Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Female Metal Vocalists Who Kick Ass

Heavy metal is a genre that invite testosterone filled lunatics. Who needs lyrics when you can bash your head into a cement wall? Who needs biting social commentary when you can beat up some sweaty car repair guys in a mosh pit?

Women have hardly been the target demographic for metal. Yet, more women are becoming fans of metal and performing in metal bands. While many female vocalists go for the 'I'm singing pretty to contrast with the heavy guitars' vibe, there are several female lead vocalists who fuckin' devastate. They growl, snarl, shout, scream and do some wicked cookie monster voices.

This shift from pretty feminine vocal stylings from female vocalists like Amy Lee from Evanesence, Lita Ford, Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil and Sarah Jezebel Deva of Cradle of Filth to growly more demonic vocals in the groups profile below, could be a sign that women in metal will not confine themselves to the role of stripper, or eye candy.

Many of this new breed of female metal vocalists have biting social, political and sometimes feminist commentary in their lyrics.

When Johan Liiva left the Swedish melodic death metal group Archenemy, few would have expected to be a defining moment for extreme music. Archenemy had been one of the major groups of the Gothenburg metal scene and their decision to hire Angela Gossow as their lead singer told the entire metal community that women can shatter eardrums just as good as men.

I played Archenemy for a friend once, she complained of Gossow, "That sounds like death." I think it sounds hella awesome.

Gossow, a vegetarian, has several songs to imply anti-war and liberal Existentialist themes. The song 'Rise of the Tyrant' criticizes war while the song "Revolution Begins" urges freedom,

"Who are they to tell you what to do?
The stage is not set, the road is not chosen
You fate not preordained"

Check out the video for "We Will Rise".

"Tear down the walls
Wake up the world
Ignorance is not Bliss"

Walls of Jericho singer Candace Kucsulain doesn't hide her feelings about the state of politics. "Fuck the American Dream!" she screams in the track American Dream. Maybe her distaste for Americana came from watching the groups home town of Detroit rot as a result of corporate America's policies. Kusculain rails against the female beauty industry in "All Hail the Dead",

"Struggle to fit the mold, as she makes her self sick, it should make us all sick.

With our brainwashed minds, as they die fighting beauty.
Because we're slaves to the system
We can't go on like this, let the dead be dead.
You corporate fuck, it's time to fight this.
The status quo, it's time to fight this.
Our broken families, it's time to fight this.
Your billboard barbie, it's time to fight this.
Let the dead be dead, all hail the dead."

Alissa White-Gluz of the Canadian metal band The Agonist mixes growls with actual singing, to great effect. "Does history guide you or do you set out to change it?" White-Gluz whispers before thrashing guitars and sweep picking pummel listeners and she begins to scream in "Business Suits and Combat Boots." The video features a business man pick pocketing a homeless person, and photos of caskets returning to the US from Iraq, while the lyrics condemn animal testing, racism and the beauty industry. Their video for "Thank you pain" actually premiered on the website for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The Los Angeles based Otep, founded by their singer Otep Shamaya, is more than just a band with some conscious lyrics, Shamaya is actually engaged in social change and politics. She actually spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention! In the song Confrontation she uses a grungy voice to speak out,

"Riot gear, the slaves are here
Piling corpses high

Its the rich man's war
But its the poor that fight

More capitalist crimes,
More enemies than allies

No WMD's - who gives a fuck
If they die"

While the video for Warhead mocks the paranoia of US militarism. Blast beats and palm muted riffing keeps the song chugging along while the video shows a picture of George W. Bush with the caption "The king of lies Is alive" Shamaya screams, "He lied, they died, keep the peasants terrified!"

In "Smash the Control Machine," Shamaya mocks right wing media with a catchy yet heavy song that easily lends itself to pogo dancing - or mixed martial arts against a yuppie.

"Then they outsourced my job
And gave a raise to my boss
Bailed out the banks but billed me for the loss

They say we must submit
And be one with the Machine
Because the Kingdom of Fear
Needs compliance to succeed

So waterboard the kids for fun
It's all the rage
And play born-again American"

What is the future for female metal singers? They need to have the media take them seriously as musicians, and not eye candy. Every year Revolver magazine, one of the most popular heavy metal magazines, prints it's list of 'hottest chicks in metal.' Where is there list of the 'hottest dudes in metal'? The misogyny of our society is unfortunately well represented in the taste makers for metal. Instead of seeing these singers as important artists or ass-kicking vocalists, they are seen as cheerleaders with tattoos and Slayer shirts. The metal world and music industry need to stop this and treat theses bands as more than metal with tits.

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