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Niviane's Mark Miner: "We try not to preconceive anything. We take a driven, hard-working honest approach. If there's a secret to what we do, there it is."

Interview with Mark Miner from Niviane
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 08 October 2020, 10:11 PM

Staying on course, striving for something that one day could become so invigorating and strong, bound to draw attention to whomever heeds the call. It is a little mind blowing to think that the US Metal scene has once been the spawn of so many classic acts in Heavy Metal, and nowadays, it is nearly different, some would argue to be completely different. But the core is still there, and it is believed that in time, it will erupt and sweep the scene once again. Only time will tell. The powerful Niviane, consisting of some of the finest members of the old guard, is coming up with their sophomore "The Ruthless Divine". Steinmetal had a talk with Mark Miner, the band's guitarist, of what is their aggressive effort of late.

Hello Mark, wow it has been almost 12 years since our last interview; it was back you were still with Vamp Le Stat. A pleasure to have you in this time as the guitarist and founder of Niviane. How have you been doing sir?

I'm doing quite well thank you so much. Crazy to think it's been 12 years since our first interview. Thank you for having me.

Are you still involved with Vamp Le Stat in any kind of form or the band simply vanished?

I recorded the last album simply titled VLS that was released back in like 2007 I think. Usual member changes and local shows for about a year and then called it a day. There were a few attempts at reunions but I declined.

I have been tracking Niviane ever since your debut album, through Pitch Black Records, “The Druid King”. You guys pretty much reinstated the lost legacy of a true born and bred US Power Metal, which was a mega hit in the 80s. Since I haven’t had the chance to ask you, how does it feel to revamp the past yet in a contemporary kind of form?

As flattering as that is, we didn't really reinstate the genre. Power Metal has always had a loyal fanbase, it's just not everyone's cup of tea, especially in the US though it's gained a lot of momentum and popularity here. Our vision from day one was to fuse both American and European metal genres. I think we've done a good job at staying the course. Simply put, it's what we do.

Now, you guys return with “The Ruthless Divine”, continuing the same form of the debut yet this time with a stronger backing of a rather bigger label in the image of Pure Steel Records. How does it feel to be part of the great Pure Steel family? How do you see Pure Steel Records taking Niviane forward?

We are grateful that Pitch Black signed us to release the first album. Fast forward 3 years since then with "The Ruthless Divine". We knew we had to seek the next level in label representation. We signed a very fair deal with Pure Steel earlier this year and they have been gracious thus far. As they are based in Germany which is huge for the power metal genre, we are very much looking forward to the future with them.

When I look at the title “The Ruthless Divine”, it appears to me a sort of an oxymoron, ruthless in a matter of violence in its purest of forms alongside the divine, which I come to think it of as angelic, even godly. How do those two terms, of opposite directions, meet?

Niviane has never really been a black and white kind of band stylistically. "The Ruthless Divine" is like the unknown gray area in the middle. It's heavy yet it's melodic. It definitely has its darker, brooding connotations but it's also uplifting as well.

Of what I could conjure, the themes within “The Ruthless Divine” are nearly the same as on “The Druid King”, taking a course in fantasy realms, myths and legendries. However, I believe that in every kind of fictional tales, in particular fantasy, there is a purpose in order to face the listener with how things are in the current state of affairs. Would you say that something similar happens through the new record?

Thematically as you described yes, they are similar however "The Ruthless Divine" I think is definitely two steps above our first album. Vocalist/lyricist Norman Skinner definitely gets the credit for that. Our purpose as you mentioned is for the listener to enjoy a story, fiction, history, fantasy, etc. We want our music and lyrics to make you think, but not overthink past the simple enjoyment music brings if that makes sense.

What would you say is the main narrative the guides “The Ruthless Divine” through? Was there a different kind of inspiration that was the source for this narrative’s creation?

To be honest not really. Our inspiration has honestly come from our camaraderie together and the experiences we've had. As I mentioned before we've had a lot of experience and growth since "The Druid King" came out in 2017. This album reflects that. Again, we just go with what we know.

With what has been going on with Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, and yes I know that the lyrics for “The Ruthless Divine” were written prior to the pandemic, do you find any relations between the pandemic and main themes of the release?

No. Obviously during the time of writing and recording "The Ruthless Divine" we had no idea that this mess was coming. If there's something in there that takes people's mind off the current state of things than that of course is a beautiful thing.

Running through the course of the music, no doubt that “The Ruthless Divine” displays Niviane as somewhat more aggressive in its approach, yet no less melodic, which in overall, it is the unholy union within Metal music. How do you capture the band’s straightforward approach on this record in comparison to the debut?

Great question. "The Ruthless Divine" is definitely more aggressive than our first album. The simple answer is we wrote "The Druid King" as we were forming and getting to know one another. Since then we have had a lot of experiences together both musically and personally. Power Metal has always centered around big riffs, catchy choruses, and a heavy focus on good musicianship and quality vocals. Without sounding pretentious, that's what we do. We try not to preconceive anything. We take a driven, hard-working honest approach. If there's a secret to what we do, there it is.

In your opinion, how do you see the band’s musical progress on “The Ruthless Divine”? Which elements within the band’s music on the record were displayed for the first time?

Everyone worked hard on the first album and it's safe to say we work twice as hard on this one. I spent a lot of very long nights doing edits while working with our producer Zach Oren to make sure everything was as good as it could be. The first album was a little more spontaneous. That's not a bad thing yet this one there were a lot more layers and colors so to speak.

What do you think were the main challenges that were part of the process of making “The Ruthless Divine”?

The main challenge is sometimes putting the brakes on just how much material we amassed. For instance, "Fires in the Sky", our first single, was actually written towards the end of "The Druid King" sessions. There are songs that were written at the tail end of "The Ruthless Divine" recordings that we already have geared up for the next album. The hard part is deciding which songs are best for the current project at hand. It's hard to detach from something you put a lot of effort into knowing it has to wait for the next album. In hindsight that's a very good problem to have.

Being from a rather big Metal scene, alongside other old and new US Metal bands trying to recapture the 80s in their own vision, how does “The Ruthless Divine” make a difference? What makes it outstanding?

I think what makes it outstanding is the combined efforts. The songs and performance have shown the growth and progression I mentioned earlier. I don't really see capturing the 80s on this album. That's not really what we are about.

I believe that you may have found your golden goose within the amazing tune “Fires In The Sky”. This is purely a textbook hit, well made and pierces through the skin. How do you find this track personally? Have you guys noticed that it might be the ultimate scorcher to lead this album?

Thank you so much. Gary wrote that right when we were wrapping up "The Druid King" and we've been playing it live ever since. The whole middle section where there's this very classically influenced harmony shredding thing I wrote, and Gary pretty much mapped out everything else very naturally. Norman came up with this sci-fi kind of storyline. It's become a staple of ours live as the fans really enjoy it. We are excited the label decide to release that is our first single and the video it's about to be released as well.

 “Psychomanteum” is probably the album’s heaviest number, sinking its teeth also into Thrash Metal in a special way, rather similar to what your vocalist Mr. Skinner did with his early band Imagika. Do you think that this vein of tracks is to lead Niviane on its next efforts in a rather larger scale?

I wrote that song with Rick New Year's Eve 2018. It started off as nothing more than an idea and it sort of turned into a monster. I always thought that song was a bit different from what we had written up to that point. It has a dark ominous vibe all throughout. It's safe to say you will see even more elements like this on our next album.

Currently, going life is nearly impossible, in particular in your situation in the US. Have you considered doing a series of live stream shows or perhaps even a virtual tour in order to reach as many fans as possible?

We recently filmed a set that was streamed on Facebook. To be honest it was very strange to be on a stage and outside of our significant others and small crew. To be honest it was a little stifling and really outside our comfort zone so to speak. But it is what it is and we hope people who checked it out enjoyed it. I wish there was a virtual tour as you mentioned but I'm not really sure how to do that just yet. It's extremely frustrating for us and all the other bands that are stuck in the same situation. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible but for obvious reasons we have to ride this out. With time will get there. We appreciate everyone's patience and our hearts go out to all the bands, crew, management and promoters who have had to endure this. The fans are hurting and we feel for them. Hang tight everybody, we will get through this.

Mark, it has been stellar, I appreciate your time and effort for this interview. You made another Metalhead grin after nearly suffocating this album with love. Many thanks sir. Cheers :)

The pleasure has been mine. Thanks so much, cheers!



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