VALKIJA really impressed us with their debut album. This Italian power metal band plays true metal to the max. Fronted by female siren Zoraija, they bring back old memories of CHASTAIN and WARLOCK. Their lengthy songs contain lots of great musical ideas, and die-hard metal heads will immediately return to the roaring eighties in their mind, while listening to “Avengers Of Steel”. In the CD review section on page 20, you can read our thoughts about their brilliant debut CD. While below, you can read the interview that we did with Zoraija, the frontwoman of VALKIJA.
When did VALKIJA get together as a band and who were in the first line up of this band?
Zoraija: “Hi, to all of you at Metal Maidens magazine and thanks for the interview and support. VALKIJA was founded in 1999. Nikoll Jhon and me joined forces with respectively the bassplayer and the guitarist. Then we called at arms with our former drummer Alex Scarlata, with whom we recorded our demo and performed live for a couple of years. At the same time we hired guitarist, Marco di Grazia, who kindly collaborated with us. They both quit VALKIJA for musical reasons, but even today they still remained good friends of ours. We found Sebastian Hamm shortly afterwards, who became our steady drummer.”
How did you actually meet up with each other?
Zoraija: “Well, Nikoll (Hamm) and me met, when I was thirteen and he seventeen. He was playing guitar with a guy close to my home. He introduced me to heavy metal and after a few years, we got engaged. Now we’re getting married. Jhon is one of my best friends. We met at a previous musical project, in which Nikoll was also involved. We met up with Sebastian at a camping site during summertime (Nikoll and me lived for five months in a camper beside the sea at this camping). It was love at first sight. I think, that friendship in a band is more important than whatever skillness at all and Sebastian was tuned exactly at our wave length. Besides that, he’s also a very skilled and professional musician!”
Who came up with the name of the band?
Zoraija: “It was Nikoll. He is the one responsible for all the artwork, lyrics and that kind of stuff concerning VALKIJA.”
Did any of the bandmembers play in other bands, before VALKIJA, and if yes, did they also record anything with these bands?
Zoraija: “Yes, as I partially answered before, Nikoll and me were involved in a doom/epic project, called ESHUAS. We had two singers (one male and one female). We recorded a three track demo, which was unfortunately never released. Then Jhon Turturro joined us in the last phase of the band.”
How were the reactions of the press towards your debut album "Avengers Of Steel", which was released by Sonic Age Records recently?
Zoraija: “We received many great reactions from different countries. The best response came from our own country Italy, Germany and the USA. Greece was quite average.”
Who writes the lyrics to the songs, and what are they about?
Zoraija: “It’s Nikoll again, and sometimes me. Our lyrics deal with the theme of revenge by various points of view, except “The Unknown Kadath” (the only song included from the promo years of..), which is based on a Howard Phillip Lovecraft novel, of which Nikoll is a great admirer.”
In 2002, you released "Days Of The Rising Sun". Was this an EP or a demo, because we never heard about this release!
Zoraija: “It was a demo and it contained five tracks.”
Which songs are on this release, and how do they sound comparing to the material on "Avengers Of Steel"?
Zoraija: “Oh well, it’s very hard to compare both releases to one another. The demo contains more dark metal influences and is more epical oriented. It has a different feeling. It has more intros, less impact and more magic feelings. It starts with a piano intro, then followed by a speech. Next is “The Seaferer” – a tune in the vein of MANOWAR/MANILLA ROAD. It’s about a dying master of vikings. Then comes “Lady Of Steel”’, the only tune that will remind you of “Avengers Of Steel” here and there: speedy and in quite a teutonic power metal style. Next comes “Black Angel”. I introduce the song with a speech, then it flows slowly and lyrically (not in the meaning of Pavarotti style!) and evocative to a rather misty atmosphere, rising at even more rage later on, but never leaving some kind of a poetical breath. Then it’s time for “The Unknown Kadath”, which is by far my favorite tune of the album. There is an intro with a guitar, keyboards and a bass solo, starting from a glacial atmosphere bringing you to an untelling terror. The song is slow, doomy, epical ethereal and becoming a glowing furious terror later on, which is a different version than on the album. The demo closes with “Livin’ For Death” - a war like tune inspired by “The Gladiator” the movie by Oliver Stone.”
Can you tell us how your musical style developed over the years? I can imagine, that through the years, your musical style has changed a little bit as well?
Zoraija: “Actually, it has changed a lot. We are still playing very simple music, but at the beginning it was a little childish and full of compromises, because of the different musical opinions between us and our former drummer. When you first start writing music, there’s always a lack of time that everyone in the band needs for finding groove and emotions: playing simple things is the best way to achieve this.”
How would you describe the music of VALKIJA nowadays?
Zoraija: “Extremely ass-kicking power metal, mixed with a proud component of epicity, obscure feelings, and eighties rooted influences, but with a little sight to the future.”
Who are your biggest influences, and maybe you can also name some of the influences of each band member individually?
Zoraija: “We listen to a lot of music, but undoubtedly our biggest influences are from bands such as JUDAS PRIEST, GRAVE DIGGER, PRIMAL FEAR, DIO, BLACK SABBATH, JAG PANZER, SINNER, ACCEPT, OMEN, MANOWAR, CANDLEMASS, SAVATAGE (Criss Oliva era!), AGENT STEEL, SAXON, BRAINSTORM, etc.”
Why don't you want to be labelled as 'ultra defenders'?
Zoraija: “I can’t stand the attitude of some bands, that a few labels sell as ‘ultra defenders’: they are just posers and I see them less ‘true’ than any honest politician (which I’ve never seen in my life!). Don’t get me wrong, we are deeply involved in the metal scene to keep the flame alive, but as an attitude we prefer deeds and not only words!”
I didn't read about any line up changes in your biograhpy, which is a remarkable thing. Didn't you have any line up changes over the years that you exist as a band?
Zoraija: “As I explained earlier, we had some troubles with our drummer in the beginning. Still, this was the only line-up change in VALKIJA’s career.”
Let's have a closer look at your live shows, if we may. What can people expect when they come to see a VALKIJA show?
Zoraija: “Mainly fun and lots of emotions and of course a full hour of good heavy metal!”
Do you also play covers during your shows, or do you stick to your own penned material only?
Zoraija: “Covers?!?? Never! We played some at the beginning of our career, when we had only a few tunes to choose from. We performed “Holy Diver” (DIO), “The Trooper” (IRON MAIDEN), “Mr. Crowley” (OZZY OSBOURNE), and a couple of songs by TESLA... mmmm.....no more.”
Have you ever played outside of Italy?
Zoraija: “Not yet, but tonight we’re leaving for Athens, in Greece. On January 9th, we’ll open for BATTLEROAR and INNERWISH. And in July, we’re invited to play at the Headbangers Open Air in Brande Hörnerkirchen, Germany [editor: For more more information, surf to: http://www.headbangers-open-air.de].”
I think, you must have experienced some nice, interesting or funny things, when being on the road. Maybe you want to share some of these memorable moments with our readers?
Zoraija: “Oh, there are thousands of stories to tell, but I’m quite mysterious about my secrets, so I’ll reveal none! Just kidding: The most funny things happened after our shows, looking for a place to sleep, and during the night (understandable). Once, our former drummer put off his shoes inside the car, in which we had to sleep and filling it with the unpleasantly smell of his ‘flowery’ feet. It was unbearable! We had to sleep on the shore that night and two of us got nearly killed by an ‘off road’ car driving on the beach. The headliners that night was a band called DRIVERS, by the way. What a sick humor! Another time when we were late for a show and in a hurry, we smoothly crashed a car ahead of us. It was a police officer going on duty!! Nikoll and me both got arrested. We lost the show and had to pay a fine (that fucking bastard of a policeman!).”
Do you use any show elements during your live shows?
Zoraija: “We have a huge flag made of leather and spikes, some chains and sometimes we use an axe on stage (just to cut the balls…huhhh… the heads, I mean of those, who don’t appreciate my voice!).”
What's the metal scene like in the area, where you live? Are there many clubs and bars where you can play live?
Zoraija: “The scene over here is very broad with different kinds of music styles. In our city, we have more than five signed bands that released (or are releasing) a CD with a label: NOBLE SAVAGE, ORION RIDERS, SKIZO (storied thrash metal band), MISTURA, VALKIJA and a few others that are going to sign soon. Unfortunately, there are not many clubs and bars to do shows, but we have nine months a year of good weather, so we quite often play at open air festivals.”
Have you planned a tour, or some shows, to go with the release of your album "Avengers Of Steel" already?
Zoraija: “Not a real tour, but we are booked for some dates around Italy and a couple abroad. Unfortunately, we can not live from our music alone just yet, so we must work to manage our shows.”
Can you name some of the bands, you shared the stage with already?
Zoraija: “As a matter of fact, we played with some quite well-known bands already, such as VISION DIVINE, THY MAJESTY, INNERWISH, BATTLEROAR and soon we’ll be on stage with WOTAN - the masters of the Italian epic metal.”
How did you get in contact with Sonic Age records, who released your fantastic debut album?
Zoraija: “This is due to the great work, that our manager Emanuele Gentile (EG Agency) did for us. Thanks to his advice, the final record deal became reality in a short time.”
What's your favorite VALKIJA song, and why?
Zoraija: “Well, that’s so hard to say. All the tunes that we ever wrote (from the beginning on) are pieces coming straight from our heart. Our music is something that we truly believe in, so it’s very hard to choose one particular song. All of them are linked to a special moment and time in our life and saying that one is best above the other is like prefering a son (or daughter) above the other. VALKIJA’s songs are from our union, in which we are suffering and winning together. Each one of them are a piece of the one thing, named VALKIJA. Perhaps the songs I prefer to sing most are “Sign Of The Hammer” and “The Last One”, because of the sensation that it gives me on stage!”
Both BLOODSTAINED members Thodoris Gourlomatis and Giorgos Kalavrezos are guest musicians on your album. In which song(s) can we hear them and how did you convince them to appear on the album?
Zoraija: “Oh, Giorgos plays a solo on “The Unknown Kadath” and Thodoris sings some backing vocals with Nikoll and Jhon. It was not so hard at all to convince them. Giorgos for example. He asked us, if we would like to have him as a guest guitarplayer, and then he told Thodoris to sing a bit, too. Greek people are very kind and always willing to cooporate, so it wasn’t so hard as some people might think to find guest musicians for our debut album.”
Are you a 100% satisfied with the final result of "Avengers Of Steel"or what would you do differently, if you would have the chance?
Zoraija: “We are all not one hundred percent satisfied. The time to record the album was very short and we did not do a pre-production and/or post-production. On one hand, this is good, because our sound is so much more spontaneously (for example I sang all the tunes only once!). Some people said that “Avengers Of Steel” even sounds more like a live album than a studio album. On the other hand, our genre really needs more clarity and precision. But this is what “Avengers Of Steel” is all about: rough, aggressive, bloody and played from our heart and soul!”
Who provided the splendid artwork for the front cover of your album? It really looks great in my opinion!
Zoraija: “It was Nikoll: he’s an artisan, instrument builder, painter and aero-photographer. He did a quick drawing while being in Greece, gave it to the label and they arranged it. For sure, he will thank you for the compliment. Not everybody appreciates our cover that much, because it’s too much old-fashioned and out of date. That’s why I love it even more: it’s like our mark.”
Did you also receive any negative reviews, and how do you deal with those in general? Do you try to learn from it or want to forget about it as quickly as possible?
Zoraija: “Of course we had negative reviews too. Well, some critics let you learn something, while some others are only made to cut your legs, because they don’t like the genre or are too ignorant to understand what they are listening to. Usually, these kind of reviews hurt me very much and I curse them. But after analizing bad reviews made by professionals, they definitely pull me to do better. I remember one bad review more than ten good ones!”
What are your goals with VALKIJA?
Zoraija: “To continue what we are doing now: playing the music that we like, making people happy, doing a lot of live shows and making a decent living with our music (why not?) by doing it all day and all night long!!! Of course we all have jobs next to the band now (we have to eat and pay the bills - hahaha). My biggest dream is to live by my music and play and sing all day long, being live on the road with the band, meeting people and to grow as a singer and a metal maiden.”
And what are your future plans on the long and short term?
Zoraija: “Regarding the very near future, I’m leaving University (I also study) in order to dedicate more time to my singing and the band. We are also trying to set up a little tour in Italy to promote the album, so we must work very hard to achieve this. Of course we are not doing it for the money, but only to spread out the word as much as possible. We are also working on songs for the upcoming album. We have got five new songs now and we already play two of them in our live shows. We hope to enter the studio at the end of this autumn. For (very) far projects, perhaps to have a son with Nikoll, but of course this is not the right moment!”
Are you working already on a follow up to this album, and what can we expect from the new VALKIJA songs?
Zoraija: “As I told you in the aforementioned question: yes, we are working on it! We will start the pre-production very soon. Of course, there will be some new elements added to our music, but basically, our aim is to play heavy metal and this is what everyone will expect from us: it’s metal, until death do us part!!!!”
Zoraija, do you play any intruments, besides your human voice?
Zoraija: “Oh no, for God’s sake! I noticed, that playing an instrument may lead you to madness and I want to retain my mental health (haha – just kiddin’ of course).”
Have you ever recorded a video clip, or are you planning to do so in the (near) future? And if yes, for which song would you like to do one?
Zoraija: “Well, we recorded a video clip, while we were in Greece last year June, but like I said time was a tyrant! Of course one of our future plans is to make a good video clip, but right now we have other meat on the barbecue!! The song, we will probably use, is “Steel Avenger”. We already have some ideas, but we would like to make a really professional video, so we prefer to wait a little bit more.”
If you could tour with one band of your choice, which band would you choose then?
Zoraija: “What question!! JUDAS PRIEST of course!!! That would be a dream come true! I’m a die hard fan of PRIEST! On the other hand, I would not turn down CANDLEMASS either! I know. What the hell have got JUDAS PRIEST and CANDLEMASS in common? Nothing, but it’s very simple: both of them have been my favorite bands for ages....”
Do you have any other interests or hobbies besides playing music in a band?
Zoraija: “I have many hobbies. I like kickboxing and fitness, have rides on motorbikes, having fun with friends, going to concerts, out to dinner, make freaky movies with my friend Alfonso and I like to sleep until late on a Sunday morning….”
Our magazine is completely focussed on the female rockerz in the music scene. Zoraija, do you feel that women still need this special kind of attention, or do you think female musicians are already getting all the recognition, that they deserve so well?
Zoraija: “I have been waiting for this question to come. I think that heavy metal looks at female singers in a very strange way. Perhaps they even considered us a world apart in the past. Now in 2005, things are slowly changing. I would very much like to be treated as a metal singer rather than a ‘female’ metal singer. My inspiration are metal singers in general and not just ‘male’ or ‘female’ metal singers. I don’t think, that this attitude is right for our genre. I feel there are too much posers behind the mask ‘metal is only for males’ and I’ll go on kicking their asses, until the last breath will leave my lungs. I know many ‘ladies’ are much more interested in metal, than the ‘true defenders’ as they like to call themselves: acts, dudes and not just words!”
Our magazine is based in The Netherlands. What more do you know about our country and when can we see you on stage in Holland? (It would be great to see you on tour here with other great bands from the Sonic Age label like OVERLORDE, for example)
Zoraija: “I never visited The Netherlands and I’m quite a donkey in geography: where’s your country situated exactly? In Northern America? Australia? (just kiddin’) I know, it’s in Asia : 0 ) Apart from the jokes, I’d very much like to explore your country and why not doing a tour with OVERLORDE? Only time will tell…”
How important is the internet for a band like VALKIJA, and do you also have a website where people can find the latest news about the band?
Zoraija: “Our website is ready and will be online with Odin’s blessing in a couple of days from now [http://www.valkija.com]. So, c’mon guys and tell me what you think! Without the internet things would have been more difficult for us (if not impossible) and it’s a great way to reach a lot of metal fans! The internet is a very powerful source and especialy nowadays, it’s good to have it as a friend.”
Do you want to add something to this interview. Maybe there is something we forgot to ask you here, that is essential for the story of VALKIJA so far?
Zoraija: “I think this interview was the biggest I have ever done! Everything was very clearly explained and well, if we miss something? A bit of mystery won’t do no harm, right?”
Any personal messages for the readers of Metal Maidens or to your (Dutch) fans in general?
Zoraija: “I really hope, that you liked this interview and I hope, that our music will make you happy! Our promise to you is to play it loud, stay alive and give you the best we’ve got. I hope to visit your country soon, do some live shows and have some fun together!”
The last words are for Zoraija and VALKIJA……
VALKIJA: “Raise your hammers high, the time of the avengers has come! Stay heavy and be free! Never forget that metal is not only a music style. It’s a way of living! May the lord of thunder ride beside all of you: hail!!”
This interview was published in Metal Maidens #39/March 2005.