words | Mark Viales photos | John M. Piris, Mark Galliano, Anthony Williams, Jonathan Mañasco
A female demon of the night flies around searching for newborn children to consume, but this is no mere wicked witch. Lilith, as she is known in one of her forms, is a fallen angel who also seduces men unwittingly into her chamber to propagate demon sons. Known in Medieval Jewish sources as the ‘dreadful’ first wife of Adam, Lilith was cast asunder by God for not accepting her male counterpart.
She gained power and became a supernatural winged devil by pronouncing God’s avowed name. Even though Lilith was the one who left, it was she who felt rejected and angry. A Muslim version of the tale also suggests that she slept with Satan and woke up with bleeding angel wings as she herself turned into a demon.
Essentially, the story represents the archetypal battle of the sexes. Man cannot cope with woman’s desire for freedom, and woman will settle for nothing less. In the end, they both lose. Modern feminists also celebrate her bold struggle for independence from Adam.
This story of female self-reliance against the subsequent, almost expected, persecution struck a chord with Divi Cano, lead vocalist for local symphonic metal band ‘Angelwings’. The powerful singer, who uses operatic tones in her voice mixed with rock and other genres, has incorporated this story into her own life and used it as her creative muse during composition. “The myth has a dark twist to it because Lilith was a normal girl who happened to meet Satan, sleep with him and turn into this demon,“ she said. “I really like this sort of stuff.”
The five-piece symphonic metal band is made up of Divi Cano – vocals; Glenn Cano – keyboard; Paul Cano – guitar; Darren Fa – bass; Mark Brooks – drums.
Layered in the theme of a fallen angel who has found her grace, Divi accentuates a dignified dark elegance coated with sadness that storms into a vigorous crescendo before escaping her cruel fate and finding a promising new beginning. Her character, whose flamboyant attire impacts upon the audience as she airs her feelings unto them and entraps them under her mesmerising spell. “There is a lot of feeling and depth to it. We like to mix it up and everything we do is quite different,” she said. “I like to grunt. It comes from my rock influences and comes to me naturally. You can hear this in our track ‘The Fallen’.”
The reason she delves into her live performances so deeply is due to the level of personal expression surrounding the original compositions. Divi writes a background to each piece and sends them to the other band members so that they can grasp the concept before jumping into rehearsals.
She discovered her voice as a nine-year-old singing in a local choir with her uncle and keyboard enthusiast, Glenn, soon leading her onto the path of symphonic metal through the iconic band ‘Nightwish’. “I was overjoyed when I heard her,” said Glenn. “I couldn’t believe it and I thought that symphonic music could be right up her street.”
Divi’s early life was layered with sadness and depression, but when she discovered the band Evanescence and, in particular, lead singer Amy Lee, she was inspired. “A lot of her music is very powerful. ‘Bring me to Life’ – Evanescence’s most popular track – paints the picture of a fallen angel who is desperately seeking her path to be ‘brought back to life’,” she said.
The developing artist draws from the innermost and darkest feelings of her past where she was confined to home in her teens due to a severe bone disease. “Much of what I write stems from a lot of pain I felt during my childhood. Feelings of despair and fear haunted me and my life felt like an endless darkness,” she said. “I’ve certainly come a long way since then and I am proud of the woman I am today, but it gives me great material, and I also use mythology that inspires me. I spend many hours reading stories.”
Lead guitarist Paul earned his spurs on guitar through an eighties metal education of Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and others but has since turned his tune. “I don’t listen to that stuff as much anymore. Symphonic metal really made an impression on me when I was first introduced to it,” he said. “I like orchestration and a combination of all of our instruments makes the music sound more epic. I make sure that whatever I do fits in with the collective sound.”
Although very capable to do so, Paul is not interested in fifteen minute solos, instead taking the original idea and seeing how best he could complement it. “I try not to be a carven copy of anyone else and I try to come up with my own original bits that follow the music. ‘Wonderland’ uses happy tones, so the guitar follows suit. ‘Memories’ is the complete opposite, but completely fitting to the song. I use a lot of distortion and delay, but I also like a little bit of clarity in my soloing.”
With the melodic tones emerging from Glenn’s orchestral-sounding keyboards, this is where the symphonic side really comes to the fore, but nevertheless, in a complementary fashion. “We take one idea, one sound and then expand from it. We then tweak it a little, but really it is the original sound that guides us,” he said.
Glenn recently purchased the Vienna Symphonic range of music program for his keyboard that contains a whole orchestra within it. “I also undertook an orchestral keyboard course, so I’m playing around with the thousands of combinations,” he said, giving some examples of different creepy tones cached within the settings. Picture emerging from a foggy creek with ghostly shadows around you and coming across a ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ Jack O’ Lantern playing an organ made out of bones. “Sometimes I go overboard with the effects but it transforms the song and gives unique symphonic layers.”
Mark’s percussions are a crucial element in this genre of music that delves into metal. As the heartbeat of the band, his drums drive the song and set the tempo. “I guess what I play gets people moving,” he said. “We have a great connection since we have been influenced by the same music before becoming symphonic music enthusiasts, so the foundations where there way before Angelwings was born.”
Mark was the last to join the band when he was approached by a friend who had recommended him to the group since they where looking for a drummer. “It started out from the promise that I would only lend them a hand, but gradually, I saw the dedication and commitment from my band mates and I decided to stay.”
Darren also feels that the band gels together very well and are able to read one another musically, greatly aiding song construction in what is very intricate music. “We usually finish a song at the same time, even in rehearsal and always know what is directing us forward,” he said. “There are no arguments there. This has worked very well because we have evolved together.”
Divi is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie who likes to be scared and hang around creepy places, also venturing up the Rock and exploring dark tunnels and caves in her younger years. “My best friend Isabella Montegriffo and I would go up with torches and I remember going quite deep into one tunnel that was particularly scary. We wouldn’t venture too far and if one of us heard a noise, we would dart out instantly. I think that we just spooked ourselves out, but who knows.”
The paranormal would, however, ghost its way into the mind of the young teenagers (at the time) in a haunting fashion with a phenomena that would challenge their beliefs.
The pair were on a choir school trip to Rome and were ushered into a century-old cadaverous hotel. There was no space available except for some old rooms in the basement that had not been used in decades. The girls turned to one another with unease and hastily entered the old-fashioned lift that creaked as they stepped inside, leaving them unsure of the strength of the corroded cable keeping them aloft. The teenagers gave a sudden jolt as the rusty metal bars of the eerie elevator screeched, grating across its unused door-frame. The lights flickered incoherently as the old machinery cranked into gear and spluttering convulsively as if it suffering from a bad cold.
The bellboy, himself dripping with sweat, perhaps from carrying the bags, or he was also overwhelmed by the unnatural surroundings, pulled the lever to descend into the unknown.
They arrived at an endless corridor with century-old life-sized portraits of unfamiliar figures lining the damp macabre walls. The youngsters crept with caution behind the bellboy who led them past the unsettling and intimidating portraits that seemed to follow them with their eyes. Once they arrived to their room, the bellboy wasted little time to make a quick exit and leave the girls to their own affairs.
The uneven crimson red walls seemed to drip with blood with red bulges distorting them due to decades of damp. Divi made her way into the bathroom while Bella sorted out her attire for the evening, the two separated for a moment. As Divi combed her hair, she began to see a strange image conjure up inside the mirror. Terrified, but unable to move, she was unconsciously drawn closer and closer. She let out a deafening scream. A little girl with long unclean hair hanging chaotically in front of her face had formed inside the mirror to her horror. In tandem with this incomprehensible occurrence, Bella had witnessed exactly the same little girl appear in the bedroom mirror. They both ran out of the room and called the hotel manager who was shocked, but overwhelmingly understanding when he heard the story. A little too much perhaps, considering what happened next. Had a paranormal event taken place here in the past?
“The hotel manager took it really seriously when we said it was a little girl, as if it had happened before and immediately called a priest to exorcise the room,” Divi said recounting her harrowing story. “We had to take all our bags out and they closed off the whole downstairs area. That was the last we saw of it. I haven’t been to Rome since, but if I do, I’ll never go back there again. We were really freaked out and to this day I don’t know if we just both imagined it, but it felt quite real to us at the time.”
The nurturing of Angelwings’ macabre tones takes place within bowels of Gibraltar’s cemetery works, where tombstones are made. A fitting scene for this genre of music.
Paul has stayed on until the early hours of the morning honing his compositions within the unnerving surroundings of the band room.
One of these very nights, the guitarist heard a clattering of metal crash onto the floor, alarming him and forcing him to take action, despite the uncertainty. “I heard a noise that seemed to come from inside the tombstone factory. It was as if someone had kicked over a large tin can and it was rolling around on the floor,” he said.
He swiftly sent a text message to Glenn to ask if anyone was supposed to be there. The response was no. Paul’s heart jumped to his throat, but he, nevertheless, worked up the courage to check out the disturbance in the air. The light switch was at the other end of the establishment, so he had to negotiate his way through all the cables and amplifiers blocking his way in complete darkness, using his guitar as an axe should a mysterious person or thing attack him. “As I panned the weak light on my phone across the room, I was confronted with crucifixes and unfinished tombstones. But I was stopped in my tracks by one tombstone with no name on it which was quite unnerving to see at that moment.”
Another clatter of metal sounded right behind him and Paul was ready this time, turning around to shine the light on the entity that had infiltrated his space. “It turned out to be a seagull that had come in through the window. It scared me to death but I was relieved in the end. At least, it is not an inexplicable story like Divi’s,” he joked.
The band is currently working on a debut LP album that has no fixed release date as the musicians want to get it right from the start. But that has not stopped a flurry of offers from international record labels making their way to the band’s doorstep. “We have had eight offers from record labels. It’s been crazy,” said Paul. “We’ve narrowed it down to two, and we always have the option of going through with it on our own. We must be doing something right.”
The labels approaching Angelwings range from countries such as France, Italy, America, Portugal, the UK and Spain. The fact that the band has had airtime almost every night somewhere in the world for a lengthy period has given them the scope to tap into these international markets. “Despite our international recognition, we have only appeared once on our local TV station. We would want to play more often, but we don’t have the chance to do that because we cannot fit into a pub. There is just not enough space and, furthermore, I don’t think that they would be the biggest fans of our genre. But this does not mean that we are not active. On the contrary, we are working very hard to finalise our project.”
Paul is adamant that the band needs to pick one of the record labels that would help them create the best songs within their field of music. “We are in this position because we have not limited ourselves to Gibraltar. We are not putting out stuff for the sake of it and, instead, are looking to inspire people on any level.”
Angelwings will play a memorable concert at the Rock on the Rock club on 28 October in celebration of Halloween and a chance to update fans on their new material. It will be one to remember with Angelwings standing on the brink of something special.