UG Articles Archive

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Female-fronted Metal bands, the yin-yang, and Matt's other Metal Musing

Metal has always been, and remains, a boy's club. Though the female population in metal has been growing steadily, it is still a genre dominated by men. Never entirely won over by the likes of Lita Ford or Amy Lee, I felt like female vocalists just did not mix well with the low strum of an electric guitar. Then, Pandora reminded me of a band I had briefly heard about from by the name of Nightwish, and soon, almost every one of their songs were getting thumbs up on my station.

Many of their songs (Wish I Had an Angel, Wishmaster, End of All Hope, and so many more) offered me something that I called the "yin yang" of metal which I have been attracted to since I got into rock music (more on this later). This yin yang was something I first noticed this in Killswitch Engage, where the singer would switch from guttural screams to clean vocals (I am well aware they were not the first band to do this), forming a light/heavy mesh that worked wonder on my ears. Nightwish's yin yang came in the form of Tara Turunen's divine voice and the classic metal sound that came from the rest of the band--in addition to folk music roots and some stellar lyrical work--and it was extremely addictive.

After about a month or so of listening to a Nightwish station at work, I decided to go look for some of their music videos half-expecting some fat, stereotypical opera singer on vocals. I was dead wrong:

A raven-haired beauty had captivated me and only made a great band not only enjoyable to listen to, but very easy on the eyes.

Unfortunately, Tara's ego and the egos of the rest of the band clashed, resulting in Tara being fired from the band with each side pointing at the other for blame. The end result spawned two entities: Tara Turunen, Tara's side project (which I'm not too fond of, honestly), and Nightwish with a new singer (Annette Olzon). My initial reaction to the new singer was negative, not only because I didn't like her singing style--which seemed more pop-ish and not as exotic--but also because I missed Tara's second-to-none voice. As time goes on, I've begun to accept the new singer and I enjoy a decent amount of the new album (see Sahara below). Tuomas (hard to spell Finnish last name omitted), who has been the band's primary songwriter since day one, was still the songwriter for the new album, so the song's didn't lose any of their merit.

The band does plan to release a new album in a year or two, and I strongly believe it will be good, because Tuomas has curved his writing style ever so slightly to match with Annette's voice in a more suitable manner. I'm hoping Tara will pull a Bruce Dickinson/Rob Halford and set aside her differences with her old band, leaving the possibility of her triumphant return should things go sour with Annette.

I originally planned on discussing one or two more female-fronted metal bands to which Pandora introduced me, but for the sake of length, I will simply list these bands and my personal recommendations for a song(s) by each band. Girl power!

Additional Nightwish recommendations - 7 Days to the Wolves, Dark Chest of Wonders, Nemo, Ghost Love Score (the YTMND song)
Within Temptation - See Who I am, What Have You Done
Epica (the singer of this band is FINE with a capital F-I-N-E) - Never Enough, Dance of Fate

The Yin Yang I referred to earlier is best represented, in my opinion, in the genre of Melodic Death Metal. Bands in this genre often exhibit traditional Death Metal styles of singing, while adding melody to their music either through lighter or more melodic guitar work or clean vocal interspersed with the growls/screams. Think Killswitch Engage, only more screaming and occasional clean vocals. Exhibit A:

Dark Tranquillity (yes, for some reason, it's spelled with two Ls) is by far my favorite band from the genre, and while not all of their songs have clean vocals like Misery's Crown, the songs with all growling is complimented fittingly by melodic guitar work and piano/keyboards. Oddly enough, two other bands I enjoy very much, Amon Amarth and Dethklok, feature almost no clean vocals (unless it's a guest vocalist like Pickles the drummer) and both of these bands are also lumped into this genre, I'm thinking because you can actually enjoy their guitarists rather than listening to a clusterfuck of strums found in a traditional Death Metal band.

Other Melo-Death bands I recommend:
In Flames - Trigger, Take This Life, Drifter
Poisonblack - Rush
Sonic Syndicate - Affliction

This last chunk of article is in response to One of Alex's older articles on music videos. I don't think music videos HAVE to serve a purpose, rather, I feel they can merely suggest a point. Music videos can also cause you to perceive and listen to songs in a whole new way and give you a new interpretation of the lyrics. My favorite music videos of all time are the ones that make me think the most and the ones that make me laugh the most. To conclude this post, I will post my two favorite "non-serious" music videos.

Here's Iron Maiden telling the world that they don't always take their music seriously, giving the audience a good chuckle with silly British humor, a guitarist in a pool and a ridiculously pink shirt. The song is definitely not one of Maiden's best, but if you're a fan of the band, you might enjoy seeing the gents of the band (the 1990 line-up; Janick Gers' first video with the band) actin' a fool:

This next one is a fairly recent discovery, but numerous things in this video are worthy of a good chuckle (listed below the video, best read after viewing video). CHALLENGE MODE: try to watch this without smiling or chuckling, I sure as Hell couldn't do it:

The first thing that made me laugh out loud was "Wodka!" (LOL different cultures), followed by the faded chorus line of "Drinking is good for you!" I also thing the singer looks like James Hetfield's swamp brother, with his hilarity emphasized when the camera spins around but he stays centered. Also, I just love looking at the violinist looking like he's having a "pretty good time" when he's supposed to be feeling awesome! This song would, beyond a shadow of a doubt, make an amazing drinking/partying song, which I think was its true purpose (Alex, I demand you get this song for my next visit to Madison).

I also think this video is simply "better" than Beer Beer--another of their party songs--both in terms of lyrical hilarity and of course in the silliness-to-awesomeness ratio, even though I am a staunch opponent of Wodka.

Sorry this post was a bit of a scatter-brain on several different topics, but I had numerous ideas for this article, and I figured "all of them would be better than one of them!" I'm more than open to other suggestions or opposing arguments for any of the previous topics, because with all of the bands and genres I've talked about, I have only begun to scratch the surface of each.


  1. Holy Hell! I forgot to mention Scar Symmetry in my Melodic Death Metal bit! ARGH! If you like the genre, go check out the Illusionist, Dreaming 24/7, Chaosweaver and Morphogenesis. I'm sorry, guys from SS!

  2. For some reason, whenever I listen to Nightwish I am bombarded with "epic maneuver" and YTMND memories, and lose my ability to take the music seriously. I guess I'll have to listen to more of their stuff to disassociate more fully.

    "Wodka" is a great song, and I do have it in my library, and I'll play it when you come out for the Uproar Festival next month. Korpiklaani is just fun to listen to in general.

  3. wooden pints is good to btw look that up