Empress is a symphonic metal band from the United States, centered around classically-trained singer Barbara Blackthorne and main songwriting mastermind and guitarist Vlad Khavin, are well on their way to conquering the big stages and setting people’s minds ablaze with kaleidoscopic arrangements – and with their latest single, “Into the Grey”, they are surely one step closer to symphonic metal sovereignty. Here’s our interview with the band’s bassist, Nick Bonsanto.
It all started with our drummer Mark looking for some people to jam with for fun, he reached out publicly to see who was interested and both Vlad and Joseph answered, and the trio began messing around with some ideas while in search of a vocalist, not knowing what direction the music was going and not having a specific vocal style in mind. After months of tryouts and searching, Vlad found Barbara’s bandmix profile where he reached out and they scheduled an audition. She was offered the vocalist position immediately and then all they needed was a bass player! I happened to be there when they said this since I accompanied Barbara to her audition and, being a bassist in a power metal band, I offered to try out the following week. They agreed to bring me on and we began writing what became Fateweaver in Mark’s basement!
Behind the name:
The name is really interesting actually! Barbara and I had been attempting to start up our own project prior to meeting these guys and we agreed the name Empress would be awesome for a female-led power metal band. As far as we knew, it had not been done and it was much like the powerful names of bands like Emperor or Queen. We wanted to show the female voice can be as strong and commanding a presence as any male singer in heavy metal to break negative stereotypes of people who think “women’s voices don’t belong in metal”.
Barbara envisioned having a band that other women could look up to, not for being just a pretty voice, but a powerful and heavy one.
So when it came time to pick a name for our band, we had actually hoped it would be Empress and so we tossed the name in a poll with a dozen others, never mentioning it to the others, so as not to color their opinions, and let everyone pick their top 3 names. Empress won that vote and we went with it!
As far as bands I would say generally, amongst all of us… Symphony X, Nightwish, Epica, Dream Theater, Metallica, and Kamelot. As far as “things” I would say… Video games such as DOOM or Elder Scrolls, powerful works of fiction like LOTR or GoT, and our love of playing music and furthering our prowess with our instruments.
Big songwriting inspiration has come from legendary guitarists we admire that are baked into Vlad’s DNA. There are so many to name, guys like John Petrucci or Gary Moore to name a couple. Besides our idols, our emotional states and current affairs can affect our process. There is a lot of feeling put into Fateweaver from Vlad and Barbara that is deeply personal in the music and lyrics.
Much of the songwriting work is in Vlad’s domain. As our lead guitarist and composer, he handles the orchestrations and most of the riffs. Sometimes, he can take an idea one of us brings and flesh it out with the other elements to see how it fits in with other ideas. We have written collaboratively, however most of the time Vlad handles this. Especially as he goes into producer mode, much of the structuring and layering comes all from him. Teamwork in the band is crucial! Since Vlad is very often busy working on a lot for the band creatively, we all pull our weight in the band in other ways. Whether it be Joseph handling the website design, shipping, tracking, and graphic design work, or myself manning the social media for the band and public relations. We all constantly work to push Empress forward in whatever ways we are capable of.
Oh boy, well simply enough as a genre…Progressive, Symphonic, Heavy, Power Metal. More abstractly…Sorceress Queen Unlocking Unlimited Power! (laughs)Describe your music in five words!
We have fire pits in Vlad’s backyard occasionally and one time I swore I saw a UFO zip across the sky! Everyone was facing me and I was facing the sky when it happened, no one believed me except Barbara who was also sitting next to me facing the same way and she saw it too! Who knows what it was, but there was a green flash of light that went horizontal in the sky, out of nowhere and so fast then disappeared…it looked like nothing I had seen before! Anyway, we joke about alien sightings now and I know they were just spying on Empress to hear us working on album 2! As for a fun fact, Nick, Mark, and Joseph could probably speak in nothing but It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia quotes! (laughs)
You can find Empress everywhere online with the tag @ Empresslegion. Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Bandcamp, Twitter, TikTok, you name it. We appreciate any and all support and thank you to all of our new fans who believe in us and have responded so positively to the album, we have been blown away by your kindness! We can’t do it without you, thank you.