Metal Chick of the Month – Alissa White-Gluz

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This is War Eternal, Alissa!

In order to properly celebrate the first awesome year of The Headbanging Moose, no one would have been a better choice for our Metal Chick of the Month than this Canadian girl. She’s at the same time the Beauty AND the Beast, an inspiration to many women all around the world, and her convictions and talent are truly taking her to stardom. From the beautiful city of Montreal, Quebec, here comes Alissa White-Gluz, founder and former lead singer of Canadian Metalcore band The Agonist, and currently the frontwoman of Swedish Melodic Death Metal icons Arch Enemy.

This vegan straight-edge kick-ass Québécois was born on July 31, 1985, and although she claims she has never taken any singing lessons her voice has become really powerful and versatile throughout the years, elevating her status as one of the most influential Heavy Metal female singers of the past decade, even leading to some comparisons with the one and only Angela Gossow. Well, those comparisons don’t seem to have been in vain, because on March 17, 2014, she was chosen to be the replacement for Angela herself and became the voice of Arch Enemy. In Alissa’s own words, “I am very honored and happy to announce a new chapter in my life and musical career beginning now; I have joined forces with one of my all-time favorite and globally respected bands, ARCH ENEMY. ‘Wages of Sin’ was the first metal album I ever bought, and it was love at first listen. It is not often that you get a phone call from your favorite band asking you to join! I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such amazingly talented musicians whom I also consider great friends. I look forward to being able to write and perform at a whole new level now with ARCH ENEMY! Music is forever, metal is limitless and this is only the beginning!”

Arch Enemy have recently released their first album with Alissa on vocals, entitled War Eternal, but there was a lot more of our Heavy Metal diva prior to that. She founded The Agonist back in 2004 with guitarist Danny Marino and bassist Chris Kells (when the band was still known as The Tempest), and recorded three excellent full-length albums and one EP with them: Once Only Imagined (2007), Lullabies for the Dormant Mind (2009), The Escape EP (2011), and Prisoners (2012), with Lullabies for the Dormant Mind being in my opinion their best album in terms of musicality, lyrics and creativity. In regards to Alissa’s performance in all The Agonist albums, she was always so electrifying and full of energy that it’s impossible to not get completely mesmerized by her voice and moves, as you can easily see in their official videos for Thank You, Pain, …And Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep, and Panophobia. By the way, I consider the video for Thank You, Pain, with its outstanding production, good storyline and, of course, Alissa kickin’ ass, one of the most professional and beautiful videos I’ve seen in a long time.

Besides her work with The Agonist, Alissa has also been featured as a guest musician in the following albums: Canadian Folk/Melodic Death Metal band Blackguard’s Profugus Mortis,  Canadian Melodic Black/Death Metal band Erimha’s Irkalla, Canadian Industrial Death Metal band Synastry’s Blind Eyes Bleed, American Melodic Power Metal band Kamelot’s Silverthorn and also in the single Sacrimony (which the amazing official video can be seen here), and more recently in Dutch Symphonic Metal band Delain’s The Human Contradiction. She was also a live guest singer during Kamelot’s recent 2011/2012 tours, as well as, along with Swedish singer Elize Ryd (Amaranth), replaced Anette Olzon while she was sick for a one-time Nightwish concert in Denver on September 28, 2012. An interview with both artists talking about that experience can be seen here and on Nightwish’s Showtime, Storytime (DVD), on the documentary footage section.

Also, in 2006 Alissa appeared on Canadian Idol singing a cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and in January 2012 she was featured as a coach on an episode of MTV’s Made. I don’t know if these can be considered part of her music career, as those TV shows are useless and do not bring any real benefits to real musicians, but anyway she was there and it was an alternative way for her to be exposed to different audiences that are not really into Heavy Metal.

While Alissa was with The Agonist, she toured the world with many different famous bands such as Epica, Kamelot, Sonata Arctica and Danzig, which is very demanding and time consuming, and now with Arch Enemy the frequency and intensity of world tours have just increased, making her eating habits and exercising more than essential for a professional and powerful onstage performance. That’s one of the reasons why she maintains a strong exercise routine, working out between 5 and 6 times a week, especially to strengthen her muscles. Alissa mentioned she loves working out, which is in her opinion the best remedy for anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues etc., and it’s one of the things that make her feel a happier and healthier person. I agree with her 100%, as I also love working out and feel the same results as she does, and also because The Agonist and Arch Enemy are always in my workout playlist.

Another important part of her life is her veganism, which according to Alissa herself is her most powerful source of energy and health. Although she was a vegetarian all her life, she decided to become a vegan when she was a teenager and carry that flag forever more, always mentioning that her family has been a huge inspiration for her. “My parents, along with my brother and sister, are vegetarians. I wasn’t raised in any way where I was forced to be a vegetarian too. I always had the choice. My mom would say, ‘I don’t eat the stuff, so I won’t cook it, but if you want to eat it, you can. Let me tell you why I don’t eat it.’ So she was open about it.”, she said. “From a young age, I learned what a non-vegetarian diet entails. I made the decision early on that I was going to stick to the lifestyle. It’s easier to stick with something like that than change it, if you’ve always done it. I’m grateful that my parents were open-minded with me.”

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In regards to her personal life, Alissa has mentioned during some interviews that among her favorite bands and musicians are Devin Townsend, Gwen Stefani, Muse, and, of course, Arch Enemy. Hence, it’s always interesting to see non-Metal bands or artists among the playlists of Heavy Metal icons (see other examples here and here), which makes us feel less “guilty” when singing any songs that are currently part of the top 40 list. Among her favorite places she has already traveled to, we have Japan, Peru and Austria, and in terms of movies she said her favorite one is still The Little Mermaid, which is by the way the reason why she started singing. I just don’t remember Ariel or Sebastian doing any guttural during the movie, but that’s just a minor detail, right? Moreover, our Heavy Metal goddess has been selected multiple times as one of “the hottest chicks in metal” by Revolver Magazine. Why am I not surprised at all with that?

Last but not least, Alissa is not only an animal lover (I believe she has two rescued kitties at home), but beyond that she’s an important animal rights activist just as her idol Angela Gossow, having already received an award from peta2 for her work in an international campaign advocating against the hunting of Canadian seals. Honestly, that’s for me her biggest achievement in life, even more important than her contribution to heavy music, and something she’s probably very proud of.

She mentioned in some interviews that she’s been active with a lot of different organizations helping kids, third world countries and animals, but that her true passion is in animal rights. She also said she started doing fundraising for peta2 and WWF when she was still in high school, and that the partnership between peta2 and her started when they used some stock footage in The Agonist’s first music video, Business Suits and Combat Boots. Since then the organization and Alissa have been working together to promote veganism and fight against animal cruelty as much as possible through different campaigns, protests, lectures, and many other activities. So don’t waste your time, go support peta2, get involved, do something good for this fuckin’ world, and you might end up meeting Alissa somewhere, an amazing person and one of the best frontwoman of the recent history of Heavy Metal. How about that?

Alissa White-Gluz’s Official Facebook page
Alissa White-Gluz’s Official Twitter

““The biggest thing for me is animal rights. That’s the number one factor that sort of means everything in my life, more than music or anything else. I think it’s a huge problem, and I think it’s refreshing to meet people, now and then, that actually do care about their impact on the planet, and not just care about themselves.” – Alissa White-Gluz

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Album Review – Delain / The Human Contradiction (2014)

Very symphonic, professional and pleasant. That’s the new album from Delain.

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coverIf the only Heavy Metal band you know from the Netherlands is Within Temptation, and especially if you are a fan of their work, you have to listen to the new album by Dutch Symphonic Metal band Delain, named The Human Contradiction. The band was formed in 2002 by former Within Temptation keyboardist Martijn Westerholt, which explains all the similarities between his current and his former bands, and the gorgeous redhead singer Charlotte Wessels, another good example of how talent and beauty always walk hand in hand in the Netherlands.

Delain might not be that new, but it seems that the quality of their music and overall production has achieved a higher level with The Human Contradiction, with all instruments sounding pretty clear and Charlotte’s voice being very polished and strong. Moreover, if the band has already toured so many different countries with their previous records, I believe this time their music will take them to even further places, which is something they deserve due to all their hard work to produce high quality heavy music.

Talking about each track of the album, we have an excellent beginning with Here Come The Vultures, a 6-minute song (which is a bold move to open an album nowadays, as the attention span of people doesn’t seem to go over 3 minutes) with a beautiful intro by Charlotte Wessels and dark and heavy riffs that work pretty well to warm us up for the rest of the album; and Your Body Is A Battleground, the first track to feature Finnish bassist Marco Hietala (Nightwish), who does a great duet with Charlotte and makes me wonder how good this song will sound live if he joins the band for a few concerts. The lyrics to this song are also an interesting and effective part of it (“Any disorder? / No restriction / Too hard to handle? / No hesitation / For your protection / Just an injection / We’ll write you a letter / The younger, the better”), making the overall result even better.

delainStardust showcases a good duo of drums and keyboards and has an excellent chorus, while My Masquerade, despite its more commercial approach (especially the chorus), is another good song from the album. Then come Tell Me, Mechanist, featuring Dutch musician George Oosthoek (Celestial Season, ex-Orphanage) doing guttural vocals in another great duet with Charlotte; and Sing To Me, another good song with Marco as a guest musician, although not as powerful as the first one.

The last songs of the regular version of the album are Army Of Dolls, an average song with its “80’s dance music” intro, which might sound better live; the beautiful Lullaby, a more gothic track with dense riffs, atmospheric keyboards, and Charlotte kickin’ ass on vocals one more time; and The Tragedy Of The Commons, featuring Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy, ex-The Agonist), a very symphonic track where Alissa’s characteristic guttural vocals add a lot of energy to it.

Although the regular album is relatively short, if you purchase the special edition you’ll put your hands on a lot of excellent extra material, including songs like the beautiful ballad Scarlet, excellent live versions for some of the bands old songs and even of the new My Masquerade, which sounds a lot more powerful live, and unique orchestral versions for two of their new songs. It’s surely the wisest choice if you’re a fan of Delain’s music, or even if you’re just starting to know the band better.

To sum up, The Human Contradiction is a very consistent and pleasant album, perfect for fans of Symphonic Metal with female vocals. And if the band is performing live in your town this year, don’t miss the chance to check them. It’s an awesome choice for taking your boyfriend or girlfriend and enjoying together some good heavy music from a non-arena band, which is something we really need to support nowadays.

Best moments of the album: Here Come The Vultures, Your Body Is A Battleground and Lullaby.

Worst moments of the album: Sing To Me and Army Of Dolls.

Released in 2014 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Here Come The Vultures 6:05
2. Your Body Is A Battleground (feat. Marco Hietala) 3:49
3. Stardust 3:56
4. My Masquerade 3:43
5. Tell Me, Mechanist (feat. George Oosthoek) 4:51
6. Sing To Me (feat. Marco Hietala) 5:08
7. Army Of Dolls 4:55
8. Lullaby 4:54
9. The Tragedy Of The Commons (feat. Alissa White-Gluz) 4:30

Special Edition bonus tracks
10. Scarlet 4:36
11. Don’t Let Go 3:56
12. My Masquerade (Live) 5:02
13. April Rain (Live) 4:45
14. Go Away (Live) 3:42
15. Sever (Live) 4:54
16. Stay Forever (Live) 4:31
17. Sing To Me (Orchestral Version) 3:41
18. Your Body Is A Battleground (Orchestral Version) 3:20

Band members
Charlotte Wessels – vocals
Martijn Westerholt – keyboards
Otto Schimmelpenninck van der Oije – bass
Sander Zoer – drums
Timo Somers – guitar

Guest musicians
Marco Hietala – clean male vocals
George Oosthoek – death growls
Alissa White-Gluz – clean female vocals & death growls