Helle Bohdanova raises her voice

Helle of Ignea – a colourful mind

We were very pleased to meet Helle Bohdanova, vocalist of Ignea from Ukraine, for an interview in early May 2023. Ignea’s new album Dreams Of Lands Unseen had just been released a few days before, you can read our review here.


Of course, Dreams Of Lands Unseen and the amazing story behind it was one of the main topics, but in fact we talked about far more topics, so here we are. We tried to keep it as authentic as possible so please forgive both of us grammatical mistakes or wording which sounds not quite right for a native speaker.

Hello Helle!

First of all, congratulations. Your new album is so outstanding. It was the last piece needed to convince me of Ignea. I really must thank our common friend Terrell Stewart who made me aware of the release!

“Hello and thank you, that is lovely to hear. He is a lovely personality and he has done well!”

 Your sound has always been very different from most other bands with all the oriental influences which are even increased now.

“Some people don’t understand what happens on the albums. They say ‘leave out the folk part’, ‘leave out the symphonic part’, but it is the whole thing which makes the framed picture.”

So people do not have the understanding for your music?

“It depends, there are a lot of good reviews. But what I am saying is, when they are listening to more traditional metal, like ‘old School Metal’ they see, it is too complicated for them. But again, this not my problem”, Helle replies with a smile.

By the way, the first time I saw Ignea on stage was in 2018 when you were touring with Butcher Babies, Kobra And The Lotus and Scarlet Riot, it was the time of your first album and I also wasn’t ripe for your music.

Sofia Jablonska, source <https://forgottengalicia.com/>

 About Sofia Jablonska

But now let’s come back to Dreams Of Lands Unseen, how much research did you do for Sofia Jablonska?

“Quite a lot, I think it took me half a year to write the lyrics because I read all her three published books, I searched for the photographs of her articles. When I read the books, it took some time. When I liked something, I wrote down quotes, made remarks to start writing the lyrics and then came the melodies around the stories. So it was quite a research. Because she is not that famous, even here in Ukraine, it was quite difficult and not very easy.”

 French or Ukrainian?

Funny enough, I have a friend living in France whose name is Sophie Jablonski, so I was quite familiar with her name, I need to ask her, if she is related with her!

“Yes, Sofia lived most of her life in France and her later husband was French. I think her granddaughter still lives in France. Some people like to call Sofia the Ukrainian-French photographer. She was born in Ukraine and spent half of her life traveling to foreign countries. Even the family archives with more photos and documents are in France. Her books have always been published in France. But she always stated, she is Ukrainian.

A true globetrotter

 The period she was living in, the early 30ies, Sofia was a real cosmopolitan, that’s fascinating. Even nowadays, a single woman traveling all around the world would be exceptional.

“Yes, exactly. And she didn’t travel to save European countries but to decent corners and islands with snakes, banana trees and what not. When she arrived at some country, she didn’t go to the capitol but small villages. She tried to capture the life of the natives and locals. That was her task. She didn’t only travel because she wanted, but it was her job. She had a contract with a French company and took pictures and films for them.”

 That’s cool. You don’t only see new countries, you even get paid for it. You don’t see the shiny and glamourous life of the rich capitol, but the real life. Your album and its lyrics reflect the complexity of Sofia’s world very well.

“Not many people really dive into album concepts and lyrics. I see it from album to album. Some bands even don’t care about their lyrics. They are more focused on the music. It is not a bad thing but it is not our way.”

 The Sofia in me

A different approach. When I was a kid I grew up with bands with ‘Neanderthal-lyrics’ and only started to dive into lyrics a few years ago, especially when there was a concept behind. By the way, how much of Sofia Jablonska is in you?

“Quite a lot. When I was reading her travel log I found a lot of similarities because again she was like travelling was one of the main inspirations for me. I was travelling since I was a kid, maybe to other countries but still… What else? She likes different languages, different cultures and that’s what I like too. Sometimes, let’s say, her passion for ships, islands, the sea. Everything about travelling by ships. This is what our song ‘Incurable Disease” is about. I was reading about it and I thought, it is me, it is just me.


Aaaah! This is why you have those ships on the shelf behind you?

“Yeah, yes. These are the ships from the video. If you watch the video, those are the ships which survived. In the video I burn one ship and a lot of people didn’t like it. Take a look at the comments. It’s so funny because it is like ‘I like the video, but why did you burn the ship?’

 People need to understand the lyrics and the video and they know why. So these are the ships which survived and you did not use?

“No no, these are the ships we used. I threw them several times. In the video you see it once, but on the film set I had to do it more often, about six times. They still are good and we will make several giveaways of these ships on Patreon and Facebook, I think. In one week from now on. We like to give away some props we had on the music video sets because people like getting something from the videos.

 Songs and Lengths

By the way, what’s your favourite song of the album?

“That’s hard. Right now it is ‘Incurable Disease’ again because it is the most personal one. That’s why I still have goose bumps when I’m singing it, when we are rehearsing it. But I also like ‘To No One I Owe’ and people who are listening the album right now distinguish the song from the other songs?. So it catches their attention. So it is ‘Incurable Disease’ and  ‘To No One I Owe’ for now but it can change. They just have a different mood.”

They are great songs. Maybe it sometimes depends on your mood when you wake up in the morning. This morning I was listening to the fresh album of one of the big metal bands and after three songs I was bored. Too long, too much repetition, all sounding the same.

“Yes, but the whole world was waiting for it and listens to it right now, because they buy it anyway. I saw a lot of comments like this. It is like every of their album. Of course the die-hard fans will still love it, because they love everything.”

 Far from Mainstream

And they still will sell millions of copies… When I listen to your songs, I often think, they could be one minute longer because there is so much story to tell. There I thought, three minutes shorter would be better. When you are telling a story, the songs can’t be long enough though.

“Yeah, true, but I don’t know. For us, we never had that long songs. I think it is part of the things that we do because even with our stories and all this progressive side of our songs, you can still sing along. People say, they remember the lines, the chorus, the melodies. This is maybe the part of what we do. On the album is the song ‘The Opiumist” which is really long, nearly eight minutes. But in that case, it is an atmospheric song. It has the long intro and you have these sounds you could have in a movie.”

Patreon financed

And it is more or less split in halves because you have the very sensitive and the very rough sides in the song to connect in the end. Let’s talk about the previous album. If I’m right, it was pre-financed by your Patreons?

“Yes, at that time we were an independent band and by the time when we decided to come up with the second album The Realms Of Fire And Death, our Patreon started. And I was thinking: ‘Okay if the people like it and they can support us.’ You can see all these crowdfunding campaigns, it is quite normal nowadays. For our Patreons, we just offered them that their names could be included in the album booklet and whatever. It is a pleasant thing for us. It is a pleasant thing for them. They saw all the evolution of us creating the album, saw ‘behind the scenes’ scenes and everything. We shared a lot of things on Patreon. So yeah, it was fully funded by them, including the music videos and maybe even some touring or printing merch. When you’re an independent band you have so many expenses. So I am super grateful to our Patreons, it is already five years now!

How many Patreons do you have by the way?

“It depends, but I would say, constantly we have 450 – 500 Patreons. It depends on the month, it is a financial thing and sometimes people have their own people. But we also have quite a lot of people who can support us for example for one year, then they stay off for several months and then they come back, when they can. And I can understand it, because I also was a Patreon of other creators and sometimes it is just like that. In terms of a metal band of our size we have quite a successful Patreon.”

 Or Being signed

Now that you are signed by Napalm, what are the most important changes for you?

“It depends. I knew how the music industry works. I didn’t have pink glasses about being signed at all. The thing we are looking for the most is distribution. Now our album can be purchased in many stores around the world including Amazon, or somewhere in Japan. It is very hard to do it if you are an independent band. Another thing is press coverage. There are so many bands. The big magazines and fanzines don’t work with independent bands anymore, unless you are ready to spend 1000s and 1000s of dollars to get advertising in the magazines. Those were the main changes I would say. In the industry, when you are signed by a big label, people start perceiving you on another level. Of course it is different, but it still is too early. It needs half a year for this album to be out there, to see how much better it does compared to our independent releases.”

 The market mechanism

Well, we prefer to work with and report about smaller or independent bands but of course we are also not such a big fanzine in comparison. Those need the support rather than the very big or mainstream names. Sadly, people are often not curious enough to spend time on independent bands.

“Well, again. The magazines and so have a business model. If you take the magazines or nowadays YouTube reaction channels, when they have a big name on it, more people will click than with unknown names. That’s the problem. They need to survive and this is where their business is built. I don’t see it in a very bad way, because there are so many bands out there and so many releases that it is impossible to cover everything, you know!

Waiting time

Back to the album itself, had it been ready for a year to be released and just put on the shelf for the right date, or did you still work on little bits and pieces? Another song idea or whatever until the very last moment?

“No, usually before we enter the studio, we have everything finished. The only thing we add, when we are recording vocals for example, we come up with backing vocals. Our producer is also a vocalist and that is how we met. For us it is easier to just do some brainstorming and do it together but other than that we don’t change anything. Also our producer is very demanding in the studio. It creates a kind of discipline for us. In case of Dreams Of Lands Unseen we actually had a release date for October last year. We had to postpone it basically due to the war. We finished the album right in time, but we couldn’t really take pictures or film videos because it was absolutely unsafe. With a label you have to give everything in advance so we just couldn’t make it by fall.”

 I see. It must be horrible for an artist to have an album ready and you just can’t release it for reasons far beyond your influence.

“What I like, so much time has passed since we made the songs and we still love them. With our previous songs, we could have been bored by them. It happens, if you play them too many times. But these songs still sound fresh for us and I think that’s a good sign that the album is good, at least for us!” We laugh.

Song Writing

I mean, if you like your own songs, it is the best that could happen to an artist and when you still listen to them one year later and like them it must be a good album! About song writing in this case, what comes first, melody, instruments or the lyrics?

“With us it is always the music first, because we have one composer in the band and it is our keyboarder and founder of the band. Usually he just writes the song from the beginning to finish without lyrics, without vocal parts. Sometimes he even writes melodies for vocals though, too. Usually he just comes up with demos to me, then I write the lyrics or I come up with an album concept. On this album I also contributed a little bit with music.” Helle smiles “Because I live together with him, it is easy for me.”

Makes sense, so you can wake up in the middle of the night ‘Listen, I have an idea’!

Helle laughs again “With us it doesn’t work that way. We always work separately, because when we try to listen to a short part of music and maybe change the melody we just fight. We fight a lot; it doesn’t work with us.”

So the other three guys are not involved in songwriting?

“No, they are not. When it comes to recording, sometimes for example the drummer can still change little details, because he is a drummer and knows more details like touches, cymbals and so on. Sometimes the guitarist can say that it is not so comfortable to play, so he changes small parts. But generally it is just the two of us.”

 Problems of touring

Will you also tour the album? I’ve noticed you’ll be at the Summer Breeze this year so at least I’m going to see you there, but that’s the only German date so far.

“As a Ukrainian band it is very hard for us to leave the country because the guys could be mobilized. We have really strict regulations for leaving the country right now. A year ago it was easier, now it is very hard. So we just keep our fingers crossed that we can make it to these festivals and Summer Breeze. Germany is always included, because it is still the best market for metal bands to play in. Many people show up to many shows. There are many metal-heads in Germany.”

I constantly saw a lot of Ukrainian bands touring last year…

“Yes, and some of them never came back. That’s why the regulations became so strict. Some bands didn’t break the rules and came back, some bands broke the rules and did not return. At least it is their way of doing things, no blame. But I’m feeling sorry for the bands who cannot tour right now.”

War and Peace and Patreon

There we are at the next, connected topic, the war. I remember I once saw you online, speaking to your fan base in front of a window and behind you a missile went down and exploded. You were quite shocked and it was all live!

“We do a lot of live streams for our Patreons and on YouTube. Ah, I remember now, it was a live stream on Instagram. We don’t really report or post more about the war anymore, because Facebook and Instagram are banning the accounts. And it is a very complicated thing for us because as a band we are following it and we have to speak it out loud what is really happening. And we are in the epicenter of it. But we were blocked several times and for example 1914 has lost access to their Instagram page at all. They were posting too much. That’s why right now we have to keep the balance. And now it is the album release, we cannot risk losing a page right now.”

I always like that you were reporting so much, I said ‘YES, they are fighting for their country. They don’t use a machine gun or a tank but they use their popularity and music as the weapon to make people aware.’ When social media are blocking it, it is the wrong way.

“And it is not only them. We were still posting daily updates about the war on Patreon and Patreon also warned us that we should remove everything from the platform. They said, you cannot finance the war with Patreon-income. So we had to remove it from Patreon as well.

Come on, that’s ridiculous.

“Yes it is, but again, Patreon is one of the biggest income for the band and one of the biggest income for us to give donations to the volunteers. We cannot close our Patreon because there is no alternative on the market. People already know what Patreon is, so we just decided that we keep posting it in a Google-document and that’s it. For most Ukrainian profiles it is harder right now.”


By the way, did you or members of the band lose relatives or friends in the war?

“We all have several acquaintances who we lost. They were not very close friends or relatives but still, if you knew a person… And if you take the story of Mariupol and the last defenders to the very last point, we have a memorial board. I remember passing by and I saw the photo of my class-mate for example, who was amongst the fallen soldiers. I mean, we didn’t have contact after school, but I was so shocked to see his face and he’s dead. He is the same age as I am, so it is devastating to be honest. And even if we don’t know people in person, it is very hard.”

It’s a waste of a life and most soldiers are young, waste of young lives. Sad.

“I think, the saddest thing is, sometimes Facebook shows me memories one year ago and one year ago we were certain the war would be over, but it still isn’t. I don’t know WHEN it is going to be over, THAT is the saddest part.”

More support

You need more international support, not only 14 tanks from Germany, 14 from Poland, 5 from Canada and so on.

“Yeah, but that’s what I always say on interviews when people ask me. The support can never be enough, because our enemy is too big compared to us. The reality is as well. If the western countries weren’t supporting us from the beginning, maybe a little, we wouldn’t stand a chance.”

The point is, without the support, the war would already have been over, but you would all be Russians now, or Russian slaves.

“Yes. But I think, Russia also has such a long history with Ukraine. They always wanted to capture it. That’s why it is more aggressive and willing to fight till the very end. Everybody understands that it is now that we have to put an end to these things, that lasted for centuries. It is not like one year or eight years, it is centuries.”

True, I completely agree with you in this case. This was a way too sad topic to end the interview so now some more funny questions.

 The more funny side facts

Do you have a favourite food?

“I don’t really have favourite food, but I would say I am not one of those people who like desserts. I like warm food. So it can be a curry and I really like to taste different cultures like the food of different ‘cuisines’. And I really like seafood which is interesting because to be honest when I was a child, I couldn’t stand any fish, but when I grew up it changed.”

Favourite beverage?

“I really like wine, red wine. Spanish red wine, Rioja tempranillo, for example.”

Do you have a funny story about tour life?

“You know, the last tour was so long ago with pandemic and the war…, we haven’t toured for a lomg time.” Helle thinks about it. “I would say, I always like the last show of the tour because there are a lot of pranks happening. Not many people know about it, but because it is the last show, when you’re on stage the other bands can do some other things to you. I remember the tour with Butcher Babies and Kobra And The Lotus. I was wearing something like a long, red and orange robe almost every night. For the last show, the members of Kobra And The Lotus got themselves some kind of red cloaks, I was singing the last song and out of a sudden, they all were marching on stage with all those red cloaks.” She laughs. “That was very funny. I don’t know, it was very special.”

How hungry are you for a tour?

“Very much. We actually had several shows last year. But those were just a few festivals and that’s it. So this year we really hope because, you know, we also lose experience when we’re sitting at home and are not on tour. Your skills go down to playing live on stage so we have to do it. We want to do it because that’s one of the things we’re enjoying most, being at an event. I would say it is very strange to make an album about travelling and not travel, right? It is very sad.”

 Already overdrawn

Already being over the scheduled time for ten minutes, we have to say good bye now because Helle already has the next interview partner waiting…

Thank you for your time, we could have talked for hours and maybe, when we meet next, we will continue where we stopped today.

“Yes! Let’s hope so. We really hope to come to Summer Breeze and you can see and meet us there.”

Let’s hope for a headliner club tour in autumn as well! Bye!

Save the dates

Sadly, Ignea had to cancel the festival shows in summer because they couldn’t get a permission to leave the country. Read above to find out that some bands last year simply did not return and didn’t make it easier for those who remained or returned. The autumn tour is still confirmed, fingers crossed. They will tour together with Butcher Babies and Ghosts Of Atlantis in support of Fear Factory. Keep your eyes open for a date and venue nearby to grab a ticket, the package is more than worth it.




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proof reading by DerminBoad

Pics taken during the interview by Friend.X

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