A new force has exploded onto the symphonic metal scene. Ad Infinitum, the brainchild of Swiss singer Melissa Bonny (Evenmore, Rage of Light), has released its debut album, “Chapter I: Monarchy” (Napalm Records, April 3, 2020; read Live Metal’s review), based on the reign of Louis XIV, king of France from 1643 to 1715. Guitarist Adrian Thessenvitz, bassist Jonas Asplind and drummer Niklas Müller give the band a solid metal foundation; orchestral elements serve as accents; and Bonny’s jaw-dropping vocals—including the occasional blood-curdling roar—serve as the undeniable centerpiece. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with Melissa to discuss the album, the coronavirus pandemic, plague masks, time traveling and more.
LIVE METAL: Well, first, we should talk about what’s going on in the world, this global pandemic. Where are you now, and how are you making out so far?
MELISSA BONNY: I’m in Denmark, and things are pretty good here, actually. We were not forced to stay at home. We had to keep our distances with people, and many shops were closed. But it was actually still OK, and now things are opening again because everything was so efficient. So here, things are good.
OK, that’s great. You were supposed to be on tour in April, so what are you doing with this extra time you’ve had suddenly?
Crying. (laughs) Yeah, it was pretty sad because it was supposed to be Ad Infinitum’s first tour and our first chance to present our music live. And it was very heartbreaking when we got to know that it was postponed to next year, which is a long time. But we had some Skype meetings with the guys, and we talked about what we can do to promote this album the best we can without playing live and to stay in touch with people and to offer some content the best we can.
Yeah, so what is your strategy for promoting the album now?
We had this online release party, which was really cool because in the end, so many people were able to attend. It wasn’t like a release show where only the people living in the area are able to come. It was really open to the whole world, so it was really fun to have many people from everywhere. And then we discussed about merchandising, special videos—all kinds of content that is possible to put online right now. It’s a little bit hard for us because we are in three different countries. So at first, we were like, OK, we’re just gonna do a livestream concert. Then the borders closed, and it was not possible anymore. We had to kind of figure out how to do it from three different countries. And we’re prepping some surprises that we will put online very soon. I want to keep it as a surprise for now.
Yeah, of course. Since you’re not playing any shows, are you doing any vocal exercises or anything like that to keep your voice in shape, or are you just kind of resting for now?
Yeah, I sing pretty much every day. Right now, a little bit less because I’ve been working on the crowdfunding perks that we had to send to everywhere. We did this crowdfunding campaign, which worked very well and which allowed us to have an album of which we are proud. So we had a lot of envelopes and packages to send, and we’re still working on it, because we were supposed to work, the four of us, together to share the work, and this corona situation made everything more complicated. We had to send some merch items from one country to another and the next one. So it was a nightmare, but now we are finally seeing the end of it. But yeah, I’m still singing every day and trying to learn new techniques that I like and that I hear from other singers that I admire, for example.
We can get into the story of the album a little bit later, but I think it’s a coincidence, but it’s really kind of eerie to see a new band come out right now where all the band members are wearing plague masks.
(laughs) You know, actually, we discussed it right before the release. We were like oh shit. Either people are not gonna pay attention to it, or it can go down very quickly, because they’re gonna think that it’s a very bad joke. Some people made fun of it, and it was really funny to us. Honestly, I was really afraid that it could have been seen as a very, very bad joke.
Yeah, but I think people are having fun with it. I saw the meme where you’ve got the hand sanitizer with the guys behind you.
I read that when you started working on what has become this album, you were intending it to be a solo project. So how did it evolve from that into the band we see and hear today?
Well, first, I just wanted to create a couple of songs, create an EP, record it and put it out there and see what happens, just to create something that I like and nothing more. As the project evolved and the more I was investing energy and time into it, the more I felt no, I really want to do something concrete with this—not just an album, but really to create something that will also go live. First, I was like, OK, should I just hire musicians? But then I thought no, I really like the band atmosphere when everybody has an opinion and everybody’s helping and everybody has his own strength. Right after the crowdfunding campaign in 2018, I started to contact Nick (Müller), the drummer, who introduced (guitarist) Adrian (Thessenvitz) to the band. And then I met (bassist) Jonas (Asplind) on tour. There was no casting. It was obvious that these people would be part of the band, and it just happened.
What was the songwriting like, especially compared to other bands you’ve been in?
I was very different actually, because the other bands I’ve been in, it was either we jam in the rehearsal room and then we come up with a song after a while, or there was one main songwriter and I could only write the vocal lines and the lyrics. Both ways were not really what I enjoyed the most, and this is actually what first motivated me to write my own music. Ad Infinitum starting with me writing music, because as you said, I was alone in the band first. Then I worked with Oliver Phillips, who helped me because I’m not a drummer, I’m not a guitar player, so I obviously needed some help there to make it sound like really written by a drummer, written by a guitar player, not a singer who’s just programming on the computer. When the guys joined the band, they started to take part in the songwriting process. Now, for the future, they will be involved from the beginning, obviously.
You’ve used historical subject matter, I guess you could say, in the songs. Could you kind of explain the basic story behind the album?
Of course. I didn’t want it to look like a concept album, but I wanted to give it an atmosphere. The album is about the life of Louis XIV and the people around him, the king of France. But I also wanted to make the lyrics a little bit abstract so people can also relate to them and read them in a different way, whether they want to travel through time or whether they want to identify to them.
I feel like the music has a very cinematic feel to it. Were you influenced by any movies?
Not movies actually. I cannot think about any movie that influenced the songwriting. I would say more some bands that have been inspirations for me through the years. I always mention Kamelot because it’s a band that I really admire or Within Temptation or Delain. These are bands that really inspired me and helped me find the kind of music I wanted to write and sing.
Going back to the visual aside, where did the inspiration for the masks and the look of the band come from?
That’s a long story. There’s a whole time traveling story behind it, if you want me to start and if you have 10 minutes. (laughs)
Sure, if you don’t mind.
So the story behind it is that Nick had the idea to gather to finish the album, because some of the songs, like I said, were already written or started, and we had to finish this album. So Nick had the idea to gather in an isolated place for one week or a little bit more. So we started to try to write songs, riffs, lyrics, melodies, and the first day nothing happened. We were like OK, this is just about getting to know each other and how we work. The second day, same thing happened—no songs, no riffs, no melodies. It was a little bit disturbing, but we thought OK, third day we start again. And the third day, same thing happened, and at the end of the day, we said, “OK, now time is running out, and we have to write this album. We have a few days left. Let’s just finish dinner, finish our last glass of wine, go to bed.”
For some reason, we had this strange idea. There was this library in the attic of the house. It was the kind of horror movie house where when you watch TV you’re like, “Don’t go there!” (laughs) So we went upstairs, and we discovered this library with a lot of historical books, and we started to open them and wonder if perhaps inspiration would come from there. But nothing really happened, and one after the other we started to fall asleep.
But when we woke up, we were not in this house anymore. We were in the middle of the Black Death in four different places in Europe. Obviously, without knowing what happened, we had to figure out how to live, how to find a way to stay alive and to stay discrete, and hope for the best and hope that we would find out what happened and how to come back. So we all tried to create a life there. The guys started to get involved in the medicine back then, fighting the Black Death, the plague. Me, as a woman, I was not very welcome in there, so I took a more, let’s say, alternative medicine, which back then would have been called witchcraft. So we stayed a couple of months there until people started to realize that we were not from there and that we were not doctors.
So we had to run away, and during this run, we got projected through time once more and we arrived in Versailles. This time, we were all four together, thankfully, but still not knowing what happened and how to go back. So same thing: We tried to adapt, to get to know to people, to find a place. And when finally we came back to our own time, we decided to keep this symbol, which is the plague masks for the guys.
That is a crazy story. (laughter) The title of the album is “Chapter I: Monarchy.” Do you have a vision for chapter two, chapter three going forward?
Yeah, of course. We want to make as many albums as possible (laughs), and each will be a chapter of Ad Infinitum’s history.
What has the experience been like with Napalm Records so far?
It’s really great. We are all young musicians, and we don’t know the business as well as they do. So it’s very nice to have some people helping us with the promotion, the image, the contacts and everything. It really helped us spreading our music much more than we would have been able to without them. It’s really nice to work with the team. We have a little team around us, so it’s really cool.
It seems like the reaction to the album, from both fans and critics, has been really positive so far. How do you feel about how that’s gone?
Yeah. I knew that we did a great job, but you never know what people will think until you actually release it. I was surprised by how good the reactions were and very, very, very happy, because it was, like I said, very scary. You can release an album and then no one likes it and you don’t understand why. But yeah, when we started to release the first single, second single, people were super enthusiastic. So it’s a reward, and it’s very, very encouraging for the future.
As you said, tour dates for this year have all been moved to next year. Are you planning to try to take this all over the world? I’m in the U.S. Can we expect to see you over here sometime next year?
We’re trying, and we are hoping that it will happen. I don’t know much about it, but I know that it was in the discussions, and I really hope that it will happen, because we’ve been receiving a lot of support from the U.S. From the beginning, we thought that it would not be in the near-future plans, but thankfully, it could happen earlier than we expected. I really cross my fingers that it will happen and that we can meet all the people supporting us.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I would just like to say thank you for having me. It was really nice.