Castrator and Cannibal Corpse – A Love Story

CCandCastratorMashupSo as I finish up my thesis chapter devoted to the women of Castrator, I thought it would be nice to preface my section to the chapter with some lyrical comparisons from both Castrator and Cannibal Corpse songs, since really, each band has a way of textually inter-playing with each other.

In addition, Castrator’s decidedly feminist content make for some interesting call and response dialogue with Cannibal Corpse. The fact that Castrator can transgress the inherently masculine domain that is death metal, makes for an alluring discourse. Looking at the lyrics below, I’ve paired Castastor’s song Emasculator with CC’s Stripped, Raped and Strangled to offer a re-imagined version had the power shifted from the rapist to the victim. In my mind, I call it Emasculated Rapist and if I were any kind of musician, I’d find a way to actually cut and mix the two songs.

They think they know who I am
All they know is I love to kill
Face down, dead on the ground
Find me before another is found

Vigilante women on the loose 
Instruments of vengeance
Balance Restorers
The hunter will be hunted
Spirits of their victims rejoice
No longer will they endure

I come alive in the darkness
Left murdered and nameless
Dead, unburied and rotten
Half eaten by insects

Tightly she holds the blade
With which the rapist will be raped

She was so beautiful
I had to kill her

Tied her up and taped her mouth shut
Couldn’t scream, raped violently
Rope tight, around her throat
Her body twitches as she chokes
Strangulation caused her death
Just like all the others
Raped before and after death
Stripped, raped, tortured

Castration
Of the rapist!
Emasculation
Take his weapon!
Castration
Crush and cut the balls!
Emasculation
Oriectomy!

They’re all dead, they’re all dead
They’re all dead, by strangulation

I come alive in the darkness
Left murdered and nameless
Dead, unburied, and rotten
Half eaten by insects

It felt so good to kill

Castration
Of the rapist!
Emasculation
Take his weapon!
Castration
Crush and cut the balls!
Emasculation
Oriectomy!

I took their lives away
Seven dead, lying rotten
Unburied victims
Their naked bodies putrefy

Strangulation caused her death
Just like all the others
Raped before and after death
Stripped, raped, tortured

Form a line of prisoners
Led up one by one
Leaving genital parts behind
Penile amputation
Remove the weapon
From the offender

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EP Review: Castrator’s “No Victim”

Screen-Shot-2015-04-04-at-11-28-42-PM_vice_970x435

My review of Castrator’s new EP. This can also be found on Metalriot.com.  Enjoy!

“Tightly she holds the blade
With which the rapist will be raped.
Castration Of the rapist!
Emasculation.”

Talk about a reply to any number of songs from Cannibal Corpse’s discography! Having discovered these ladies last year, right before their demo was released, I was ecstatic to finally hear Castrator‘s 4-track EP released in early May under the Horror Pain Gore Death Productions label. These five ladies hail from all over the map (Sweden, Colombia & Norway to name a few countries), marking this group as both ethnically diverse and fem-tastic! Shrouded in a bit of mystery, the ladies are credited as M.S. (vocals), M. Akesson (rhythm guitar), R. M (bass), C. Perez (drums) and P. Serrano (lead and vocals). You might already be familiar with many of the ladies from their other bands, which with time, I’m sure you’ll all figure out.

It’s sort of a supergroup in the making. Castrator’s EP has brushed off the dust to reinvigorate traditional death metal, and, in fact, does so with a healthy dose of feminism. And for you males out there who shy away from the f-word – put simply, it’s about leveling the field.

No need to cry misandry; these ladies are playing within a genre that’s definitely seen its fill of violent lyrics towards the female body. So in a lot of ways, though traditional, their lyrical content and approach has definitely revived and made for a refreshing and innovative change for the scene. The ep’s success lies in its ability to make your ears bleed with death that harkens to a time when classic death metal was still a driving force to be reckoned with. On first play, one might just think it’s all blood and gore with a little bit of fun inserted for shits and giggles, but really, throughout you get the added dose of subversion of content.

Opening with their song titled, “Honor Killing”, you’re made immediately aware that the narrative will speak of women’s injustice, but accompanied by growled vocals, driving guitars and rapid blast beats; the rhythms oscillate between intense drumming and savage guitar riffs, incurring some very vicious melodies.

My favorite song is “The Emasculator”- Not unlike many death acts from the early 90’s, it opens with a gory clip from the movie Hostel 2. You hear a man calling a woman, “a f**** c***”, (wrong move!) as she proceeds to go Lorena Bobbitt on him. What makes this a successful interpretation of what could easily be called a “man-hating” song based on its intro is its political confrontation of rape culture through its lyrics. It’s a transition from women being victimized to being empowered. And of course, this is most evident from the EP’s self-titled and title track, No Victim.

Overall, the EP is traditional death composed of melodic grooves and interspersed with guitar solos and growled death vocals. I felt that by the end, it made for a compelling reversal in which feminist politics serve to undermine the typical stances of a genre almost always aligned with patriarchy. Fans of early death would appreciate this project and probably be left like me, waiting for more, as Castrator continue “Unleashing her plague upon the earth”.

Full Track Listing:
1. Honor Killing (3:14)
2. Brood (3:09)
3. The Emasculator (4:06)
4. No Victim (3:24)

Individual Thought Patterns: Women in NY’s Extreme Metal Music Scene – Castrator

Castrator logoOn the research side, things have been coming along nicely..or at least until I’m told the famous, “hey, this isn’t going to work…your topic is too narrow/broad, you won’t be able to finish this at the Masters level, etc. ” I don’t know why, but I feel that statement lurking behind some shadowy academic in my future. I’ve been told that its the natural thing for advisers to critique your work until you’re in fetal position. I remember art school being like this. In light of this very real fear, I’m going to try and keep the optimism burning.

Last night I had my latest interview with a wonderful woman who was part of the metal scene back in the day. She’s a media personality now, working with an urban music label and moonlighting as a front woman for an indie rock band. She had lots to say that helped inform my study with regard to women and where feminism lies within NY’s metal and hardcore scenes. One of the common patterns arising from my interviews with women in NY’s extreme metal music scene (EMM) has been the diversity of backgrounds. I’ve met with a variety of women coming from all walks of life, varying ethnic backgrounds, and a range in age from 18 to 40. It confirms that metal’s reach is truly global…especially here in NYC, which is already rich in diversity.

As far as the compiling and writing portion of my thesis, all I can say is that it’s coming along. I’ve managed to organize my thoughts into a draft table of contents/outline. I’ve been working on parts that come easily to me. One of the sections that I’ve written about was about women and their re-appropriation of the death metal music scene. I’ve attached a small part of of my draft below. I’m currently editing and refining it based on one of my professor’s comments, but hopefully the majority of it will be part of the final thesis. I thought it would be nice to bring to light my happy discovery of the NY band Castrator. They’re significant in their pursuance of leveling the male-dominated NY death metal scene. I wholeheartedly support women with this agenda.

Re-appropriation and the Changing Discourse

 A number of the women I conducted one-on-one interviews with were musicians in the extreme metal scene. I interviewed two members from the New York City band Castrator, Carolina Perez (drums) and Mikaela Akesson (guitars). Castrator is an all-female band who play death metal, one of the styles blanketed in the extreme metal category. The other members consist of M. S. (vocals), P. S. (guitars) and R. M. (bass).* Not only do these women represent a multiplicity of ethnicities, they are a rarity with regard to actively choosing to create an all-female line-up, unique in the EMM scene. The band’s construction allows the women to create a space in metal in which expectations of gendered identity either fall by the wayside or become fuel for songwriting. The experience of performance for them paves the way to transgressing masculine space and sexualized gender tropes and subverting the normative patriarchy of the scene, rather than reinforcing them.

The band’s name, as well as two songs on their demo called “No Victim” and “Honor Killing” also serve to transgress the genre. Naming the band Castrator fits naturally with the death metal image of morbidity and the macabre; however with women behind the name, it gains a new appropriation, hinting at the inverted expression of female masculinities (Halberstam 1998).

Their lyrical content is a direct opposition to the current masculinized death metal hegemony and yet adheres stylistically to the genre’s sound. An example of this can be found in the lyrics to the song “No Victim,” which tells the tale of a man’s attempted rape of a woman. The tale is told from the woman’s perspective in which thoughts of “always in fear” and “trying to be brave” position the woman as victim. However, as the end approaches, the discourse undergoes a complete reversal – the woman overpowers her attacker and takes his knife and ends his life, “the knife from his hand she grabs, stabbing him multiple times”. When I asked Carolina about her thoughts behind writing this song, she said, “every woman has the fear of being raped and it shouldn’t be like that”. There are, in fact, many death metal songs, penned by men, glorifying rape. Some graphic titles include Cannibal Corpse’s “Fucked With a Knife”, “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” and the evocative “Entrails Ripped from a Virgin’s Cunt”. She said that with this band she wanted to show the EMM community that women “could play as brutal and as fast” and that “they like death metal music for what it is”. This mode of practice allows Carolina and her band to destabilize the gender norms of EMM by reclaiming masculine space for their own.

*Initials used for anonymity

Nouvelle Vague with a sprinkling of something heavier…

NouvelleVague_1I remember a couple of years ago first being introduced to the musical genre of bossa nova from a fellow musician/librarian of whom I worked with. I never thought that I would find a band, let alone songs that appealed to me. Lo and behold Nouvelle Vague comes along and changes my perception. Granted, they are French cover band and probably appeal to me because the majority of their covers are of 80’s songs that I love, without shame. Hell, their name translates to “New Wave” for goodness sake. I couldn’t help fall in love with their sound which is the complete opposite of the death and sludge metal I’ve been listening to lately. They undoubtedly have a “Frenchness” to them that if visualized, would probably be like a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, complete with animated pig and gnome figurines.

Obviously with covers of bands like Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Clash, etc, I don’t think you can go wrong. Unless of course you think that the covers are blasphemy, but I didn’t feel that way.

NouvelleVague_3

 

One song cover really sticks out to me and I supposed it’s because it’s one of the few songs that I like to mix in between long bouts of death metal tracks. The song is called, “In a Manner of Speaking”.  The original version was done by Depeche Mode, written by Martin Gore–a guy who I think doesn’t get all the recognition he deserves, but that’s another post. I’d be curious how this song would sound like if it had a sludge metal sound applied to it. Maybe something to put on my list.

And below is the Nouvelle Vague version, which although sounds much lighter, seems to carry the same undertone of unrequited love for me, albeit a poetic lilting version.

I usually juxtapose this song with a Gallhammer one, called “On the Onset of the Age of Despair” (see the depressing theme here?)

Another song I like to put into my bossa nova – metal mixes, is the “Cosmic Sea” by my all time fav band, Death.

Anyway, hope you enjoy my soundtrack and insight of the morning.  \m/

 

 

Zines Zines Zines and Jo Bench

zines1As my research on all things Extreme Metal and Women continues, I’ve made a wonderful side discovery of a Metal Fanzine Archive called Send Back My Stamps! thanks to my wonderful metalhead husband for passing this one onto me. The librarian in me is so wonderfully ecstatic to see the preservation of unique material like this. To add, there’s a nice drop down menu of bands listed alphabetically on the right side of the page which 1) let’s you know how many bands he’s indexed and 2) let’s you jump to zines referencing said band. Also included is a page for Fanzine PDF downloads as well as a links page.

My husband was the one to point to me that zine collecting is rare in general, and metal zines are even rarer to find, especially ones from back in the day. So it’s nice to see that some attempts of preserving metal history were made.

The collector is Jason Netherton, vocalist/bassist of the band Misery Index and in his About This Site page talks about how he’s always intended to find a way to preserve Metal History. He dedicated the site to displaying zines of the metal underground during the mid 1980-1990’s. For what it’s worth, I think he’s doing a great job.

I hope to spend some more time looking through the collection and see what I can gather, if anything, on women mentioned in the zines.

On my first perusal, I did see an interview with Bolt Thrower from the zine Conscious Rot 2 and a question about Jo Bench caught my eye:

“You got Jo Bench on bass, who is female. How is she feeling in this menzone and what do you think about her as a musician? Isn’t it too hard for her to play in such a heavy band as Bolt Thrower?”

To which the drummer Andy Whale replied,

“Jo is a very good bassist and has no problems playing music we play. She doesn’t have any problems with people harassing her. To us, she is a bass player not a female.”

Jo BenchOk-I get the part about looking at Jo Bench and admiring her skill to play bass. I get that. But to totally disregard her gender doesn’t sit well with me. Neither does the sexist manner in which the interviewer belittles her ability to play in a heavy band!

I mean, does gender have no bearing whatsoever? I also find it hard to believe that she has never encountered any harassing. She’s one of the earliest female bassists to play in heavy metal, especially during a time when women were less involved then they are now.

Over at the Queens of Noise Zine blog, Jo Bench was quoted saying,

“My main purpose since day one was not to draw attention to the fact I’m a woman, and that has helped me massively. I feel like just another musician in the band, and have been treated as such, and I think that has gained me more respect in the long run. I’m very grateful for that.”

I remember reading that and feeling a duality of understanding and confusion. I felt that for Bench to be respected she had to negotiate her gender into a role that fit into the hyper-masculine world of metal. How wonderful would it be if she didn’t have to do that? Is it possible to be seen as a women and an equally awesome musician? Why would one have to be negotiated over the other?

 

 

Heavy Metal – Women and Perception

All-Female Blackened Doom Metal Band (Japan)

I’m constantly scouring the internet in hopes of finding new articles, books, and comments regarding women in extreme metal, let alone heavy metal, for my research. So it was nice to see this post over at The Metal Advisor blog. http://www.themetaladvisor.com/2013/07/a-maze-of-thoughts-women-and-heavy-metal.html

The author rightly points out some of the most interesting female musicians who often go under the radar. What’s nice to see is that the author (whom I can only guess is male) validates some of the typical misconceptions and stereotypes female musicians receive, almost always having to do with their not being judged on musical ability, but rather on their appearance. Vocal quality and it’s likeness to how male metal vocals are produced is mentioned, though if you ask me, it interesting to note how women have to negotiate both vocal and bodily acceptance in the hyper-masculine environment; meaning recognition is given when a woman can sound undecipherable from male vocals/growls/shrieking or if she embodies the male musician look/style.

In some of the research I’ve come across, this issue of negotiating the female body and it’s place in the heavy/extreme metal scene seems to be very black and white. Women are judged not only by the males in the scene (both musicians and fans) but by other women as well. What results is a very simplistic perception of female participation as either “hyper-serialized feminine personas” or “masculine ones” (Walser 1993).

Sonia Vasan’s analysis of this very issues applies a social exchange theory in order to make sense of what is sacrificed by the female fan in being included in the Death Metal scene. In her paper, “The Price of Rebellion: Gender Boundaries in the Death Metal Scene“, Vasan argues that in order for female death metal fans to be perceived as authentic, they must be willing to conform to a hegemonic masculinity.

It’s this questioning of negotiation and sacrifice that is extremely fascinating to me. With my own research, I hope to answer what these characteristics might be, not just for female fans who are accepted into the scene, but for the female producers/creators. I wonder how this negotiation impacts female musicians and their artistic vision within the scene. Are they able to re-appropriate commonly masculine themes within the genre and make it their own or do they submit the to hegemony? Can they approach themes of death, rape, brutality, and violence through a gendered lens of feminist theory? And how would/has that changed the common themes written about in heavy metal?

Women in Death Metal

crisis1For some time, I’ve been curious about the absence and marginalization of women in an already marginalized musical genre like Death Metal. I was first introduced to the genre back in the early 2000’s by my then boyfriend, now husband. I’ve mentioned this before in one of my earlier posts, but back then I couldn’t grasp why the music was so appealing to my husband. Over the years though, I’ve grown to like the music,  I’m not comfortable calling myself any kind of expert on Death Metal but I’ve become a fan.

This newfound interest in all things Death Metal led me to question how other women perceive the genre. I, myself, did not gravitate to it until after my adolescent years, in my early 20’s. I attributed this gravitation to having endured a death in the family that changed my whole perspective on life.  The down-tuned guitars and growling guttural vocals correlated with the grief I was feeling. I did not embrace Death Metal with the angst of youth that so many males have and seem to do. So then, how do other women gravitate to it? It’s this and a slew of other questions regarding women and Death Metal I seek to answer with my marinating thesis.

During the course of my research, I’ve read many articles which present women participating in Death Metal on the sidelines; we know they are there, we see them at shows, we see their comments on threads, we even see them in some of the bands – though this is still a minority – and yet, for all their visible presence, it’s a seemingly silent voice.

Is this silence attaining a louder presence? With the rising growth of such groups as the International Society of Metal Music Studies, I can see women taking up about half of the conversation, discussing right along with their male colleagues topics of gender in heavy metal music, nationalism, the economy of metal music, and even such things as how metal music is perceived by both the public and academia. So why is it then, that women’s participation as both consumers and producers is so lacking in media?

The picture above is of the band Crisis, one of my favorite female-fronted death metal bands, now dismantled. Karyn Crisis is probably the second reason for my pursuing research on this topic, aside from my husband’s encouragement. I’m curious about her as both a creative and innovative producer, as well as consumer of the genre. From where do female producers draw their influences and inspirations? How do they balance femininity in a hyper-masculine environment? What challenges do they face with their own gender perceptions from other women? I’d love to see how other musicians like Jo Bench, Dawn Crosby (RIP), or even Krysta Cameron, would answer these kinds of questions.

As you can see, I have a lot of questions! I’m hoping the community and my research will help me to answer them as this blog continues (though slowly). and as I gain my balance between being a new mom, working full-time, and attending graduate school – I hope to answer these questions and many more.