War on Women

Here’s a recent article that was published over at the Washington Post called, “Rape, street harassment and trolls. This punk band has a song for that” about the hardcore band War On Women and Feminism. It’s both an interesting and discouraging article about what female musicians face in the punk, hardcore and metal music scenes and goes on to speak about the band’s origin and experiences performing. In particular, like the article’s title suggests, band lyricist and vocalist Shawna Potter talks about fans’ reaction to her as a woman performing and her experiences of harassment.

War-On-Women-2014-1024x819WOW_logo_original-600x154

It’s sad to say, but Potter’s experiences are really no different than what many of the women I interviewed here in NYC spoke about. Even though a majority of metal news sites, commenters, and bloggers in the blog-o-sphere might argue differently, these moments of violence, mistreatment and racism still occur. It’s very much a “still happened, even if it didn’t happen to you” kind of thing.

I am glad to see articles like the Washington Post one being published because these issues of rape, racism, and sexism still are and should be ongoing discussions, lest we forget– see what I did there? –But seriously… the discussions shouldn’t stop at just media highlighting white women of more noticeable bands – there needs to be a focus on the intersectionalities occurring – women of color, of ethnicity, of varying gender identities etc.

And before folks get all uppity about there not being enough bands with women of the intersectionalities I just mentioned, you can just look to bands like NY’s Castrator or the site Female Vocalists of Extreme Music– the name implies only vocalists but it really includes a very in-depth listing of bands worldwide with women as musicians & vocalists.

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Women in Metal Music – A Reading List

Ever since I got my hands on Kim Gordon‘s book “Girl in a Band,” I’ve been thinking about reading lists with female musicians- especially the lack of books and materials about female metal musicians. With all of the gender and metal research I’ve been doing, I found myself sadly unsurprised that there wasn’t very much commercially-written about female metal musicians in terms of bands, memoirs or biographies. I’m not quite sure why that is, considering that I’ve come across so much scholarly work by women in metal studies and I’ve met so many awesome musicians who are women.

In any case, I thought it would be helpful for me and other folks to have a reading list of more commercially-known books written by or about women and metal. I’m not sure if I’ll end up creating a list in Amazon’s Listmania but I might make an ongoing page here on my blog.

I also plan on compiling a scholarly list of articles, papers, and books written by female academics writing in metal studies, since much of my own thesis work has referenced women like Sonia Vasan, Gabrielle Riches, RoseMary L. Hill, RoseMary Overell, Jasmine Shadrack, Sarah Kitteringham, Kristen Sollee, Heather Savigny, etc. There’s lots more!

Below is a list I started compiling via my very random searches through Amazon as well as books that have been recommended to me during my research. By no means is this list comprehensive. All the books are available on Amazon, just follow the links and grow your library collections!

And yes.. compiling such a list appeals to the librarian side of me.

  1. Baulch, Emma (2007) Making Scenes: Reggae, Punk, and Death Metal in 1990s Bali
  2. Bond, Jaclyn (2009) The 100 Best and Absolute Greatest Heavy Metal Albums in the World, Ever
  3. Clerk, Carol (2002) Diary of a Madman: Ozzy Osbourne: The Stories Behind the Songs
  4. Dawes, Laina (2013) What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal
  5. Ford, Lita (2016) Living Like a Runaway: A Memoir
  6. Giroux, Annick (2010) Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook
  7. Herron-Wheeler, Addison (2014) Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960’s to Now
  8. Hughs, Jill (2014) Not Just Tits in a Corset
  9. Kajzer, Jackie, Lotring, Roger & Weiss, Mark (2009) Full Metal Jackie Certified: The 50 Most Influential Heavy Metal Songs of the ’80s and the True Stories behind Their Lyrics
  10. Leggett, Carol (1985) Heavy Metal Bible
  11. Mape Ollila and Olga Pohjola (2006) Once Upon a Nightwish: The Official Biogrpahy 1996-2006
  12. Napoleone, Amber C. (2015) Queerness in Heavy Metal Music: Metal Bent
  13. Nolteernsting, Elke (2002) Heavy Metal: die Suche nach der Bestie
  14. Phillipov, Michelle (2014) Death Metal and Music Criticism: Analysis at the Limits
  15. Purcell, Natalie J.(2003) Death Metal Music: The Passion and the Politics of a Subculture
  16. Roccor, Bettina (1998) Heavy Metal: Kunst, Kommerz, Ketserei
  17. Roccor, Bettina (1998) Die Bands, Die Fans, Die Gagner
  18. Roxx, Rita R. (2012) Once Upon a Rock Star: Backstage Passes in the Heavy Metal Eighties- Big Hari, Bad Boys
  19. Weinstein, Deena. (2000) Heavy Metal: The Music and it’s Culture, Revised Ed.
  20. Weindl, Dina (2006) Musik und Aggression: Untersucht anhand des Musikgenres Heavy Metal
  21. Weiermann, Ursula (2010) Heavy Metal: Entstehung und Entwicklung
  22. Yseult, Sean (2010) I’m in the Band: Backstage notes From the Chick in White Zombie Heavy Metal

Individual Thought Patterns: Women in NY’s Extreme Metal Music Scene – 10.19.15

Cover of Natalie Purcell's book

Cover from Natalie Purcell’s book, Death Metal Music: The Passion and Politics of a Subculture

I just realized that although I’ve been working on this research for some time, I’ve rarely posted anything that’s part of the draft thesis. So in case you were wondering…here’s a sample of what I’ve been writing about. I’ve included the abstract, table of contents, and just the working introduction, which reads very auto-ethnographic.
Draft – Individual Thought Patterns
And of course, please feel free to contact me if there’s something just glaringly odd/off. It’s still a draft form so I’m sure my advisor and second reader will have changes in mind.

Thanks  \m/

Summer Work Never Ends when You’re Metal Thirsty

In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to – it’s been a couple of things, but the most exciting thing this summer is the fact that I’ve got about 56 pages of my master thesis on women in EMM written, that’s excluding all the appendices–Woo hoo!

Metal researchIn addition, the folks over at the Society of Ethnomuiscology’s Student Union Blog were gracious enough to allow me to post about my experience with academia, motherhood, librarianship, and metal. Check it out!

Moreover,  I just finished writing a book review for Choice Magazine and I’m now in the midst of writing another review for ARLISNA on John Sharp’s Works of Game:On the Aesthetics of Games and Art. Which, by the way, I totally recommend as summer reading!

worksofgameLastly, I’ve been lucky enough to see Gospel of the Witches twice this year! I’ve made a handful of good friends through the academic metal route and the experience has really imparted some enlightening insights for me.

With that said, here’s a couple of pics from the GoTW show at Blackthorn21, July 10, 2015. It really was a great show and unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to get pictures of the other bands–all female fronted too, like The Missing and Earthbound!

Finally, it was super cool to finally see Alekhine’s Gun, since I’ve heard so much about Jessica Pimentel’s engaging metal  performances, but of course, I didn’t get any pictures, so here’s a link to some photos of the event from Skullnbones.com

Enjoy!

Album Review: King Woman’s – Doubt (2015)

KingWoman1There’s something in the air… an enticing, atmospheric, world building that draws me like a moth to a flame. I’m listening to King Woman’s EP titled, Doubt. Led by vocalist Kristina Esfandiari, formerly of Whir, this drone-inspired album is the birth of a new project for her. Together with bandmates, Colin Gallagher on guitar, Joey Raygoza on drums (Skin Like Iron), and Sky Madden on bass (Chasms), they conjure a doomy and melancholy reverie that seduces the senses.

Having been described elsewhere as sounding like a combination of Black Sabbath meets Mazzy Star, I can’t help but agree and add my own two cents. Each song flows into the next smoothly, exuding a dark and introspective air. Ethereal feelings permeate throughout with Esfandiari’s voice conveying poignant lyrics of gloom and heartache. In an interview over at Rolling Stone, Esfandiari cites her use of psychedelics as a major factor towards bringing about her awareness of what was wrong with her religious upbringings. Doubt is essentially an album questioning her faith, yet it speaks to a deeper level of internal dissonance.

KingWoman3Musically, the leading bass-lines and guitar work offer a descent into a dark, bluesy, maelstrom. Although, I wouldn’t categorize it as metal, it does have the heavy elements that harken to early Sabbath. Fans of post-metal, shoegaze and doom will enjoy the pacing of this album.

EP Track Listing:

1. Wrong
2. King Of Swords
3. Burn
4. Candescent Soul

Here’s a Youtube clip of my favorite song from the Doubt album called King of Swords:

To buy the Album

King Woman on Facebook

Album Review: Karyn Crisis’ Gospel of the Witches – Salem’s Wounds

I was asked to write an album review over at MetalRiot.com of an inspiring musician I’ve mentioned on this blog in the past – Karyn Crisis! Her band is Gospel of the Witches. Below is a copy of the text that you can find over at Metal Riot.

Enjoy!

Review: Karyn Crisis – Gospel of the Witches (2015)

As most loyal fans of Crisis will find—Gospel of the Witches is a departure from the core metal/death sound of their 90’s heyday. But that’s to be expected. Away from the East Coast metal scene after the Crisis break-up, Karyn travelled to California to learn more about her experiences with the incorporeal, having had countless episodes of what could best be described as “encounters with the supernatural” during her childhood and onward.

In between self-discovery and music-making with a brief stint in husband Davide Tiso’s band Ephel Duath, we find a new Karyn, grounded in her abilities to communicate with her own spirit guide and with humanity through the medium of music. Ever the creative soul, she’s crafted and pursued leatherworks, paintings, and mediumship and come back full circle to music.

From metalinjection.com

From metalinjection.com

Gospel of the Witches’ debut album, Salem’s Wounds, is Karyn’s latest mesmerizing project with husband Davide Tiso of Ephel Duath and Bob Vigna from Immolation on guitar, Ross Dolan, also from Immolation, on bass and backing vocals, and Charlie Schmid from Vaura on drums. Each member brings a range of experience to the table.

To me, the first significant song is the opening track, aptly-titled Omphalos, which becomes just that – an object of power, positioned to propel the listener on a journey of arcane reflexivity. Karyn’s “I am no one, I am nothing, I am nowhere,” juxtaposed with “I am everything, I am everywhere, I am everyone,” starts with clean vocals and quickly metamorphosizes into a growled delivery layered atop Ross Dolan’s own deathly vocals and sets both the tone and expectations high with a powerful intro to the album. Its subtle ascending vocal tempo creates an escalating mood, a musical ascension of sorts. Short, simple and leading; it directs the listener right into the second song, The Alchemist, in which the theme of being an acolyte learning the ways of the occult arises from both the composition of Karyn’s music and lyrical content that points heavily towards mysticism and transmutation – “I am no longer the dust and lifeless, waiting to be swept away…” and “…I hear those words, kept unsaid, and I walk in the world of the living and the dead.” A little more than halfway through the song, we hear a bit of the old Crisis as Karyn alternates styles with bits of clean and heavier vocals with Dolan backing the choruses.

And so begins our journey, alongside Karyn, towards self-discovery. In a Lovecraftian way, we learn of ritualism and guidance from both Ancient Ways and Aradia, where verses become chants foretelling haunting revelations of mankind existing as only a small part of the greater world. The driving melodies lead the ear to witness the rites in progress. Karyn’s lyrics paint a haunting, yet enlightening, revelation of liberation. Aradia, itself, is used interchangeably for “Gospel of the Witches,” featured as part of the title of the original book or religious text, from which the band’s name most likely originates. Its also the name of a person in the book, allegedly the daughter of Diana, Queen of the Witches and Lucifer, portrayed as a sun god. In 1899, it later caused quite a stir and came to be a major influence on the modern Wiccan belief system. It details rites and beliefs of a sect of Italian witches, which is intriguing considering that Karyn’s husband lives in Italy, and she, herself, spent several years living there with him.

Its interesting to me to note that Gospel of the Witches has a pronounced gothic tinge to their overall sound. With both Dolan and Vigna from Immolation on board, I had expected to hear a composition replete with shredding guitar and complex death metal composition, tempered by Davide’s somewhat lyrical guitar-work and pacing. Instead, we’re indulged with a surprising side of Immolation’s palette that moves in a more gothic-rock direction and has Karyn, at times, invoking early Switchblade Symphony with her vocals instead of Dawn Crosby or even her own previous works.

As two halves of a greater whole, the songs Mother and Father are a nice compliment to each other. They’re a payment of respect to the progenitors of the universe and not just the parents that gave birth to us-though one can interpret its multilayered meanings to differing conclusions. With Mother in particular, the lyrics really resonated with me as I lost my own mother to disease when I was 23, so I took the lyrics of “Mother, I can feel your flesh burning, Mother, I can smell your sacrifice” as both profound and cathartic, with a call-and-response relationship built in. However, what Karyn is doing here is relating Aradia’s story, her origins, the depth of her beginnings. In contrast, the song Father radiates a more anchored feeling than what Mother produces. Its potent lyrical structuring with repetitive chants like “I am” followed by words such as invictus sets forth a dominant tone of invocation making it read like Delphic verses in the night. What we can infer here is Aradia’s conversation with her own Father, stating her known identity; she is aware of her origins and unconquerable spirit.

In many places throughout the album, Karyn layers her voice with Dolan’s, creating an interplay that harkens to a singer possessed. This maniacal effect plays with our aural assumptions of what is masculine and feminine, giving equal play to both genders and allowing them to become one. What results is a ritualistic profoundness similar to an altered state of consciousness. We become active listeners in her tale of the first witch.

Perhaps the one song that really brings this concept home for me is Goddess of Light. In particular, the part where Karyn sings, “Bear witness to my eternal rebirth”. Through a quick perusal of the definition of the Goddess Light deity that Karyn refers to, its possible to interpret the song as an homage to the divine feminine. What also struck me about this reference to the Goddess of Light was how it ties into my own conversations with my mother-in-law, who is a Hindu. An equivalent deity to the Goddess of Light, tales of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi relate a story of The Churning of the Ocean in which her disappearance from the world leads to darkness and chaos overtaking the earth with asuras (spirits) taking over. After much work and perseverance between the other deities and humans, Lakshmi returns, overturning the demons and making the world safe once again. Karyn’s music alludes to this kind of ethereal world-building.

With a surprising change in tone, at least in its intro, we hear The Secret, the tenth song on the album. It opens with a spacier introduction bordering on lounge-like beats. Her lyrics, “if you don’t go within, you go without,“ seem to sum up her inner discoveries and confessions. There’s a subtle extended invitation to join the dark with her, making it feel as though you’re witness to something beyond the sacred. However, the lyrical play on words could also reference Buddhist Zen ideas of self-discovery and self-evident truths contrasted with a activities of people looking for external signs of faith as a validation or sign of reprieve from their life’s troubles through pseudo-spirituality and mysticism, or people who superficially claim to practice “black magic” or “witchcraft” without knowledge of the traditions, lore and history of what they’ve appropriated.

Compositionally, I was surprised by the relative simplicity of the music compared to her earlier works, as fans who go in expecting anything resembling Crisis aren’t going to find what they’re looking for instrumentally here. Immolation fans will frankly be shocked. There’s nothing inherently wrong with musicians of Immolation’s background coming together to produce music of this type, but it should almost come with a warning for certain types of fans who may be more close-minded or fixed in their ideas of musical expression and range and are put off by change.

In many ways, what Karyn has done here is exactly the opposite of the progression Carl McCoy underwent when transitioning from Fields of the Nephilim to simply, Nephilim. His was a journey from atmospheric and gothic rock to gothic-influenced death metal, also steeped in mysticism. Hers has been a journey from metal to atmospheric, metal-influenced gothic music – with a movement from introspection and to the occult.

With Salem’s Wounds, we’re once again sharing in her confession with a leading gothic rock melody. There’s an abject feeling listening to her use of “hallelujah“, conveying an inversion of Christian traditions. Her repetition of the word “samsara”, the reincarnation cycle, reminds me of Hindu myths and how the religion at one point, and still to a degree today, was considered pagan to western Christian hegemony. It’s through these intentional nuances of lyrical construction that Karyn imparts a spiritual epiphany. If the NBC tv-series Constantine stays afloat next season, this should be on the series soundtrack.

I’ve had an advance copy of the album for about a week now, and ultimately, I had to listen to it twice before I began to realize its full thaumaturgic intentions. As each song unfolds, Karyn’s ability to build a world very different from what we’ve known of Crisis emerges. The same can be said of Vigna and Dolan’s parts here – maybe even more so. I, myself. had to shed my preconceived notions of a possible death metal album because of Dolan and Vigna’s involvement. What we see, instead, is not a brutal, in-your-face assault of Karyn’s previous politics, but the mature, cultivated cosmos of a world that she’s been quietly exploring for decades. As a personal project for Karyn, it’s evident that her spiritual and existential experiences are grounded in her musical composition, paralleling her growth as an artist and medium. It goes with the tone she’s set for the entirety of the album.

By the end of this album, the listener is left with a somber and dirge-like atmosphere, prepping the ear to trade in what’s it known from its physical life for a second helping of spiritual self-discovery. In a manner common to all things esoteric, the album’s chants and dark, meandering atmosphere leaves the listener with a feeling of transition, waiting for something “more”. Whether that “more” is in the form of an actual visitation, only Karyn Crisis can tell us.

Full Track listing:

  1. Omphalos (2:00)
  2. Alchemist (6:28)
  3. Ancient Ways (4:34)
  4. Aradia (3:42)
  5. Mother (6:05)
  6. Father (4:54)
  7. Goddess of Light (4:00)
  8. Howl At The Moon (5:45)
  9. Pillars (3:16)
  10. The Secret (3:32)
  11. Salem’s Wounds (4:48)
  12. The Sword and The Stone (4:05)
  13. The Ascent (5:22)
  14. White Willow (2:24)

Heavy Metal, Motherhood, and Parenting

Lately I’ve been in a writing rut with regard to my thesis research on women in metal. All the things I usually try to do to get out of said rut are failing. I went to Yoga, started reading material not pertaining to my research, and I even thought about painting again; anything to get my mind off schoolwork.

Instead, while browsing an old sheet of notebook paper with ideas about possible thesis topics, I ended up revisiting this idea I had when I was pregnant with my daughter, Ella. It was on researching mothers and motherhood in heavy metal. I decided to give more time to researching this topic.

During the course of my research with women in NY’s extreme metal scene, the concept of motherhood came up a handful of times, both during the one-on-one interviews and in the online survey. In general, women said that future motherhood would be a challenge to them simply because of the lifestyle change. A few said that they look forward to figuring that lifestyle change out, while the majority of my interviewees said it wasn’t in the cards, mostly because they couldn’t see themselves as both musicians and moms. I found this bit intriguing, as I bet male musicians rarely think of this concern, or at least, not in the same way. It’s not like they would have to be drumming insane blast beats while being 7 months pregnant or anything.

Motherhood and metal also became a reoccurring theme in my daily WordPress musings because 1) I’m a newish mom myself and so I follow parenting blogs here and there (see beautiful pic of my daughter below) and 2) women in my age group are starting to settle down and have children.

Ella_motorhead2

It wasn’t surprising that when I read a review of Kim Gordon‘s forthcoming book, Girl in a Band, I was immediately fascinated with her memoir of life on the road as a musician, performer and new mom. As a rock icon, I definitely look forward to reading her book. To add, motherhood and balancing everything else is a challenge that Gordon seems to have successfully managed.

On top of women like Kim Gordon, there are others, specifically in metal that I was curious about. One example being women like Simone Simons from Epica (see video below):

It’s amazing to me that the topic hasn’t really been explored. Considering that all these musicians came out of somewhere, you’d think the topic of moms and motherhood would have been researched. There’s a dearth of information about home environments and adolescent studies with regard to reasons for listening to metal and it looks like there’s little on the way about mothers and their influences on these musicians. I would like think that in one way or another (whether it’s positive or negative) it would be highlighted.

On that note, I unfortunately found this video while I was researching that made me upset. It’s a recording of a conversation between a mother and her musician-son..well sorta. Understandably, we don’t have the entire context of why this mother felt so disgusted with her son. I’m sure anxiety and being afraid of something she didn’t understand played a big role in her reaction but it was disheartening to see the approach she took in addressing her son.

And yet, over at places like the Jarakarta Globe, psychology lecturer Gita Soerjoatmodjo writes on her experience of being a mom who doesn’t feel a need to reconcile being a metalhead with parenting. She references society’s perception of metal music and talks about, how for her, it’s an empowering and constructive force, not something to simply be rebellious or violent about.

In addition, I’ve noticed a wave of new parenting columns catering to the metal community. Both Decibel and Hellhound magazines offer new parenting columns in their issues. Just look at the cover of Decibel’s March 2015 issue:
Decibel cover_1024x1024So it goes without saying, while I’m on break with my thesis work, you’ll probably see me writing something researchy about what it means to consider motherhood within the heavy metal community.