Marcela Bovio
photo credit: Alan Flores
click on image to visit the Stream of Passion website

Marcela Bovio

Stream of Passion
Embrace The Storm
and Live in Rotherham

reviews and artist reflections

interview and HTML © Russ Elliot 2006
reviews and slide show © Stephen Lambe 2006
artwork © InsideOut Music 2005
all imagery used with permission
formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows
last updated: 05 March 2006

First introduced to progressive music listeners via the Mexican progressive band Hydra on their album Bosquejo (Asenath Records (Mexico), 1999), Marcela Bovio was one of the founding members of Elfonia. Their self-titled album (review) was released in Mexico 2003 and in other territories on the Prikosnovenie (France) label in 2004.

In addition to fronting the band with her superb vocals, Marcela has also contributed to the songwriting and played violin. Her extremely powerful and well-trained multi-octave voice is instantly recognisable regardless of whether the lyrics are in English or Spanish.

Interest in Elfonia's music has grown consistently since the self-titled album's release. The most recent push has followed Marcela's contribution to the recent re-issue of Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Ayreon album The Final Experiment, published with a bonus CD of acoustic material including a re-take "Waracle" featuring Marcela's own vocal interpretation. The track comes on the heels of Marcela's contribution to Ayreon's The Human Equation (review) the first album by the group to include her vocal contribution. As Marcela reveals our the exclusive interview conducted in August 2005 below, these tracks were only just the beginning. Their collaboration led to the Stream of Passion project and the trans-atlantic development of the band's debut album, Embrace The Storm (InsideOut Music (USA), 2005) released in October 2005 (review). Check out our concert review of their performance for the Classic Rock Society at Oakwood Centre in Rotherham in January 2006.

Marcela has been equally busy with Elfonia the past two years as well. The band's second album is due for release later this year. Marcela tells us that This Sonic Landscape will be quite different from the band's debut. She says that it still has that atmospheric, doomy feel, but there are many more progressive and jazz influences present. Visitors will also be delighted that a re-issue of the Hydra album Bosquejo is planned and that it will include a variety of bonus material. Learn more about Marcela Bovio, a truly dynamic, stunning and very talented vocalist and the Stream of Passion project below. Our interview was completed in September 2005.

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Musical Discoveries: We have always admired Arjen's taste in female singers and were delighted with your contributions to The Human Equation and on the re-issue of The Final Experiment. How did you get involved?

Marcela Bovio: Arjen sent me an e-mail asking me if I was interested in doing a new version of "Waracle" for CD re-issue. The semi-acoustic concept was very appealing, plus I would get to write my own vocal arrangement on the song so I was definitely into the idea!

How did you actually do the work work and were you happy with the result?

I recorded the vocals here in Mexico in Elfonía's recording studio, and then I sent the files over to Arjen, who did all the mixing. It was the first time I worked like this, and I was very happy with the result.

  Marcela Bovio
Marcela Bovio | photo credit: Alan Flores
Image © InsideOut Music 2005

Did you do any other recording with Lucassen at that time or was the one track the extent of your work with him after The Human Equation?

This was the only recording I did at the time, but we were already working on the Stream of Passion project.

Please tell us a little bit about your musical and vocal training.

I started with music lessons when I was around five or six years old. I attended a musical academy for about eight years, where I learned basic music theory and took flute lessons; later on I took around 4 years of violin lessons with a private tutor. I've been studying classical singing for around 5 years now, and I've been taking jazz harmony lessons for around a year.

What kind of things do you do in addition to music?

Well, I'm also a software developer. I do mostly web application design and coding. On my spare time I like to hang out with friends, watch movies and surf around the Internet.

Did you always want to be a musician or were there other interesting careers you considered doing while you were growing up?

I've always loved to learn different languages, and seriously consider a career as an interpreter, hehe. But music's always been my true love, and I'm very happy to be doing a lot of musical work nowadays.

Can you elaborate on how you got involved with the Stream of Passion project?

Both Arjen and I were very happy with how my collaboration in The Human Equation turned out. We shared a few musical ideas in the studio while I was recording, he liked my suggestions and I was thrilled to contribute with some melodies here and there.

So a few months after the release of The Human Equation I got an e-mail from him. He wrote he wanted to do a non-Ayreon album, something more atmospheric, based on only one vocalist, and wanted to know if I was interested in working with him, writing the vocal melodies and lyrics. I was very excited!

And how has the work on this project developed since the start?

We began with Arjen sending me demo songs on acoustic guitar. I worked on them and sent them back to him with my melodies. He would then work on arrangements, and I would write the lyrics; we were sending ideas back and forth constantly.

He then invited Alejandro (piano), Lori (guitar), Johan (bass) and Davy (drums) to join the band, and they started contributing arrangements and ideas as well; so the songs changed a lot from the initial concept, as everyone brought in their influences.

Stream of Passion
Stream of Passion | photo credit: Stefan Schipper | Image © InsideOut Music 2005

Please tell us what to expect of the album, stylistically, instrumentally and most importantly, vocally. Is it going to be a very long album?

The album's just under an hour long. You can hear a bit of everybody's influences in it, I think. There are some heavy moments as well as softer parts. We have metal, progressive, gothic, even trip-hop elements in there. The result is an interesting combination.

Vocally there are a lot of contrasts as well; I tried using different aspects of my voice. There are some very mellow moments, some stronger parts, lots of vocal harmonies.

Arjen says that he left you free to experiment in the project, to feel the music. Can you tell us more about that?

Well as I mentioned, the songs Arjen initially sent for me to work with were very rough sketches on acoustic guitar. So I could basically take them in any direction I felt like with the melodies and lyrics.

Marcela Bovio
Marcela Bovio | photo credit: Alan Flores
Image © InsideOut Music 2005

Is there a theme running through the project that you can tell us about?

The lyrics deal a lot with emotions, intense feelings. You could say the concept revolves around this, but it wasn't a conscious choice.

Will there be any accompanying video clips?

Yes, the special edition of the album will include a DVD, in which amongst other features there's a video clip for the song "Passion."

Do you think that this Stream of Passion project will be a flash in the pan, sort of like Ambeon was with Astrid Van Der Veen, or Star One with Floor and Irene Jansen, or do you think the project will grow longer lasting legs of its own?

Time will tell (smiles).

For the Stream of Passion project, did you do all of your work in Mexico, remote from The Netherlands where Arjen works?

I recorded most of my vocals and violin parts here in Mexico, but Alejandro and I also flew to The Netherlands to record his piano parts, additional vocal and violin arrangements, shoot the video and have some band pictures done.

So you have had the opportunity to work directly with Arjen and the others.

I got the chance to work with Arjen again at his studio while we were in Holland--it was great, because once again we came up with great ideas while recording. Aside from this I also received a lot of feedback from Alejandro, who I get to see on a regular basis. Alejandro Millán, Elfonía's keyboard player, is also a part of Stream of Passion.

Can you tell us about the technology you used to produce the final vocal mix?

Arjen did all mixing in Holland after we left. I can tell you about the technology used to record the vocals. We worked with Pro Tools, the DigiDesign 002 interface, and used an AKG C414 microphone we got as a present from Arjen to do the vocal recordings.

Elfonia | photo credit: Alan Flores | Image © Elfonia 2005

Now turning back to Elfonia for a moment, how was the response to the Elfonia album?

Wonderful! We were thrilled to hear so many people, from a huge range of musical backgrounds, enjoyed our music.

Was a lot of attention drawn to your work with Elfonia outside of Mexico?

Yes, especially after the release of The Human Equation. A lot of Ayreon fans got interested in the band and, gladly, they also enjoyed our work.

If we go back a little further, we adored your work with Hydra. Do you think those tracks will see wider distribution or is that material all well in your past at this stage?

As a matter of fact we've been discussing the possibility of a re-issue of Hydra's EP "Bosquejo" with Asenath Records, who originally released it. There are no established dates yet, but it will happen. Some extra unreleased and live tracks will be included in the release.

  Marcela Bovio
Marcela Bovio | photo credit: Alan Flores
Image © Elfonia 2005

Elfonia is recording a new album for release later this year. What should listeners expect?

Our new album will be entitled This Sonic Landscape, and it's quite different from our debut CD. It still has that atmospheric, doomy feel, but there are many more progressive and jazz influences present. I think the band's evolution is pretty notorious. We've grown considerably these last couple of years and we're very happy with how our style is developing. The album will include some English tracks, as well as Spanish songs and some instrumentals.

There are new photos of Elfonia performing on stage and, in addition to looking beautiful for the camera, it looks like you really get into the gig scene. Can you tell us about how you feel on stage?

Fantastic! I love performing. It's a huge thrill every time. Sharing that moment with the rest of the band and the audience is wonderful.

What does the audience make of your on-stage persona?

I really have no idea! But I hope they can relate to the music and connect with the emotions we want to transmit.

Considering the new Elfonia album and this about-to-be-released Stream of Passion project, what are some of your hopes and dreams for the next year?

I hope both new albums get a good response from the audience, and I'm really looking forward to performing this new material live! My biggest expectation is to have an amazing time and make the most out of these experiences.

Is there anything else you want to tell our readers about Elfonia, Stream Of Passion, music in general or the internet that perhaps we didn't think ask this time around?

I just want to deeply thank Musical Discoveries team and readers, for all your support. It means the world to me!

Stream Of Passion Reviews

Embrace The Storm
Image © InsideOut Music 2005

One of the great strengths of Dutch musical auteur Arjen Lucassen is his ability to spot genuine talent, and his decision to build a band around the stunningly passionate vocals and lyrics of singer Marcela Bovio can be seen as something of a masterstroke. The resulting album, Embrace the Storm (InsideOut Music (USA) IOMCD 228, 2005) looks set to catapult the delightful Mexican from the relative obscurity of progressive band Elfonia to the brink of international stardom.

It is well deserved. Embrace the Storm serves up twelve remarkable tracks in a Gothic Metal vein, and although the progressive instincts of many of the musicians has largely been repressed, there is still enough complexity in the music to keep Ayreon fans very happy indeed. In the meantime it is exciting to witness Lucassen turning his hand to a genre being made so popular by the likes of Within Temptation and Nightwish, and becoming an instant match for them. He must be praised, also, for his use of Alejandro Milan, whose piano adds an extra Gothic atmosphere to the music, not to mention the distinctive lead guitar of Lori Lindstrum, also quite a find.

A rumble of drums and dramatic piano begins the superb album opener "Spellbound" full of tension, and a strong Eastern feel, with Marcela's trademark vocals soaring above the semi-metallic mix. Next up is the distinctive single "Passion" with its treated drum sound and "Phantom of the Opera" style riff, followed by the equally impressive "Deceiver," with its marvellously catchy chorus. "I’ll keep on Dreaming" slows things down a little, an eerie power ballad with an extended solo from Lori. Equally eerie is the next track "Haunted," with whispered spoken sections in Spanish, which are both sexy and disturbing. The tone changes for the light, gentle opening of "Wherever You Are," before huge, metallic mid and end sections provide contrast to the softer verses.

"Open Your Eyes" is another ballad, making excellent use of layered backing vocals and orchestral sounds, before another climactic guitar solo. Some ornate piano introduces the splendid title track, with its Celtic-inflected theme played on both guitar and violin, while "Breathing Again" tones down the metallic influences somewhat, focusing on Marcela's sweet vocal and violin and Alejandro's piano before a relatively restrained guitar solo ends the track. After a slow opening, "Out In The Real World" kicks up the pace, a slice of classy melodic rock, while the lovely "Nostalgia," sung in Spanish, features just Marcela and Alejandro. The album closes with a crunching slice of progressive metal, "Calliopea" with some complex instrumental passages, and some thrilling playing from the entire band.

While much of Embrace the Storm is an intense listening experience, and as such requires repeated spins for the songs to reveal their real treasures, there can be no doubt that this is a remarkable album. Lucassen should be praised, not just for his musicianship and writing skill, but for his vision in selecting such an amazing group of musicians. The inclusion of Alejandro Milans' piano, in particular, gives the album a drama that guitars cannot replace. However, the real star is Marcela Bovio, who has risen to the challenge musically, vocally and emotionally, making the album an unqualified triumph.

In Concert at Oakwood Centre, Rotherham, 28 Jan 2006. A band like Stream of Passion (slide show) could only exist in this modern age of the Internet and relatively cheap air travel, but what a band it is! Fusing the musical talents of the great Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen with the Latin passion and musicality of Mexican duo, singer Marcela Bovio and pianist Alejandro Millan, the results are unique and magnificent. Though the band could loosely be described as Gothic metal, their music has a sense of dynamics, drama and passion that stems not just from metal, but from ambient and progressive music, like Arjens' main project Ayreon.

Expectations were high for the bands performance at The Oakwood Centre, Rotherham, as this was obviously to be the sort of expensive production that Rotherham rarely sees, and the band did not disappoint, with the production values of the show alone--particularly the superbly designed lights--lifting the performance above the ordinary. There was an excellent turnout, too, with a much younger audience than can usually be found at a CRS concert. Even the usually verbose CRS host Martin Hudson seemed a little overwhelmed.

The beginning of the concert was spine tingling, a drum rhythm heralding the atmospheric opening to the Embrace the Storm album, "Spellbound" allowing each member of the band to take the stage one at a time as their instrument came in with the towering Arjen last, of course. The set continued with the wonderful "Passion" with its dramatic Phantom of the Opera-style riff. Indeed, the early part of the set focussed on the band's debut album, with the catchy "Deceiver," the chilling "Haunted" and the superb title track standing out, before some excursions, as expected, into Ayreon territory.

These began with "Valley of the Queens," before a small selection from The Human Equation ("Vigil" and "Pain") and a magnificent version of the Ambeon song "Cold Metal." A beautiful version of "Nostalia," with only the Mexican contingent on stage, led to the climax of the set and the return of support act Damien Wilson, who helped perform a piece from Into the Electric Castle. The band returned for three encores, "Into the Black Hole" from Universal Migrator with a space-suited Damien Wilson, a cover of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" and finally "Day 11: Love" with fine vocal contributions from Marcela's delightful sister Diana.

Marcela and Diana Bovio
Marcela and Diana Bovio
Image © Stephen Lambe 2005

As for the band, it had clearly been chosen with live performance in mind. The powerhouse backbone are Dutchmen Davy Mickers and Johan Van Stratum, both fine hard rock players with plenty of character, while Alejandro Millan--sometimes seated, sometimes standing--provided both the atmospheric piano that is a particular feature of the band’s music, plus the orchestral moments. Guitar duties were split between the distinctive, fluid--if perhaps a little lacking in variation--lead of Lori Lindstrum from Sweden, and Arjen, whose complex rhythm work provided the music backbone of the arrangements. Some of their dual lead moments--clearly well rehearsed--were a highlight of the performance.

A particular pleasure was the unexpected appearance of Diana Bovio on backing vocals, whose voice and beauty are almost the equal of her sisters. And then there was Marcela. Though tiny in stature particularly standing next to Arjen, she dominated the stage with her charm and the passion of her vocal delivery. She sang her heart out for 100 minutes, in a note perfect performance, and enhanced the arrangements with some effective electric violin.

Stream of Passion are one of the few bands today that genuinely reach beyond musical boundaries and listening ages. That they do so by producing far more inventive and moving music than their contemporaries, is deeply encouraging for the continued success of complex rock music. A magnificent evening of high-quality rock music.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England

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