Metal Sirens

Metal Sirens: Art by Malleus Collective, [Mix 346,754 KB]

In a span of less than two months, over a dozen new releases are going to help evolve the perception that not only are bands lead by women just as good as some of the best metal bands out there . . . they’re better. Along with the latest from Christian Mistress and Windhand, many of these albums will likely turn out to be some of the very best metal releases of the year. The first version of this piece featured just a Fester’s dozen (that’s a lucky 13), but I kept discovering more worthy bands that just couldn’t be ignored. Now there are 35 bands, all but one that are actively recording and touring! And there will be more releases to look forward to from Purson, Witchburn, Madder Mortem, Jex Thoth and Spiders, who recently blew audiences away at the Roadburn festival in Holland.

So far this year I’ve seen Blood Ceremony, The Devil’s Blood and Witchburn live, and I’ve noticed a significantly higher percentage of women attending than your average metal show/sausage fest. It’s great to see more women finding heavy music they can relate to in a much, much different context than the heyday of 80’s hair metal.


  • Occultation – Three & Seven (Profound Lore) Apr 16
  • Mares Of Thrace – The Pilgrimage (Sonic Unyon) Apr 24
  • Crystal Viper – Crimen Excepta (AFM) Apr 24
  • Castle – Blacklands (Ván) Apr 28
  • Black Moth – The Killing Jar (New Heavy Sounds) May 7
  • Royal Thunder – CVI (Relapse) May 22
  • Jess and the Ancient Ones (Svart) May 23
  • Blues Pills – Bliss EP (Crusher) May 25
  • Undersmile – Narwhal (Future Noise) May 28
  • Crucified Barbara – The Midnight Chase (GMR/Nuclear Blast) May 28
  • Ides Of Gemini – Constantinople (Neurot) May 29
  • Witch Mountain – Cauldron Of The Wild (Profound Lore) Jun 12
  • Alunah – White Hoarhound (PsycheDOOMelic) Jul/Aug


V & MAL, Occultation

New York’s Occultation were formed by EMM, known for his work with black metal outfit Negative Plane, and includes V on drums and vocals, and MAL on bass and vocals. They released the demo Somber Dawn in 2010, and signed with Profound Lore to release their debut album, Three & Seven. By incorporating black metal and goth influences, along with prog, goth and Mercyful Fate, they distinguish themselves from other occult rock by evoking some truly eerie, terrifying sounds. I don’t know why all the reviews of the album have to start with “I don’t usually dig chick singers” while disparaging other occult bands for not sounding scary enough. All the bands have their strengths, and while Occultation don’t necessarily trump other bands with their songwriting, they do have a strangely unsettling, distinct sound.

Stefani MacKichan & Thérèse Lanz, Mares Of Thrace

Mares Of Thrace are a doom/sludge duo from Calgary, Canada. Don’t judge Thérèse Lanz (vocals & guitar) and drummer Stefani MacKichan by their appearance. Their debut EP The Moulting (2010) impacts like a spine-crushing blow from a mace. Rather than smooth out their sound, their debut album on Sonic Unyon, The Pilgrimage, ventures further into harsh noise rock, with their love of The Jesus Lizard and Unsane making a mark, along with Neurosis, Isis and Godflesh. Lanz, who came to Chicago for school to design video games, sounds like she’s been lacing her whiskey with acid. Part of their unique sound results from Lanz’s custom-made baritone guitar made with a couple bass elements to reach super low tones. Lyrically it loosely addresses the Biblical account of King David’s relationship with Bathsheba in three acts. Recorded, produced and mastered by Chicago’s metal dream team of Sanford Parker at Engine Studio and Collin Jordan at Boiler Room, The Pilgrimage is noticeably more detailed and textured, revealing some truly demented passion in their craft.

Marta Gabriel, Crystal Viper

Poland’s Crystal Viper was formed by singer/guitarist Marta Gabriel in 2003. They play traditional heavy metal that’s particularly influenced by NWOBHM and Mercyful Fate. There are some similarities between Gabriel’s voice with Huntress’ Jill Janus, except that Gabriel knows how to hold back now and then, making Crystal Viper much more dynamic and engaging. They’ve put their decade of experience to good use, honing their songwriting to a sharp edge on their fourth full-length, Crimen Excepta, released on April 24th. It’s a concept album, a sort of meta-fiction about the history of persecution of witches accused of practicing black magic during the holy inquisition. Back in those times, a singer like Marta Gabriel might have had her talents confused with supernatural abilities, and been burned at the stake.

Elizabeth Blackwell, Castle

A doom band from San Francisco and Canada, Castle are relatively underrated on the scene, with their strong debut In Witch Order (2011) having gone mostly unnoticed in a stellar year for metal. The band even had to go to a German label to release their album. Perhaps Germany was better prepared to appreciate the talents of bassist/vocalist Elizabeth Blackwell, as a lot of fans still worship Doro Pesch from 80s metal band Warlock. She has a good range going from sultry to nasty (in a Lemmy kind of way, not Kelis), sometimes even remind me of Donita Sparks of L7. The songs were written and demoed by Mat Davis (guitar, vocals) several years previously, but had trouble putting together a band until he met Blackwell in 2009. They eventually married, and recruited drummer Al McCartney from Toronto. They quickly followed up their debut with Blacklands, due out on April 28. It was produced by the great Billy Anderson (Sleep, Cathedral), and done relatively quickly to capture the live essence of their self-described “witch thrash.” It features impressive cover art by Russian artist Denis Forkas, entitled “Monstrous Goat Cauldron.” Blacklands shows Blackwell’s growth as an expressive vocalist, the band keeping up the progress with a truly awesome arsenal of wicked riffs and subtle complexity that you don’t always hear in a doom band. In “Storm Below,” they insert some testosterone with some gutteral vocals from Davis. “Curses Priests” hits hard with machine-gun delivery, but then takes off with a lightly soaring outro. At just 8 songs and under 36 minutes, it’s a concise album that allows for no filler. Contrary to the trend lately of doom bands stetching out into long songs, only “Dying Breed” (also the album-closer, which absolutely slays) surpasses the six minute mark. This serves well for Castle as every cut is distinct and memorable, and holds up to repeated listens. The band have been touring Europe with great success. Now they’re long overdue for some love from their homeland.

Castle – Blacklands by Ván Records

Harriet Bevan, Black Moth

Black Moth are a Leeds, England based four-piece lead by Harriet Bevan on vocals and former members of garage band The Bacchae. Claiming influence from equal parts proto-punk (Stooges, Motorhead, Alice Cooper), proto-metal (Sabbath of course and Pentagram) and stoner/doom (Melvins, Sleep and Electric Wizard), Bevan ties it all together with her theatrical psychedelic vocals. Their debut album, The Killing Jar was produced by Bad Seed (as in Nick Cave and the) Jim Sclavunos, and is out May 7.

Mlny Parsonz, Royal Thunder

Royal Thunder, from Atlanta, GA were so good from the start that people were talking about them two years after releasing just an EP (2010). Bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz was compared in one review to Courtney Love. But while Love wishes she could sing as well as someone like Stevie Nicks, Mlny can. Their songs have a nice languid flow, and are far too melodic to be considered strictly doom metal. The band has the luxury to leave space in the music and not feel obligated to cram it full of pyrotechnics, because Parsonz can carry it all with her captivating voice. By itself “Low” might sound ordinary, but her choruses are spine-tingling. The times they do rock out, like with a couple minutes to go on “Deacon,” it’s exhilerating. Their full-length debut on Relapse, CVI surpasses all expectations generated from their EP, much like Christian Mistress. It’s a genuinely expansive, epic album, with seven of its ten tracks surpassing six minutes. Rather than vamp on a dirgey, endless riff, the longer songs feel like an action-filled journey, expanding their repertoire into psychedelic and prog territories. Even the 9:47 “Blue” feels like it ends too soon. With piles of awesome duelling guitars and Mlny’s vocals reaching new heights, CVI is an astounding album that’s one of the very best of the year.

Jess, Jess and the Ancient Ones

Jess and the Ancient Ones is a seven-headed occult beast formed in Kuopio, Finland by Thomas Corpse and Thomas Fiend in early 2010, adding the talented Jess on lead vocals. The band have been compared to Blood Ceremony, but are more serious along the lines of The Devil’s Blood in that they base their occult lyrics on “personal experiences” rather than Hammer horror kitsch. Also like The Devil’s Blood there are three guitarists, who engage in some fantastically hypnotic interplay. They released the single “13th Breath of the Zodiac” in October 2011 on Svart records, which quickly sold out, and recorded their debut album in December at Necromorbus Studio. The excellent self-titled album comes out May 23rd on Svart. Jess cements her status as a talented vocalist with a formidable range, singing beautiful, soft passages and belting it out on raging rockers like “Prayer for Death and Fire.” The “13th Breath” single makes a reappearance, while longer cuts like the twelve-plus minute “Sulfar Giants (Red King)” and “Come Crimson Death” show off the band’s range from delicate prog-folk stylings to epic triple-guitar interplay. Yet another winner in what’s turning out to be an incredible year for occult rock and proto-prog-doom, especially ones with awesome female lead singers!

Jess and the Ancient Ones: Sulfur Giants by Svart Records

Elin Larsson, Blues Pills

Releasing their debut EP on Crusher records, home of Horisont, Spiders and Dead Man, one would assume Blues Pills is a typical Swedish stoner rock band. However their roots actually began in Iowa, where step-brothers Cory Berry and Zach Anderson left the accomplished bluesy garage band Radio Moscow and recorded a couple tracks (to be released as a single on Maximum Ames records on July 3) with Swedish vocalist Elin Larsson. A couple other vocalists have been compared to Janis Joplin, but Larsson may come closest in evoking that singer’s fiery spirit. Combined with her songwriting chops, the Iowa boys were impressed enough to throw in all their chips and move to Sweden. Adding hotshot French guitarist Dorian Sorriaux and former Dead Man drummer Jonas Askerlund, the five-piece Blues Pills have quickly become one of the most promisingly formidable bands in Europe alongside labelmates Spiders. The four songs on the Bliss 10″ EP (also available digitally on Amazon) absolutely crackle with energy. The heavy blues rock of Radio Moscow remains an element, but the varied textures and strong songwriting take them to a whole new level, Graveyard caliber. I can’t wait to hear more.

Hel Sterne & Taz Corona-Brown, Undersmile

Oxford, England’s Undersmile are a doom/sludge band fronted by Hel Sterne on vocals and lead/rhythm guitars and Taz Corona-Brown vocals and rhythm guitar. Influences from Electric Wizard to Harvey Milk are buried somewhere under the noise, but on the band’s debut EP, A Sea Of Dead Snakes (2010), they’ve emerged fully formed with their own style, distinguished by Sterne’s and Corona-Brown’s unique vocal harmonies. Their long-awaited debut album, Narwhal comes out May 28.

Mia Coldheart, Nicki Wicked,<br />
Ida Evileye & Klara Force, Crucified Barbara

Sweden’s Crucified Barbara were formed in 1998 by Nicki Wicked (drums), Ida Evileye (bass) and Klara Force (guitar). Singer/guitarist Mia Coldheart was added in 2001, bringing a gravelly, female equivalent to Lemmy Kilmister texture to the band’s mix of hard rock and traditional metal. The band name refers to when the band were strolling in the woods and came across a sex doll nailed to a crucifix. Apparently the blow-up dolls are called Barbaras in Sweden. The hard-touring band released their third full-length, The Midnight Chase on May 28.

Sera Timms & Kelly Johnston, Ides Of Gemini

Ides Of Gemini are an intruiging lot. Bassist/vocalist Sera Timms (also of Black Math Horsemen) and J. Bennett put together the 4-song EP The Disruption Writ in 2010, layering ethereal guitars and haunting vocals over some programmed beats to come up with a pretty unique dreamy doom sound. It caught the ears of Neurosis’ label Neurot, who added them to the roster alongside monumental Italian psychedelic doomsters Ufomammut. The band added drummer Kelly Johnston and recorded Constantinople. Their most memorable tune, “Resurrectionists” was revisited from the EP. The rest of the album is more textured, and can easily melt into the background. More focused and intimate headphone time unfolds the more subtle rewards, making this album a grower.

Uta Plotkin, Witch Mountain

Portland doomsters Witch Mountain had been around for several years before they acquired vocalist Uta Plotkin. Her powerful vocals evoke fellow Northwest rockers the Wilson sisters of Heart, which make the band have an even heavier impact, while inspiring them to push to greater heights. It seems they’ve worked up some momentum now, as their third album, Cauldron Of The Wild comes out June 12. People who were impressed by South Of Salem (2011) will be blown away by the new one. Plotkin must have just been warming up on the last album, or her time spent touring with the band has boosted her confidence, because she really lets loose on Cauldron. “Lanky Rae” kicks off the album with a gunslinging, bluesy swagger, and “Beekeeper” hammers it hard, low and heavy while Uta wails. “Veil of the Forgotten” even surpasses it. “Aurelia” is the longest cut at 11:49, starting out with a plate-tectonic slow, mountain-making doom groove, and launches into a badass solo before mellowing out into an acoustic outro. “Never Know” continues with the quieter approach, taking its time to reach an earthshaking crescendo. Witch Mountain will be touring soon, don’t miss it.

Alunah, Sophie Willett

Alunah is a doom band from the English Midlands with Sophie Willett on guitar and lead vocals, David Day on guitar, Gaz Imber on bass and Jake Mason on drums. Their debut album, Call Of Avernus (2010, Catacomb) has been criminally ignored by most everyone but a couple astute blogs (Doomantia and Heavy Planet). Recorded by Greg Chandler (SerpentCult, Esoteric, Moss) and mastered by James Plotkin (Earth, Isis, Khanate), it’s a remarkably mature sounding debut. They can reach bowel-shakingingly heavy stoner-doom tones worthy of Electric Wizard, but feature a lot more up-tempo rockers with some enchanting psychedelic flourishes. “Alunah/Eternal Sea” combines those elements nicely, starting as a revved up rocker and slowing and tuning down. “Dance Of Dionysus” is a more concise and catchy track that in a better world would be some sort of hit single. There are certainly great things to come from this band, with their second album White Hoarhound coming out on PsycheDOOMelic this summer.


Jamie Nova, Witchburn

Finally hearing Seattle-based Witchburn’s self-released debut, This Is How We Slay Our Demons… (2010), two years after it’s been released, I’m reminded how many great bands there are lurking in semi-obscurity. I’d been researching and scouring for the best bands that should be in this piece for four months, and it took a colleague from work who knows the drummer to tip me off on their existence when they had a show coming up. Singer Jamie Nova has some of the most impressively powerful vocals I’ve heard in any band. She came from the all-female AC/DC tribute band Hell’s Belles, where impersonating both Bon Scott and Brian Johnson must have given her pipes a hell of a workout. Like Uta Plotkin in Witch Mountain, Nova evokes the Wilson sisters in Heart, along with a Janis Joplin-ish bluesy swagger. The band’s bio evokes Black Sabbath, Heart, Joplin, and Ronnie James Dio, which is indeed an excellent summary of their baseline influences. I’ve been listening to the reissues of the first three Dio albums, and I do hear it often in Nova’s phrasing and guitarist Mischa Kianne’s clean, hard riffing, solidly produced on the album by none other than Jack Endino. They’re currently touring with Prong and Crowbar, and their Chicago show was sold out. They were kind enough to put me on the list, and I bought a CD and a t-shirt. The band delivers, hitting harder and heavier than the album. Good news is they’re heading back to the studio soon to record their second album with Endino. 2012 is shaping up to be a great year.

Rosie Cunningham, Purson

Only 21, Rosie Cunningham is already a veteran, having achieved some success with Ipso Facto, who closed shop in 2009. Purson are an English occult rock band already with a diverse repertoire of sounds and hooks. Or more like goth-prog-psych-folk-proto-doom. Cunningham is a Beatles freak, which is probably why they’re taking their time recording their debut until it can measure up to her heroes. The band so far have recorded four demo songs, four more for a BBC session, and the single “Rocking Horse” on Rise Above records, which sold out in a week.

Spiderwood Farm by Purson

Ann-Sofie Hoyles, Spiders

Ann-Sofie Hoyles is not quite the newest addition to the scene, having previously played with Madamm. Spiders is a sort of Gothenburg, Sweden supergroup formed in 2010 with members of Graveyard and Witchcraft. They released a self-titled 4-song vinyl EP in January 2011. In the fall Axel Sjöberg left to play with Graveyard full time and they released the single “Fraction”/”Under My Wheels” (Alice Cooper). Their five originals so far are scorching, galloping rockers, reminiscent of Graveyard’s more driving early work. I can’t stop listening to it. If they manage to put out a full length of that kind of quality they’ll soon be my new favorite band. I heard some reports that they were the best band at day 1 at Roadburn, so they’re already a live force to be reckoned with.

Shanda Fredrick, Demon Lung

I’d think there would be plenty of good metal bands from the original Sin City, but Demon Lung are the only one I’m aware of from Las Vegas at the moment. I don’t know too much about them yet, other than they’re a fairly traditional doom band with a talent for great riffs, and Shanda Fredrick’s Coven and Ozzy-influenced vocals. Like, for example, Saint Vitus, they eschew melody and keep focused the gloomy dirges and guitar playing. They released their debut EP, Pareidolia on March 20, and while it’s sound is fairly stripped down and simple, the songs have staying power and show promise for more good things to come.

February 14, 2012

I watched the Grammys the other night, and readers might expect me to rant about its awfulness. I was definitely dismayed that they retired the Best Metal Performance category after 21 years. When they introduced the combined Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category in 1989, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences lost any credibility when they chose Jethro Tull over a still-in-their-prime Metallica. They made up for it by separating out the metal category in 1990, and Metallica won three years in a row. In the last two years, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden won. This year they went back to combining metal and hard rock, and gave the award to the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl wore a Slayer t-shirt to the ceremony, perhaps a subtle acknowledgement of that injustice. Amazingly, Slayer actually won the metal category two years in a row in 2007 and 2008. With the trunceated category, I wonder what the chances are now of a woman ever getting the award for that particular category.

The Grammy Awards ceremony was all about the divas. They couldn’t stop talking about Whitney Houston the whole night, but somehow excluded Etta James in the memorium segment. Adele cleaned up, and Nicki Minaj put on a brilliantly bizarre performance worthy of Lady GaGa. The divas provide decent entertainment, but pop and R&B solo artists only represent a tiny range of what’s out there. While divas have been mostly represented fairly positively in the media, there’s also the derogatory “prima donna” and camp aspects to the term. In order to tap into a more powerful image, it’s time to reclaim the siren. Sane men or women would not dare cross a siren. Nor would anyone dare crack snide jokes behind their back. From watching the Grammys, or even fans of most genres, including indie rock, you’d think the siren was extinct. But all you need to do is look into the genre that was once again snubbed by the Grammys. Metal!

This will raise some eyebrows, as most people don’t associate metal with women. When just plain rock music seems like a boys-only club, one can imagine heavy metal is even more lacking in women. While metal in general has evolved into a more aggressive beast the past couple decades, with cookie monster death metal growls and shrieking black metal the norm, there have been some women fronting high profile bands. They’ve proven they can do more than hold their own against men, including Angela Gossow’s (Arch Enemy) impressive death metal growls, Christy Cather and Laurie Sue Shanaman’s (San Francisco’s recently defunct Ludicra) buried-alive black metal shrieks, and the operatic wails of Tarja Turunen and her replacement Annette Olzon (Finnish symphonic band Nightwish). While women on lead guitar is still pretty rare (Rebecca Vernon of SubRosa and Wata of Boris being standouts), there has been a bit of a rennaissance the past few years of talented women leaders as singers for up and coming metal bands mostly full of hairy, gnarly metal dudes. Don’t get the wrong idea, this is not a patronizing piece like so many early-90’s style “women in rock” articles. These are some of my very favorite new bands period. All these women are far too badass to have felt the need to show extra skin or T&A to make it where they are.

Christine Davis, Christian Mistress

This Olympia, Washington band is one of the most exciting to enter the scene. They put out a four song demo in 2009, and blew minds with their raw but stunning and catchy debut, Agony And Opium EP, a mix of doom and classic NWOBHM. Christine Davis’ raspy and powerful and vocals are unique enough that I can’t think of any real close comparison. Suffice to say she can hold her own with the likes of Ozzy, Halford and Dickinson in their primes. Their new album Possession came out Feb. 24th. Its sales have not yet conquered the world, but word will spread. It’s too good not to, with brilliant songwriting and performances from Davis and the band. It’s hard to pick standouts on such a consistent album, but “Black To Gold,” “Haunted Hunted” and “All Abandon” have been trapped in my brain the past couple months, and are welcome to stay there. There’s no way this album won’t be at the top of the year’s best lists.

Rebecca Vernon, Kim Pack, & Sarah Pendleton, SubRosa

SubRosa from Salt Lake City, Utah, has not one, but three women (and as the photo indicates, there was once four), all contributing vocals, with bandleader/songwriter Rebecca Vernon on guitar and the twin electric doom violin machine of Sarah Pendleton (who also contributes songwriting) and Kim Pack. Vernon originally conceptualized SubRosa as a sludge band, but her restless experimentation mixed up stoner and doom metal with unique arrangements with Sarah’s violin taking the place of guitar solos on The Worm Has Turned (2006) and Strega (2008). Vernon’s vocals sound nothing like anyone in metal, having more in common with PJ Harvey. Kim Pack was added on second violin in 2009, along with the two men in the band for the rhythm section, Dave Jones and Zach Hatsis, who add a sometimes swinging, kosmische Düül II vibe. No Help For The Mighty Ones (2011) no doubt represents an artistic breakthrough, sealing SubRosa’s status as one of the most creatively original and best bands in metal today. Interview.

F, The Devil's Blood

Dutch band The Devil’s Blood is the leading light, and the blackest heart of a new batch of occult metal bands. With influences rooted in early proto-metal occult acts like Coven and Black Widow and touches of prog, Pentagram and Witchfynde, the lead singer cultivates an air of mystery by calling herself merely F. The sister of chief songwriter Selim Lemouchi, she manages to balance both melodicism and menace, a real siren of Satan. Their first full-length album The Time Of No Time Evermore (2009) grabbed the attention of a handful of astute bloggers, creating a ton of anticipation for 2011’s The Thousandfold Epicentre, which rated highly in many year-end metal polls. Hear their first EP, Come, Reap (2008) below. They’re currently on tour with with In Solitude. I saw the show, and they were fantastic. F was truly frightening, standing inert in between songs like a statue, rolling her eyes back into her head. The end of the set consisted of a couple extended jams, with some mesmerizing triple guitar interplay, and all sorts of twists and subtle references to the likes of Wishbone Ash and obscure 70s European prog and folk I’ve probably never heard.

Alia O'Brien, Blood Ceremony

Like The Devil’s Blood, Blood Ceremony are also occult rockers from Canada. Inspired ’60s saturnalia and Hammer Horror, they probably take themselves less seriously than The Devil’s Blood. But Alia O’Brien is dead seriously talented, with not only Grace Slick caliber pipes, but classically trained flute chops and organ duties. Their promising self-titled debut was released in 2008, and their latest, Living With The Ancients (2011) is a major step up with some ghoulishly catchy hooks, honing their sound and augmenting their base of Black Sabbath with elements of British folk and prog. I saw them open for Ghost last month on the 13 Dates of Doom tour and they sounded great, with appopriately fat, doomy bass and Sabbathian drums that one might not get from the recording if they don’t have big enough speakers.

Dorthia Cottrell, Windhand

I originally forgot to include Dorthia Cottrell here because it’s easy to forget a woman is singing when her spectral, Ozzy-esque wails are so buried in the mix under a mountain of Electric Wizard style distortion. Are those really her gutteral growls at the end of “Winter Sun”? Apparently so! Hailing from Richmond, VA, they are releasing their self-titled debut on via Forcefield Records on Feb. 28. No word on downloads yet, but you can stream the whole thing via Bandcamp below. Windhand are touring the East Coast and South Feb. 29 to Mar. 10.

Jackie Perez Gratz, Grayceon

San Francisco’s Grayceon is hard to categorize. They veer between doom metal, prog, chamber rock and folk, shaped largely by Jackie Perez Gratz’s skills not only as a vocalist, but a cellist. Their third and latest album All We Destroy (2011) is getting them noticed by those looking for something adventurous in their metal.

Julie Christmas, Made Out Of Babies/Battle Of Mice

Brooklyn’s Made Out Of Babies have released three albums of sludge metal infused with arty noise rock. Vocalist Julie Christmas can be thanked for making them distinguished from the pack, as she proved by dominating a brilliant one-off album with Battle Of Mice, and her solo album, The Bad Wife (2010). Her band was supposed to have a new album last year, but I haven’t heard any news.

Jex (Jessica) Thoth, Jex Thoth/Sabbath Assembly

Previously known as San Francisco occult/doom band Totem, the band was renamed Jex Thoth, after lead singer Jessica Thoth. After a great self-titled debut, they only had an EP worth of songs in 2010 called Witness, while Jex put out an album with Sabbath Assembly. Here’s hoping Jex Thoth the band is resurrected soon.

Agnete M. Kirkevaag, Madder Mortem

To some, prog-metallers Madder Mortem came out of nowhere with their 2009 album, Eight Ways. They actually came out of Oslo, Norway back in 1993 and previously put out a half dozen albums. Claiming the likes of Arvo Pärt and Diamanda Galas as inspirations along with their metal roots, with Agnete M. pushing her range from whispers to hollars, sometimes teetering on the edge of her abilities. But it’s all in a days work of putting dents in metal’s boundaries.

Vanessa Nocera, Wooden Stake

Wooden Stake is a wonderfully scary doom duo with a focus on occult/horror themes. Vanessa Nocera (who’s also in Scaremaker and Skeletal Spectre) has an impressive range from Dr. Jekyll clean 70’s style witchy doom voice to a spectacularly gutteral, almost cookie monster Ms. Hyde growl. At The Stroke Of Midnight compiles the Vampire Plague Exorcism EP (2010) with some singles, while they took an artistic leap with Dungeon Prayer & Tombyard Serenades in 2011.

Mis Zill, Anne Marie Ticaric, Loon

Providence, RI’s Loon were formed by Mis Zill (vocals/guitars, former member of Moonshine, Wake up on Fire) and Anne Marie Ticaric (drums/vocals). I’m not sure, but I think Zill’s are the melodic vocals that have been compared to Neko Case, though to me she sounds more like Marcy Mays of Scrawl, and Anne has the bloodcurdling denomic screech. I’m not a big fan of the screech, which is why I don’t listen to black metal as much, but it does provide a pretty unique yin/yang tension on their self-titled 2011 debut.

Sharie Neyland, The Wounded Kings

The Wounded Kings are an interesting case. They came from Dartmoor, England in 2005 and put out some distinctly English sounding doom albums. Then most of the band quit, leaving leader Steve Mills to put together a new lineup. Rather than get another vocalist similar to the last guy, he brought in Sharie Neyland, who helped reshape their sound. With the evidence of In The Chapel Of The Black Hand (2011), it’s much for the better in my opinion. It took a woman’s touch to expand on the band’s bleakness and giving The Wounded Kings a more complex, creepily psychedelic feel.

The Wounded Kings – Gates of Oblivion by Heavydaysindoomtown

Jessica Way & Lorraine Rath, Worm Ouroboros

Named after the mythical self-devouring serpant, and an awesome 1922 high fantasy novel by Eric Rücker Eddison, Worm Ouroboros are a Bay Area based trio, including Jessica Way on guitar and vocals, and Lorraine Rath on bass and vocals. Their self-titled debut on Profound Lore in 2009 had more in common with Jarboe and Enya than doom metal, though they can loosely be associated with the genre. Influenced by 4AD and goth, their ethereal metal stirs up some beautiful moments that can rival Alcest, especially on their new album, Come The Thaw, just released on March 20th.

Annick Giroux, Couchemar

Annick Giroux is one of metal’s true believers. The author of Hellbent For Cooking publishes the metal zine Morbid Tales on top of laying impressive vocals in French over a mix of doom, NWOBHM and maybe a touch of thrash in Canadian band Couchemar. They debuted in 2010 with the La Vierge Noire EP, and are hopefully due for a full length soon.

G, Hands Of Orlac

Occult/doom band Hands Of Orlac hail from Italy. Like F of The Devil’s Blood, G goes by a one-letter nom de plume, and like Alia O’Brien of Blood Ceremony, she also plays flute. Their sound is rougher than the other bands, with some promising songwriting.

Stevie Floyd, Dark Castle

Florida’s Dark Castle consists of just two members, vocalist/guitarist Stevie Floyd, and drummer Rob Shaffer. They released their debut Spirited Migration in 2009 with Floyd, who also works as a tattoo artist, reveals her best impersonation of a pissed off demon. The vocals are not given priority over the guitars and drums in their doom/sludge alchemy. Their follow-up, Surrender to All Life Beyond Form (2011, Profound Lore) is even more distorted and harsh, making for some uneasy listening. Dig beneath the rusty layers though, and you’ll find some pretty fascinating psychedelic flourishes.

Jeannie Salz & Janette Valentine, Shroud Eater

Miami-based Shroud Eater’s Janette Valentine (bass), Jeannie Salz (guitar, vocals) produce some fierce sounding sludge metal that can be downright scary. They released their self-titled debut in 2009, and ThunderNoise in 2011. With two albums under their belts they’re still evolving and most likely still have their best music ahead of them.

Andrea Genevieve, Morgan Ray Denning, Ashley Spungin, Purple Rhinestone Eagle

Purple Rhinestone Eagle were Andrea Genevieve (guitar and vocals), Morgan Ray Denning (bass and backing vocals) and Ashley Spungin (drums, percussion, backing vocals). They formed in Philadelphia in 2005 and relocated to Portland in 2007, releasing the Amorum Tali EP in 2009, and The Great Return in 2010. If you ever wondered what Sleater-Kinney would sound like tackling Black Sabbath, your wait is over. Like SubRosa, their heavy stoner psych is laced with some surprising indie rock influences, but in a good way, really. Unfortunately I just learned that they broke up in September 2011.

Metal Sirens on CD!

Leila Abdul-Rauf, Hammers Of Misfortune
Laura Pleasants, Kylesa
B., Rwake
Wata, Boris

Michelle Temple, Black Skies

The above women share their lead vocal duties, and are no less worthy metal sirens, just as Exene Cervenka was an important punk singer who shared the mic with John Doe. I just had to draw the line somewhere or I’d be writing a book! Leila Abdul-Rauf, who just joined Hammers Of Misfortune before recording their latest album, 17th Street, also plays guitar. Laura Pleasants of Kylesa shares guitar and vocal duties. Wata is lead guitarist in Boris, while B. plays the Moog organ. There’s no doubt that there are plenty of worthy artists not mentioned above. For example, Lori Crover has been the fearless leader of stoner rockers Acid King of San Francisco since 1993. Since they haven’t had an album since 2005, I’m not certain the band is still active. The point is that not only are there a growing number of women-lead metal bands, but they’re some of the very best bands emerging right now. Here’s some more:

Grey |
Rose Kemp |
Murkrat |
Rituals of the Oak |
Salome |
SaturninE |
Slug Lord |
Uzala |

Jill Janus, Huntress
Here’s a twist of fate. Just after I proudly stated how none of these woman felt the need to really exploit their sexuality, along comes Jill Janus of Huntress, flaunting her bod all over promo photos and their debut video for “Eight Of Swords.” I’m no prude, and there’s certainly no lack of women musicians in other genres flashing cleavage. Madonna’s still doing it now at the age of 53 on the video for the new single “Girl Gone Wild”. I’d be a hypocrite to say that’s hot and awesome while holding that against Janus. It’s not like she has to make up for a lack of talent. She went to Julliard and toured Europe as a reportedly well regarded opera star. It’s a complicated thing. I’m rooting for their debut Spell Eater (out Apr. 27 on Napalm Records) to be good. But I have a sinking feeling that whether or not it’s any better than the new albums by Christian Mistress and Royal Thunder, Huntress is going to quickly eclipse the other bands in album sales and popularity. Heck, they are already getting more media exposure, and they haven’t even released an album yet. After their PaganFest tour with Turisas and Arkona, votes seem split about their live chops. I missed the show and will have to wait to see for myself. Spell Eater is a mixed bag, and I’m unable to sustain listening through the whole thing. Janus’ over-the-top vocals wears me down. This is not all that unusual, as I might feel the same way with 3 Inches Of Blood depending on my mood. However, like Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless, I don’t feel compelled to include Janus in the official Fast ‘n’ Bulbous Metal Sirens roster. They may have a devoted fanbase of tweener girls and pervy men, but here they’ll remain a footnote.

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