Interview with Melissa Ferlaak

Singer of Plague of Stars, former singer of Echoterra, Visions of Atlantis, and Aesma Daeva

“You have to ask yourself if your decisions ultimately get you toward what YOUR definition of success is. And that way, you never live with regrets.”

From Minnesota’s Aesma Daeva, to Austia's Visions of Atlantis, Melissa Ferlaak is one of the most prominent singers in the symphonic metal genre due to her beautiful classical voice and extensive career. In 2012, after leaving Echoterra, Melissa formed a new band with other members of local metal scene in her hometown of Minnesota, called Plague of Stars.


Following Plague of Stars, she has other projects like MY Eternel and Demandolx – A Nihilist Opera. With already an album already out for each of them, Melissa is returning to the studio once again for the next Plague of Stars album and I decided to take the opportunity to ask her for an interview about the upcoming album and for any activities of her other projects, and some questions what has she been up to in her personal life.

“Hello Melissa, welcome to your interview with Lyrical Spell Magazine! It must have been a while since you had an interview, right?”

Melissa: “Officially yes! Though I’ve been performing with Plague of Stars for a while, my current band, I’ve only done a handful of interviews recently!”


“And knowing you’re a woman of multiple projects, let’s talk about your current band, Plague of Stars. Care to give readers a brief introduction to the band to those who are unfamiliar?”

Melissa: “Plague of Stars is a wild mix of various styles of metal (and other genres), styles of singing and really aims to destroy any sense of genre. We are currently working on our second full length album which we anticipate will be out in June of this year!”


“As you mentioned, the band is expected to have a 2019 release, how long has this album been in the plans?”

Melissa: “The band took a 2 ½-year break while I was pregnant with my son and we weren’t sure if we were going to come back to it, but we decided to do it again and it’s been so amazing. Recently, we have been trying out new material on some cool shows, and people have been liking them a lot. Creating new songs takes us a while because we’re purposely trying NOT to fit in one subgenre, so it is a more difficult process. If we feel a song sounds too ‘in the pocket’ of a genre, then we either change it or scrap it. We want to be true to our design.”

“Before furthering into more details about the second album, Plague of Stars already has an album under their belt. How has been the reception of the music from ‘When Morning Came’?”

Melissa: “It was what I expected actually – some reviewers were VERY confused. Some did not like the heavier vocals/music I was now doing. Some absolutely LOVED it. But everyone had a strong reaction, whatever it was, and for me, that was the ultimate success.”


“For me, I really enjoyed the wildness of the album, I also did expected some reviewers will be caught off-guard with this work of yours, haha! But in terms of sound and lyrics, what will we expect from this album than from the debut?”

Melissa: “Great question—I actually have a 5-page thesis about the lyrics haha!


Here is a summary: ‘Technology is tool of great strength. But its at the hands of mankind, and humans are destructive by nature. Instead of technology being a tool to create world peace, it has become a tool to manipulate, to enslave, to cause war, to create discord. Instead of being a tool to erase world hunger, it has created such a divide of wealth as never before seen – such incredible poverty and incredible wealth. It has enslaved. It has made people numb. It has made people not more intelligent, but more distracted. It has killed the Earth which has already gone over its edge to definite self-destruction – there is no saving it. And we are not far behind. Instead of seeking out cures to the killer viruses, cancers and bacteria, we have pharmaceutical companies finding cures, burying them and offering up other ‘medicines’ that elongate people’s lives enough for them to make a fortune with no promise of a cure. And fear tactics and governmental policies that enforce people to buy these medicines even if it ultimately does nothing. It is a deliberate manipulation of technology by powerful people to enslave the human race. The human race has willingly handed over their freedom, their identity, their inspirations, their creativity, their authentic selves with the drug called hyper connectivity. The internet is a substance that the entire world is addicted to. And it was all diabolically planned.’


As for sound, we actually have a new band member, Frodo Caulfield, who is also offering up songs and so while we have Will’s death-meets-jazz-meets-everything, Frodo bring some fast fucking songs that are thrashy and cool. We also will have 2 songs by our bassist Tim on there as well which are more progressive. We’re also working on a song that is definitely inspired by early gothic music. So – I think this album will have even more of an array than the last one!”

“Sounds very interesting and it really well describes what's going with society today, and especially matches with Plague of Stars’ doom sound. How is performing something outside of symphonic metal like the ones you previously fronted?”

Melissa: “It is definitely a different vibe, but truthfully, it isn’t as doom-ish as Aesma Daeva was. I’d say for like crowd energy, Visions of Atlantis definitely had the party jumping, Plague of Stars gets people moshing, and Aesma Daeva had more of a chill audience. ☺”


“Will there be any plans of touring in the near future?”

Melissa: “Not currently, but as of now, we have a few shows scheduled out, including our CD release party for June 28 which will be a fest of strong women with femme fronted bands, visual artists, dancers – it’s going to be an event!”


“Speaking of audiences and events, having previously worked overseas, how is the metal scene in Europe different from the States?”

Melissa: “Oh… the States are not NEARLY as epic as the metal scene in Europe! Haha!!! Not at all. Nothing compares. I keep telling the guys in the band that until they experience Europe metal fests/concerts, they haven’t lived. ☺”

“I can agree, it makes me jealous that Europe has many of the best festivals and I'm really missing out of them! With that aside, that’s all the questions I have about the band, but you also have some projects. MY Eternel is one you have formed with your husband Voa, any activities going with that?”

Melissa : “Nope! Voa is busy with Ad Inferna currently and we really only saw MY Eternel as a one-album project.”

“Then there was the unique historical opera project “Demandolx" that featured musicians like Kassy Novell (Mercy Isle) and Drake Chrisdensen (Ruins of Elysium). Will there be other works similar to that?”

Melissa: “Yes, so that opera was a large-scale endeavor between Voa and I. We will certainly do another opera in the future, when the time is right. It is such a big undertaking – it took us 2+ years to create it and that was working constantly on it! That may have a life on the stage in the future sometime, too. And I currently have two new opera libretti currently written and looking for a composer, be it Voa or someone else. ☺”

Lastly, though it wasn’t really a project, but you were part “Eve's Apples”, a large community which supports women in metal. How big of an impact would you say the community brought to a genre that has a male-dominated business?”

Melissa: “Eve’s Apple had a lot of impacts – I think though that the biggest impact was creating this camaraderie between female singers across the world. We shared a lot and I think because of this, many singers didn’t end up in pitfall situations and actually, found additional work as musicians. There was so much that went on behind the official page – so much learning, networking, connecting and creating together.”


“It’s amazing see women like Charlotte Wessels, Lisa Middelhauve, and Clémentine Delauney coming together uplifting each other in Eve’s Apple. Would you say this community was worth it in the end and has it inspired any women that wants to have a music career in metal?”

Melissa: “Oh it was totally worth it and of course, I hope it was inspirational for other women.”

“As of last year, you were part of Therion's latest album ‘Beloved Antichrist’. How did they reach out to you?”

Melissa: “Funny enough, Christofer reached out to me wayyyy back when I had just joined Visions of Atlantis! Aesma Daeva had played with them in Toronto and Christofer had kept in touch with John. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great obviously, but throughout the years, we stayed in touch. Finally, while pregnant with my second kiddo, he asked if I would like to sing the part of Sophia in the opera and of course, could do that. So it was kind of a long time coming that we would work together!”

“Did you like the results of how the album?”

Melissa: “I think it is a fantastic work and a very large undertaking. I know he spent many years on it, so to see it all come to fruition was really cool.”


“The album is really huge, gotta give major credit to Christofer on what must have been a tiresome work. So other than being a singer you also work as a vocal coach, what are the repertoires that you teach?”

Melissa: “Yes! I teach everything from classical/opera, musical theatre, rock, jazz. I teach my students to understand their diverse instrument so I try not to focus too much on just one style, however I do start with teaching the foundation, and how each style veers from that foundation. I absolutely love being a teacher – it was my first love before even wanting to sing professionally.”


“Do you accept students who are interested and how can they reach you?”

Melissa: “Sure they can contact me through Facebook or my email:”


“Another job you do is in children's theatre, what do you mostly so in that area?”

Melissa: “Yes, I work for the US’s largest theatre for young audiences as the senior communications director. So I’m in charge of working with the media and press as well as communication aspects around the theatre. It’s a wonderful place to work.”

“Following that question, I see that your children expressing themselves in fine arts, have they thought already what they'll do in the future?”

Melissa: “My daughter is now 10 years old and she is an excellent visual artist. Music really isn’t her world actually (as much as I tried!). But she is also extremely smart – math, science, languages – I’m in awe of her brain. My son is 3 and he is taking his first theatre classes now! He is a born dancer and singer – I think if one of them were to pursue the performing arts, it may be him. But as for if they will do these things into the future – honestly, I want them to do what they are passionate about, always. If that isn’t the fine arts, I’m totally okay with it, as long as they are doing what they love.”  


“Would you say you were their biggest influence?”

Melissa: “I try to of course, but I think their fathers would say they are also a big influence. ☺”

“How’s it balancing your while being mother of two with two personal jobs and musical career?”

Melissa: “Well, it’s a balancing act for sure – some things certainly don’t get as much attention as I would like and unfortunately, being a singer tends to be the one that doesn’t get as much of the attention. But I do still make as much time as I can with two kids.”


“I wish I had the energy to balance many things like you do! Now, what’s an interview with questions from fans? I have collected a few questions from readers and the first one comes from John Paul Aguirre: ‘would there be ever a time to think of possibly to remaster or return of Aesma Daeva?’”

Melissa: “Actually, John Paul, John Prassas and I have discussed this a few times, so I can’t say it isn’t out of the question. I think it is just a matter of timing really. ☺”

“Fashion question from Chris Porga: ‘where did you get that corset?’ (referring to the photoshoot from MFVF 2013)”

Melissa: “Oof, good question, Chris! I can’t remember!! I’m so sorry! But I can say this jacket for this interview is from Rivithead (not a sponsor of mine; I just truly like their stuff). ☺”


“From Omar Marcelo Henao: ‘why do you keep changing bands?’ ;)”

Melissa: “Haha, the golden question, Omar. ;) I’ve changed bands each time for very different reasons, so there isn’t like, ONE reason. But I’d say behind each change, was an opportunity for growth, either professionally, musically, or personally.”


“From Mazalan Ej Maza Zainudin: ‘will you ever return to VOA?’, but I think we know the answer to that, but what about a collaboration?”

Melissa: “Well Mazalan, my life is too complicated with family for the life of a touring musician in that big way now, but certainly if they asked, I’d do a collaboration. We didn’t end on terrible terms. ☺”

“The last and interesting question from Nana Cherry: ‘is there any songs from your previous eras would you like to perform live someday?’”

Melissa: “Nana, I would very much like to sing ‘Return to You’ again from Visions of Atlantis, because it is so deeply personal to me. Honestly the whole Visions of Atlantis set was so much fun to perform that it would be great to do the full set again. For Aesma Daeva, the opera arias were fun – ‘Der Holle Rache’ and ‘D’Oreste’ were some fun show stoppers.”


“So who or what has inspired you to become who you are today?”

Melissa: “If I were to narrow it down to one person, I’d say my university voice teacher Joy Killough Amel. If it wasn’t for her brilliant and insightful and intuitive teaching/advice/support, I would have never gone down this road. To this day, I strive to be like her as a voice teacher.”


“Is there any advice you would like to give to anyone out there who might want to follow in your footstep?”

Melissa: “It’s a tough business – the first thing you need to do is define what success really means to YOU personally and then make WISE decisions toward your personal definition of success. Sometimes, getting advanced degrees in voice study is the way to go, and sometimes not. Sometimes sticking with one band is the way to go – and sometimes not. ;) You may find that having a family is okay for what your goals are, or you may think that’s something for later, or never, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if your decisions ultimately get you toward what YOUR definition of success is. And that way, you never live with regrets. ☺”

“My last question to you: what are your goals and dreams personally and professionally?”

Melissa: “My goals and dreams (and to go with the previous question, my version of success) is to ALWAYS be doing something with music – teaching, writing operas, performing metal – all of it. I think this upcoming Plague of Stars album is the 10th full album I’ve done and additionally, I’ve done studio voice work for something like 17 albums on top of that – 3 of which are currently in some form of process right now. Some have said before that they didn’t know I was still in music, but as you can see…. My path has had many twists and turns, but I’ve always had music in my life. And I’m completely fortunate for it.”


“We have now reached the end of your interview, is there anything you would like to say to your fans and our readers?”

Melissa: ''Thanks to all of you for sticking with me through it all! Truly – you don’t know how much it means to artists like me. I do music to connect with others – with YOU. So absolutely, thank you!''


“And thank you so much for answering us Melissa!”

Follow Plague of Stars online:

Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram


Follow Melissa Ferlaak online:

Facebook | Instagram


By Joshua