Women in metal“a subject that often starts heated arguments filled with strong opinions and misconceptions. Many stigmas exist about female metal musicians, especially metal vocalists: they’re inferior and can’t bring it as hard as the men can. This article will debunk that ideology. Just because the genre’s more famous leading ladies include Amy Lee of Evanescence and Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil doesn’t mean that every other female follows in their footsteps. This ideology has existed for quite some time now, even classic bands like Girlschool saw a strong amount of prejudice throughout their career. In an interview with Lemmy of Mí¶torhead from Metal: A Headbanger’s Ball he recounted someone who said, after a Girlschool performance “She was pretty good, for a girl” and he responded “Well, f*** you, she’s better than you are!”
Women are infiltrating the metal world. They’re not all singers who only have angelic voices and fit into the “pretty girl” role. More and more, they’re taking on the “badass” persona, and are even playing other instruments in bands, as opposed to just being vocalists. Jeanne Sagan of All That Remains, Marta Peterson or Bleeding Through and Karin Axelsson of Sonic Syndicate have all been holding it down on bass for their bands for years now. Liz Buckingham has been rocking the guitar in Electric Wizard since 2003 and Laura Christine has been playing guitar in a bunch of metal bands lately though she’s best known for her work with Warface. You even have some bands that are primarily women, like Zeenon, who are known for playing really great death metal insted of being “hot metal chicks”.
Now comes the problem of image. As routinely acknowledged by women metal musicians, being good isn’t always enough”you’ve also got to be really good looking (strongly expressed by the band Kittie in an interview for Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey). For a while the expected role of any woman in metal was to either be a groupie or be attractive and little else (not to say there weren’t people who broke free of that, Doro Pesch being a famous example). As more women entered the metal scene, many that were on par with their male peers, the stigma of women being less talented than men slowly and surely phased out almost completely. Though it’s still a pretty lopsided ration of men to women, it’s certainly not as skewed as it once was, and the public eye looks at women a bit differently than it used to. Unfortunately, certain metal publications still focus heavily on women’s looks, such as Revolver‘s annual “Hottest Chicks In Metal” feature.
Today, there are more bands fronted by women who put on the tough guise and bring it just as hard as any man around, and this is likely due to the influx of women into metal and the shifting of mindsets. In Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy talks about adopting a tougher style and persona in order to feel powerful on stage. She also speaks about how young girls come up to her after shows to talk about how her performance inspire them. Most metalheads know Angela, who happens to have one of the best guttural screams live in the whole metal genre, but there are a lot of other bands out there that don’t get quite the same press. OurStage’s own Abnormality (whose song “Visions” was featured in a Rock Band game) is one of these bands. While listening to Mallika’s vocals, it’s nearly impossible to tell she’s a woman, and it’s refreshing to hear a female fronting a brutal death metal band. Other women who rock the guttural vocals and the tough guise include (and is certainly not limited to): Otep Shamaya of Otep, Krysta Cameron of Iwrestledabearonce, Candace Kucsulain of Walls of Jericho, Mel Mongeon of Fuck The Facts and Alissa White-Gluz of The Agonist.
Still think that all bands with women are like Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, Epica, Nightwish, In This Moment and the like? I can’t really see how you could. If you still need convincing, check out this video of Angela Gossow and Arch Enemy commanding a crowd in Japan to the tune of their song “Tyrants of the Rising Sun”
Revivalist trends, such as the rise of the classic thrash sound, have permeated the metal scene in recent years. The bands associated with these trends are often criticized for not being entirely authentic (and in many cases, rightfully so). Some bands, however, just understand what it is to be a band with a classic and authentic throwback sound. Electric Wizard is one of these bands. Though they’ve recorded six albums previous to Black Masses, the band only recently locked in a bona fide sound. As heavy, doomy and stonerific as ever, Black Masses has a very specific feel to it that hasn’t existed in modern music for quite some time”a guitar sound reminiscent of a thick Tony Iommi power chord circa the early 1970s, despair-ridden vocals that fit right between an Ozzy-led Black Sabbath and Diamond Head.
Acquiring the classic heavy and doom metal sound in today’s age is quite a special thing. Bands need to sound as though they’re playing live and haven’t cut and pasted the record together. The balance and reverb on all tracks need to mesh; if your vocalist sounds like he’s in a giant cathedral but your guitarists sound like they’re standing outside, then you’re missing the mark. Though Electric Wizard perfect the classic recording sound on this record, it’s nothing like the classic heavy metal in terms of songwriting, it takes more cues from the band’s roots in 1990’s stoner metal in this regard. The difference, however, is that Electric Wizard have gotten less aggressive and more doomy with every release”Black Masses included.
Though Black Masses is a great album, it is one with niche appeal. There are no immediate hooks, catchy choruses or even memorable lines to pick out of the crowd. From the very first riff, Black Masses bludgeons your ears with an extremely forceful and heavy sound, and does so for sixty straight minutes. If you’re looking for a droning, lumbering and extremely heavy listen”it doesn’t get much better than this (certainly not in 2010). Black Masses might just be Electric Wizard’s best release to date, an unlikely feat for a stoner/doom band these days.