EP Review: Castrator’s “No Victim”

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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)

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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