Gildan's Guide to Good Music
The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.
As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives, most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!
If it's thought provoking, epic, eccentric, or exceptional (or possibly all of the above), I take it upon myself to write about it in the hope that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and
rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews will find it useful - or if not useful, at least momentarily entertaining; I take what I can get really.
Tonight I'm going to talk about a female-fronted metal band that will challenge what you think you might know about female-fronted metal bands. Whee!
Musical Genre: Progressive Dark Metal (Yes, that's really a thing.)
Running Time: 49 minutes
# of Tracks: 13
Particularly noteworthy songs: Symphony for the Fallen, Firethrone, Ruby Light of the West
You may recall that I've expressed my appreciation for the world of Metal bands with female lead vocalists in the past - in point of fact I've made several bands that would fall under that broad classification the focus of previous Guide to Good Music articles; based on those examples you probably think you have some idea of what this band is going to sound like (though the odd genre I listed might throw a wrench in the mental works). Well that mental impression is almost certainly dead wrong, for reasons I'm going to ramble on about for a while (yay rambling!).
While the smattering of bands I've presented to my readers so far could hardly be said to encompass every possible style you'll find under the "female-fronted Metal band" umbrella, there are certain points of commonality that most Metal bands featuring female lead vocalists tend to adhere to:
The 4 tendencies of female-fronted Metal bands.
1. She will be the only woman in the band - this is true so often that Metal fans include it on semi-satirical lists of the "Rules of Metal".
2. The band probably has pronounced "Symphonic" elements - if you're the sort of band that is going to bring in choirs, hire a string section, or go with a full-blown orchestra, the odds are pretty good that you also have a female lead vocalist; I am not exaggerating when I tell you that almost every female-fronted Metal band I'm aware of (a lot) is a Symphonic Metal outfit.
3. The vocalist either sings in a clear sweet soprano or an operatic soprano - from time to time you might find a band with a clear sweet alto instead of a soprano, but they are pretty much always clear and sweet (or operatic).
4. The female vocalist is often paired with a male vocalist performing "harsh" vocals - it's a vocal combination frequent enough that there's a name for the style (Beauty and the Beast), generally considered to have been pioneered by Norwegian band Theatre of Tragedy.
Meet a band you've never heard of that breaks rules #2 and 3 (and doesn't conform to #4 much either).
Witchbreed hail from Portugal, and they're what you get when long-time musical collaborators (Dikk, Ares, on guitar and bass respectively) with backgrounds in Progressive and Black Metal who've shared a vision for a band for years encounter a particularly singular vocalist (Ruby Roque) and realize she was perfect for their until that point hypothetical sound; the addition of a second guitarist (Filipe Sousa) and drummer (Tiago Lopes) completed their line-up. Heretic Rapture is their 2009 debut album, and oh what a debut it is! I want to really stress here that when I say that, as far as good first impressions go, Heretic Rapture is damn near perfect, I am in no way exaggerating - the album is really that good.
Something a fellow Metal fan wrote shortly after I showed him Witchbreed:
Rhayn: Went ahead and bought the Witchbreed album.
That is all.
It's also hard to describe/classify - I've seen people call them 'Gothic Metal', and while I can see why they would do so it's a designation that doesn't really stick. See, Gothic Metal bands certainly have a tendency towards darker lyrical content and themes, but to say that the word "bombastic" goes hand in hand with "Gothic Metal" is understating things somewhat, and while you definitely get the darker lyrical themes with Witchbreed, you won't find any bombast on Heretic Rapture: there's no Latin chanting, choirs, strings, sweeping orchestral segments (either via keyboards or an actual orchestra), or any of the other usual trappings of a Gothic Metal outfit.
What you do have are instrumentals that merge a highly progressive structure with techniques more common in the 'darker' segments of the Metal spectrum, forming the foundation upon which the vocal contributions of the most aggressively powerful female vocalist I have ever heard in any genre ever (really) are laid down; the result is a gloriously beautiful sonic onslaught that absolutely demands you sit up and pay attention. The dynamism in Ruby's delivery and the sheer power she puts behind it is just ridiculously impressive stuff - to say that 'sweet' is not a good description of her sound is a... slight (massive) understatement; if other female lead vocalists are beautiful angels, she's a ferocious Metal warrior goddess.
Other bands going for this sort of hard-hitting approach with a female lead would almost certainly bolt on a lot of male growling to add the missing aggressive edge, but Ruby more than provides that while singing cleanly from start to finish; there are some growling male vocals on Heretic Rapture (and some clean male backing vocals as well), but those are exceptionally intermittent, with only 3 songs featuring any growls at all - good news if you're the sort who doesn't much care for growling. Further good news for growling haters: even the songs that do have growling barely have any growling, there's maybe one of two lines towards the tail end of the song and that's it, so if the presence of growling is a personal sticking point for you then you should absolutely not let that stop you from giving the tracks I have embedded below a listen, as this is as growl-free as you can get without actually being, you know, growl-free. If you like growling, then think of the few bits where that happens as an added bonus of sorts, and listen to the tracks I've embedded because they're awesome with or without growls.
If all went according to plan, you
didn't notice my cut-rate infiltration team's clumsy attempt to hide behind your sofa heartily enjoyed the music I just showed you, and will be subconsciously trained to call me your lord and master by all the hidden transmitters my cut-rate infiltration team planted in your bedroom will now call me your lord and master! Wait, I mean will want to keep reading Guide to Good Music articles. Yes, that's obviously what I meant to say just now but didn't for reasons that are completely mysterious and in no way should be looked into by say... snooping around your bedroom for hidden transmitters that probably don't exist anyways (ha ha!). You can trust me because my subliminal transmitters tell you that over and over while you sleep, really.
At the urgings of my entirely fictitious legal team (something about "self-incrimination is bad"? I wasn't really listening since they're so very fictitious), I'm going to wrap this up now - until next time, I remain
your future lord and master the author of a self-proclaimed Guide to Good Music, wishing you eternal subjugation! Or possibly happy listening? It was definitely one of those two things.
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