words by Jason Ellis
Being that metal is by and far the best thing on the planet (that aren’t dogs), I will admit that it does also have some flaws. One of the biggest flaws it has (at least by my eyes) is the seemingly rampant machismo/sexism that goes along with it. Now I know that doesn’t apply to every band or fan of the genre, but there is enough of it out there that makes it pretty sickening at times.
I remember growing up, watching Whitesnake, Great White, Warrant, and bands of that era, and never being able to fully get behind them due to their objectifying of women. Whereas hair rockers who didn’t seem to use women as objects were way easier for me to get into. While there are some exceptions — Dangerous Toys and Kiss are two that come up right away for me — as a whole, I just didn’t like the ‘hot chicks as a marketing angle’ thing. I also recall, having a Lita Ford poster bought for me, due that she was “hot” (she’s kinda ‘eh’ in my book for various reasons, one being my sister tried to look like her, with pretty good results], never once thinking that she only has one good song (“Got to Let Go”, which is an awesome song actually), meanwhile I thought Doro Pesch was actually attractive, with at that point no blemish in her catalog, and reading in a Hit Parader that she was “the female troll of metal”. No one who is self conscious about everything wants to have a crush on a troll. So, I kept that quiet.
The point? As of late, I have witnessed a group of gals playing in metal bands who, while each one of them are babes by their own merits, are making so the gender lines that exist in this music are getting blurred more and more. And I had the good fortune of seeing two of the bands listed, recently.
Cloud Rat played in Oshkosh as part of a pre-Gilead Media Fest show. Now, I didn’t go to the fest, but I have a hard time believing any band who played it was better than what I’ve seen Cloud Rat do. Probably the most sincere band you will ever see, live, mixing elements of 90s hardcore and some black metal in with their grind, and vocalist Madison is a lady possessed when she’s performing live. Extremely intense and vulnerable all at once, and the whole time handling herself like a warrior. Besides being three of the best people on the planet, they are some of the frontrunners of the Midwest grind scene. They will be back in Milwaukee on June 24th, playing at Quarters. I cannot recommend enough that you go, if you haven’t seen them before.
The next night, Mortals, an all lady angular metal band with NWOBHM leanings played Quarters. Having seen them four times previous to this show, this was their night. They were on and it was great. Super sincere, no concept of trends, with some leanings towards 90s math-y stuff, Mortals has the goods. And they are also some of my favorite people, who handle the ‘you guys are a chick band’ or ‘how much do you know about metal’ things with more grace than they should have to. Good people playing good music is an amazing win.
Rituals of the Oak are an Australian traditional doom band with a female vocalist, Sabine. Her vocal texture adds a lot to their Solitude Aeturnus/kinda Candlemass take on doom. And she seems to be for animal rights (that’s big) and wants to be vegan (even bigger). RotO is going to be at Quarters on June 22nd. Fact alone, their coming from Australia to tour the states should make this something to think about.
Going back to ‘85/’86, Chastain put out two amazing records, Mystery of Illusion and Rulers of the Wasteland, both featuring the underrated talents of Leather Leone. Kinda a mix of Dickinson and Di’Anno, with a touch of Jeff Scott Desoto (Yngwie Malmsteen), but a lady, her vocals make this shredfest record listenable. She actually did vocals for Chastain until 1990, but the records after Rulers? Not up to the par of these two. And if it weren’t for another smart metal lady, my old Team Metal cohort Ellie, I wouldn’t have a clue about these records.
Incantation’s John McEntee, along with his wife Jill, have been doing Funerus together since 2003, with Jill forming the band back in 1990! Funerus is very primitive death metal with some blackish Incantation like parts thrown in for good measure. Jill’s vocals on record don’t quite have the impact as they do in a live setting, but their most recent, Reduced to Sludge, is prime Midwestern evil death metal. Recommended.
Dawn Crosby, of Detente and Fear of God fame, had by no means a good voice, but an impassioned one. The Fear of God record Within the Veil has some of the most tortured sounding vocals on it that aren’t trying to sound like some lunatic is fronting the band[aka Silencer]. Her tales of being objectified and mistreated are chilling. The albums closing track “Drift” is as haunting as when I first heard it in ‘92. Search this out. It’s a bit of a rough find, but well worth finding.
LSK, also known as Hellsukkubus, has done time with basically every heavy in the French black metal scene (the awesome Antaeus, the way to often overlooked Secrets of the Moon, playing live with Corpus Christii and Merrimack, currently in Vorkreist and Hell Militia). Vorkreist has members of the pre mentioned bands, along with people who did time in Glorior Belli and Blacklodge. Hell Militia has amongst its ranks maniacs from Arkhon Infaustus and Mutiilation. So there’s some pretty powerful lineage in these bands. Also, black metal tends to have the tendency to be some of the biggest pigs, and also the biggest to market themselves in any “sinister” way they can. But she is never used as a marketing angle, just the bassist for some of the best French BM there currently is. Vorkreist just released Sigil Whore Christ last month on Agonia. It’s a good to great slab of typical French BM, IE kinda a bit goofy at times and very cold sounding. And Hell Militia is completely sick. Cannonisation of the Foul Spirit is essential black metal. Your collection looks pretty weak without it.
To close this all out, about a year ago one of the best bands on the planet called it a day. Ludicra’s take on dark metal (Bethlehem, Shining, later Celtic Frost, etc.) was nothing short of amazing. There is no poor moment in their catalog. They were the class of metal when they were a part of it. If you missed the boat when they were around, I cannot recommend enough you jump on now. Any spot on their discography is as good a spot to jump in as any other.
So, above are just a few examples that shouldn’t need to be named. Women are as an inaugural part of this genre as men. I have seen a majority of these bands live, and, the reaction to them has been mixed, honestly. While it’s better than it has been, it still seems to carry the “you’re a girl” stigma way too often. Which sucks. We’re (should be) all smarter than that. No more gender lines. Let’s just be excited about what we hear, not who is playing it.
Hear more on metal from WMSE’s Jason Ellis of Team Metal, Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. – midnight.