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Mercy Isle Look Beyond Symphonic Metal

Oct. 27, 2015
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When Kassandra Novell, a powerhouse rock vocalist who made a name with symphonic gothic-metal band Orphonic Orchestra, performed at the Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium last year, fans and fellow singers alike urged her to start her own new band.

“That scared the shit out of me,” admits Novell, who performed with female metal singers from all over the world. “I left the concert and cried, because it was so overwhelming. I got all my tears out and thought, ‘OK, if everybody wants me to do this—and I want to do this—let’s do it! I’ve got three guys I want to work with.’”

Those three guys were guitarist Corey Scheider from the progressive metal band The Ottoman Empire, which morphed into Luna Mortis, which was signed to Century Media Records before disbanding after one album; drummer Adam Maltby from Madison-based death metal band Casket Robbery; and bassist Chad Novell from the local progressive instrumental band Fibonacci Sequence (and Kassandra’s husband of two years). Chad, Scheider and Maltby, who also all played together in the Milwaukee rock band Second Soul, then recruited keyboardist Joop de Rooij from The Netherlands.

Mercy Isle, a dark hybrid of symphonic progressive metal and classic rock that at times recalls Evanescence, was born, and the band began an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign in March to help pay for the mixing, mastering and promotion of an EP, along with merchandise.

By late June, Mercy Isle had raised more than $5,100 from donors who were rewarded with such decidedly non-metal perks as handmade soap (featuring a guitar pick embedded inside!), personalized mixtapes and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Storm was released on Oct. 16 to rave reviews, and Mercy Isle will play an EP-release show at The Metal Grill in Cudahy on Friday, Oct. 30 (with Daphni and Ad Astra). Expect to hear all four songs from Storm and some news one that could end up on Mercy Isle’s full-length debut CD—plus some Heart and Pat Benatar covers, too.

“We don’t want to come across as clones of other bands,” Chad says, referring to female-fronted symphonic metal, which gained a strong foothold in Europe with such groups such as Nightwish, After Forever, Stream of Passion and Epica. “We look back more to the classic tried-and-true rock standards. There’s no denying that Heart and Pat Benatar laid the foundation.”

Storm, recorded at various studios in Wisconsin and Minnesota, serves as a high-end demo, which ideally will lead to a recording and distribution deal with one of several labels that support music like this, as well as slots at metal festivals in the United States and Europe. “The goal was to put something out there, along with some merch, and find opportunities to play live,” Chad says. “And that’s what we did. I was surprised by how quickly it came together. It shows what you can accomplish when you set goals.”

It helps that the members of Mercy Isle are experienced musicians who are serious about success and don’t mind putting in the extra effort to achieve it. Chad, 39, is quick to point out that Mercy Isle isn’t so much a southeastern Wisconsin supergroup of sorts as it is a collaboration of friends—and, in the case of Kassandra and Chad, family.

“There’s a personal relationship, but there’s also this really awesome professional relationship in which we can accomplish things,” Kassandra, 34, says about working with her husband. “To me, it feels more fulfilling, because we have this extra thing that we can do together.”

The Novells, who live in Greenfield and were involved in the Milwaukee Meowsic Fest benefit for Happy Endings No-Kill Cat Shelter, still have day jobs but scheduled a short tour in early November that will take the band from Michigan to Florida.

And at some point, they would like Mercy Isle to tour Europe and perform in front of the people who encouraged Kassandra to create the band in the first place. “We don’t play live often, but when we do play, we make it count,” she says.

Mercy Isle’s EP release show at The Metal Grill with Daphni and Ad Astra begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30.


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