Friday, October 20, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: The Dark Element “Dead to Me”

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Normally when working on these twice-a-week features, I try not to showcase the same bands or artists within too close a time frame, but as the saying goes, “strike the iron while it's hot”. Right now, The Dark Element is a pretty hot topic, and they've already got another video to review, so why not jump at the opportunity? Besides, this is my blog, which means I can make the rules, or break them if I see fit. If I want to write about the new lyric video from The Dark Element, then I see no reason why I should wait for a “substantial” amount of time to pass!

If you read my feature last month on The Dark Element, then no introduction is needed. For those who did not read my previous review, then please refer to said review for further information. To give a very brief rundown, The Dark Element is a project featuring ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen, and former Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon. Now that you're all caught up, let's move on to the review!

A lyric video for a song called “Dead to Me”, it is too easy to quickly spot similarities between both Olzon and Liimatainen's previous bands. As I am a Nightwish fan, I instantly hear remnants of songs like “Dark Chest of Wonders” and “Shudder Before the Beautiful”, to name some examples. But, as I am also a fan of Liimatainen's other band, Cain's Offering, I hear many comparisons to that band as well. It stands to reason that both artists are so identifiable by their old bands, that the sound of those bands is bound to come out through the music they make together. In a way, it's an interesting insight on what Cain's Offering might sound like with a female vocalist, or how Nightwish might sound if they joined forces with Sonata Arctica.

As for the video itself, it has a gray backdrop, with pictures of the band, along with shots of Anette in black-and-white, singing as the lyrics flash on the screen. I like how she still does her little head-bobbing thing when she sings, the way she did in her Nightwish days.

I am glad this is a lyric video, because when Anette reaches the line “you ate my bread and drank from my well”, it sounds like she is singing “you ate my brain”! I am pretty sure this is not a song about zombies, so good thing I was able to get that misheard lyric corrected right away! Then again, the song is called “Dead to Me”, so you never know...I guess that will have to be one of those questions that will remain unanswered!

For all its upbeat tempo and fast heaviness, this is one hell of a breakup song! I tell you, these “revenge anthems” from today's pop princesses are child's play compared to heartbroken metalheads! With verses like “I wish I could say I wish you the best, it isn't true”, “I won't write you an ode nor confession, not a song but a war declaration”, “you were the harlot of my heart, like a fool I played my part”, and “you're no one, mean nothing, you're worthless, dead to me”, it's obvious that The Dark Element has far more creative ways to tell an ex, “we're never getting back together”!

For more information on The Dark Element, visit their official Facebook page.

Thanks to Dustin Hardman at Frontiers.

Special thanks to Oceansouls of America.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: The McGrath Project “Your Secret is Out”

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This week, I'm going to travel off the beaten path and turn my attention to something not as rooted in metal or even hard rock. I wrote before about musician Gary McGrath here on this blog, so this week I am going to give a nod to one of his many musical endeavors, The McGrath Project.

Whatever name the musical project is called, when Gary is involved, there is a distinct style and sound that is unmistakable. Gary's music is fun, upbeat, reminiscent of the days when good pop music was made with real sugar! It doesn't sound like all the other cookie-cutter pop music out there; the formulaic auto-tuned songs about booty that are a dime a dozen. The McGrath Project is refreshingly vibrant, something new and interesting amid all that boring stuff, yet maintaining an air reminiscent of yesteryear: that sweet bubblegum pop that ruled the 1960s, and could still be heard well into the ’80s; the days when “pop music” was not a derogatory term.

Keeping to the playfulness and fun in their sound, The McGrath Project's video for “Your Secret is Out” is a quirky little number with a sense of humor. That is clear enough from the start, when the video begins with a producer at the console, asking the band in the sound booth to “try a little better at not sucking, thanks!” Meanwhile, the band looks like they are having a blast as they play a song about betrayal, with big smiles on their faces.

For more information on The McGrath Project, visit their official website.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: Secret Rule “Imaginary World”

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Last weekend I reviewed the new album from Secret Rule, one of several bands from Italy that I have written about here before. Originally, this review was going to be written last week for another video entirely, but ultimately things work out as they are meant to, because now I get to review a brand-new video hot off the presses, on release day. Appropriately for Friday the 13th, the new Secret Rule video is for the very gothic track “Imaginary World”, featuring ex-Sirenia vocalist Ailyn Gímenez.

The video just screams pure goth: from the dark backgrounds, subdued lighting, freaky dim lights, and bewildered face of a child, all within the first few seconds. Ailyn and Secret Rule vocalist Angela di Vincenzo are standing perfectly still as the music builds up, and then everyone is in motion.

The object of the boy's fascination soon becomes clear as we see circus performers walking on their hands, juggling, and balancing on stilts. The band themselves appear as though they are performing within a circus tent, as scary clowns lurk in the shadows. In keeping to the song's title, we see that the little boy is viewing this all through a Viewmaster-looking contraption (or a virtual reality headset, for you younger folks?); everything we see are just the images created by the viewfinder. When he takes the headgear off, there is no one there but someone sweeping the floor. He is a mime or a clown, leaving us to wonder if this circus was part of the boy's “imaginary world” after all.

For more information on Secret Rule, visit their official Bandsintown page.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Dream Spectrum “Lost and Found”

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I admit that in these (now) twice-a-week video reviews, there have been a handful of bands whose music I keep returning to time and time again. Those of you who visit here often probably know already who those bands are, but for those of you who are new here, there are a few bands that have been featured here more than once.

This week, I review once again a video from Buffalo-based progressive instrumental quartet Dream Spectrum, who are making their third appearance here in 8 months. What can I say? The music is good, and their videos are fun to watch, if only to witness the skill and musicianship that they possess. And while I do love progressive rock and metal music, Dream Spectrum is a bit outside of the typical fare that I review here regularly, yet not so far out of left field for it to be a surprise that I would listen to their music.

Up to this point, the Dream Spectrum videos I have reviewed have been of the “performance” type: a standard music video where the band plays in a concert setting or shown rocking out on their instruments. While performance videos are fun to watch, they don't leave much in the way of reviewing. After all, how many times can you describe a band jamming away on their guitars and drums, before it all sounds the same? In that respect, performance videos tend to offer a bit more of a challenge for me to review, because they are basic and straightforward, not leaving much to interpretation.

It is for this reason that I prefer to review “conceptual” videos: music videos that tell a tale, that are more like mini-movies and less like concert footage. I am also partial to conceptual videos for other reasons stated here before, but one of the main reasons I started this feature was to have fun using my imagination trying to interpret the story within, or to find hidden symbolism that would shed light on the subject and offer greater meaning to the overall plot. Or sometimes, it was just fun to compare the band's images of their own work to my personal visions when I listened to the music.

So even though I had reviewed Dream Spectrum twice already since February, when I saw their latest video was conceptual, I just had to review it. There is something about their music that is quirky and lively, bubbling just beneath the musical virtuosity; so I wondered if some of that would transition to their music videos.

The subject matter for the “Lost and Found” video is pretty self-explanatory: the story begins with a girl sitting at a table and looking at her phone. The camera focuses on a beaded bracelet that she wears, which soon becomes the centerpiece of the plot.  She makes brief eye contact with a gentleman sitting across the way from her, then gets up to leave. At that point, the man notices that the bracelet has been left behind. As we never see her take it off or come loose from her wrist, it is not exactly clear whether she carelessly forgot the bracelet, or purposely left it there for the man to find; this omitted detail is obviously a mystery, as soon we follow the man as he takes the bracelet and attempts to track down the girl, in a series of paths almost crossing but not meeting, as he attempts to find this woman and return the lost bracelet to its owner. Either he is a very good Samaritan, or he really likes this lady—another detail that is left open to the viewer's interpretation. For a moment, we watch the band break into a Satriani-flavored jam, and we are left to wonder at this couple's fate. We feel the man's frustration as he rounds street corners just seconds after she has gone, and feel sorry for him as he sits on some steps, looking heartbroken. Will he find the woman? Will he think of another way to seek out the bracelet's owner? I can't give away too many spoilers, right...?

For more information on Dream Spectrum, visit their official website.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Album review: Secret Rule—The Key to the World (2017)

Album cover

Album: The Key to the World
Artist: Secret Rule
Genre: Melodic/gothic metal
Label: Pride & Joy Records
Tracks: 13

*Review originally posted at the Female-Fronted Power Facebook page*

Over the last few years, Italy's Secret Rule has been anything but a secret: drawing attention to themselves by recruiting talent from some of the biggest bands on the scene, Secret Rule's 2015 album Machination got a lot of notice from fans of the genre, stoking curiosity as to what their next project had to offer. Led by the strong, harmonious voice of Angela Di Vincenzo and guided by the musical hand of Sonata Arctica keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg, Secret Rule was striking a path away from the prestigious guest stars, and was unveiling their new band lineup on their third album, The Key to the World.

However, it would not be completely bereft of guest appearances: ex-Sirenia vocalist Ailyn Gimenez would lend her voice alongside Angela's for a rousing merger of strong and sweet on the dark, gothic track “Imaginary World”. Another duet is heard on the song “Twin Flames”, this time with Henning Basse (of MaYan and Firewind fame), sounding very much like the yin and yang complementary twin souls as their voices blend together like fitting puzzle pieces.

After the short instrumental title track starts things off, the album is driving, melodic, hard-hitting, and bombastic, with Angela's voice leading the charge. The single “Song of the Universe” reminds me a lot of fellow Italian band Macbeth, and perhaps those who are fans of bands like Delain or Triosphere could find a lot to enjoy about Secret Rule as well. “Empty World” sounds like a cross between Delain and Lacuna Coil. Songs like “A Reverie”, “Are You Gone?” (my personal favorite), and “I’m You” (undoubtedly the most experimental track on the album) introduce some elements of electronica while still being positively brutal. “The Lost Child” is a straightforward rockin’ tune that is sure to get a crowd going, while “No More” is a sad, tender ballad that will prompt the lighters to come out at a live show. There are more gothic/symphonic-sounding tracks, such as “Trip Of Destiny” and the final track “100 Poets (Calliope)”, which sounds like a nightmare inside a music box!

For those who enjoyed the last Secret Rule album, they continue to build on that momentum, and there will surely be a lot here to please fans. If you are new to the band, this is as good as any a place to get started. With outstanding work like this, it won't be long before Secret Rule is no secret any longer!

Special thanks to Henk van Nieuwenhoven at Female-Fronted Power.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: A Sound of Thunder “Els Segadors (The Reapers)”

Photo credit: Dewey Tron

For those two or three people that follow my blog regularly, it is likely you already know that one of my favorite bands from this decade is A Sound of Thunder, the only thing to come out of Washington D.C. that has integrity, honesty, and a backbone! Not to be corrupted by record labels or pigeonholed by mindless categorization, the Thunder has succeeded on their own terms, continuing to boggle the minds of music biz suits that are so certain that sucking up to the man is the only way to get to the top.

Without help of a record label or (up to recently) management, ASOT has become metal's modern-day grassroots movement: relying on the 21st century variant of “word of mouth”—otherwise known as social media—to bring them new fans. Using Kickstarter as their promotional platform, the Legion of Thunder (i.e., devoted fans) back their belief in the band's talent by contributing to the Thunder's musical endeavors; making sure that the band has all the freedom to create the music they want, without pressure from a record label to write a hit single or to construct an image more suited for mass consumption.

Another component to the Thunder's appeal is their outspoken stance on social and political issues. Whether it is writing about the Memphis Three, contributing to causes such as LGBT rights and charities such as Rock Against Dystrophy, or their “feminist Manowar tribute band” side project Womanowar—the members of A Sound of Thunder are strong in their beliefs and do not back down from random trolls who threaten to leave the fandom for not staying safely middle-of-the-road so as to please those fans.

So then, when the band announced the first single for their upcoming seventh album It Was Metal, it came as no surprise to anyone that they composed a variation on the Catalonian national anthem “Els Segadors”—after all, frontwoman Nina Osegueda is of Catalonian descent. However, what started out as homage to her heritage coincided with current events sweeping the region, and within days of releasing this lyric video (directed by Vicky Ryder), A Sound of Thunder's take on Catalonia's national anthem quickly went viral among Catalonians and became an unofficial anthem for the secession movement.

Perhaps for anyone who had never heard of ASOT before all this finds it as an “out of nowhere” success story, but anyone who knows and loves the Thunder never expected anything less from them than to lead the charge and write the anthems of a revolution. Because, after all, what can be more metal than that?

The song itself, of course, is a national anthem, so it has the cadenced drumming and marching beat that make up the foundation of most anthems. Then you've got Nina's voice, so strong and sure, that it just sounds like she is commanding a rebel army! With lyrics like “raise up your scythes”, and “destroy the enemy, their conceit has sentenced them to death”, if these are translated lyrics from the original, it was already the most metal national anthem before ASOT got hold of it! But once Nina starts singing in Catalonian, it is clear why so many new fans from the region are proclaiming this the new anthem after Catalonia receives independence. Who knows? After all the recent controversy here in the U.S. over our national anthem, maybe A Sound of Thunder can give us a new national anthem as well?

In the words of my friend Craig Phillips, A Sound of Thunder “is the real-life Wyld Stallyns” (Google it, young folks!)—a band that is so loved by everyone that they bring about world peace. Truth be told, ASOT is the only band I have ever successfully “converted” anyone to—everyone I meet who hears them instantly likes them, and goes on to tell others, who like them too. Perhaps Craig's compliment will be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and rewriting the national anthems across the globe will be the start of ASOT's healing of the world.

For more information on A Sound of Thunder, or to contribute to their latest Kickstarter campaign, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Dewey Tron.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Serenity “Lionheart”

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In music, there are certain lyrical themes that are just tailor-made for a particular genre; the two elements gelling together so perfectly that one is oftentimes unsure whether one depends on the other in order to flourish.

For example, because symphonic metal is so steeped in classical music influences, historical themes within the lyrics are almost a given. Just hearing the orchestra or choirs instantly hearken imagery of the Renaissance, of lords, ladies, and gallant knights. The two are so intertwined that it would be difficult to determine whether the sound influences the lyrics, or the historical themes influences the music! Of course, the fantasy element is also a huge component of symphonic metal's lyrical content, but that is another discussion for another time!

Within the symphonic metal scene, credit is often given to the band Sabaton for being the premier historical experts, and there is no denying that their moniker of “History Channel Metal” is not undeserved. However, if any one band was next in line to the throne at the metal historical society, I would give a strong nod to Austria's Serenity: a band who wrote a concept album about the life of Leonardo da Vinci; whose songs feature titles such as “Legacy of Tudors”, “The Chevalier”, and the latest song I am reviewing today, “Lionheart”. (It should probably be mentioned here that the band's frontman, Georg Neuhauser, is a history teacher, which is one reason the band knows its material so well!)

Based on Richard I, the song's namesake, the video for “Lionheart” tells the story of Richard's oath to take up the cross and lead the Kings' Crusade into Jerusalem. At this point, as I am no history expert, I am merely going to make observations on the video itself, and the history buffs reading this can figure out what the imagery means.

The video starts with Georg (presumably in the title role) climbing up a craggy, rocky hill, armed with sword and shield, bearing the royal standard. The band plays inside a cave (again, presumably inside the rocky mountainside shown in the video), faces and arms coated with dirt and dust, as if they have been unearthed after years in the mountain. Georg (as himself) sings the lyrics as a large cross looms behind him, emphasizing the religious angle to this tale of old.

The camera alternates between scenes with Georg as Richard the Lionheart, and shots of the band playing in the dark cave. As “Richard” enters the darkened corridor, he kneels before a woman dressed in white, wearing a crown of thorns (spiritual symbolism, perhaps?), moving before him as he looks on in awe. Before long, she is seen wearing almost nothing (more symbolism?), as Lionheart makes his way to the summit, the royal standard waving proudly in the wind.

For more information on Serenity, or to pre-order their new album Lionheart (out on October 27th), visit their official website.

Thanks to Claudia Steinlechner at Napalm Records.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: The Dark Element “My Sweet Mystery”

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It is not very often that I get the chance to review more well-known names in these features, let alone one as highly anticipated as The Dark Element, a musical project featuring ex-Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen, and former Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon.

Perhaps it is good timing or a happy coincidence that The Dark Element's new video premiered this week; an event that occurred within just a few days of the 10-year anniversary of Dark Passion Play, the Nightwish album that first introduced Anette to the world. Whichever of the two it may be, in any case the milestone occasion is a perfect way to remind the public that Anette is still out there. Aside from a solo album in 2014 and a couple of singles here and there, not much has been heard from Anette since her greatly publicized split from Nightwish 5 years ago (another milestone that happens within the next few days). Since her solo album was more pop-oriented, this is the first time we have heard Anette in a metal setting since parting with Nightwish. That alone was enough to stir curiosity from both sides of the metal community—both the die-hard Anette fans who have stood by her, and the Anette “haters” who were never convinced that she belonged in Nightwish. So when it was announced that she was joining forces with Jani Liimatainen, a respected name on the scene in his own right, people all across the board of public opinion were curious to hear what this merger would produce.

Sounding like a cross between the Nightwish songs “Storytime” and “Bye Bye Beautiful”, the song “My Sweet Mystery” is undeniably catchy and upbeat. It is also much closer to the sound that fans want to hear from Anette, as opposed to her solo album. The majority of her fans discovered her through Nightwish, and so would prefer to hear her in a heavier style of music. The music is also reminiscent of Cain's Offering, another collaborative project of Jani's, featuring Stratovarius frontman Timo Kotipelto.

As for the video itself, it is a straightforward performance video, taking place in an old warehouse or abandoned building that is brightly-lit, with white walls and big windows. Stylistically, it may remind fans of the “Bye Bye Beautiful” video, as it also takes place in a similar setting, and Anette does many of the same dance moves in both videos (except there are no bandmembers transforming into supermodels this time!). I will say that Anette's fashion sense has improved over the last 10 years, and it hardly looks as if she has aged at all!

For more information on The Dark Element, visit their official Facebook page.

Special thanks to Dustin Hardman at Frontiers Records.

Extra thanks to Oceansouls of America.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Polarys “Trapped in the Hub”

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As many bands from Italy that I have reviewed here on this blog, I have only visited France one other time before this week's entry; which is a bit of a shame, because France has produced some pretty solid music from what I have heard. One thing about the French metal scene that I like (again, just based on the bands I have heard) is that they have this exceptional skill at combining genres that, in theory, do not sound as though they belong together; yet when they blend these sounds, it creates something so cool and unique that you wonder why more bands don't try their hand at such musical concoctions.

For example, the band I am reviewing this week is a band from Paris called Polarys, who describes their sound as “futuristic prog-power metal”, mixed with thrash elements and guttural vocals. A visit to the band's Facebook shows a list of their major musical influences, two among them being Slayer and Dream Theater. Come to think of it, those two bands might be a good way to describe the music of Polarys: imagine if Dream Theater and Slayer had a child together, and Polarys would be it.

In their latest video for the song “Trapped in the Hub”, Polarys gives viewers a glimpse into their “futuristic prog-power metal” world: the band performs in what looks like an engine control room, or some sort of underground holding cell (literally “trapped in the hub”?). Some smoke and lighting tricks give an eerie feel, and well-placed camera angles suggest that something is watching through the dark crevices, as they look above them for an escape route.

For more information on Polarys, visit their official website.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: Onydia “A New Safe Path”

Photo credit: Guilia Valentina Riccioni

It's been a while, but guess where I'm going this week? If you guessed back to Italy, then you are a loyal reader of this blog, and I thank you for your support!

It seems that the talent coming from Italy is pouring out faster than I can keep up, so there is never a shortage of bands to discover. This Friday's feature is Onydia, a prog-metal outfit formed by ex members of the band Elarmir, who decided to break off and put a band of their own together. The newly-formed Onydia signed a deal with Revalve Records in 2016, and this year saw the release of their debut album.

The video for the song “A New Safe Path” begins with a woman emerging from underwater, and dancing her way to the shore in quick, jerky movements. There is another woman there, standing completely still, in a long cloak and hood. The dancing woman moves around her, removing the hood in one swift gesture. She struggles to pull at the cloak until it falls away, and the dancer takes to the air in quick little jumps. (I believe the correct ballet term is “petit allegro”.) Soon, both women are gracefully moving about, as the cloak blows in the wind. Before long, the women are moving together in time, playing tug-of-war with the cloak, and ultimately finding their own rhythm as they move in their own way to the song. The second woman walks into the depths of the water and completes the cycle, showing a great metaphor for daring to step outside your boundaries and try new things; to be unafraid of the unfamiliar, and to stand alone as an individual without cutting off from the world, and its lessons for us.

For more information on Onydia, visit their official Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Von Smith “You Don't Exist”

Von Smith

As much as this blog is dedicated to rock and metal music, once in a while I do like to explore other sounds as well. My musical tastes aren't just limited to what you read about here; from classical to R&B, I enjoy a wide range of music that, for the most part, never gets written about on this blog. However, every now and then, the occasional bright shining star from these other genres will demand that their overwhelming talent makes its presence known.

One of these is a singer I have written about before: Von Smith, a vocalist so phenomenally gifted that when I listen to him, I am completely lost in his symphonic pop world of grandiosity, wide-eyed optimism, and exuberant cheer (just listen to songs like “Carnival of Life” or “Nothing Like This”, if you need some examples). I could never completely abandon the metal, but I can run off with Von's music for a weekend rendezvous, figuratively speaking! He has a voice that captures you, and at least for me, I can listen for hours and still remain totally enraptured.

Even his songs of heartbreak have an uplifting, “I won't be beaten” sort of quality to them; anthems of empowerment that refuse to wallow in self-pity, and instead march on to bigger and better things, such as his song “You Don't Exist”, the video I'll be reviewing. The perfect post-breakup song, “You Don't Exist” puts it all out on the table and is unapologetic in its determination to beat that sadness back into its dark corner.

The video itself is a fun, playful theme: It starts out with a simple shot of Von, dressed in black on a black background, wearing his headphones and singing into a microphone. Then there is another shot on the top right-hand corner of the screen: a hand playing piano. Another image appears beneath that one: a man playing guitar. Soon the camera goes to a full shot of the band playing, while the shots of Von and the piano are each in an upper corner. Eventually some horns and a cello show up...wait a minute, there's something different about this's all the same person! (Turns out the one-man band is Von's producer.) Whoever is playing the instruments, they are positively rockin' on this tune, as Von is hitting high notes left and right, and I find myself headbanging to this track, always a metalhead at heart.

For more information on Von Smith, visit his official website.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: Edge of Paradise “Mystery”

Photo credit: Val Rassi

Although I do a lot of writing about the female-fronted metal scene, it is impossible to know about every band out there, and admittedly, there are even some of the more popular ones that I'm not as familiar with as one might expect. I try to keep up with the latest names who are making a splash, but the great thing about the scene is that it is so diverse, and there is always something new to discover.

One name that has kept popping up on my radar for some time—over the past year, at any rate—was Edge of Paradise, a band from my hometown of Los Angeles. Several of my friends and fellow writers gave this band great praise, but I had not found the time to check them out for myself—until a friend told me the band was playing in the town where I live now, an area that seldom ever gets good rock shows, let alone any femme-metal gigs.

Suffering from concert withdrawals for nearly a year, and excited by the prospect of getting to discover some new music, I decided that the time had come to finally give this band a proper listen. As everyone else does these days, I looked to YouTube and found the most recent video, which is the song I am reviewing here.

The song “Mystery” is a lovely ballad with some spiritual overtones, and the video complements the song's fragile loveliness by not being too overwhelming or over-the-top. The video itself shows vocalist Margarita Monet sitting at a piano, playing a haunting melody. The rest of the band is dimly illuminated and wreathed in clouds of smoke, so you only ever see their silhouettes and are never distinctly visible. There are some close-up of Margarita either sitting at the piano or singing directly to the camera (what a voice she's got, by the way!), but she is the only person we see clearly throughout the video.

At video's end, a message reads that the song is in memory of someone; the YouTube comments mention that the in memoriam is for Margarita's cousin that passed away. As I cannot get official confirmation on that at this time, I will say simply that whoever it was for, it was a lovely tribute. After hearing this song, I viewed several other videos of theirs, but this song continued to stand out for me, and why I decided to review it as opposed to one of their heavier or more popular tracks. It probably goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: I am glad I finally got around to listening to this band, and look forward to seeing them rock my metal-deficient town this Saturday!

For more information on Edge of Paradise, visit their official website.

Special thanks to John Thornburgh.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Luna “Fire in Cairo”

Photo credit: Luz Gallardo

Normally this is more of a metal-based blog, but I love all forms of rock music, so it isn't too uncommon for me to explore other sides of the rock spectrum; such as “alternative” rock, or “indie” rock. I have never been one of those metalheads that subscribed to the notion that grunge rock was “the enemy”, or that I had to dislike one to enjoy the other.

Admittedly, what is considered modern alternative rock is not quite suited to my personal tastes, but the same can be said of most mainstream music. Being on the latter end of Gen-X, I am not exactly young or hip anymore (not that I have ever been—hip, anyway!), and I have always leaned more towards bands that were low on the radar, or stuff that was too “complicated” or “weird” for mass consumption. That being said, I do have a penchant for the alternative rock from the ’80s and ’90s. That distinct sound of those bands gives me a nostalgic, happy feeling, which instantly transports me to the days when I was young (and still un-hip).

So when I hear a band like Luna, who has been around since the days when alternative rock ruled the world—yet managed to stay underground and “low on the radar”—it is like discovering a cool gift left over from my ’90s adolescence. It's like rummaging through the attic of your childhood home and coming across a Christmas present from years past, still wrapped, that somehow got lost in the holiday shuffle and relegated to dusty bins and dark closet corners after being found by a parent under the couch during the next year's spring cleaning, long past the time when giving such a token has passed. Yet when you open the discarded gift all these years later, you find that it has not only retained the innocence and charm of its time, but it has been hidden away for so long that it feels new. It is both familiar and exciting all at once.

Over the years, Luna pressed on through the phases and fads of the different musical cycles, maintaining a strong underground following up until they disbanded in the mid-2000s. For nearly 10 years, the members of Luna went on to do their own things, until reforming once again in 2014. The year 2017 saw the band's first new releases since reuniting: an instrumental EP, and a covers album, A Sentimental Education, where the band pays tribute to everyone from David Bowie and Bob Dylan, to Fleetwood Mac and Yes.

For this week's video feature, Luna pays homage to The Cure, art-rock titans who have long crossed over to such levels of success that they don't need to be labeled. Covering such a legendary band is a tall order to fill, but Luna's take on “Fire in Cairo” is a smooth, mellow contrast to the poppy, new-wave tempo of the original. When bands do cover songs, I tend to like the ones that are done in a different way than the original, yet manages to both convey the unique sound of the band covering it, while also maintaing the integrity of the original.

The video itself is filmed in black-and-white, featuring actress Rose McGowan. It looks like film noir from the ’40s, with soft lighting and striking angles. The video begins with Rose looking at various drawings of herself (sent by fans, perhaps?), pinned to a wall. There are other photos and sketches as well, as she smiles and points to the ones that stand out. The next scene shows Luna, playing at a club called “Gold Digger's”. Rose is admitted through the back entrance while the band performs onstage. Rose stands unobtrusively against a wall, enjoying the show. Before long, she starts to mingle with the crowd, then with the band after the show. Everyone is shown laughing, talking, and drinking. Rose makes a friend, who we see visiting Rose at her house in the next scene. A few more shots of Rose in flattering light, and then the video ends. I am guessing this must be a chronicle of a day in the life of “show-biz” people, but I could be way off!

For more information on Luna, visit their official website.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: Chastain “I Live for Today”

Band photo

If you have been visiting this blog over the last few weeks, then you probably read my feature on Chastain vocalist Leather Leone. If so, then you probably also know that I have the utmost love and respect for Leather, and that she is one of my most favorite people in the world; not just in the music biz, but as a person.

While I never aspired to become a musician or to form a band, I often think that when it comes to strong female role models, the 1980s was a great time in which to grow up. The landscape of heroines to emulate was vast, and so diverse: from cartoon superwomen like Jem, and She-Ra; television characters from The Golden Girls to GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling); pop music idols from Madonna to Cyndi Lauper, rock stars from Pat Benatar to Heart's Ann Wilson.

If you were a little metalhead, like me—9 years old, reading Rip magazine and watching Headbanger's Ball—even the ultra-macho metal scene was not bereft of female role models. There was Doro Pesch, Lee Aaron, and Betsy Bitch, to name a few. And then, of course, the bad-ass that is Leather Leone: a no-nonsense woman that refuses to play by the rules and hates the gender divide within music so much that she probably would not like it very much if she were part of a feature called “Femme-Metal Friday”! But, whether she has wanted the title or not, she is considered a pioneer for women in metal, and many women who came of age in the ’80s and ’90s consider her as much of a metal icon as Rob Halford or Ronnie James Dio.

However, the band's name is Chastain, and there has always been the silent partner to Leather's visibility; the yin to her yang, the quiet force that drives the engine: David T. Chastain, a guitar genius whose name should be spoken with the same honor as the likes of Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, or Tony Iommi. Yet unlike most guitarists, he prefers to work behind-the-scenes and let the music do the talking. He is the anti-“guitar hero”, so to speak—Chastain has no inclination for noodling intricate riffs for its own sake. You won't find him up on a stage, executing 30-minute solos every night (in fact, you would be hard-pressed to find the reserved Chastain on a stage at all!).

It has been this ability to stay low on the radar that has afforded them the good fortune to remain relevant in a time when many of their contemporaries struggle to maintain their identity without painting themselves into a corner. It has also been their polar opposite dynamic that has kept the music fresh and exciting, while other bands are clearly showing wear and tear.

For their video “I Live for Today”, Chastain incorporates imagery of the rat-race business world: towering skyscrapers, visions of Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square, and piles of money. “It's all just a Ponzi scheme...your money is an illusion...betting on numbers and letters, sleight of hand creates confusion”, reads one of the lyrics that show up on the screen. Towards the end of the video, the song's message is clear when, very faintly, words such as “bankruptcy”, “dividends”, “stocks”, “bonds”, and “income” flash across the screen.

For more information on Chastain, visit the Leviathan Records official site.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Revolution Saints “Freedom”

Band photo

In this day and age, there are a lot of rock supergroups out there—so much to the point where it almost seems there are more supergroups than the original bands they came from in the first place. So when yet another supergroup hits the scene, it almost becomes to easy to either cynically brush this off as another flash in the pan collaboration among artists who have seen better days, or to get lost in the shuffle altogether.

However, it can be said that supergroups can serve a useful purpose in today's musical climate. While on the one hand, they obviously have a built-in audience of fans from their “brand-name” bands, a supergroup can attract new audiences on two other levels as well. For one, you get the demographic of older music fans who bemoan that “there's no good music anymore”. Many of these people may not have been fans of the original bands, or maybe only liked one or two of the groups, so this brings them in out of curiosity, and introduces them to the talents of musicians they had once passed by, because the music was not to their liking. Then on the other token, you have the younger music fans, who consider the original groups to be “dinosaur bands”, and wouldn't be caught dead at their concert. Yet, under the guise of a supergroup, this is “new” music, and therefore, new to them. Now an audience who never would have given these musicians a fair chance when in their original bands, now they have been introduced to seasoned veterans in the rock world, without ever feeling as if they have fallen into a “Dad-band” pit trap.

One example of these many supergroups to crop up on the scene is Revolution Saints, consisting of some heavy hitters of ’80s hard rock: Doug Aldrich, of Dio and Whitesnake fame; Deen Castronovo, former drummer of Bad English and Journey; and Jack Blades of Night Ranger, and another supergroup, Damn Yankees. Put them together, and Revolution Saints is a perfect fusion of straightforward classic hard rock, and modern-day heavy aggression.

In the video for “Freedom”, the Saints rock out onstage while the lyrics flash upon the screen. The band is all smiles onstage, having a great time while the camera pans out to an enthusiastic crowd. A highly-charged, energetic tune that is sure to get people up on their feet!

For more information on Revolution Saints, visit their official website.

Special thanks to Wayne Joyner.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: Blame Zeus “Speechless”

Photo credit: João Fitas

As my musical discoveries take me across Europe, one place I had yet to visit: Portugal, the home of Blame Zeus, the featured band this Friday. With a heavy-hitting, hard-rocking sound, Blame Zeus has all the gritty, raw power of straightforward, classic rock and roll.

Originally forming in 2010, Blame Zeus took a few years to get up and running before breaking out on the Portuguese concert scene. Now with a second album under their belt, Blame Zeus has released a music video and is looking to expand their fanbase beyond Portugal.

In the video for their song “Speechless”, a plainly-dressed woman enters a dressing room where a bunch of scantily-clad, sexy women instantly give off an intimidating vibe. As the “mean girls” laugh and joke around, the plain girl looks through a bunch of skimpy outfits that do not appear to be her style at all! Finally, she finds an unadorned white dress on a hanger and decides to try it on. As she sits at the makeup table and begins her transformation, her confidence grows. Meanwhile, the other dancers are chatting it up onstage, completely unprepared for the unobtrusive little nobody in their midst. Once she hits the stage, she soon starts leading the others in a racy burlesque routine, proving that there is always more to what we see than just outer appearances!

For more information on Blame Zeus, visit their official website.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: Iris Divine “Taking Back the Fall”

Photo credit: Rob Fortenberry Photography

As I mentioned in my entry last week, there must be something in the water around Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and its surrounding area, because there is such an abundance of great music coming from the vicinity, that I keep finding myself returning there to review yet another regional talent.

This week, my attention turns to Iris Divine, a progressive metal band whom I'd initially heard about through MindMaze, a band who is not from this particular locale, but has worked with so many of these bands and played in the area enough to be considered adopted members of this tightly-woven musical community.

Deemed by critics as a “modern-day Fates Warning”, Iris Divine has grabbed the attention of the prog-metal world with their melodic yet heavy-as-fuck sound. To be honest, I think comparing them to Fates Warning sells them far short! But, if I must make a comparison to a known band in the genre, to say they are an amped-up version of King's X? That's still selling them short, but a lot nearer to the mark, if one is looking for such comparisons. Personally, I only find such comparisons useful when trying to describe the music to someone who has never heard it, using examples of music they might already know.

For their video of “Taking Back the Fall”, Iris Divine keeps it simple and low-key—just three talented guys, jamming in a dimly-lit warehouse, allowing the music to be its own adornment, and just rocking their asses off. Sometimes, you don't need a lot to get your point across, and Iris Divine has no trouble conveying that message with the same precision as their music!

For more information on Iris Divine, or to pre-order their upcoming album, The Static and the Noise, visit their official website.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Femme-Metal Friday: Maidens of the North “Carry Your Darkness”

Photo credit: Iiris Mäki

In every musical genre, each year there is always a highly-anticipated release that receives a great deal of attention, press, and general hype among its fanbase—a beloved artist returns after a long sabbatical, a flagship band reunites, or a new, promising young talent hits the scene and generates such a buzz that the entire fan community stands up and takes notice.

For most of 2017, if you are a fan of either symphonic metal or female-fronted metal in general, then you probably already know that the big name on everyone's lips has been Maidens of the North. The brainchild of Dutchwoman/Finnish expatriate vocalist La Vero (known for her work with bands like Heavenqueen, as well as being a multi-talented dancer, actress, and model in her native country of The Netherlands), she sought to form a female band of “all equals”, where there was no set frontwoman, but each person contributed her own unique talent to the greater whole.

Upon moving to Finland, she would find her fellow musical kindred spirits in Satu Eronen and Elsa Wellamo. After meeting up with composer Helena Haaparanta, the wheels were set in motion and the first steps were taken to form what La Vero referred to as “the metal version of Celtic Woman”. By January 2017, the group of women that formed the original core of Maidens of the North was born. 

The idea was simple: each woman represented a particular element (water, air, fire, etc.), and combined their abilities to form a musical sisterhood where empowerment was key. In a scene where competition and rivalries are oftentimes encouraged as being the norm, Maidens of the North aimed to channel their energies in the opposite direction and nurture each other's talents. Maidens of the North would be about positivity: building up, not breaking down.

With such a unique concept, word spread quickly about the band, and they received an outpouring of support when they launched a crowdfunding campaign for their upcoming album and video. Without ever hearing a note of their music, fans around the world took them on faith and picked up on their good vibes of loyalty and encouragement. Maidens of the North were already living proof that we get back the energy that we put out into the world, and they received that positive enthusiasm back in abundance.

By the time the band announced the name of their first single and video, “Carry Your Darkness”, the fanbase had been whipped into such a frenzy that anticipation was at a fevered pitch. Everyone who had chosen to “enter the saga” with Maidens of the North were now excited to hear the end result of the long months of waiting.

The video starts off in a sterile, white museum, where there are artifacts sealed behind glass cases. As the camera pans through the pristine hallways, we come to a room where some paintings kept beneath a white sheet fall to the ground. The shot zooms in closer, and the bright color portrait of the ancient Maidens of the North transport us into their world.

As this is the public's first introduction to Maidens of the North, we see each of their personalities come through; but as the song is called “Carry Your Darkness”, the video's concept shows each woman dealing with personal trauma, and how they find their own inner strength to pull through. One woman runs in fear from a chasing wolf. Another resists an angry mob looking to burn her at the stake. Yet another is caught in a storm. Each one is approached by a maiden dressed in black, the Maiden of Spirit, and as she touches each of them, they gain the power to confront their fears and “carry her darkness” so that what she fears cannot hurt her any longer.

As the Maiden of Spirit transforms each woman, they are empowered, and join her as she continues to seek out each Maiden, and gives them their newfound strength. The final Maiden, running away from a group of people chasing her, clings to an old book. As she falls to the ground, she opens the pages, and a big flash appears, causing the crowd to faint dead in their tracks, leaving only the woman who has transformed into the Spirit Maiden, who also had her own darkness to carry.

“As the sun rises, we are still here”: this line is delivered as we see the Maidens stand together hand in hand, showing their unity. The story's moral is plain to see, and it is such a positive message: everyone goes through tough times, but we don't have to suffer alone. We are so much stronger when we stand together and lift each other's spirits. Sometimes we find the best part of ourselves when we allow others to help us.

For more information on Maidens of the North, visit their official website.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hump Day Hot Ticket: We Love the Underground “Kids in the Park”

Band photo

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you might notice that there are certain regional music scenes that I cover more than others. One of these is the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, which fosters quite an abundant music scene: A Sound of Thunder, Thrillkiller (formed by ex-members of another Baltimore band, Aries), Master Sword, Omnislash, Iris Divine (who I will be reviewing next week!), and this week's feature, We Love the Underground.

I can't help that I keep featuring bands from this area, but there is truly something special going on out there that deserves notice. The amount of talent pouring out of that region is almost insane. Very much like the Seattle scene in the early ’90s, there hasn't been a band from Baltimore over the past several years that I've heard yet that I didn't like. 

While there is a certain sound that identifies this scene, each band is so different; none of them sound alike, yet they all play off each other in this big community of professional camaraderie. That is probably what I find most fascinating about these bands (outside of the music, of course): they are all friends, the bands constantly work together (guesting on each other's projects, filling in at gigs for injured bandmembers), and encourage one another in their success. I do not see any type of professional rivalry, jealousy, or competition. All of the bands build each other up and promote one another nearly as much as their own projects. While this is not a rarity among local music scenes, I have never seen it operate at such a level as with this region. Perhaps this is part of their appeal. Maybe it adds that extra flair to their music. As I am an outsider that lives far away, I would prefer that it remains a mystery to me.

So once again, while making my twice-a-week musical journey around the globe, I make yet another stop in Baltimore; this time to review the video for “Kids in the Park” from We Love the Underground. As soon as the video begins, we see one of the bandmembers representing hometown love by wearing a Baltimore t-shirt. The vocals remind me a little of the late Scott Weiland (this is a compliment, by the way!), but more aggressive. Just a straight-up rock band. I like it.

The video itself is not much more than the band jamming in some kind of empty garage or rehearsal space. Very straightforward, just like their music.

For more information on We Love the Underground, visit their official website.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Leather Leone: Kicking Ass, Bleeding Metal, and Taking no Prisoners

*Article originally posted at the Female-Fronted Power Facebook page.

“There’s this quote in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, towards the end, where Diane Lane says: “stick with it, it can happen for you, even later in life”. I’m 58 years old, I’ve never sounded better, I’ve never felt better. Give me a fucking microphone, let me show you what it’s like, I’ll blow ’em away. That’s how I feel right now.”

It is exactly this confidence and straightforwardness that has defined Leather Leone, ‘The Voice of the Cult’, the vocalist of Chastain. Seen as a trailblazer by many in her scene, Leather is much more matter-of-fact about her status as one of the founders of female-fronted metal. “I’m just so sick of the gender thing!” she says. “It’s OK that someone can look up to me, but it’s a weird thing. I was talking about this with Doro, and we got a laugh out of it…how people have thought that we sat around and planned this thing, because at the time there were only about 5 of us…but it wasn’t that way. It’s bizarre to me, this whole ‘godmother of a genre’ thing…I guess I get it, I’m really very proud, but I just want this gender thing to be over! Back when I toured in the ’80s, I used to put a cucumber in my spandex to make it look like I had a dick…I don’t know why I did it!” This humorous approach sums up Leather Leone perfectly. She’s all about doing her own thing, not conforming to whatever standards that others say that someone of her gender, occupation, or age is supposed to live by.

Along with Doro Pesch, Ann Boleyn and a handful of other bad-ass women, Leather Leone was one of a few who got out there when metal was predominantly a man’s game, and took those first steps towards breaking down the gender barrier within the genre, whether any of them give themselves as much credit or not. “Back in the ’80s, the chicks were everywhere,” Leather says, giving us a look into the metal scene of yesteryear that sometimes tends to be forgotten in the nostalgia of it all. “Nobody noticed it, but I did. They were everywhere, whether they were bass players, backup singers. I was like, ‘keep going, keep going’. They’ve always been there.”

It doesn’t look as good on paper to say that it was always abundant with women, since it seems the mainstream still treats women in metal as a novelty; but as someone who has paid her dues and has come up through the ranks without attaining a certain level of superstardom, Leather has a unique vantage point that the rock journalists and documentary film-makers do not necessarily have. Because of this, she can take an ‘outside looking in’ perspective towards her status as a metal goddess, and sees herself much more pragmatically than her male counterparts who have let rock star ego over-romanticize their memories. “It’s cool to see this happening…someone heard me the way I heard Dio back in the day…A couple years ago, I went to see Kobra and the Lotus; Kobra couldn’t have been more than 23 at the time, but she was flipping out over meeting me. I met Vicky from The Agonist, Marta from Crystal Viper, Lzzy Hale has said how much she respected me… and I’m just like, ‘you must be 20 years old, how do you even know who I am?’…Their respect of my music just blows me away, it is really fuckin’ cool. I never really became this huge name, never made a living off of music, so I never thought much about what people think of me. I think it’s beautiful that music expands ages and genres.”

After over 30 years in the business, Leather is as busy as ever; doing interviews not only to promote the latest Chastain release, We Bleed Metal 2017, which features alternate guitar parts and vocal tracks from We Bleed Metal recording sessions. “David likes to work in the studio and laid down different guitar tracks; he knows I love really heavy music, but it’s basically just different guitar riffs that he felt like doing. He used some different vocal lines; there were hundreds…just basically guitar variations; no new songs. He changed the titles of some, but nothing different. I’m like many artists; when I do it, it’s done. If he wants to do something different, it’s cool, but it’s kinda bizarre to me because I’ve already moved on [to the next project]. I appreciate what he did [with the record]. It was all his direction, with my approval.”

“You’ve got, like hundreds of vocal tracks, [and] guitar tracks”, Leather explains as to the direction of We Bleed Metal 2017, and the differences between this and the original album, which was released last year. Technically, there aren’t many huge differences, except for the wizardry of David T. Chastain, and his ability to craft new guitar parts around the songs, giving them a fresh sound. It is basically the ‘alternate version’ to the original We Bleed Metal, which is a must for anyone who is either a completionist-type collector, or anyone who (like myself) loves to hear different versions of songs, and the way an artist’s imagination can take these songs to different levels while still maintaining the identity of the original piece. The musicianship is always stellar; Leather’s vocals are on-point, and Chastain’s guitar work is intricate yet heavy at the same time. If you loved the original We Bleed Metal, then this is sure to please as well.

Although we were supposed to be talking about We Bleed Metal 17, Leather and I never stay on the beaten path of conversation whenever we get together, so that just wasn’t gonna happen! (Leather is not only one of my favorite people to interview, but one of my favorite people, period!) Discussion quickly turned to her solo project, of which she speaks with such enthusiasm that it’s contagious. “The record is done; it’s gonna be called Leather II. I am pacing, I am so fucking excited. I have finally found the boys who want to do what I want to do. I’m hungry. I’m ready. What I like to do, and what my voice sounds good doing, I have to be realistic about it. I’m into so much heavier music than what I [actually] do; I’m a huge death metal [fan]… I like moody, gloomy, Sabbathy stuff; but my promoter Rodrigo said to me, ‘people don’t want to hear that from you, they want to hear straight-up metal!’ I got really tired of the layered vocals and the harmonies…I just wanted to do basic, old AC/DC-type stuff, the record that I’ve done is just a record with no harmonies, old-school metal. The boys in my band are very young, and they’re from a different country, so they’re into Kiss, they’re into Ratt, they’re into Whitesnake…into all that old, basic stuff. It’s just straight-ahead metal, which I have never done, so it will be interesting how people take to it.”

But for Leather, this is more than just another record, this is her chance to take advantage of the opportunities that her return to music has afforded her. “I’m going for it…I’m pushing it to the limit. I’ve been home for a few months, my suitcase is still unpacked. I’m ready. I don’t care if I lose my house, my car…I’m gone! The Leather Leone goal before I hit the dirt…I want to play Wacken, I want to play Wacken, I want to play motherfuckin’ Wacken!!! Maybe these opportunities were always there, maybe it’s timing, so now it’s interesting to me that people are showing interest in me. It’s awesome.”

With a new band comes new experiences: Leather is a humble soul, and though she says that she knows her own limitations, those who believe in her know otherwise and she is grateful to be surrounded by supportive, creative people who only want to get the best out of her. “Let me tell you, motherfucker…my guitar player and co-writer Vinnie Tex was in a death-metal band called Unearthly. He built up a relationship with some producers in Poland who worked with Vader, Behemoth…they liked him so much, they were like, ‘let’s bring Leather in!’ They were the only producers who ever said into my earphones, ‘can you sing this dirtier?’ I never heard anything more beautiful!”

Perhaps even more beautiful than that is Leather’s love for her Brazilian bandmates, who she spoke highly of many times throughout the interview. The camaraderie between them is undeniable. “Finally, finally, finally! I met them, I fell in love with them. I finally have boys that reach out to me every day and say, ‘get me the fuck out of here; I wanna get on the road!’ It’s the blood of the fucking youth; these guys are from 25-36, they just want to play music…we write [music together] on Skype, I fly down to Brazil…I’ve been looking for these guys forever and finally found them in my 50s. These guys believe in me, they love me, they just want to move forward with me.”

At the heart of it all, music is a competitive sport. The music business can be ruthless sometimes, especially for women, when we are held up to different standards that men can almost get away with; especially for older women in a society where youth is revered, our success is measured by some arbitrary expiration date, and women are constantly pitted against each other in some invisible contest that continues to play into the sexism that still runs rampant in the business. “Ronnie [James Dio] said it before he passed, that the U.S. has become the land of American Idol. But that’s only in America; it’s not anywhere else”, says Leather. “In our genre of music, I don’t have to look like Britney Spears, but I get so pissed off with these ‘[sexy] women of metal’ lists…I’m not bitching and moaning and I don’t mean to be rude when people include me in these lists, but it’s like, who the fuck cares? What, are we not supposed to love and respect each other? I do see this cattiness in the business; someone asked me about one of these other female singers, and it’s like, of course I’m happy for her! She’s my friend! Seems like it’s more encouraging for us to hate each other. It’s really brutal.”

Americans hear it all the time, about how their metal scene differs from other places in the world: how the Europeans are more open-minded, the South Americans are more fanatical, and the Asians are more reserved but no less passionate. These cultural differences are not limited only to music, of course; music is just one factor of the many ways America differs from the rest of the world and it does play a hand into how we perceive art and artists. “[Youth culture] is an American thing…”, Leather agrees, when the discussion turns to this subject. “I know when you’re in your 20s, being my age is a scary thing. It’s not about how old you are…I see these young girls stressing out, ‘oh my God, I’m not getting anywhere’…you’re 27 years old, relax!”

For the youth-obsessed United States, musicians have a short shelf life and the term ‘has-been’ is thrown around far too often. In other countries, where age is seen as a sign of wisdom, a seasoned artist like Leather is given her rightful praise not just as an artist, but as a woman. “Here I am in Brazil, I’m in my mid-50s, and I get hit on by 20-year-old boys. Nothing is an issue to them…my laugh lines, my age, size…nothing. It’s all about who you are. I would be blown away every day by the response I would get from these guys…I’m old enough to be their mother! They just wanted to hear me sing; they don’t care what I look like…it was such an eye-opener.”

At this phase in her life, Leather celebrates her years of experience and the knowledge that comes with age. Starting a new chapter in her musical career, she has all the enthusiasm as anyone just starting out, coupled with that self-awareness that can only come with a lifetime of expertise. “That’s the beauty of getting older: knowing who you are. Let me tell you how much better it gets, as a gets so much better! I thought my 40s were great…but my fuckin’ 50s are awesome! You know what you want, you can ask for it…God, it’s beautiful. It’s this pride that I hold, [this sort of] ‘fuck you’! You open your mouth, you do what you do and nobody can touch you. I just played a rock festival and all these young bands…I went on that fuckin’ stage and blew them away. It’s that belief in yourself. I just want to show people that I’m in my fuckin’ 50s, and it’s OK. I’m the hottest and the best I’ve ever been. Do I have to work a little harder at it? Yeah, but no biggie. I think I was so blessed to be at a cult level [status], that I can’t really fail, right?”

Leather has never been one to play into the whole ‘female metal’ thing, but she does not deny that with age comes wisdom, but also greater incentives to work harder. “Singing, for me, has never been easy”, she admits, “I have to be in shape; it kicked my ass when I was 20 and it kicks my ass now. I really have to work for it. I need to sleep, I need to run, I need to drink water…I think I just worry about it too much. I’ve been gone for a long time, I’m really excited, we have shows planned for December, so…I’m just so excited. I’ve been home for two months; I’ve been going crazy. I don’t want to be home; I wanna be living out of a suitcase, I wanna be playing shows, doing meet-and-greets ’til 3 in the morning, catching a plane by 5…I’m so blessed to even have these opportunities. My fans think I’m so exciting because I do these shows and hang out with these famous people”, Leather says with a laugh, “[but] the rest of the time, I work in an animal hospital, I run, I do Pilates, I come home and sing for 2 hours a night, and then I go to sleep. That’s my life. There’s nothing exciting.”

But Leather’s life is about to get a whole lot more exciting. “The new record will be mixed by the end of September; we’re just really excited. We’ll be out in Europe again by the end of the year; my band is ready to go. I’m just totally stoked. And remember: Wacken!”

For more information on Leather Leone, visit her official Facebook page.

Special thanks to Henk van Nieuwenhoven at Female-Fronted Power.