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Quick Takes: Floor Jansen’s Open Letter, Paul Allender Leaves Cradle of Filth, and Opeth’s New Single

June 2, 2014

Sorry, I didn’t have a better title than the above, sometimes just getting to the point works better than anything. I don’t normally comment on news stories (even though I just did with Metallica a few weeks ago), but some things have popped up in the past few days that caught my attention and I felt the need to dish some opinions on them:

Floor Jansen’s Open Letter: As I’m sure most of you are aware through Blabbermouth’s eye catching select headlines feature at the top of their site, newly ordained Nightwish (and ReVamp) vocalist Floor Jansen recently posted an open letter to her fans explaining her point of view on personal fan interaction. Blabbermouth extolled the virtue of their name by naturally extrapolating the most quotable line from said open letter to headline their article, ” Nightwish singer Floor Jansen: “I am not an arrogant bitch”. For the past few years the comments sections of Blabbermouth articles have been more of a draw than the articles themselves, a tendency that didn’t waver even when the site implemented commenting through Facebook profiles alone (thus precluding anonymity). I read the original article, and then braced myself for the hellstorm that awaited when I scrolled further down. The comments were as expected, highly divisive and vitriolic in the extreme.

There’s a twitter profile out there called Don’t Read Comments, which pops up periodically on my feed once a day to remind me and thousands of others in a sagely manner that its not worth our time to read internet comment sections. I mentally nod and agree with the tweet, appreciate its usually humorous undertone, and proceed to wind up reading a comments section somewhere on the internet within the next ten minutes. I’d blame myself if only it wasn’t such a scalded in reflex by now. The very notion of social media is based upon the contextualization of comments, Facebook and Twitter are collections of our own comments and those of others that we’re interested (er… in seeing comment). If you’re about to go back to the original article and make the same mistake I made by reading the comments, put the brakes on you sadist. I’ll save you the trouble by telling you that you’ll come off with a lower impression of metal fans. I certainly did.

I’m not going to put up a counterargument to what Jansen wrote in her open letter, because she has every right to feel that way and to set boundaries that are within her comfort zone. I’m taking a guess here, but its likely that her appointment to Nightwish’s storied vocalist position has increased her profile to such a degree that she’s encountering a higher volume of fan interactions. That’s to be expected, and if you notice the first sentence of her letter, she makes references to “nightmares and many worried thoughts” —- unless that’s for dramatic effect I’d think that this has the makings of an alarming situation. She’s been on tour in the States with Iced Earth and Sabaton, opening their countrywide trek and finding herself in a strange position. Jansen is arguably the most famed individual on the tour, yet her band opens first, and there’s a tendency to expect that as the opening band, you’ll make yourself available to anyone and everyone after your set (this isn’t my expectation mind you, but a familiar tradition within metal shows anywhere). I saw the Houston date of this particular tour, and sure enough Jansen and her band were meeting people by the buses well after Iced Earth had finished playing. Jansen seemed comfortable and took photos with people and signed stuff, and generally everyone seemed pretty happy.

I was with a couple friends a short distance away, one of whom was intent upon meeting Jon Schaffer (he never came out of the bus, but we did get to have an extended conversation with Stu Block next to a food truck strangely hidden behind the venue). At one point Jansen had drifted off towards the direction of her tour bus, standing a good distance away from the throng of waiting fans. The same friend now urged me to go meet Jansen as she was by herself and had actually turned around scanning the crowd while smiling as if waiting for one last person to run up to her for a photo. I waved off his obnoxious urgings, simply because I felt no real necessity to meet her, and it might’ve taken away time from someone who really did (as it turned out no one else stepped up and she ended up scooting back to her bus). I’m not telling you that to make myself look better, but just to paint a picture. She struck me as someone who was personable, affable, and was genuinely enjoying the experience. I wonder if other tour stops on the trek were as laid back and pleasant, or if they became uncomfortable and she had to back off. If this tour was in South America I could understand, as fans there are super passionate and that can be construed as aggressive behavior — but us meek North Americans? Really? Its hard to comprehend.

Perhaps this open letter is more motivated by something else she indicated —- internet rumors of her being “rude”. If that is what has really gotten her upset, her open letter is only adding fuel to the fire. Her letter was written in English, and its very readable and clear. What it lacks however is levity, a casual tone, and perhaps even a hint of self-deprecating wit to soften its impact to the hordes of internet readers that have already formed an impression of her one way or another after reading it. I say that knowing that some things shouldn’t be softened —- but as I pointed out before, I have no problem with her message. But as her bandmates in Nightwish learned through brutal experience, posting an open letter is a form of PR, and in this case, its a heady dose of negative PR for Jansen. I think she’d have been better off by avoiding the open letter route, shrugging off the rumors (which only a small percentage of people tend to take seriously anyway), and going about her policies when meeting fans. Look there’s no way around it, telling someone who’s stoked to meet you to not touch you is just going to come off badly. Jansen is absolutely within her rights to make the request, but she has to realize that there will be fallout from it, and thanks to the internet, a lot of people will hear about it. I hope she finds a way to persevere through this. She was the right choice for Nightwish, hopefully she finds that Nightwish was the right choice for her.
 

Paul Allender Leaves Cradle of Filth: Not to sound like a jerk or anything, but why didn’t this happen years ago? Cradle of Filth have been in a creative tailspin for the past half a decade (possibly longer, depends who you ask) and one of the major reasons I feel is that their songwriting began to stagnate. Dani Filth may be the creative force behind the band, but it was Allender who was doing the bulk of the riff writing since 2000′s Midian, and therein was the problem. I saw them with Satyricon back in 2008 and it looked like Allender didn’t even want to be on stage, and frankly I found myself agreeing with him —- I wanted him off too, he was bumming me out. Its not yet confirmed whether or not Allender left the band of his own volition as my headline suggests or whether he was forced out, but either way, I hope that Dani finds a replacement that has some creative fire to infuse into a sound that is now an echo of what it once was. I have never really written about Cradle on the blog, but they were one of the extreme metal (hard to call them black metal these days) bands that I took a shine to in the late nineties and I still love their classic records.

By classics I’m referring specifically to Dusk and Her Embrace, Cruelty and the Beast, and the gloriously Maiden-ized Midian, Allender’s sole indisputable riff packed masterpiece. They had a couple interesting moments during the aughts with a few scattered songs here and there; certainly “Nymphetamine” was a great track (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Liv Kristine may just be the best guest female vocalist in metal), and I didn’t mind certain songs off Thornography (including their cover of “Temptation”). Their last three albums just left me feeling rather unmoved however, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. When you finish listening to an album and can think of nothing to say about it one way or another, that’s a bad sign. The chart positions have declined, as have sales, and Cradle are no longer guaranteed large audiences —- somewhere along the way, their shtick wore thin because the music backing it was no longer compelling. I’m not particularly fond of the gothic, Tim Burton-esque trappings that came with the band, but I accepted it as part of the package. Perhaps now its time for a rethink, for Dani to redefine himself as a vocalist and explore his range more (no more high shrieks for high shrieks sake). A new guitarist that could double as a cooperative songwriting partner should be someone who seeks not to replicate the band’s existing sound, but tear it all down and build something new. Its long past time, I hope it happens.
 

Opeth’s New Single, “Cusp of Eternity”: If you were reading the blog a few years ago, you’ll remember that I wasn’t very fond of Opeth’s last offering, the retro-psychedelic Heritage, and not because I was one of those disappointed by Mikael Akerfeldt’s retreat from all things death metal. The idea of that album that were bandied about before its releases were actually rather intriguing to me, and I was looking forward to it, having loved the softer moments on various Opeth records throughout their discography. I hoped that it would not be a repeat performance of Damnation, their nearly all acoustic album that ended up being a bit of a yawner in retrospect. But Heritage fell flat with me on all levels, the songwriting just wasn’t there —- songs were disjointed, lacked bridges and overall musical continuity. When the negative fallout occurred over that album’s release, I didn’t go out of my way to burn the band, but suffice to say I didn’t go see them live when their setlists revealed that they were avoiding older material. Through the press it seemed that Akerfeldt had tired of metal and was even at times close to disparaging it. Its hard to hold that against a guy who’s given us so many monumental death metal records, so I let it all slide. But I knew that there was no going back for this band, that in their hearts, they’d moved on from metal.

Turns out my intuition was correct on that front, the new song isn’t metal in the slightest, in fact its seemingly a continuation of the Heritage born exploration of progressive rock sounds of the 70s (perhaps that is an oversimplification, but I’ll make amends for it when I review the album as a whole). But here’s the thing: I actually really like “Cusp of Eternity”! This is a compelling, rhythmically heavy uptempo song with a set of great guitar tones, fluidly melodic patterns, and lush Steven Wilson produced vocal arrangements. Akerfeldt himself sounds fantastically eerie, and I love the distant effects on the guitar outro following the chorus, something I feel I haven’t heard from Opeth in forever. I’ve been playing this on repeat quite a bit today and its just working for me. I know I’m supposed to be a music reviewer and talk about this in greater detail, but screw it, my mind is half shuttered on a Monday so I’ll just let my more immediate reactions come to the surface. The truth is that I haven’t felt this excited about a new Opeth song since “Coil” from Watershed. If Pale Communion turns out to be one of the best albums of the year, there will be few others as greatly surprised as myself. You’ve got my attention Akerfeldt —- well played!
 

 

 

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Eyes Of A Stranger permalink
    June 3, 2014 12:57 am

    People need to understand that those in the entertainment industry whether it be an actor,musician,etc are human beings like us and are not gods. But yet there are those who put these people on pedestals and treat them like royalty. And when some refuse to interact with the fans,than you get cry babies that feel they are entitled to autographs,interactions,etc.

    They are not on our beck and call. If a musician doesn’t want to sign an autograph than so be it. Live with it and move on. Maybe you caught them on a bad day or they are in a hurry.

    So if Floor doesn’t feel like interacting with fans at anytime than that’s her prerogative. There is no law that says she has to and that goes for anyone in the entertainment industry.

    • Laura permalink
      June 3, 2014 4:52 am

      Regarding Floor Jansen’s letter:
      I agree, at the end of the day they’re just people who can get just as cranky or sick like the rest of us. I do not understand is those pople who whine and bitch about an artist’s personality. Let me say this: you’re listening to their music, the way they sing and so on, you’re not listening to their music for the sake of their shining (or not so shining) personality. So in my opinion i think those fans should actually understand that sometimes, just like a normal person, and artist may feel down and not be able to put up with all the presure that fan interaction can bring.

      Regarding Opeth’s single while i’m not a fan of their genre i found myself intrigued, i actually love it :) Who knows i might actually re-check their discography mostly because lately i’ve found myself liking things that i wouldn’t have touched three or four years ago with a then feet stick. =))

      Also
      Thank you for the insight and for all your rewievs, I really enjoy reading them and they brought some bands into my attention that, to my surprise, i enjoy listening to…a lot and that at the first glance i wouldn’t have touched them. So thank you.

    • June 5, 2014 4:36 pm

      Yeah I agree in principle in regards to her personal space and interaction with fans. The unfortunate occurrence here is Floor’s handling of this as a PR issue. I wonder if she had consulted with her management in Nightwish (or independent management) before issuing the open letter. I honestly feel that if say I had edited that letter before it was published, I could’ve softened the tone and rounded the edges better.

      I wonder if she had anyone else proofread it before putting it up and if so what was the feedback?

  2. June 3, 2014 6:03 am

    You took the words right out of my mouth, Eyes. In no shape or form do I blame the musician/s for exiting stage left and right to the bus. They have basically become the product from our creation of them. Plus I think the way bands are treated is geographic. Metal bands in particular are viewed in a different light in Europe. That fact is obvious when you see throngs of people at the concerts/festivals. Tens of thousands. Where, when these same bands come to the states they play to theaters or high end club venues that seat hundreds.
    Having worked a club here in Lynchburg Va., where our space accommodated 1000 max, I found that the bands that came through there were more cordial to their fans. Then again, I don’t if we here in the states are more sophisticated listeners, and appreciate them for their music rather than their status. I’ll use Sevendust as an example. They come through here every year and at the end of their set, they mill with crowd for an hour, at least. No pushing or shoving to get to them. Just casual bantering with whomever they approached or vise versa. In my experience, you will be treated as you treat them. Respect goes a long way and both ways. But you’ll always have you exceptions fan wise. And that’s where I earn my keep.

    • June 5, 2014 4:14 pm

      I think that Jansen will have to come to terms with the fact that more people will immediately recognize her. She’s also quite easy to pick out of a crowd —- tall as the trees! Hopefully she can find a way to deal with it all…. I’m still baffled by the timing of this open letter, during a break with Nightwish. If it were during their tour for the last album I could understand. I wonder…

  3. Net permalink
    June 9, 2014 10:17 pm

    regarding floor jansen open letter..
    i think it was a combination of A LOT of things, in recent interviews she claims meeting her should be considered a “luxury for a fan” and that she doesn’t have any obligation towars them (like hugging etc.) limitation about her personal space are understandable, BUT like i said it was a combination of things, it’s true she asked to turn off flashes, people did it but it was after all this that she shoved a few cameras from some fans wich made people go mad you can see the videos in YT she also got pissed when they asked her to sing something from AF (in the end even the band had to apologize with the crowd) and after the gig she publicly went to ‘bitch’ about it to the fans personal instagram and YT accounts (there’s captures of all of this) also one mayor complain was the fact she isn’t like that while she’ with NW.. like she acts different with them, she’s more aproachable there but she’s an “arrogant bitch” when she’s on her own therefore the title of the letter.

    • June 9, 2014 10:51 pm

      Interesting stuff… I don’t know if I can comment on it either way in terms of her particulars or her attitude towards fans being different in Nightwish or on her own except to say that when I saw her in Houston she seemed rather friendly and welcoming.

      I’m reminded of something I read from Roy Khan in an old interview where he talked about how he hoped people didn’t view him negatively because he tended to skip off to the tour bus after most shows. His reasoning was that he would often get sick a lot on tour and believed that shaking hands with loads of people throughout the tour was greatly contribution to it. That and he also wanted to rest his voice after a show and not stand around outside talking for extra hours —– so he wouldn’t be hoarse the next day. I understood those reasons and still think of them as rather practical.

      Its not an easy occupation nor an easy position to be in, as Floor is finding out (or has known for years). I just think she needs to realize that in an age of camera phones and social media, how she handles her own public relations is of huge importance. As I recommended in my original article, I think she needs to project a lighter-hearted sense of self to everyone else. That and get someone to edit those future open letters!

  4. Net permalink
    June 10, 2014 11:32 am

    the open letter was a bad move tho, and i hope she or whoever is taking her p.r. learn something from this situation (if i rember right her bf is her manager)… And avoid useless comparisons and such http://facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=531233753648798&id=100002865349223&set=a.145497832222394.25449.100002865349223&p=10&refid=13&_ft_=qid.6018274305001445806%3Amf_story_key.7108586493152760042

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