These are good times for fans of Power Metal. Bands like DragonForce, Sonata Arctica, Kamelot and Nightwish are enjoying success and more attention than this genre has received in a long time. One benefit of all this is that bands like Alkemyst get a chance to show what they can do over the span of a few years and gain the attention of record labels. Alkemyst, a French band was formed in 1998 and has released a few demos as well as two full length albums. Their new cd is called "Through Painful Lanes" and is a very good Power Metal album with excellent production (self produced at Taurus Studio in Geneva, Switzerland). I had an opportunity to interview Severin Bonneville, one of the guitarists for Alkemyst.

We want to avoid creating the same song based on 3 chords again and again
SB: It's a pleasure answering your questions and getting in touch with our American fans through this interview.

How did all the band members in Alkemyst meet and come together?

SB: Well, it all started in 1998. Denis Mellion (bass) and Arnaud Menard knew them before and had already played together. But, the band was formed 10 years ago with the strong will to play a powerful and very melodic music. At the time, we were younger and we were very inspired by bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Helloween or Gamma Ray. We played a lot of covers, then we started writing. We released a demo "A Path to Heaven" which was quite praised by the public and professionals. Then, we had to find another singer as our former singer didn't share our will to evolve to a much more personal style. We found the perfect mate with Ramon Messina, singer of the Italian band Secret Sphere. He's been a real friend since the beginning and we've always liked his work in his band. We released our first album ‘A Meeting in the Mist' in 2003 by Nuclear Blast. Working with such a big European label was a great opportunity for us but it soon turned out that we couldn't be a priority for them. Anyway, it allowed us to be distributed throughout Europe and Asia and people started to hear about our music. Our new album, 'Through Painful Lanes' is finally out after quite a long writing process (as usual in Alkemyst).

I live in Dallas, TX and we have a good metal scene here - most US and European metal acts tour through Dallas regularly. What is the metal scene like in France?

SB: There's quite an impressive metal scene in France though I have to admit that I don't listen to many French bands. The Extreme Metal scene seems to take the lead through Europe. In France, we have good power Metal bands as well.

Are there other French metal bands that you like - that we should be looking for?

SB: Especially in our area (French Alps), the local scene is amazing. For instance, bands like Black Rain, Further Dimension, or even Eternal Flight (our drummer plays in this band as well) come from this area. We can be proud of it. There are many reasons why we have many talented bands in the French Alps. One of them might be that most of us would listen to a Speed Melodic band called Dream Child that showed us about 10 years ago that an International career was possible, even for a French band from our area. Concerning other French bands, you may have heard of bands like Heavenly, or Dyslesia which have been working very hard as well to get an International reputation.

I hear several different influences in your music - what types of music influence you - any specific bands?

SB: Your question is kinda tricky. I mean, it's hard to sum up all our influences. We're all huge fans of Heavy Metal bands like Helloween, Blind Guardian, Angra but some of us (including myself) like expanding those influences to more broaded tastes. Bands like Ark, Dream Theater, Symphony X, Pain of Salvation or Opeth have changed the way Heavy Metal could be considered, adding progressive aspects to it. Besides, Arnaud Gorbaty (drums) is a big fan of Jazz music, Denis (bass) likes different things from Neo Metal to world music, Arnaud Menard's tastes go from extreme Metal to classical music. Personnally, I love prog metal (Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation but I can as well find myself amazed by artists like Dave Matthews Band, Jeff Buckley or even Mike Patton (Faith No More and Mr Bungle). I think 2 bands have recently reached the whole band's approval: Beyond Twilight and Opeth, as they both sound modern and they combine so many influences in order to create one unique and refined music style.

What's the best album that you are listening to right now?

SB: Probably ‘Watershed'(Opeth) or ‘Scarsick' (Pain Of Salvation). Both albums seems to take me to another world. They both convey a lot of emotion as well.

What are your tour plans? How often do you perform live?

SB: We recently played for a local radio and we played in Grenoble last May. Things are quite difficult because we don't live in the same place anymore and you know the record industry is going bad and people are hesitating to pay bands for live performances. It's crazy but when you you don't sell millions of copies, you hardly bring many people at concerts. On the other hand, a concert requires a lot of material and decent facilities. It takes quite a lot of money and courage to set the all thing up. But, we play as often as we can. It's a real pleasure to share our music with our fans.

Have you ever performed in the US?

SB: No, we haven't so far, but we're talking with our American label (Nightmare records) so we could play there hopefully. We would really love to. Arnaud Gorbaty and I lived in USA for several months and it would be great to meet you guys!!

If you could pick one band to open for on your next tour, who would it be?

SB: Wow... it's hard to say. I would say any good band among those I named before.

Is it true that you are already working on the follow-up album to 'Through Painful Lanes'?

SB: Yes, that's right. But you know the writing process is quite long when we write an Alkemyst album so we'll probably not be ready for next summer you know. But, we're currently starting to get pieces together and we have many good songs ready...in our minds and on our pcs too! Alkemyst's next album will probably explore a little bit further the gap we've created on purpose, trying to reconcile progressive elements with speed power metal ones. We're working on a concept based on a true story but I can't tell you more for the moment.

How has the response been in Europe to 'Through Painful Lanes'? Did it sell as well as you had expected/hoped?

SB: Well, reviews are really fantastic, we're very pleased by them. We didn't expect such a good response. Reviews are even better than for our first album. It's a great relief to feel that professionals and fans exactly understand what is intended in our music. Concerning the sales, it's hard to say for the moment. 'Through Painful Lanes' was released for less than 6 months but we fear that the issue of illegal download is doing wrong like it's the case for many bands. Small artists are deeply concerned by this issue in Europe you know. We don't want to judge fans but they sometimes don't realize that internet piracy will soon prevent artists to produce future albums. Many bands don't get money from record companies to record their album. A lot of bands work hard and invest time and money for the sake of music. The thing is that people don't feel the damage they can do by illegally downloading music or movies, and they're given all the tools to do so (through softwares for examples). In Alkemyst, we're not professionals, and unfortunately we can't afford to tour throughout the world. So, we totally understand the crisis in the music industry.

Who comes up with all the complex rhythms and time changes in your songs?

SB: Most of the time, the complex ideas come from Arnaud Menard (guitars). I have more mainstreams tastes. I enjoy being inspired and following my instincts. Arnaud is a much more demanding musician. He wants to take our music to a higher level all the time, he likes studyng music, scanning details to get new options or horizons. It pushes the rest of the band to be more demanding as well. It's a very positive aspect of or music, we really try not to reproduce. We want to avoid creating the same song based on 3 chords again and again. Besides, Arnaud Gorbaty (drums) is a music teacher so he's much more educated and as a drummer he often comes up with new jerky rythms for our music.

What's next for Alkemyst - what are your plans for the fall?

SB: We're going to continue writing for our next album and we think about touring in France in 2009. And who knows, maybe we'll come and see you in America.

What else would you want your new fans or people who are not familiar with you to know?

SB: Well, some people say that our style isn't clear-cut enough but everything we do is on purpose: we really love mixing a few progressive elements with Speed Metal. Another aspect is the fact that our music requires attention. But, we make a lot of efforts so that our music sounds both original and catchy. Besides, we want to make interesting songs we can still proud of within several years. We hope listeners can feel that, especially on our latest album.

Thank you to all our American fans for supporting us and thank you for this interview.

--Brad Caplan

Severin BonnevilleBrad Caplan10/14/2008

Through Painful Lanes
Brad Caplan8/8/2008

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