My name is Jagoda Kuls and I am a third year journalism student at Birmingham City University. I am also an aspiring music journalist with interest and personal experience in alternative cultures. I focus my work around extreme metal subculture, and I enjoy interviewing musicians for both journalistic and research purposes. I have based many of my university projects on researching metal music, where I had a chance to work with great artists.
Throughout the years I have spent at University, I produced a broad range of written work, which you will have a chance to read below. I selected examples of writing, which I thought showed my versatility as a journalist.
If you are interested in seeing more of my journalistic work, which is not music related, please contact me using details posted above.
INTERVIEWS WITH MUSICIANS (used for both professional and university purposes)
1. Interview undertaken on 3rd December 2019 with Olof Wikstrand (Band: Enforcer / Origin: Sweden / Genre: New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal)
Q: Welcome to Birmingham! This is your first time here, how do you feel?
A: The tour’s been great so far. It’s great to be touring with guys from Municipal Waste and we’re happy they invited us on this tour. Birmingham is great, we’d love to come back in the future.
Q: So, your set was only half an hour long this time. What are your thoughts on this?
A: Oh yeah, it was short, which is a shame, but we weren’t the headlining band this time, so.
Q: Very true, but that must have been the shortest set EVER.
A: Well, we can’t control the set times. We’d love to play a longer set, but that’s down to promoters.
Q: I noticed that Jonas isn’t present on tour this time and he’s replaced by Chris Stephenson from Skull Fist. Why is that?
A: As you might know, Jonas got married recently and has a little daughter now, so he’s busy with his family and has to make some sacrifices when it comes to the band. He’s also working on his solo project – Forever.
Q: Let’s talk about your new album Zenith. What sound were you going for?
A: ‘We were going for a timeless and classic sound, but wanted to stay diverse. We took inspiration from classic bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath and we wanted to sound more traditional rather than obscure 80s speed metal.
Q: And the album is fully self-produced?
A: That’s right.
Q: Zenith received a lot of backlash from fans, as it doesn’t sound like a regular Enforcer album. How do you deal with it? What’s your opinion on it?
A: As I said before, we wanted to create something else this time, so we kind of expected the reaction we received. The album isn’t as big of success as previous albums are and people started labeling it as ‘hair metal’. We’re still doing tours and playing sold out shows, so it can’t be that bad.
Q: Any plans for the future?
A: Working on more records, but for now I just want to hit the road, we have a long drive ahead of us and I’m very tired (laughs).
2. Interview undertaken on 28th November 2019 with Daniel Dekay (Band: Exciter / Origin: Canada / Genre: Thrash metal)
Q: How was the show? What do you think of London audience?
A: It was the craziest club show I’ve ever played. It was the first sold out show of the tour for us and you guys definitely delivered.
Q: You’re not the original member of Exciter. How does it feel to be playing with one of your favourite bands?
A: It’s surreal. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
Q: Tell me more about tonight’s setlist. What song is your favourite to play?
A: Dan and Allan decide on final setlist for each show, I just have to learn how to play the songs. I don’t really have a favourite song to play, but I do have time for a guitar solo during each gig, so that’s when all eyes are on me and that’s my favourite moment (laughs).
Q: What caused your set to be delayed?
A: Airlines we were flying with lost all my gear, but guys from Bonehunter were nice enough to lend me their guitars. It took me longer than usual to tune and set up, because I’m not familiar with their equipment. I’m sure every musician knows much it sucks when you have to use someone else’s instruments.
Q: Any plans for the future?
A: We plan on coming back to Europe in 2020. We want to do more UK dates and definitely come back to London, you guys were crazy!
3. Interview with Jack Bourne undertaken on 21th December 2019 (Band: Voidlurker / Origin: Birmingham / Genre: Doom metal)
Q: Congratulations on your new EP. How did you manage to get signed to APF records?
A: It happened shortly after we played Bloodstock, Andrew contacted us asking if we have any more recorded material and asked us to send it to him. He must’ve liked it, because he made us a deal.
Q: Talk me briefly through Industrial Nightmare. What is it about?
A: Industrial Nightmare was inspired by Birmingham itself, as it’s a nightmare to live in. Doom metal scene isn’t very big in Birmingham, so we wanted to create music that will represent it. It’s all about fuzz, filth and heavy riffs.
Q: Are you currently working on new material?
A: We work on new material whenever possible. We show each other new riffs, like, all the time, so we always work on something.
Q: Any plans for the future?
A: Hopefully we’ll play some festivals in 2020!
4. Interview with Henry Montoya undertaken on 10th December 2019 (Band: Witchaven / Origin: California, USA / Genre: Death metal)
Q: I know you had real rough time struggling with the illness. Tell me more about your time in the hospital.
A: I was on my death-bed. But, after surgery and a few months at the hospital I was still alive. I don’t know how but I still just kept living.
Q: Wouldn’t your illness affect Witchaven comeback?
A: For damn sure I'm bringing Witchaven back. Doctors have said I have shown insane improvement. I am still not out of the woods, still gotta be vigilant. Now that I’m out though, each day to me is a gift, and it's thanks to the love and support from my friends, family, and fans that I have that gift. So I’m going to keep that in mind when we are writing in the studio.
Q: What made you decide to finally tour the UK?
A: A crowdfund was started by fans to pay my medical bills, and they raised well above what I needed, so to give back we will use the extra money to finally tour for the fans we haven't been able to reach yet. I'm excited I've never played in the U.K. but people have been asking us to for years.
Q: With such a demand amongst the metal scene, why haven’t Witchaven toured outside the US yet?
A: Since day one Witchaven has been entirely self-funded and self-promoted, once we started gaining a larger following I felt there was no actual need to bring a corporate label into the mix. This is and always will be a band made by fans for fans and never has been or will be about corporations and making money.
Q: Are you working on a new album?
A: Currently not, we want to focus on touring, besides, I don’t think a new album is necessary now, UK haven’t seen us play yet, so we have plenty of material to tour with.
Q: If you could tour with one band, who would it be?
A: Mechanist. They recently got offered a couple of recording deals and I would love them to tour with us. They opened shows for us in the past and I think they will make it big.
5. An interview with Lillith La'Farce - a female metal vocalist and vocal coach - used for my dissertation - conducted on 05/04/2020
Dissertation subject is based around how female metal musicians interpret contemporary heavy metal canon.
Q1: How old are you?
A: I am 20 years old.
Q2: What kind of musician are you?
A: I am a metal vocalist
Q3: Do people often not believe you when you tell them you’re a metal vocalist?
A: Yeah, most of the time they don’t believe me until I prove it.
Q3a: Does that happen a lot?
A: Yeah, a lot. *laughs*
Q3a: Is it men or women who don’t believe you?
A: I think, men most of the time don’t have a problem with it. Women are like: Oh, that’s cool, but I still want to hear it. Like, they believe I can do it, but they don’t believe it I can do it well.
Q4: How would you interpret the word ‘scene’? What does it mean to you?
A: Collection of people that come together based off common interests.
Q5: How does it feel to be a part of a scene, which originated in Birmingham? (heavy metal)
A: I do feel quite proud actually, because you feel like you’re carrying on the tradition that started here, so yeah – proud.
Q6: What does being a part of the scene mean to you?
A: My whole life, friendships, everything. Whichever way you look at it – it’s my life. Even the job that I have now – I got that through a friend that I met in the scene that I wouldn’t have come into contact with if we didn’t have the same music taste. Most of my friendships are through the scene, I got the old job through the scene, so it’s my whole life really.
Q7: What is, in your opinion, the current state of the heavy metal industry/scene?
A: I think we’re up and down. I think specifically in the UK we’re not too bad, specifically in Birmingham – again – we’re not too bad. I think we could be doing better. Actually, do you know what, in Birmingham we’re pretty good, we’ve got Uprawr (note: music venue) and their mental health foundation/charity. We have Subside (note: music venue), as well. When you look at all of it collectively combined, yeah, it’s very good. We have loads of different venues, the sense of community is strong. All the venues and people from the venues kind of intertwine, so yeah, it’s good.
Q8: What are your thought on contemporary metal? (in Birmingham and areas)
A: Some of the musicians need vocal lessons (laughs), but really though, I think it’s good, it’s strong. If you think about the time how long metal has been around- we’re going strong. We have Ocean Ate Alaska, Anaal Nathrakh – they’re really good – all the up and coming bands. However, there aren’t different tiers of how well you’re doing within a certain scene, but I feel like in the metal scene you have: the small bands, then you have the up and coming bands that play loads of local shows and play Metal to the Masses (note: music competition). Then, you have people who go around the country and play festivals and go and tour, but they usually support, they don’t play big stages. And then you have the big bands that are actually doing well, but I think we’re doing quite well, yeah.
Q9: Describe your favourite piece of music you’ve ever produced and why is it your favourite?
A: Probably my cover of After The Burial – Lost In The Static, because I didn’t want to release for nearly 6 months, but ever before I knew it was going to be a good song, but I underestimated it, I had to wait to release it, so it was the anticipation of knowing it was great. It was also my first cover I properly released to the public and on social media. To know that you was doing something that was really good and for people to actually validate that, yeah, it felt good.
Q10: What are your musical influences?
A: A lot of deathcore. I’d say Phil Bozeman from Whitechapel, but there are a lot. So, I’d say the band Of Mice and Men – all the vocalists they’ve ever had – they’re so sick. And Jason Butler from Letlive – all of these guys are amazing.
Q10a: Would you say you have any women influences at all?
A: Oh, God, yeah. Spirit Fox, Jinjer, Once Human and I want to say Arch Enemy, but I hate that band (laughs). There is also a band called I am King and, at first, I didn’t know the vocalist was a female, they’re amazing.
Q11: Do you think Birmingham gets enough recognition for being The Home Of Metal?
A: No! I don’t! They’re trying to close all the goddamn venues, for a start, and then to top it all off, there is no, oh yeah Ozzy Osbourne is on the tram – that’s fantastic – but, what else is there apart from that? There isn’t anything active in Birmingham, there’s nothing. I think there should be more to commemorate it, it would be so much more tourist-y if they did embrace the metal side of Birmingham a little bit more. Like, you’ve built a bench in Broad Street, put Ozzy’s name on a tram and now you think like you’ve done your work, but what are you doing to help modern metal?
Q12: What draws you towards metal? Why did you choose a career in this genre?
A: What drew me into metal was me being an angry kid. I think what I liked in metal was the community in the sense of everybody minding their own business. If somebody judges you, they talk shit, like what is your mission in saying that in the first place? That’s not what metal is about, the community. The reason why I chose a career in metal is because every time I play metal I feel empowered and inspired. If I can feel like that constantly through doing my job then I’m going to do it.
Q13: Is being a woman in metal difficult for you?
A: It’s not difficult, but I think we face different challenges than men do and some of them are quite unfair.
Q13a: What do you think the challenges are?
A: One of the main things is when you’re in a band and you are the vocalist and you’re playing a gig. You walk in as a female who isn’t afraid of their sexuality, isn’t afraid of getting dressed up and being girly. You walk into the sound check and everyone thinks you’re a groupie. Then you do the sound check and everyone is surprised. If I was a guy and went out and said: Oh, hey, I’m a metal vocalist, everyone would be: Oh yeah, that’s sick. Because I’m a female people are like: Oh yeah, that’s sick, but they’re going to underline you until you can prove how much knowledge you have about the subject you’re talking about. People automatically assume, because it’s a male dominated market and a male dominated genre I don’t’ know what I’m talking about. Another challenge is when you mix band merch and sexy outfits and you go out and see metalheads they automatically assume I’m popular, because I’m feminine and into metal.
Q14: Do you think women musicians in metal get enough recognition?
A: I think we do and we don’t. We’re creating a whole new, like, people say that ‘female-fronted’ is a genre, and I think that’s good to draw attention to women in genre, but at the same time it’s so, like, half of the crowd are here, because they actually enjoy the music, not even half the crowd, a portion or a fraction. And the rest of the people are here, because they want to look at my tits. Like, yes, we do get recognition, but I don’t think we get enough recognition for being musicians, we just get recognition for being female.
Q15: Has current outbreak of coronavirus affected your career in any way?
A: If anything it’s helped it out, because like a lot of musicians I also have to have my actual day job on the side and my day job has gone no, so it’s given me a lot of time to focus more of my energy on music, which is good. It has affected me a little, because I used to use gigs as a way to get work, meet other people and now I can’t other people, because of the virus. It’s the same with getting band members – I can’t locate a band member right now, because if we all got together and started to do something, there’s no point, because we can’t leave the house to organise things. I’m a solo musician at the moment, so it hasn’t affected me that much, but if I was in an actual band, then yeah, I would be screwed right now.
MUSIC FEATURES (used professionally and as a part of university work)
1. Enforcer’s first gig in the Home of Metal
Swedish heavy metal titans Enforcer recently released their 5th studio album Zenith and made their first ever stop in Birmingham as part of their European tour.
Frontman of the band - Olof Wikstrand – commented: ‘It’s been great so far. It’s great fun to be touring with guys from Municipal Waste and we’re happy they invited us on this tour’.
Zenith is band’s first attempt at fully self-producing and recording. Furthermore, this album was a big departure from their signature sound that most fans expect from the band.
‘We were going for a timeless and classic sound, but wanted to stay diverse. We took inspiration from classic bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath and we wanted to sound more traditional rather than obscure 80s speed metal’.
Enforcer became internationally famous after releasing their first album Into the Night in 2008 and since then have been considered pioneers of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal genre.
The concert took place in the Asylum venue on the 3rd December and kicked off with a brutal performance of Skeletal Remains. Toxic Holocaust filled their set with classics from An Overdose of Death, despise touring to promote the newest album Primal Future: 2019. Nevertheless, Joel Grind delivered a fantastic performance and prepared the crowd for a violent mosh pit that happened during the headliner that was Municipal Waste.
This tour differed from previous Enforcer tours, as band’s drummer Jonas Wikstrand was replaced by Chris Stephenson – a former drummer of Canadian heavy metal band Skull Fist.
‘Jonas is currently busy with his solo project – Forever. Chris is our good friend and we’ve toured before together’ – Olof commented.
According to Olof, the band would love to come back to Birmingham during future tours.
The tour consisted of 16 shows across 6 countries.
2. Heavy Metal Maniacs come back to UK after 33 years
Canadian thrash metal legends Exciter played their first UK show since 1986.
New Cross Inn in South London was the lucky venue to host the historic gig on 28th November 2019. The show sold out hours before the doors opened and ended up being more brutal than I anticipated. ‘It was the craziest club show I’ve ever played’ – Daniel Dekay commented.
Supporting sets were brought by Ansomvel and Bonehunter and they both warmed the crowd up with some speed metal madness.
Exciter were fashionably late to start their set and after half hour of anticipation they started the gig with a timeless classic – Violence and Force. Daniel Dekay explained why their set was delayed: ‘Airlines we were flying with lost all my gear, but guys from Bonehunter were nice enough to lend me their guitars. It took me longer than usual to tune and set up, as I’m not familiar with their equipment’.
The delay didn’t affect the mood inside the venue at all. Exciter made sure they gave their best and played all the best songs, including Heavy Metal Maniac, Iron Dogs and Pounding Metal. Encore didn’t disappoint either, as it consisted of Black Witch, World War III and Long Live the Loud.
The atmosphere of the gig was incredible. It felt like going back in time and attending the gig in the 80s. Dan Beehler makes a great frontman and has so much energy on stage, he could power up all 14 Marshall amps they used on stage that day.
When asked about future plans, Dekay commented: ‘We plan on coming back to Europe in 2020. We want to do more UK dates and definitely come back to London, you guys were crazy!’
I would describe the gig as devastating, but in a good way. Definitely one of the best musical experiences of my life. I would have never thought, I would be so lucky to see Exciter live. Now, I call myself a certified Heavy Metal Maniac.
3. Birmingham’s doom metal scene latest achievement
Birmingham’s own doom metal trio Voidlurker celebrate their success as they sign the deal with APF Records on 9th December 2019.
Voidlurker’s first demo came out on April 2018 and featured 2 tracks – Bitchcraft and Misery and Ravenous. The Demo was enough to get Voidlurker qualified to Metal to the Masses competition last year. They won the contest and that resulted in being able to perform at the biggest metal festival in UK – Bloodstock Open Air. That’s how they got spotted by the APF Records.
APF Records is an independent music label founded in 2017 in Manchester. It specialises in working with doom and sludge metal bands. APF’s founder – Andrew Field – is very specific about the music he signs to the label. He wants the bands to be ‘all over social media like a rash, play live a lot and be as good as BongCauldron’. Luckily, Voidlurker ticked all of the boxes and now are releasing their first EP.
Industrial Nightmare is Voidlurker’s first EP releasing on 31st of January 2020. It contains 4 tracks and costs only £4, which is a pretty good deal, as you end up paying a quid for each song. The album was recorded by Chris Fielding, who worked with bands like Conan and Winterfyllteth.
When asked about inspiration for their EP, Jack Bourne, drummer from Voidlurker explained: ‘Industrial Nightmare was inspired by Birmingham itself, as it’s a nightmare to live in. Doom metal scene isn’t very big in Birmingham, so we wanted to create music that will represent it’.
The album is all about fuzz, filth and heavy riffs with brutal lyrics written entirely by Brad Thomas – the frontman of Voidlurker.
The launch party for the album is happening on the 31st of January – the date of the EP release – and will happen in Alma Inn in Bolton. Voidlurker never disappoint to put on a good show and according to Jack it’s because they ‘always show each other new riffs and work on new material whenever possible’.
They are very enthusiastic about the future and hope to play at least one festival in 2020.
4. Return of Black Thrash Assault
In the underground metal scene, few bands have gathered as much infamy through word of mouth as Witchaven.
A band known by many but seen by few, Witchaven have clawed their way to the top of the underground scene thanks entirely to their frontman and founder, who prefers to only be known as Henry. After more than a decade of playing the underground scene throughout the United States, Witchaven were to finally break out on their first U.K. tour, until tragedy struck.
Henry was hospitalized in the summer of 2019 with liver failure due to his drinking habits. After months of treatments and near death experience, Witchaven made an announcement only few saw coming: Witchaven were to return back to the studio to record yet another album. Beyond this incredible news, band announced that for the first time ever Witchaven would perform live in U.K.
When asked about his time in the hospital Henry commented: ‘I was on my deathbed, but after surgery and few months at the hospital I was still alive. I don’t know how but I still just kept living."
A lot were concerned his illness would affect the band moving forward. Henry replied: "For damn sure I'm bringing Witchaven back. Doctors have said I have shown insane improvement. I’m still not out of the woods, still have to be vigilant. Now that I’m out though, each day to me is a gift, and it's thanks to the love and support from my friends, family and fans that I have that gift. I’m going to keep that in mind when we are writing in the studio."
A crowdfunding campaign was started by fans to pay Henry’s medical bills and they raised more than enough money, that’s why the band decided to tour Europe. They plan on coming to a few English cities, including London, Birmingham and Manchester.
When asked about his feelings regarding the UK tour, Henry commented: ‘I'm excited, I've never played in the U.K, but people have been asking us to for years!’
Witchaven plans on visiting Europe during the summer of 2020.
5. BAND PROFILE + A CONCERT REVIEW (used for university work and as a personal journalistic entry)
[TITLE] Is Voidlurker the next Electric Wizard? Band profile + Voidlurker performance review at Centrala 22.12.2018
[SELL] With doom metal scene in West Midlands slowly but surely deteriorating, Voidlurker never disappoints its fans with providing low frequency, skull-crushing and soul-terminating music.
[BODY] Since you might have not heard of Voidlurker before, let me briefly introduce you, fellow doom-seeking, grim-listening people, to these exciting, yet slightly sludgy, riff producers.
The talented trio from Birmingham is a new sensation in doom metal world, as they only have been a band for over a year. Their ‘fuzzy riffs’ – as band like to describe them – are rapidly gaining new hordes of fans, as well as booking them a satisfactory number of live gigs in their hometown and in areas, with an average of one performance a month.
Voidlurker also came second in music competition- Metal to the Masses – where the first price was a guaranteed spot at the most popular heavy metal festival in the UK – Bloodstock Open Air. Pretty good for a band this young, right?
While the band is focusing on independently releasing their first album, they try to distract us from the wait with the first demo, titled Demo (how smart?), which has been pleasuring our ears since the beginning of Voidlurker. It contains two majestic, yet soul-decimating tracks, which are so melodic and weirdly catchy, they will leave you hooked for a long time and sooner or later you will find yourself screaming and begging for more. After repeatedly listening to Demo you might add ‘lurking in void’ to your daily tasks/hobbies. On a serious note, the CD should come with a warning: ‘Extremely addictive, listen at your own risk.’ I often ask myself: If the demo is so good, how amazing the full album is going to be? Voidlurker has more riffs in store for us; we need to be patient and await the long-anticipated release. I sure am ravenous for it.
Every band has an inspiration, a muse, something or someone that inspires musicians to write and create content that their audience want to hear, like - and simply – dig. Voidlurker’s sound is like a mash-up of any possible traditional doom metal band you can think of with brutality and speed of modern stoner groups, but riffs so eloquently enchanting and electric they leave you simply enraptured, yet excited. It is definitely not an evil exaggeration, this. Voidlurker is an ultimate music group which combines different subgenres of doom metal into one cohesive doom band. The elements and techniques the band uses are so versatile; they attract fans of various metal genres, not only doom. Christian Devore, a professional musician, comments on the band: ‘Voidlurker is thoroughly accessible to music fans of all genres while staying true to their doom metal roots. All the characteristics doom fans look for are present, heavy low tuned droning guitars, sludge-y dirty bass pounding away, and thunderous drums beating away like a flat tire on a motorway. It is easy to get carried away by their hypnotically repetitious riffing drawing you in and engulfing your mind and soul. At the same time, they've bridged a gap most modern doom bands haven’t been able to overcome. With a sound like this there is no doubt Voidlurker will find their way to the top of the UK metal scene.’
I think that’s enough about the band itself, let’s move onto the gig review itself, shall we?
A quiet, reasonably warm evening in December. The last weekend before Christmas. The last chance to live through a madness-filled weekend before we all sit down with our families to have a lovely and oh-so delicious meal. Although, for some of us, it was a night filled with destructive doom. Birmingham town centre was absolutely annihilated by last-minute shoppers and the traffic was horrendous, but Digbeth area was, surprisingly, havoc-free. Centrala - a live venue/art space located in the heart of creative outlet of Birmingham – previously mentioned Digbeth – was the place where the magic happened that night. Astonishing line-up. Four doom-abundant bands performed that night: Suffering, Khost, Opium Lord, and obviously – Voidlurker.
My first impressions of the venue were – small but cosy. Small bar area on the side was offering a satisfying selection of soft and alcoholic drinks, and in case you got hungry – pierogi – a Polish delicacy. Quite random, you might think. Yes, it is, until you find out that the venue itself is run by the Polish Expats Association. Makes more sense now, right?
The stage is set. Lighting changed to devilish and atmosphere-setting fervid fiery red. The room started filling up with dense smoke in order to set the scene. Crowd waiting with anticipation for the band was now ready for some electrifying riffs. Harsh voice of the frontman announced the band: ‘We are Voidlurker!’ Audience started buzzing with energy and the show has begun.
The show’s kicked off with the first song from the demo – Bitchcraft and Misery. It was the shortest song out of the two they performed on the night, but it definitely made an impact on the audience with its thrilling riffs and ear-scorching lyrics. The song started out with a gentle vibe, although its rhythm picked up halfway through the track and it ended on an angry and brutal note. Dynamics in the venue have changed and the audience have turned into a bunch of raving head-banging maniacs. In general, the entire song is quite melancholic and tells a story about a break-up, but in a vulgar and obnoxious kind of way – the way doom metal should be.
Second, and the last, song of the performance was their second demo track – Ravenous. It begins with a two minute stomach-turning riff which sounds like it could belong on Black Masses album, next to other Electric Wizard classics. The raw vocals elevate the entire song and make it a great track to bang your head to. The live version of the song sounded extremely evil and its bestial riffs had the powers to open a barbaric mosh pit in the first two rows of the audience.
Yet again, Voidlurker delivered another absolutely crushing set and set the bar high for the next two bands performing after them. I have attended many of Voidlurker’s shows and I will admit – they get significantly better with every gig they play. There is no doubt I will be attending their upcoming shows. For Edd – an audience member - it was his first time attending a doom metal show, he was positively surprised with the atmosphere and music played: ‘I think the band was absolutely amazing - whilst still standing out on their own, each band member operated together like a well-oiled machine. Would love to see them again, well impressed.’
Now, the verdict we’ve all been waiting for: Is Voidlurker the next Electric Wizard? The answer is: not quite yet. They have big potential as a group and their music is addicting and truly amazing during live shows, although they have a long way to go. Surely, no one will ever replace the Godfathers of Doom Metal, but Voidlurker might get quite close in the future.
Brad Thomas – lead guitar/vocals
Jack Bourne – drums
Andrew Rennie – bass guitar
As mentioned before, I enjoy extreme metal music and I am very passionate about it. I attend a lot of music events and get involved with local music scene. Interacting with like-minded people who share similar interests to mine feels very rewarding in some way and I am glad that I managed to combine my hobby with a potential future career.
I like to investigate different issues revolving around the subculture and express my opinion through creating journalistic entries fit for various online publications, such as music websites or blogs. Below are two examples of my work.
This piece is backed up by academic references
1. Lace and Leather – the reality of being a female musician in heavy metal industry
‘Women wear leather clothes in order to look more masculine’, even though it’s still men holding power in heavy metal subculture.
Heavy metal is associated with men and masculinity and is often viewed as ‘boys club’. Themes that surround metal music, such as occult, suicide and violence, lead people to bad stereotyping of metalheads, where men still get away with it, as an average heavy metal fan is described by media as ‘heterosexual white male’. What about women, then, you may ask? Well, females are often called ‘groupies’ and being constantly sexualised and objectified within the industry. I have interviewed several female metal musicians and asked them about their personal experience when it comes to sexual harassment or being objectified by men who are a part of heavy metal scene. I knew their answers were going to be rather shocking, as I have been on the scene for nearly as long as 10 years, experiencing various forms of abuse coming from men, so I prepared myself for the worst answers. Melissa, one of the ladies I interviewed said, she had her corset pulled down by one of the male audience members while performing on stage and someone shouting that her band could headline Download if she ‘took her top off’ in front of the audience. What would you call this kind of behaviour. Appalling? Atrocious? Revolting? Sickening? Very much so, all of the above. Therefore, please treat your female musicians, and fans, with respect they deserve and save us some second-hand embarrassment, as we don’t want to see anyone getting kicked out from the venue.
After reading that previous paragraph you might think I’m only writing this post to tell everyone how bad female metalheads have it out there and how much they all hate men. If you do think that, then well, you’re wrong, as I want to show people that female metal musicians can create an impact, bring positive changes and benefits to the industry. Although, the important question we have to ask ourselves is: How can impact be achieved? Amie, a bass player from band Dakesis, said: ‘Educating and offering assistance to young musicians on their journey is very important. My role here is to teach them the skills they need to manage their venture.’ From this quote we read that Amie is making a positive impact by being a ‘role model for musical involvement’ and helping young aspiring musicians by encouraging them to explore their preferred music genre. Having experience in playing music for 25 years, Amie still experiences judgement for being a female metal musician, as she expressed in the interview: ‘People often come to conclusion that I’m sub-par as a musician next to my male counter parts’. This behaviour can be described as marginalisation – the fact that men feel more privileged than women, in this case, when it comes to being a musician. Marginalisation of women in metal is a big issue we struggle with on a day-to-day basis. According to Duffett, fans should share the same values, which mean they all should be united and supportive of each other, regardless of gender, race or sexuality. According to my own research from 2018, only 5% of women don’t feel like they belong to the heavy metal subculture and it’s due to the fact that they feel less important and undervalued as females in male dominated subculture (see below).
I want to underline that all the primary research I have undertaken in order to produce this article is solely based on DiY musicians – all my interviewees are musicians or vocalists who compose their own music or write their own lyrics, either for themselves or other musicians. I thought it was important that I’d mention it, as now I want to talk about women’s struggle for dominance within the industry. Women are under constant pressure of men dominance. In order to change it, women would have to gain more cultural capital in terms of their position in subculture’s hierarchy, amount of knowledge, level of education or lifestyle choices. Being a DiY musician automatically puts you lower in the hierarchy, as you are labelled as ‘unsigned’, rather than ‘independent’. DiY artists often miss out on opportunities, as ‘unsigned’ is being seen as negative. Amie explained it to me in an interview and stated that the best thing for independent, or DiY, musicians is to ‘keep spreading the word and be honest with fans about how things are’. According to Bourdieu, capital can be understood as the ‘set of actually usable resources and powers’. So, does that mean that being a DiY artist puts our women musicians at the bottom of the hierarchy due to them producing music independently rather than having it produced by a music label? Not at all. DiY musicians can be just as skilled, or even more talented, then artists signed to major music labels. Knowledge and education are both acquired capitals, so they mean more than symbolic capital, which can be inherited, for example: fame. Having said that, I came to conclusion that women can be just as powerful as men when it comes to dominance in heavy metal industry, as the amount of women metalheads doesn’t matter when it comes to comparing cultural capitals and skills women have, or can acquire throughout their music careers.
To make women musicians look more powerful in people’s eyes, we need to break the stigma of ‘female fronted bands’. People tend to associate that with a genre, even though it doesn’t fall in a subgenre category whatsoever. ‘Female fronted’ is not a genre, it’s a type of band. Brazilian thrash metal band Nervosa consist of 3 female musicians, although it still would be considered ‘female fronted’, as the vocalist is a woman. Hannah, lead guitarist and a singer of a band Winter Storm, when asked about what she thinks of ‘female fronted’ bands and falling into that category herself, she commented: ‘For me, it’s not something I’ve ever really considered if I’m truly honest. I just do what I do’. According to Walser female performers are able to produce very powerful music; however they have to sacrifice their femininity in order to do that. Coming across as masculine and producing gender-neutral lyrics can help women with becoming ‘the spectacles of power’. This creates a couple questions: Is term ‘female fronted’ sexist, and is it a part of female subordination, where men try to limit women metal artists to create music that falls only in that category? I do believe it would be very beneficial to undertake more research in this field in order to understand the industry more and give female musicians recognition they deserve.
Being a musician might be hard, but it is very hard when you’re a girl and want to make heavy metal music. Sometimes people won’t take you seriously, as, apparently, this is not somewhere where women belong. I wrote this post for numbers of reason, but the most important one is to raise awareness of issues and struggles female musicians have to face every day in heavy metal industry. Women constantly get judged and treated with disrespect and it’s important that people know about it. Women artists have to work twice as hard as male musicians in order to gain some recognition. I hope we see some positive change soon with more female underground musicians performing on the scene now than ever and more girls attending the shows. I believe heavy metal industry needs some ‘girl power’ and a little femininity added to it. We need more events like Metalocalypstick Fest to happen around us. In case you never heard of this festival, it is worth researching and looking into, as its purpose is to embrace the power of women in metal. It is amazing to see more people starting to appreciate women as musicians.
I want to give special thanks to few amazing ladies who made it possible for this blog post to exist in the first place. The answers you provided me with were very informational and gave me an insight into the local heavy metal scene. Much appreciated.
Thank you to:
Melissa Aonia Adams
1. Clifford-Napoleone, A.R. (2015). Black Leather. In: Clifford-Napoleone, A.R Queerness in Heavy Metal Music: Metal Bent. New York: Routledge. 34-35.
2. Krenske, L. & McKay, J. (2000) 'Hard and Heavy': Gender and Power in a heavy metal music subculture, Gender, Place & Culture, 7:3, 287-304
3. Hickam, B., Wallach, J.. (2011). Female Authority and Dominion: Discourse and Distinctions of Heavy Metal Scholarship. Journal for Cultural Research . 15 (3), 255-277.
4. "Festival celebrates women in heavy metal." Vernon Morning Star [Vernon, British Columbia], 11 June 2017. Gale OneFile: News, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A495221105/STND?u=uce&sid=STND&xid=6afc8d96. Accessed 14 Dec. 2019.
5. Fried, C.B. (2003). Stereotypes of Music Fans: Are Rap and Heavy Metal Fans a Danger to Themselves or Others? Journal of Media Psychology. 8 (3), 2-27.
6. Kies, B., Proctor W. (2018). On Toxic Fan Practices and the New Culture Wars. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies. 15 (1), 127-139.
7. Howe, T. R., Aberson, C. L., Friedman, H. S., Murphy, S. E., Alcazar, E., Vazquez, E. J., & Becker, R. (2015). Three decades later: The life experiences and mid-life functioning of 1980s heavy metal groupies, musicians, and fans. Self and Identity, 14(5), 602-626.
8. Pitts, S. (2012). Locations For Musical Learning. In: Chances and Choices: Exploringthe Impact of Music Education. Oxford University Press. 56-88.
9. Ferguson, R, Gever, M, Trinh, T.M-H, Tucker, M, West C (1990). Out there: marginalization and contemporary cultures: The MIT Press.
10. Duffett, M (2013). Understanding Fandom: An Introduction to the Study of Media Fan Culture. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. 191-203, 278.
11. Bourdieu, P (1984). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste: Harvard University Press. 80-120.
12. Walser, R (1993). Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music: Wesleyan University Press. 108-137.
Own research referenced in above text:
I used SurveyMonkey to create the questionnaire and received over 50 responses (54).
80% of people who responded were female and 20% were male.
15% of people were under 18, 70% of people were 18-25 years old and 15% were 25-36 years old.
85% of people thought lack of females in heavy metal culture was noticeable, 15% of people thought the opposite.
95% of people considered yourself a part of heavy metal subculture, 5% of people didn’t.
65% of people thought it is important to belong to a subculture, 35% of people thought the opposite.
90% of women felt undervalued within the heavy metal community, 10% of women thought the opposite.
This piece is written in a blog post format. It is purely based on personal opinion and research.
2. Let's talk about early black metal scene
Since black metal is considered Satanic among subgenres, (I’m talking about inverted crosses, pentagrams, blood, demonic make-up, blah, blah, blah) imagine showing a person who has never experienced the beauty of black metal a video, or just a song. What would be their reaction and thoughts? Satan, sacrificing virgins, black mass, etc. So, today I will focus on early, true black metal scene (TNBM) and things people don’t know about it.
Every metalhead knows who Varg Vikernes is. Everybody knows the story about him stabbing Euronymous and burning churches, that’s what media wants you to know. This is just a simple manipulation: Media releases a story and everybody sticks to it. Cool, let’s believe in this and call Varg a Satanist and stick a Satanist label on black metal. You have to realise that the early black metal scene was never Satanic. Churches were burnt to show contempt for the established order for the Christian society. Multiple church arsons was an act of hatred, not Satanism. When early black metal scene started to grow, alongside of it the war against Christianity started. I’ll try to explain it as short as I can. Christianity was forced upon Norse men and churches were built. Then black metal scene was born and some members were still mad about trying to convert everyone to Christians, so they went and burned few churches to show their anger and disrespect towards Christianity. Early black metal scene didn’t have any religious interest in Satanism and didn’t support Anton Lavey – founder of The Church of Satan. While all the church arsons were happening, media wanted to promote The Church of Satan, present it as THE black metal theme.
Varg got accused of church arsons, because of media propaganda. It all started from Varg willing to help out Euronymous with his record shop – Helvete. They arranged an interview about the shop and Varg agreed to do it anonymously. Even though, he did it without introducing himself, he did not know that he was talking to a Christian journalist. The journalist decided to twist Varg’s words and create a completely different story. He wanted to ‘prove’ Satanism having place in Norway and now he had a great chance to do it – interview a member of the ‘Satanic’ scene. The journalist pushed his agenda to the point where some members of the scene started getting arrested in 1993 and for a whole other reason, not the church arsons.
So, as you can see, Varg got arrested just for no reason, really. Also, later on, media published his picture in newspapers of him wearing a Venom t-shirt. Venom is known for their logos consisting of pentagrams and devils and you have to admit, it looks S A T A N I C. Media liked the subject of Satanic activities going on in their country and they kept pushing and pushing until one day Euronymous gave an interview in the newspaper where he apologized on behalf of the entire black metal scene. Not very kvlt, is it? He also had to shut down Helvete, because his parents thought it was uncomfortable for the family. That just proved that Euronymous wasn’t trve kvlt. Even Varg helped him out by allocating all the profit from selling ‘Burzum’ to prevent closing down the shop, but no, had to end the business, because parents didn’t want to be associated with all the Satanic shambles.
Fun fact: Varg never liked Venom, he wore their shirts, because he tried to show them off and sell them for a living.
Right, I don’t want to bore you to death with quite long first post, so I’ll just stop here. I just hope after reading this, you guys will start thinking outside the box and ditch the story about Satanist Varg and Satanist early scene. Now you could say: ‘Varg still brutally killed a person.’ Yes, I do realise that, but if you still think that it was some sort of Satanic ritual or sacrifice then I have no strength to argue with you. Think what you want, because I don’t think that you’ll ever understand the early black metal scene.
By the way, I also want to say, that I’m not some crazy Varg supporter, because I do not agree with some of his views or opinions, but I still respect him as a person, because at the end of the day he is a great musician and a man full of knowledge and I would love to see more of his work in the near future.
Thanks for reading!
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