The seeds for SAVN (translated: Deprivation) officially took root when multi-instrumentalist Stig contacted Midnattsol vocalist and long-time friend Carmen Elise Espenæs about singing one song for the planned SAVN album. Carmen agreed, and Stig and Anders (keyboards) were so pleased with the final result they invited her to sing on the entire record. With Midnattsol rendered inactive for the time being due to personal commitments within the band, and her new role as a singer, as well as a mother of an adorable daughter, the Norwegian powerhouse found herself with enough time and refueled with energy to take part in this new musical journey.
And, how did all this come together as a band?
“In the beginning they just wanted me here and there in parts of the songs”, Carmen reveals, “but I became more and more involved as we worked. There were some parts that I asked if we could change them because I had a chorus or melody line that needed to be in there. They decided that it would be best to say that I'm part of the band. I loved the music when I first heard it, and working with them in the studio was a great experience.”
SAVN is uncharted territory for the trio in that the music is unlike anything created by The Sins Of Thy Beloved or Midnattsol.
There are obvious metal and goth influences within the music - very reminiscent of early Theatre Of Tragedy in places (‘The Demons In Me’, ‘Now Or Never’) - and prominent folk elements (‘Musical Silence’, ‘All I Want’, ‘I Am Free’), but it’s also surprisingly rock-oriented and heavy that it can’t be pigeonholed as a “typical” female fronted goth/metal. The music is warm and upbeat while the lyrical concepts are inviting you on a journey and touching your soul.
SAVN is unique, not simply following trends. SAVN have composed the music and Carmen wrote all the lyrics. Carmen was given complete creative freedom, including re-writing existing lyrics to suit her own ideas of what the songs should sound like. The trio also wrote some songs as a group.
”It's fantastic”, Carmen says of exploring new musical territory with SAVN, “I feel it brings me back to who I am. If I go for a really long time not making music I lose something of myself. Getting into doing SAVN really makes me feel alive. And I have absolutely no clue why, but all the ideas for the song melodies came so fast. I have to say I've never been so satisfied when making a new album, and I think the vocal melodies on this one are the best I've ever done. They're catchier, I think, probably because the song structures are simpler so that people will want to sing along and listen to the songs over and over.”
SAVN’s self titled debut album, recorded, mixed and produced by Alex Krull (Atrocity, Leaves' Eyes) at Mastersound Studios in Germany, features several guest performers. Carmen’s sister Liv Kristine (Leaves' Eyes) appears on ’I Am Free’, while Michelle Darkness (End Of Green) turns up on ’The Demons In Me’. On the musical side, fiddle players Dag Bjørkedal and Lillian Hodne play a large part in rounding out the SAVN sound. And, additional strings were provided by the famed Lingua Mortis Orchestra on ‘Sorrowful’ and ‘Lengselens Hånd’, directed and recorded by composer and Rage guitarist Victor Smolski.
All the guest appearances on the album are important; all of them special, but Carmen is particularly fond of ‘I Am Free’ that is featuring her sister, Liv Kristine. It marks the first time the siblings have recorded one of Carmen’s songs together.
“I don't remember if it was Liv that asked me about doing a song or if I asked her, but we talked about it and thought it would be a great idea. And we didn't just take any song. There was a part in ’I Am Free’ that I felt was perfect for Liv”, says Carmen.
And in fact, perhaps Liv Kristine describes SAVN best from the point of view of an observer and participant of the album recordings: “If you like the early Theatre Of Tragedy, you'll enjoy SAVN”, says Liv, “it's very down to earth. Stig was in The Sins Of Thy Beloved and there are things he really loves about that period of bands like Sirenia and Tristania. He’s always been influenced by these bands and what he put together with SAVN is like a dream come true”. And she comments: “I love the album. It's an excellent piece of art”.