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Sieges Even - Biography




It all began back in the 80s when quitar player Markus Steffen and bass player Oliver Holzwarth founded their first band in Munich, Germany. After Oliver's brother drummer Alex and singer Franz Herde had joined the band the name Sieges Even immediately became a synonym for innovative and Progressive Rock music. Between 1986 and 1987 their first demos and rehearsals were recorded, highly acclaimed by the underground press in Europe and the States. In 1987/88 Sieges Even recorded another 4-track-demo called "Repression and Resistance" which called the attention of producer Kalle Trapp and German record label SPV to which Sieges Even finally got signed.

In Spring 1988 Sieges Even entered Kalle Trapp's "Karo-Studio" in Münster to commence the recordings of their debut album "Life Cycle." The album contained 7 tracks: "Repression and Resistance," "Life Cycle," "Apocalyptic Disposition," the instrumental "The Roads to Iliad," "David," "Straggler from Atlantis" and another short instrumental called "Arcane." As for the production, the album had a very rough and energetic sound - not quite what the band had in mind, but yet a first step. After the recordings had been finished and having received first positive reactions from the press and from lovers of Progressive Rock and Metal, Sieges Even instantly began writing new music for a second album. In March/April 1990 the band teamed up with the new producer talent Charlie Bauerfeind to work on the second output "Steps." The recordings took place at the "Lakeside-Studios" in Utting nearby Munich. The concept of the album was very different to what they did on "Life Cycle." Encouraged by the enthusiastic press feedback, Sieges Even wrote one of the extremest albums in the Progressive Rock genre. "Steps" contained 7 tracks with a full playing time of about 55 minutes. The 25 minute opening track "Tangerine Windows of Solace" alone was a challenge for both the musicians and the listener. The other tracks on the album were "Steps," "Corridors," "The Vacuum Tube Processor," "An Act of Acquiescence" and "Anthem Chapter 1 & 2." Again the following press reactions were more than brilliant. One thing the band wasn't too happy about was the live situation. Although Sieges Even always enjoyed being on stage, the opportunities during those years were rare. But one show they played turned out as a real highlight in the band's history: in 1991 Sieges Even opened for the US band "Psychotic Waltz" in the German city Verl. In front of an enthusiastic crowd coming from all corners of Europe, Sieges Even performed several tracks from their first two albums and one new track from the upcoming third album. In 1991 the band entered studio again. Once again, Charlie Bauerfeind was the man in charge concerning the album's production. It was entitled "A Sense of Change" - the perfect title for an album which was yet again very different to its predecessors. Indeed, the title was well chosen: during the recording sessions Sieges Even parted company with their long-time singer and friend Franz Herde. Finding the perfect replacement took the band another 3 months: after recording some of the material with a female vocalist from the USA, Sieges Even decided to go on with an unknown guy from Germany. His name was Jogi Kaiser. His Jazzy and clear voice fitted perfectly to the more transparent and open sound of "A Sense of Change." And this guy was fast: he recorded all of the songs within 3 days time! "A Sense of Change" was one of the first recordings done in DDD and to be released only on Compact Disc. It contained the following pieces: "Prelude: Ode to Sisyphus," "The Waking Hours," "Behind Closed Doors," "Dimensions," "Prime," "Epigram for the Last Straw" and "These Empty Places." Even though the reactions to "A Sense of Change" were, once again, enthusiastic and the band members themselves felt that they had created something that would last, the album marked the end of the first chapter in the history of the band. Guitar player Markus Steffen left the band for personal reasons after they had played their last and legendary show in Wisbaden in the Summer of 1992.

From that point on both the Holzwarth brothers and Markus Steffen were pursuing different musical directions. While Oliver and Alex continued with Sieges Even, releasing another two albums with new musicians ("Sophisticated" and "Uneven"), Markus focused on the modern classical guitar, recorded a solo album in 1999 ("Unsheltered Places") and wrote a book on the guitar the same year. Oliver and Alex gained a lot of live experiences as they did a tour with Prog-Rock legends Emerson, Lake and Palmer and, furthermore, both were recruited by internationally acclaimed bands Blind Guardian (Oliver) and Rhapsody, now known as Rhapsody of Fire (Alex). Even though each of them developed his musical abilities and benefited a lot from working in musical areas which were quite different to what they had done with Sieges Even, there was the feeling that something was missing, something was left unsaid. So, after 6 years it took nothing more than a phone call to bring those guys together again. After the ultimate end of Sieges Even, Oliver, Alex and Markus felt that the time was right again to finish what they had started. In the Summer of 1999 they met at their first rehearsal after 6 years of not having heard anything from each other, not having played with each other. They wrote a first track called "Equinox" and instantly decided to carry on as a new band, since all of them felt that one of the most important factors each of them was lacking during all those years was eventually back: the chemistry.

After the decision to carry on under the new name Looking-Glass-Self the main problem to appear was to find the right voice to their music. Everything seemed perfect when singer André Matos, who was known for his work with Brazilian outfit Angra, joined LGS to record the vocals for their first promo release "Equinox." The CD contained the four tracks "Equinox," "Stigmata," "Footprints of Angels" and "The Valparaiso Dreaming." However, André, whose contribution to the band was highly appreciated, was pursuing his solo projects. So, it wasn't a surprise that many people had the feeling that LGS was not a band but a project of Alex, Oliver and Markus plus one guest star as the singer. This, of course, had never been the intention. Even when a frustrating search for an adequate vocalist began anew, the three continued writing new songs. But it took them almost two years till a guy from the Netherlands sent Markus an email telling him that he was the right one for the job. And so, in January 2003 they entered the studio again to record the vocals for two new tracks ("The Lonely Views of Condors" and "Where Our Shadows Sleep") that were already recorded one year earlier. The name of the new singer was Arno Menses, originally a drummer with a lot of backing-vocals experience. Due to the fact that for the first time after many years Oliver, Alex and Markus had the feeling that they had a whole band line up together, they decided to leave the past behind and continued under a new name: Val'paraiso. After all, the four felt that this was only a half-hearted decision as the new material was showing all the typical Sieges Even characteristics. So, it was only a matter of time that they left behind all their doubts concerning a typical, so-called reunion and switched the band's name back to its origin: Sieges Even. Alex, Arno, Oliver and Markus played their first reunion show in April 2004 at the Headway Festival in Amstelveen, NL, followed by their first gig in 7 years in Germany in Frankfurt in October 2004. Their new album "The Art of Navigating by the Stars" was released in Summer 2005 opening another chapter in the history of Sieges Even.

(Biography from the official website.)

Eight years after retiring from the music scene, cult Prog band Sieges Even make a surprise comeback and this time, they're stronger than ever before. Founded in Munich in 1988, the band never officially split up. They had tried to seek out new forms of expression and briefly performed under a new name while searching for a new vocalist. After finding what they were after the band headed into Rebellion mastermind Uwe Lulis' Black Solaris Studios in Frankfurt and began recording their sixth studio album. A masterpiece, showing their unmistakable trademark sound, this album is bound to cause quite a stir!

"Today we work much more song orientated," guitarist Markus Steffen explains the biggest difference to the band's earlier albums. "Now good melodies and logical arrangements are the important criteria. In the early days we often wanted to put as many notes as possible into a song. Now we want to write expressive music, which grips the listener on an emotional level rather than a rational one. Arno Menses has really left his mark on the band. He develops his own vocal melodies and he is involved in the songwriting process to the same extent as every other band member." Menses hails from Rotterdam, after sending in a demo tape via the band's website, he was soon taken onboard as the band's new vocalist. "By the way, Arno is also a very good drummer, one cannot underestimate that advantage," adds Markus Steffen. "With him, we have the feeling of being a real band for the first time." Upon first hearing Menses with the band, it's easy to see how he "leaves his mark." The vocals burst forth in a rich chorus at the beginning of the complex 10 minute track "The Weight," which leaves the listener awestruck at his vocal acrobatics and impressive harmonies. He is a vocalist that simply commands your attention.

The instrumental section won't stand to be outdone either. Brothers Alex and Oliver Holzwarth have studied bass and drums respectively for many years (Alex teaches drumming at the Munich drum school Drummer's Focus). They complement each other perfectly showing dexterity and skill as they tackle the trickiest of time signatures together. Markus Steffen acts as the perfect counterpoint on guitar, utilising an unbelievable variety of both style and sound. His playing is an emotional rollercoaster of lyrical, orchestrated, aggressive and surreal moods. His dynamic and textural playing often covers up the fact that the band does not use a keyboard player. "This is probably because I work with a lot of clean guitar sounds and use a lot of chorus effects," Steffen modestly explains. "So it becomes easy to create these very spherical sounds. But I wouldn't rule out the possibility that we may work with keyboards sometime in the future. Stylistically, Sieges Even has always been a chameleon and I hope it will stay this way."

"The Art Of Navigating By The Stars" is a very carefully constructed album that ably showcases the skill of each musician. This is in a positive sense and is never to the detriment of the songs. It makes it a fun album to listen to. Nevertheless, it is a great demand for the listener to understand the song structures (the shortest one is five minutes long). Steffen gives this advice: "Music doesn't always work with simple rules. We approach our songs almost as 'classical' composers would, we work with themes and motifs, and the conclusion is open for the time being. Those who are intensely concerned with our music will find a thread in each song. Those who want to understand what we are doing should put "The Art of Navigating By The Stars" into their CD player, turn off the lights, put the headphones on and close their eyes. The album works like a film... but everyone will most likely see a different one." It may sound demanding, but that shouldn't deter listeners. When you are still exploring the song motifs and their links, you will begin to develop ideas about the complete context of their work, and you can't wait to press repeat on the CD player in order to pursue more discoveries. It's comforting to know that there is still music with this kind of addictive quality in today's musical climate.

As for comparisons? Markus Steffen sites the following as a source of inspiration: "Kansas, Metallica, Madonna, Iron Maiden, Pantera, Yes, Jaco Pastorius, King Crimson, Sarah McLachlan, Allan Holdsworth, Tool, Peter Gabriel, Julian Bream, a lot of Jazz, a lot of classical music, I could go on for hours..."

At the band's reunion show in Frankfurt last Autumn, Sieges Even previewed the first three songs from their new album for fans. "Reactions were unbelievable," says Steffen enthusiastically. "Rarely have I had the experience where people in the audience were cheering during a number that they were hearing for the first time. There were even Russian fans there who had come from Moscow and St. Petersburg to see us live, who had tears in their eyes when we played our old classics. But obviously they liked the new material very much too." There appears to be no reason why Sieges Even cannot conquer the Prog scene this time around with both old and new fans.

(Biography from InsideOut website.)