Passion is a word that can be much over-used, its literal meaning is ‘any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, such as love or hate’. I have been passionate about many a thing, be it family, religion or allegiance to a sporting team or political faction but, one of the things I can get most passionate about is music. Music is a soundtrack to my life and has been my partner through good times and bad. There few things you cannot live without but for me, music is definitely one of them. To come across a band who are as passionate about their music and what it represents as I am about music in general always sends a tingle up my spine. When The Lady herself asked me to have a look at Listana I had no Idea what I was going to get into but, oh my, am I glad she did.
Listana is a five piece female fronted symphonic-progressive metal band from Istanbul, Turkey. The line up consists of Fulya Çelikel (vocals, keyboards), Alp Soğancı (guitars), Ali Göktürk (keyboards), Kaan Seyithanoğlu (bass) and Ozan Gümrükçü (drums). Formed in 2011 by an idealistic band of amateur musicians keen to develop their musical skills by laying covers and feeling that music provided an escape from the daily grind, they adopted the name Listana for their alternative Istanbul. The name originates from an Amin Maalouf novel and has a quasi-historical feel to it. After the habitual line-up changes and demo recordings their output to date is gathered together in the E.P. Unveiled. “We are ordinary citizens of Istanbul, losing hours to traffic, trying to get to work, school, always rushing somewhere… However, our existence was transformed when our music opened up the gates of the fairy-tale city Listana for us. We became ‘We’, we became ‘one’, we discovered ourselves in the realm of Listana through music.”
Now to the music, Unveiled consists of four tracks. Istanbul: Birth of a Dream is the band’s manifesto, how they find escape and exuberance in making the music and meet in a “dream” Istanbul. The lyrics speak of bygone times and empires and how the city of Istanbul soothes the soul, consoles the troubled mind and enchants you. It is clear that this band are passionate about their home city. The song starts with an ethereal intro, all pan pipes and tinkling bells, before the peace is broken by a crashing riff, backed up by powerful drums and serene keyboards. Fulya’s distinctive vocals then kick in, it is a captivating voice, almost operatic but with a harder edge and is best on the sublime chorus that invokes Istanbul. The song carries on in a mainly power metal vein but there is a definite and distinctive progressive edge to the track with differing time signatures and neat interludes from the classy keyboards. The song is led out by some intricate guitar work before it comes to an end with a thunderous crashing guitar.
Hasret means ‘longing’ or ‘unfulfilled desire’ in Turkish and the lyrics of this song are most heartfelt in their meaning. They speak of longing as a raging inferno and a suffering, sleepless nights and a grief never subsiding, powerful stuff. The track opens with a really powerful and catchy riff. The song is sung in Turkish and this, somehow, seems to convey the powerful emotions even more so than if it was in English, this no doubt helped by another strong vocal performance from Fulya, her distinctive voice will not appeal to everyone but I really like it. Alp’s guitar gets to really shine on this song, not just the epic riffing but also the brilliant soloing interplay with the keyboards halfway through the track. The whole feel of the song is more progressive than the first track with complex instrumental interplay and brilliant vocals, my one problem with the song is that it is criminally short as it comes to an unexpectedly early finish, I wanted more.
The Legend of Hellespont tells the harrowing tale of the battle of Gallipoli in the First World War where the allies and Turks lost over a hundred thousand men. The lyrics are indeed harrowing, speaking of death, mangled flesh and spilled blood but this is no children’s story and I would recommend reading the lyrics before you hear the song and then read them again, whilst you listen to this great but mournful song. Death, sacrifice and martyrdom are mentioned throughout this ode to the fallen. A pared back bass leads you into the song giving a suspenseful feel as it is joined by low key keyboards, the vocal begins slow and sorrowful before a coruscating guitar joins in, lifting momentum gradually. The tempo dips and rises as the descriptive verse gives way to the heartfelt chorus, Fulya’s voice dropping and rising accordingly. An intricate solo blazes out of the gloom before the mournful chorus is repeated to the end of this solemn song, sending chills down your spine.
Elveda, again sung in Turkish, ‘farewell’. This track speaks of saying farewell to a friend, someone who we share I lives with but who, one day, turns away and leaves, hold your head high but you will still be alone, it has a bitter overtone as you may never see that person again. A delightful, mellow piano leads the track in and is joined by a tender guitar note before Fulya begins to tell the story, her voice full of passion and sorrow. A delicate but heartfelt solo follows and then the story of Farewell continues, driven along by some solid drumming and bass playing. A brilliant string section temporarily breaks the mood before that delicate guitar leads the track out to an emotional finish.
To say I was blown away by this passionate E.P. would be an understatement, the powerful voice and skilful musicianship give this E.P. a polished feel and I am sure that the forthcoming album will only enforce that notion. Lose yourself in the emotions of this music and you will not regret it, I would wholeheartedly recommend this, please give it a listen.