Crimson Passion Cry
(Ravenheart Music)


With song titles like “Fuck Off And Die” it’s hard to say how the band Crimson Chrysalis will be accepted in progressive rock circles. The track is actually a powerful, hook-laden prog-rocker of a song and one of the many highlights from the 2013 CD release of Crimson Passion Cry—a wide ranging and excellent album featuring the talents of Crimson Chrysalis leader and vocalist René van den Berg, who shares song writing credits with the band’s lyricist Esther Slabbert. Not only does Ms. van den Berg possess tremendous vocal skills in the spirit of Ann Wilson of the group Heart, but (after enjoying their “Fuck Off And Die” video on you tube), she’s also clearly a competent guitarist as well. In addition to Rene’s and Esther’s memorable songs, the Crimson Passion Cry album also benefits thanks to the stellar guitar and bass work of Cobus Schutte, drummer Franschois Lessing and a host of other backing vocalists—the sum total of which is brought further into focus, thanks to the ultra tight arrangements, keyboards and strings of Elben Schutte. Crimson Chrysalis come from South Africa and you can sense there’s also some unique and exotic elements in their sound. Singing in English, the band possesses the ability to attain a comprehensive global musical appeal. Crimson Chrysalis has a solid rock edge and their orchestral arrangements place them quite rightly in world of 21st century hard rock meets progressive orchestral rock. / presents an interview with
René van den Berg and Esther Slabbert of

: Tell us something about where you live now in South Africa and how it affects you musically. Crimson Chrysalis seems like a pretty exotic progressive rock sound to come out of South Africa. How did the band start and how did that lead to the release of the Crimson Passion Cry CD?

René van den Berg: It started very naturally. I was rehearsing for a show and included a Meatloaf rock cover. Esther commented that the rock genre fits me like a glove... At the time I wrote and performed my own Afrikaans songs. I told her that she must write me English rock lyrics. Our first attempt was “Lost” and the rest just followed naturally! The sound is very exotic, even for South Africa, where the symphonic rock and metal scene are limited to the select few who import their music.

mwe3: For those who don’t know anything about it, is there a way to reflect on the history of pop, rock and progressive rock in South Africa?

René van den Berg: South Africa has a rich and diverse musical history. Although South Africa rock is less known overseas, other genres do get international recognition. Grammy’s were awarded to great bands and musician like Ladysmith Black Mambazo & The Sowetan Gospel Choir. Well known in the US is Johnny Clegg and Savuka, and the most recent export is The Parlotones.

Esther Slabbert: Currently the rock scene is in transition with a lot of folk influences and mostly strong male vocals. But our genre is not prominent in SA. As far as we are aware we are the only band to release a symphonic rock album in South Africa that was picked up by overseas labels.

mwe3: What were your early musical studies like and what artists, bands and musicians and favorite albums inspired you while growing up in South Africa?

Esther Slabbert: Rene studied piano and guitar. I dabbled in some guitar and flute. But Rene is the truly musically gifted one that composes all the music for CC. Believe it or not, she is a diehard ABBA fanatic but we both like various artists and bands. Our tastes are eclectic at best! We both had some classical training as children... I hated every theory session and thought my teacher was a witch!... but I think our love for Bach, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and the great composers are evident in our work.

mwe3: How would you describe the chemistry between the both of you and how and when did you meet and decide to work together? What’s the synergy like between lyricist and songwriter / musician in Crimson Chrysalis? How do you spark each other to come up with a great song and where do you get the ideas for your songs? News, politics, art, culture?

René van den Berg: As mentioned before we started writing by accident. Through the years our respect for each other and our friendship molded us into a song writing team that inspires and challenges each other constantly. Esther is inspired by politics and current events. She is a conceptual writer, we decide what we want on the album and then we create that. We push each other quite hard to improve on previous songs. We strongly believe that good structure both musically and lyrically will provide a good quality album.

mwe3: Is there a single from the Crimson Passion Cry album and what are some of your favorite tracks from the CD? I love the way “Epilogue”, which is so majestic and full of remorse, perfectly segues into the fist-pumping track “Fuck Off And Die”… it’s a brilliant idea! Can you say something about those two tracks? They seem so opposite yet complimentary... Does Crimson Chrysalis thrive on sonic extremes?

René van den Berg: There was not a single, but we released an online EP with the first 6 songs. We liked creating something as diverse as the Crimson Passion Cry album. It is simply impossible for either of us to choose a favorite. We wanted to create an album that consists of music that can be played from beginning to end. It is important to us to place the songs in such an order that we create a natural rise and fall on the album, while listening, to answer your question about "Epilogue" and "Fuck Off And Die".

mwe3: Anything to add on the songwriting process in Crimson Chrysalis?

René van den Berg: Esther usually conceptualizes a song and work from an idea... this can be a line, a word or a musical inspiration.

Esther Slabbert: I will then write a lyric... Rene will compose from there. This is usually a process of mutual exchange between us. In my opinion, Rene has a singular ability to create very catchy and hauntingly beautiful compositions.

mwe3: What other musicians, arrangers and producers were involved in helping Crimson Chrysalis attain such a great sound in the studio and on record?

René van den Berg: We are blessed with a uniquely gifted arranger, Elben Schutte, who takes the basics and transforms it into a masterful end product.

Esther Slabbert: Rene’s vocal coach, Ruan Zen, became a vocal inspiration to us both . After hearing a live performance by him, I wrote "Epilogue" for him and René. He is a core member of Crimson Chrysalis and delivers the best vocals on all the songs, together with Rene. He also partners with René vocally on "Fatal Lie". We are blessed in having excellent musicians who lend their talents to the studio sessions and on stage.

René van den Berg: I worked with Jurgen von Wechmar on a previous South African folk album. His studio is in the picturesque Banhoek Valley, near Stellenbosch in the fairest Cape. He is one of the most acclaimed producers and engineers in the South African music industry.

mwe3: Where do you see Crimson Chrysalis fitting in the world of 21st century prog rock and also symphonic metal music? Do you differentiate between music genres or do you break down walls to create something new?

René van den Berg & Esther Slabbert: Although we love and listen to different music genres, we are both rockers at heart. We do not box our sound into one genre. We create in isolation at the southern tip of Africa, and we would like to think that our roots gives us a unique take on the symphonic metal and rock genre.

mwe3: With such a great album design that really seems to capture the mood of the music, can you tell us something about how the Crimson Passion Cry album artwork enhances the listening experience?

Esther Slabbert: Sometimes one gets blessed with gifted people along the way. Rene is the musically gifted but usually I must think out the visual aspects of our product. I love fantasy music and books, and Coenie van Staden, photographer and the brilliant video director of the “Crimson Passion Cry” vid project, created exactly what we wanted.

mwe3: Now that progressive rock has proven to be a truly worldwide musical phenomenon, especially in the internet age, how are you planning to get the word out about Crimson Chrysalis and how are you planning to take your next music and lyrics one step further in 2014 and beyond?

René van den Berg & Esther Slabbert: We have just finished the first four new songs of the new album due for release 2015. The overall sound will be the same as the Crimson Passion Cry album, as that is the Crimson Chrysalis sound. We brought in more live strings than with the previous album, and it sounds amazing. We plan to start performing abroad as soon as possible, as that is crucial to get the Crimson Chrysalis name out and the music heard. We will also prerelease a few of the new tracks, to start creating a buzz and make the people curious.

Thanks to René van den Berg & Esther Slabbert @


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