Breaking The Mold

As much as I adore male-fronted bands, there are times where I adore female-fronted bands even more. Whether you’re enough of a music fan to admit it or not, there’s no denying that sometimes girls can rock harder than guys.

The very first female-fronted band I was really, truly into was Evanescence. The minute I heard “Bring Me To Life”, it was all over. I was amazed by Amy Lee’s voice because I’d never heard someone sing with such range and so quickly transition from whispers to full-on, beautiful singing so effortlessly as she did. I remember I borrowed their 2003 debut, Fallen from a friend and I was completely blown away. Every song was absolutely beautiful. My favorites are “Going Under”, “Bring Me To Life”, “Whisper”, “Hello”, “Tourniquet”, “Imaginary”, “Haunted” and “My Immortal” (the heavier version). Amy’s vocals and intricately played piano pulls the listener almost into another world. When listening to “Imaginary”, I actually feel like I’m in my own little world, fully equipped with a “field of paper flowers and candy clouds of lullaby” and just before that, listening to “Haunted” I feel like I’m running through the woods, searching for someone, their “heart pounding in my head”. Call it stupid and weird, but certain music has that kind of feeling and Evanescence is just one of those bands.

While Fallen was amazing, something about 2006’s The Open Door was even more appealing. Don’t get me wrong, Fallen was pretty great, but The Open Door had this raw edge to it that was lacking before. Amy’s vocals are even more impressive than they previously were and while there’s still piano present, there are some songs that clearly more hard rock driven. “Call Me When You’re Sober” and “Sweet Sacrifice” display a new-found edge to Amy’s voice, and ‘Lithium’ proves that piano introductions can definitely lead to something heavy. My favorites are “Call Me When You’re Sober”, “Lithium”, “All That I’m Living For”, “Lacrymosa” and “Weight Of The World”. Like the songs on Fallen before it, you’re pulled into a place beyond the bounds and bindings of reality. Once again, call me crazy but the songs still maintain that sort of mysterious feel to them, as did the ones on Fallen, only with more edge and a slightly different kind of intensity.

I myself have not listened to their new self-titled release that came out last year. I’d read an article about in Revolver a couple of months ago, and hear some very promising things, just didn’t think of listening to it at the time. When I finally do listen, I will definitely be sharing my thoughts about it.

It doesn’t matter if you like Fallen, The Open Door, Evanescence or aren’t even an Evanescence fan.There’s no way of denying that Amy Lee has one hell of a voice.

The second band that followed Evanescence as far as exposure to my ears goes is Canadian, all-girl band Kittie. Some people would probably look at their name and laugh, but their name is clever in contradicting the way they sound. I’d first heard Kittie freshmen year, the same year I got my, now pretty obsolete, iPod shuffle. I’m pretty sure I heard about them through a radio show they were on, but I could be wrong. Whatever way I found Kittie, I listened to them, and when I did I was shocked…In the greatest of ways, if that’s even at all possible. The first song I’d ever heard was “Into The Darkness”, and I was stunned and impressed by lead vocalist/guitarist Morgan Lander’s voice. I’d never heard a girl scream like that, or a voice have that much venomous edge. Her screaming/growling definitely sets her apart from other female-vocalists, and her clean vocals are unique all on their own. While Morgan and her vocal styles are pretty amazing, I feel like I’m drawing all the attention to the lead and that’s pretty clichéd. It feels like a lot of people would focus most of their aim on the lead singer because they’re the main thing you notice, but with Kittie it seems a little silly to just focus on something so stereotypical.

Despite that their line-up has changed over the years, and the only founding members that remain are Morgan and her sister, drummer/backing vocalist, Mercedes, that hasn’t stopped them from being a kick-ass band. Even though I’d discovered them well into their third album, Until The End, that doesn’t mean I stopped listening. I proceeded to dig deeper and listen to their debut Spit and follow-up, Oracle. Their 2000 debut, Spit, is like a crushing blow to all the other bands around them at the time, and with songs like “Charlotte”, “Raven”, “Brackish” and title track “Spit”, it’s no wonder why. “Raven” and “Spit” both start out with violent guitars, shifting to pounding drums and back, then proceeds into Morgan’s vocals, that go from clean to ultimately brutal and unforgiving in a matter of seconds. “Charlotte” and “Brackish” on the other hand, collide the guitars and drum work, then show off Morgan’s effortless clean and hard vocals.

Compared to Spit, Oracle is far heavier and aggressive. Don’t believe me? Give “Mouthful Of Poison”, “Wolves”, “What I’ve Always Wanted”, “Severed” and their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” a listen, then tell me if your ears don’t bleed. Their third CD, Until The End doesn’t disappoint on keeping up with the metal sound, despite the reviews I’ve read. Some people say they’ve ‘sold-out’ or that’s it’s not as good as Spit or Oracle, and they’re totally entitled to that. I think that Until The End is a pretty good CD. Among my favorites are “Looks So Pretty”, “Career Suicide”, it’s title track “Until The End”, “Into The Darkness”, “Pussy Sugar” and “Loveless”. Kittie’s fourth release, Funeral For Yesterday has a very different sound in comparison to their previous three releases. Where Spit, Oracle, and Until The End came in with the metal intensity that was inspired by bands that came before them, from what I’ve heard of Funeral doesn’t exactly usher in the entirety of that aggression and angst. The first time I heard the song “Funeral For Yesterday”, I was surprised by Kittie’s new sound and had that, along with the song “Slow Motion” on my iPod. I soon got sick of “Funeral”, keeping “Slow Motion”, and added “Never Again” . Even though I haven’t yet listened to Funeral and it came out 4 years ago, I plan to listen to it sometime or another.

Their 2009 release, In The Black, brandishes the same kind of metal as their previous accomplishments, only better. In my opinion,this is better than their other albums. Don’t get me wrong, their earlier releases were great, but when listening to Black, you can definitely tell that they’ve improved altogether as a band. They had massive amounts of talent before and now it’s being molded into something that exceeds their earlier work. Morgan’s screams/growls sound even more incredible and her clean vocals sound more polished and well, clean, while still having that signature edge she’s always had. Mercedes’ drumming is just amazing, as it always was; it’s just even more amazing now. My favorites “Cut Throat”, “My Plague”, “Die My Darling”, “Ready Aim Riot” and “The Truth” surely don’t disappoint, and with the addition of new members, guitarist Tara McLeod and bassist Ivy Vujic, they’re better than ever.

As I’ve said with Evanescence in the paragraph above, I have not listened to Kittie’sI’ve Failed You. I remember I say an article about it in some magazine, and I’d been meaning to check it out, but needless to say, I haven’t yet. As with Evanescence’s self-titled, I will share my thoughts on this album as well.

Kittie isn’t your typical heavy metal band, that much is clear. It’s not everyday that you see an all-female metal band who are breaking the mold gender-wise and have an extreme amount of talent in what they do.

I don’t think I’ve discovered more than one band at the same time that I actually ended up liking. Not until now at least. The next band isn’t all-female, but there’s no denying that the lead vocalist and keyboardist are important pieces to the puzzle. I’m pretty sure that I found The Vincent Black Shadow by accident. It was freshmen year when I stumbled upon them, the same year I received my old iPod ( I know own a black Classic) and fell in love with Kittie’s brand of metal. I remember I was watching the FUSE Fangoria Awards on the FUSE music channel. The best in horror movies and music were being awarded, and I honestly didn’t think that there would be any bands that I’d never heard of, but I was wrong. Among the obscure/well-known horror movies, and great live performances by Avenged Sevenfold and 30 Seconds To Mars, respectively, I found The Vincent Black Shadow.

Everything about vocalist Cassandra Ford’s voice is beautiful. I know I said that Amy Lee’s voice is beautiful as well, but beauty has different dimensions, whether you know it or not. Her one-of-a-kind vocals blend with the band’s very interesting sound perfectly. They’re not your typical band, one of the reasons why I fell in love with them. The other piece that binds the band together and sets them apart is keyboardist, Mary Ancheta. Her talents with synths, keyboard, piano, and harpsichord add an even more enticing flair to the band’s already amazing sound. Upon my first listening to the song “Metro” I was immediately hooked. The beginning of the song starts out with some of the wildest drum work I’ve ever heard, and then progresses into even wilder guitars and impressive keyboards. It’s not just the skill of the instruments that makes them wild, but also that they sound pretty insane as well. Before listening to The Vincent Black Shadow, I’d never heard that distinct, very upbeat sound from guitars and drums, and accompanied with the keyboards, add an almost jazzy type of resonance.

Their 2006 debut, Fears In The Water isn’t your predictable freshmen attempt by a female-fronted band. Oh no, it isn’t…

It might sound like I’m bashing fellow female-fronted bands such as Paramore and Flyleaf, but I’m not. I listen to both Paramore and Flyleaf, and I have enough sense not to bash a band that I listen to. While Cassandra Ford’s vocals differ from those of Hayley Williams and Lacey Mosley, it only proves that some female vocalists of rock bands will be compared to other popular female vocalists of rock/alternative bands no matter what. It’s annoying, but it’s the inevitable truth. Bands should be praised for their creativeness and ability to steer away from anything currently being sported by others in their genre, not for conforming and playing it safe.

Fears definitely isn’t average or predictable, and for good reason. If it was, I don’t think it would display the same character and personality. From start to finish, no song is identical, making them a stand-out among bands of their genre. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s really safe to say that TVBS belong in one specific genre, since their style clearly doesn’t scream only one genre. With the keyboard intro on “Surgery”, throughout “Don’t Go Soft” and “Dream”, and the demanding of title track “Fears In The Water”, “Control”, “Metro”, “Letters To No One” and “Valentine”, they go from piano-driven to a hostile combination of hard rock aggression and punk attitude.

I’m not even sure if it’s possible to have any stand-out tracks because the entire album is an incredibly unique and creative tour de force, but if I had to name a few, they would be as follows…”This Road Is Going Nowhere”, “The House Of Tasteful Men”, “Ghost Train Out”, “Bullet On The Tracks”, “Broken”, “Metro” and “Surgery”…Okay maybe that’s more than a few, but you get the idea. “The House Of Tasteful Men” and “This Road Is Going Nowhere” have this bouncy, jazzy-cabaret feel that shows off Cassandra’s vocal range, Mary’s piano talents and mingles them beautifully. “Broken” and “Surgery” demonstrate artful keyboard, while emerging with strength, ambition and edge that’s clearly heard through the lyrics as well as the vocals. “Bullet On The Tracks”, “Metro”, and “Ghost Train Out” cannot be put together because they’re not the same. While “Metro” is upbeat and lively, “Ghost Train Out” is slower, with a tinge of Western resonance compliments of Mary’s brilliance behind the harpsichord, and “Bullet On The Tracks” is a song all its own, fully equipped with interesting guitars, drum work and synths/keyboards.

In comparison to their 2006 debut, 2008’s follow-up El Monstruo, shows maturity and improved musicianship. It’s not that Fears wasn’t incredible and original, just that Monstruo is even more incredible and original. Where Fears lacked in the strive for perfection (despite how good it was), Monstruo definitely makes up for it. I think that it a lifetime, there are only a great few bands that have near-perfect albums, and considering the genre they’re in, TVBS have succeeded near-perfection. Everything about El Monstruo gushes and pours over with the same creative cleverness that made them a standing out original, only much better, proving all the more that they’re nothing like Paramore or Flyleaf at all (despite how good both bands are). Cassandra’s voice is as beautiful as it was on Fears, but is sharper and more defined to match the more impressive sound. Mary’s genius behind the keyboard/synths are definitely more apparent and contributes to that one-of-a-kind, TVBS sound. While Cassandra and Mary have improved their already impressive skills, it’s safe to say that the rest of the band has as well. Brothers, guitarist Rob Kirkham, drummer Anthony Kirkham, and bassist Chris Kirkham, have stepped up their playing, showing off their real talents behind the instruments.

While it was a little hard to name any stand-out tracks on Fears, the same can’t be said for Monstruo. “Dig, Dig, Dig” gives way to a modern-day Alice In Wonderland and “Pale Man” demonstrates their experiments with a Broadway-esque sound. “They Still Want You” and “The Last Few Minutes” are fast-paced, showing off TVBS’s signature sound in a whole new light, along with the clear appearances of backing male vocals. “In A Row” and “Stupid Intruders” boast the beautiful light and dark of Cassandra’s voice, as well the charms of synths and piano, respectively. “Never Met Another Woman Like Me” and “Taste Of Copper”, despite their equal originality, cannot be put together. The same jazzy-cabaret feel that made Fears a diamond in the rough, is taken to a whole new level in the sultry, vocal stylings and piano of “Never Met Another Woman Like Me”. The new appearance of backing male vocals is pushed in “The Taste Of Copper”, an appealing duo by Cassandra and bassist Chris Kirkham. Not only does “The Taste Of Copper” prove that Kirkham has a voice, but that their risky attempt was indeed a surprising success.

With two clever albums under their belt, it’s a surprise that The Vincent Black Shadow aren’t more exposed than they are. It seems like when you mention them, no one knows who they are, but hopefully that will eventually change. A band as talented and different as TVBS shouldn’t be kept in the dark for long, although that might be a good thing. While they are a stand-out among female-fronted bands today, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be treated as such. The Vincent Black Shadow are an exceptional rarity, something not easily found.

I ended up finding the next band through either Revolver magazine, iTunes or I checked them out on iTunes before I saw them in Revolver. I honestly don’t remember how I found them exactly…How ever I discovered the band, it doesn’t change that they’re great no matter what. Like The Vincent Black Shadow, I found In This Moment by accident. I was totally blown away by lead Maria Brink’s extremely powerful voice and range. Not only did she have a unique singing voice, but her demand-all metal screams have an even higher uniqueness to them. Even though I’d heard women sing in bands before (as just previously written), I hadn’t heard the same vocal force driving behind the rest as I did with Maria’s voice.

As with the two previous bands (Kittie and The Vincent Black Shadow), I had unearthed In This Moment my freshmen year, when my iPod shuffle was still pretty new to me and it was full of musical possibilities. Not trying to judge a book by its cover here, because that’s something I’d never do, but with a name like In This Moment, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as the music front went.

When I first heard the song “Prayers”, it’s almost safe to say that my jaw literally dropped. Sure I’d listened to songs with in-your-face drum and guitar intros before, but never with the surprise that waited for me at the end of them. Backed up behind them were Maria’s merciless screams and torrential clean vocals that even scared the living hell out of my boyfriend. The sense of amazement and shock that I felt my freshmen year discovering them, he felt a little over 2 years ago. We were talking about music and I’d asked him if he’d ever heard of In This Moment. His response was no and decided to look into them and it’s officially safe to say that I’ve made him a fan.

Their debut Beautiful Tragedy, where the crushing “Prayers” can be found, is a kick in the ass to anyone who never said that a female couldn’t front a metal/metalcore band. Yeah, that does sound pretty extreme and it’s not that women haven’t fronted metal bands before but there seems to be some kind of uniqueness about In This Moment that sets them apart from others. I could be totally wrong and out of line, but I think that it’s Maria’s ability to use both her brutal screams as well as her impressive clean vocals, combined with the viciousness and sheer talent of the men behind her.

Tragedy is an awesome album. There’s no sure-fire way of getting around that fact. From the assaults on your ears that are none other than “Ashes”, “Next Life” and “Daddy’s Falling Angel” to the surprisingly intense “Circles”, “This Moment” and “He Said Eternity”, along with everything in between, it’s a completely solid album from start to finish. “Ashes” and “Daddy’s Falling Angel” show off Maria’s guttural screams to unique clean vocals perfectly, while accompanied with equally sick guitars and drum beats, and the intro to “Next Life” strangely resonates past memories of when Killswitch Engage was still on my iPod, only far more powerful with an equally powerful guitar solo. “Circles” and “This Moment” display sickly sweet whispers in their intros only to break into works of all-out awesomeness, and “He Said Eternity” is a heartfelt, yet extremely potent dedication to Brink’s son, who she dubs “my miracle, my angel/you’re the light in my darkest hour.” Title track, “Beautiful Tragedy” and “The Legacy Of Odio” are both slow-starting, showing off Maria’s clean vocals alone, coming in full-throttle with her impressive screams, then going right back to where they both started, beautifully done in their complexity. “Whispers Of October” and “When The Storm Subsides” are the only two oddballs per say on the entire album, being the only two songs that don’t explode with a combination of vocals and don’t become at all faster in any way shape or form. “October” features Maria’s voice enveloped in the sounds of falling rain, while in “Storm” her vocals wrap around the likes of acoustic guitars and so cleverly end the last 40 seconds with the rain and whispered words of “October”, absolutely beautiful in their simplicity.

Out of all the songs I just mentioned above, I’d have to say that my sure-fire favorites are “Prayers”, “Ashes”, “This Moment”, “Daddy’s Falling Angel” and “Beautiful Tragedy”. While the slower songs are undeniably amazing, I’ve always been drawn to the heavier, more aggressive songs, and this is in no way an exception…So when I heard about their follow-up to Tragedy, The Dream, I wasn’t really too sure how different it would be in comparison, but I was more than determined to find out.

With all honesty accounted for here, I can’t say that I like The Dream more than Tragedy. Don’t get me wrong, while The Dream is interesting and different, it doesn’t really bring on the heaviness and intensity that Tragedy did. I know bands change and evolve and I’m a fan of the fact that bands have the guts to evolve. In This Moment did just that. They evolved. While they definitely did evolve, there’s no denying that The Dream is a strong album. Sure, it doesn’t have the same metal sound their debut had, and while some people would say they “sold out” or got soft, but that honestly isn’t the case.

The Dream is the perfect example of light and dark. Some songs demonstrate the metalcore sound that resonates back to their debut, while others have a newfound ’80’s flair to them. The same can be said for Maria Brink’s vocals. Instead of being scream-driven, with little clean vocals, she proves on surprisingly upbeat numbers like “You Always Believed” and “Violet Skies” that she is indeed a very talented vocalist. “All For You”, “Forever” and “Mechanical Love” sport the newfound ’80’s flair, reinforced by Maria’s crisp clean vocals and powerful guitars and drums. The eerie beginnings of “Lost At Sea” and “Her Kiss” give way to truly unique works, Maria’s voice only getting better. “Into The Light” and title track “The Dream” are the slowest songs of all 11, but don’t let that fool you. Despite their speed, both songs prove to be beautiful in their execution and one-of-a-kind vocals. The oddball out of the bunch is stand-out “The Great Divide”. Everything that fans adored on Beautiful Tragedy is wrapped into a 4 minute metalcore number, fully equipped with Maria’s combination of clean vocal stylings and abrasive screams. The Dream is a far-cry from their debut, but is strong enough to stand on its own, while still being fresh and original.

I know I’ve said this with the past three bands, but I have yet listen to their 2010 release, A Star-Crossed Wasteland. Yes, I know that sounds horrible, but it’s the truth. I’m not going to lie and say I’ve listened to it, because, well I haven’t. It probably seems that I’m not totally up-to-date with the music I love, but so what? It’s not like it’s going anywhere. I can check out those albums whenever I please, and you can assured when I do, I’ll definitely be sharing my thoughts and feelings.

Whether you’re a fan of their abrasive metal or clean mainstream stylings, there’s no denying that In This Moment are something unique, and one of the most interesting metalcore acts out right now.

It might seem like I’m being lazy, only writing about three female-fronted bands, but I don’t see it that way. These three bands are the only ones that have I’ve listened to consistently. Sure, I’ve listened to other female-fronted bands but none of them I’ve carried from my old iPod shuffle to the iPod Classic I received two years ago. Technically, I’ve only had the black Classic I currently own for a couple of weeks now, but that’s another story.

Here are some of the female-fronted bands I fell for years ago/others I recently fell in love with and definitely worth the listen: Arch Enemy, Within Temptation, Sister Sin, Eyes Set To Kill, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Bat For Lashes (although technically not a band, but the stage name of musician Natasha Khan), Florence + The Machine, Picture Me Broken…And I cannot for the life of me think of anymore, but I know somewhere down the line I will definitely write about some of the bands I just mentioned and whatever others I end up finding.

Never underestimate the power of something new.

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Oh, That Shining Realization 

A couple of months ago, well sometime last year (if you want to be critically technical and correct) I wrote about how there was the unbreakable camaraderie that my friends and I shared some long time ago. I now realize that maybe it’s better that bond decided to break.

I honestly think that if I was still friends with the majority of the individuals I was some now 6 or 7 years ago, I would amount to nothing. Yeah, that sounds a bit harsh but, that’s just the way I see it. I think that if we’d all kept in touch, it would either be the greatest thing in the world or the greatest personal tragedy. As much as I used to love them all, I think it would have been a complete downfall.

You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about people I used to love so dear and care about almost with my life so bitterly, and I have the perfect answer. I’ve seen the kind of people they’ve become. I know they say everyone changes and indeed everyone does, but it seems to be so different now. Looking back at who we all used to, and who we are now, it’s safe to say that I’m relieved to know that we’ve lost our hold on each other. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

I think I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I don’t need them. I don’t need certain people around me just to get through my every day, just to breathe. Sure, there are sometimes when it could hurt, the fact that they’re not here mainly, or where I miss them, but I then I wonder…Do they feel the same? If I had to take a good, educated guess, I would have to say no. I often wonder what it would be like, if we all remained friends, if nothing changed at all, but then I realize that I don’t think I would have it any other way.

It’s better that they’re not in my life anymore. It’s better that they’re just fleeting memories. It’s not like we would talk like we did back then, when things seemed endless, almost untouchable. Some 2 years ago, when we were in a sense ‘reunited’, there was this feeling of emptiness in the worse kind of way between us all. Granted, the circumstances weren’t exactly pleasing, but still. It was the greatest shock of my natural life so far that day, to be struck with the news that impaired me to feel and to be among the ones I once felt about so dear.

After all the useless calculating and grinding of memories and thoughts in my head, it all comes down to the one solid fact: I’m so glad I don’t associate with the people I used to. I think that if I did, then I wouldn’t be the type of person I am today. I think I would more than likely become the type of person I don’t really like, someone who I honestly couldn’t see myself being. For what might be better and at the same time possibly worse, I’m who I am and no so-called friend can change any of that. I’m just happy I realized that before I started to actually care too much.

Oh, that shining realization…Better late then never.