I came there for to do photoshoot and music video. So this was not my idea but the record label’s. For all other promo photos and videos made is all from my own ideas, except only that one with the devil clothes was not.
If there is something you should know, l definitely NOT find in my personality that is something evil, that’s just not in me. So I'll keep using only my own ideas in the future as well.☺''
“An interesting fact I would like to bring up is that not many people recognize that you were a member of Epica, changed from Sahara Dust, which technically makes you their first singer. What are the reactions you get when they learn about this?”
Helena: “I was in the band not for a long time; just from the start and the demo, and when we had to choose a record label, and after that I left back to Norway. So it’s a time I don’t think of too much to be honest.”
“Do you think you and Mark Jansen will work together again if possible?”
Helena: “I will have so much to do with Imperia and my other project Angel in the future that I will not have so much time for also other music projects, so it’s not something I have been thinking of actually.”
“Speaking of collaborations, I've been following your career for years now, and it shows you only been guest singer for one band called Nox, that was in 2003. Are there any other artists/musicians you want to collaborate?”
Helena: “I have also been guest vocalist for female vocals on ‘Infinity of Chaos’ with the band Black Horizon, don't remember what year, but if you google Black Horizon
‘Infinity of Chaos’ you will find it. And actually, I would have liked to have had a song together with Nina Hagen, and it might be on a certain point where I'll start a third project because I
have so much music ideas all the time in different styles. So maybe ☺”
“And lastly, you were also the singer for the band Trail of Tears who have since disbanded in 2013. Do you ever plan on playing songs live from your era with the band?”
Helena: “No, we have our own style with Imperia and I wouldn't want to mix it in with the music with Trail of Tears because I don’t see that really fit with Imperia and also not the Angel project. So I look at the time with Trail of Tears as a great period of my life with a lot of nice experiences such as being the first singer for the band from 1997 when my music career started, and 3 album releases, first album I sang on with them was on the demo ‘When Silence Cries…’, the second album ‘Disclosure in Red’, and then ‘Prefoundemonium’, and we had many tours and played a lot of festivals in Europe, a very nice time with only good memories, we'll just leave it at that.
“Back to and regarding Imperia, you had thoughts about leaving Imperia back in 2015, but have decided to stay in the band, what made you change you mind?”
Helena: “That was in a time I had breakdown-burnout which can happen to everyone. I had too much to do and too much stress for over a long time and then I got a breakdown,
and let's say that rather silly remark only lasted a day or even just for some ours. Imperia is more or less like my family, the members in there I mean, they're like my brothers so I never will
stop Imperia and also not the Angel project ever. ☺”
“It’s great to hear you decided to continue Imperia, sorry to hear about your burnout and I understand people will say silly remarks and forget about it, haha! But among that during the last few years, you have faced many stressful difficulties in your life. How were you able to keep your spirits up?”
Helena: “I am a positive thinker than I find things in all that may be negative, and then I do good things for other people as much as I can and help who have it difficult in life, and then you have the music. So this as a mix gathers my strength and then on top, I believe I have a very strong soul. The more I can help others, the better I feel myself.
I'm used to difficult periods in life cause of a rather hard and traumatic childhood, so I find easy ways to rise again because in my childhood I had to. The last time and now, I'm stronger than ever. We’re all just humans with also hard times in life.”
“And I can tell that lyrics you write are intensely personal based off of your life, especially the songs from Imperia's ‘Queen of Light' and Angel's ‘A Woman’s Diary – Chapter 1’. Has there ever been moments you felt uncomfortable sharing them to world?”
Helena: “No, actually not because I think it's important that everyone should be able to talk about everything to get their emotions out and I think that as many times you talk much about the weather if you know what I mean. ☺ And I have received emotional e-mails from people who also tell their life stories to me and which song that means a lot to them and the reason why. For some people some of the songs have really helped them through a hard time or life experience cause they felt that they were not experiencing this alone. For example, one of my lyrics where I had experienced just the same of the beauty of music, I think music can actually heal a person sometimes and even dry someone’s tears away, and when I get these kinds of e-mails it means the world to me and I even have kind of cried with them and it reminds me then again the one of the reasons why I do music, maybe the most important one.”
“That’s really beautiful when the artist can really connect with the fans, and it tells them that no matter what we have each other's back. Is there any song(s) from any of Imperia's album that you hold very dear to?”
Helena: “The ‘Mother’ song, ‘Unspoken Words’, ‘Invisible Tears’, ‘Scars on Her Skin’, ‘Fear is an Illusion’, each and every song has something that is special to me in a way
cause all the lyrics is from pure emotions and sang from my heart.”
“Who were your inspirations to becoming a singer?”
Helena: “I started very young, it was kind of my escape from a very hard reality as a child. I made lyrics and songs already at the age of around 9 or 10 years old and never stopped, and never will of course. And also I got a very good contact back in my teenage years with my singing teacher from the conservatorium, more or less like a father-daughter connection. Music and singing is really my passion, the whole of me is full of it. So I guess ‘Flames of Eternity’ has another meaning too in a way, and that music and creating music will also be in my life as long as I breathe.''
“And if you weren’t a singer, do you any other hobbies or a job on the side you like working as?”
Helena: “I love children very much, I have the education of child and youth worker and special pedagogic as well. I have worked in kindergartens in school as a teacher and children with special needs. So beside the music, what I really like is to work with children. One of my dreams is to work as a child psychologist actually, or child therapist if you know what I mean. And will continue help other People who may need my help or ask for my help. This is a big part of me.”
“What a beautiful dream that you really love to work and help children, that reminds me, I believe you mentioned during the release of ‘Tears of Silence’ that the title was based about what was going on with the children in Norway. Do you plan on continuing with this awareness?
Helena: “No, that was just for the album. They’re other internet and human rights groups and also media like newspapers and things like that continues to share this awareness.”
“Here’s my last question to you; what are you goals and dreams, personally and professionally?”
Helena: “To share songs and emotions with as many people as possible and maybe do the education to refill another of my dreams mentioned in my answer above. ☺ And for the rest to live a healthy and happy life with family, friends, the band, music in general, and the love of my life.”
“We have now reached the end of our interview, is there anything you would like to say to your fans and our readers?”
Helena: “I want to say a thousand thank you for the support and that it is very precious for me to share my emotions and lifestory with others even on the other side of the world that Imperia and I are forever grateful for the people who buy our CD's that again leads to that we can continue share our music with them and continue release album. I wish each and everyone reading this interview that they hopes and dreams may come true. Hugs, and a vulnerable and caring heart, Helena Iren Michaelsen.”
“Thank you so much for your time answering us Helena!”
Helena: “Thank you for this special interview Joshua.”