Metal Chick of the Month – Heidi Shepherd & Carla Harvey

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Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages… Step right up and get your tickets to the greatest show on earth!

Love them or hate them, we all must admit that the two female metallers chosen to celebrate the third anniversary of The Headbanging Moose have a strong influence on contemporary Heavy Metal due to their unique (and aggressive) attitude, which obviously includes their sexy looks and fiery and chaotic music. They deal with their sexuality more naturally than we prepare a simple orange juice, and although some people might consider their work futile or even too obscene, let’s not forget that heavy music is above all things a form of art where artists can freely express their thoughts, ideals and beliefs through their compositions and, in many cases like for example in Black Metal, through their image. Besides, their music is a billion times better than anything Lady Gaga does, a woman who calls herself a true metal fan but in reality keeps playing second-class meaningless pop stuff. With that said, let’s raise our horns to frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, the dynamic duo responsible for the amusing blend of violence and rebelliousness bred by American Metalcore/Groove Metal band Butcher Babies.

Before we talk about each “butcher baby” in more details, let me provide you a short and sweet overview of this Alternative Metal band from Los Angeles, California in case you have never heard of them in your life. Formed in 2010, Butcher Babies probably have one of the most solid lineups in the history of heavy music despite being just a few years old. Apart from Heidi and Carla, the band is also made up by guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Jason Klein and drummer Chris Warner, all still playing together since the band’s inception and, based on how healthy their relationship is, that’s the way things are going to be for many years to come. The name of the band came from the song Butcher Baby by American Punk Rock band Plasmatics, spearheaded by the iconic singer, songwriter and actress Wendy O. Williams. Both Heidi and Carla acknowledge how important Wendy O. Williams was (and still is) for the increasing acceptance of women in heavy music, which is one of the reasons why they wear such eccentric attire during their live performances including wearing nothing but black tape over their nipples (albeit they’ve ditched it in recent years).

Despite their short period of existence so far, the band has already released the single Blonde Girls All Look The Same in 2011, the EP Butcher Babies in 2012, their first full-length album Goliath in 2013, another EP entitled Uncovered in 2014 and finally their most recent full-length album, Take It Like a Man, in 2015. You can have lots of fun with their music and sexiness in songs such as They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!, Igniter, Magnolia Blvd, Mr. Slowdeath, Dead Man Walking, I Smell a Massacre, Gravemaker and The Butcher, or you can simply enjoy their entire 40-minute performance at the always superb Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel, Belguim in 2015. There are also tons of cool interviews with Heidi and Carla on YouTube, such as backstage interviews at Knotfest in 2014 and at Rockstar Mayhem Tour in 2013; their explanation for abandoning the nipple tape and covering up; a nice interview for Metal Hammer at Soundwave 2015 where they talk about hugging koala bears, fighting kangaroos and their adventures in Australia; an interview to German channel BunchTV in 2011 still with the nipple tapes; and a very relaxed interview to FeMetalTV in 2015.

HEIDI SHEPHERD

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Enough said already, now it’s all about the girls. Let’s begin with the sometimes blonde, sometimes red-headed hurricane Heidi Shepherd, the woman accountable for the high-pitched screams and growls for Butcher Babies. Born on April 17, 1985 in Utah, United States, Heidi is more than “just” a metal singer, being also a radio DJ, actress and casting director best known for the 2008 thriller Animals and the TV series MANswers, as well as minor parts and uncredited appearances in different shows such as My Name Is Earl, Ghots Whisperer and CSI: NY.

Heidi, who by the way is the oldest of 6 kids, grew up in Provo, Utah, the third largest city in the state and located around 43 miles south of Salt Lake City, where she attended Provo High School, graduating in 2003. Still in high school, believe it or not Heidi was an accomplished track and field athlete, even traveling to Russia to participate in the Junior Olympics. She also graduated from Southern Utah University, where once again she showcased all her athleticism participating in competitions such as high jump and long jump. Also, as a girl raised in the Mormon religion, Heidi has a very interesting view of the concept of Heaven and Hell, stating those are things the human being made up to make ourselves feel comfortable about the afterlife, something to give people a purpose and life goals.

In regards to her passion for music and how it helped her become a better person, our unrestrained vocalist said music was basically the only thing she could relate to in her childhood, having as her personal heroes distinct names such as Slipknot, Wendy O. Williams, Gwen Stefani and Joan Jett, most of them being females that defy the male dominance in music as you can see. However, it’s Slipknot, a top to bottom male band, who had the strongest influence on her vocal style and stage performance, saying when she saw a picture of them for the first time (she was around 12 or 13 only) it really scared her but intrigued her at the same time. Once a girl who developed an intense fear of the dark, Heidi learned to embrace fear and use it in her creative process through the years, something we can definitely connect to what Slipknot aim with their unique approach.

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If you think she’s a party girl who doesn’t sleep at all and drinks every alcoholic beverage in sight, you’re absolutely wrong. Well, of course she always has her share of fun, but Heidi mentioned already in different interviews that if she doesn’t get enough sleep every night her live performances suffer a truly negative impact. On top of that, Heidi said that despite loving whiskey she can’t drink it on the road anymore, as the effect of the alcohol hurts her vocal chords, so she saves it for when she gets back home. If you’re a singer I’m sure you can relate to that, because you can be tired and drunk and still play a guitar, for example, but the impact alcohol can have on your vocals can be devastating without any doubt.

Lastly, as a lover of horror flicks and a believer of supernatural and paranormal forces, which in my opinion is an excellent source of inspiration for the type of music played by Butcher Babies, Heidi mentioned that among her favorite recent movies we can find titles like the new Evil Dead, V/H/S and V/H/S/2, You’re Next and The Purge, all pretty decent films with interesting storylines, don’t you think? And who knows, maybe it’s time for a slasher movie with a main female character named “Heidi the Butcher”, who not only chops and dismembers her victims, but does that screaming like a maniac while listening to some vicious heavy music. Or maybe it should be a sanguinary duo of Heidi and Carla? Read the rest of this essay and take your own conclusions.

Heidi Shepherd’s Official Facebook page
Heidi Shepherd’s Official Twitter
Heidi Shepherd’s Official Instagram

“There’s no reason why girls can’t get up there and rock just as hard as, if not harder than, the boys. And I’m so happy to say that I’m seeing a movement.” – Heidi Shepherd

CARLA HARVEY

carla01Of course Butcher Babies wouldn’t be complete without the charisma of the daredevil vocalist, author and actress Carla Harvey. Born on October 4, 1976 in Detroit, Michigan, United States, Carla is what we can call a very successful “experiment” as she is of Ethiopian, Finnish, Irish and Italian background, and her contribution to Butcher Babies comes in the form of hellish growls deeper than the screams by Heidi, endless energy on stage and some of the weirdest faces you can think of. Put differently, when Carla is performing with the band, she becomes a true female demon like Lilith, for example.

Carla attended Glenn Levey Middle School in Southfield, Michigan, before going to Mercy High School (an all-girl private Catholic school) and Harrison High School, both in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Her first job in Hollywood was as an Entertainment Reporter for the Playboy Channel, also taking part in several movies such as Frankenstein vs. the Creature from Blood Cove (2005), Happy in the Valley (2009) and Dry Run (2010), and other TV shows like Root of All Evil, Sex Chronicles and, just like her partner Heidi, MANswers. In addition, she took a break from the entertainment world to earn a degree in Mortuary Science from Cypress College in California, and worked as an embalmer and funeral director before forming Butcher Babies.

Our raven-haired (with some blue nuances) brawler said she’s been into music since she was a little kid, playing instruments like guitar and bass but always knowing she was born to be a singer. Her first appearance in a band happened when she was around 17 years old, but it wasn’t until Butcher Babies were born that she reached true stardom. Among her main influences, we can find kick-ass names like Slayer and Slipknot, with Slash and Jimi Hendrix being her personal heroes especially due to their roots. As a biracial girl growing in Detroit, seeing musicians that were also of African-American descent playing the music she loved was essential for her to keep pursuing her dreams and overcoming the odds imposed by society on her. Another huge influence on her vocal style and onstage performance in the one and only Phil Anselmo, the iconic frontman from Pantera and Down, who she has admired since she was a kid, highlighting how humble and easy-going he is as a person after finally being able to meet him on the road.

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Heavily influenced by horror movies such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects (these two directed by another one of her idols, Rob Zombie), Carla is also passionate about writing, drawing and reading comic books since she was a kid, something that helped her cope with loneliness as an introverted child, and from that fusion of horror flicks, comics and Heavy Metal she became a “comic book mastermind” according to Hustler Magazine. Her first comic book, entitled Butcher Babies (illustrated by Anthony Winn from Deepcut Productions), was released at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2011, followed by her first full-length novel Death and Other Dances in 2014, and more recently the comic series Soul Sucka, the story about an African-American vampire, in 2015. Carla is always drawing “naked girls” and other stuff, and if you’re interested in taking a look at her work you can visit her Big Cartel page.

And finally, just like what was written about Heidi in terms of drinking and partying while on tour, Carla also said drinking lots of water and hot tea is what truly helps keep her vocal chords moist, together with the obvious and necessary amount of sleep per night. However, she mentioned she also enjoys drinking Jägermeister as it coats her throat rather than drying it out. Although I’m a beer guy, I’m an admirer of Jäger too and I understand perfectly what she’s trying to say about the effect of this exquisite German digestif on your throat. If your job requires you to cut off alcohol, all you have to do is improvise and find other alternatives. And it looks like being creative and always trying new stuff doesn’t scare our roaring metal babe at all.

Carla Harvey’s Official Facebook page
Carla Harvey’s Official Twitter
Carla Harvey’s Official Instagram

“I wish, some day people stop using the female fronted this, female fronted that, because it always takes the focus away from the band itself, because you know, we are all just Heavy Metal bands, we are all doing the same thing.” – Carla Harvey

Butcher Babies’ Official Facebook page
Butcher Babies’ Official Twitter
Butcher Babies’ Official Instagram

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Album Review – Temple Of Void / Of Terror And The Supernatural (2014)

If the Devil had a band, it would sound pretty much like this one.

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TEMPLE OF VOID - Of Terror and the Supernatural cover artWhen you put together the obscurity of early British Doom Metal and the sheer brutality of old school American Death Metal, the final result is usually very interesting. From Detroit, Michigan, United States, comes a band that was able to blend those subgenres of heavy music in a more-than-entertaining way, adding to their music their own touch of creativity and ferocity. I’m talking about American Death/Doom Metal band Temple Of Void, who have just released their debut album entitled Of Terror And The Supernatural. Are you ready for some sonic carnage?

Although they’re a relatively new band, having self-released only a demo in May 2013 prior to Of Terror And The Supernatural, those five Detroiters are so precise with their instruments that they sound like an already classic extreme metal band that has been playing together for decades. Besides, the overall production of the album is also very professional and polished, without abandoning that crude sonority necessary for a good extreme metal album but also without sounding awfully raw to the point it looks like an amateur demo, favoring the type of music crafted by the band.

The opening track, The Embalmer’s Art, begins the album on a high note by creating a truly eccentric atmosphere with its low tune riffs, demoniacal vocals and pure Doom Metal drumming, fortified by its morbid lyrics (“Potter’s bluff / The embalmer’s art / Master work of the wicked”). This song is already some kind of message from the band to the listener, like if they wanted to say “our music is not for the faint-hearted”, so eerie it is. The following track, Savage Howl, begins with a cool galloping intro before hell breaks loose: its guitar and bass lines, mixed with its intense drums, are perfect for some headbanging, with the last minute of it being as heavy as it can be. In addition, I wonder if singer Mike Erdody can do those deep growling vocals live, that must be really impressive.

TEMPLE OF VOID band photoBeyond the Ultimate showcases the most obscure Doom Metal riffs you can think of, nicely enhanced by some hints of Stoner Metal and its truly hideous lyrics (“Feed me / I must dine a feast of blood / Once, I too paid these / Sacrificial dues”), followed by Invocation of Demise, with some of the darkest riffs of the whole album and some extra guitar effects that provide it an extra dose of occultism, ideal to be part of the soundtrack for a Black Magic ritual. Not only that, after five minutes it sounds like a brand new song as it gets a lot more melodic, with drummer Jason Pearce dictating the rhythm.

To Carry this Corpse Evermore is just a melancholic semi-acoustic instrumental track (maybe to give Mr. Erdody’s throat a short break) that works like a bridge for the next song, Rot in Solitude, with its Death Metal riffs and a very somber rhythm; while Exanimate Gaze offers us an interesting mix of Paradise Lost and Black Sabbath, especially its guitar lines. By the way, the awesome instrumental boosts the overall quality of this song, with its last part reminding me of some good contemporary Black Metal songs. And as the final track in Of Terror And The Supernatural we have the 10-minute epic Doom Metal song Bargain in Death, with highlights to its disturbing lyrics about being buried alive (“Waking – You grasp and you claw / But there is no escape / Scratching – The slivers of pine / Stabbing under your nails”). The second half of the song is like a funeral march, as slow, perverse and eerie as possible, with some amazing guitar solos at the end elevating this tenebrous masterpiece to a whole new magnitude.

Lastly, the cover painting by renowned fantasy artist Bruce Pennington is also a very good indicator of how evil this album is and how perturbed you might feel after listening to it, obviously in a very good way. So if you enjoy the devilish music this band plays, simply support them by visiting their Facebook page, by asking them to play live in your city, and also by going to their official Bandcamp page to purchase Of Terror And The Supernatural, an album that sounds like if it was recorded by the Devil’s own heavy music band.

Best moments of the album: The Embalmer’s Art, Savage Howl and Bargain in Death.

Worst moments of the album: Rot in Solitude.

Released in 2014 Rain Without Records / Saw Her Ghost Records

Track listing
1. The Embalmer’s Art 6:25
2. Savage Howl 5:19
3. Beyond the Ultimate 6:14
4. Invocation of Demise 7:32
5. To Carry this Corpse Evermore 3:17
6. Rot in Solitude 5:34
7. Exanimate Gaze 5:29
8. Bargain in Death 10:41

Band members
Mike Erdody – vocals
Eric Blanchard – guitar
Alex Awn – guitar
Brent Satterly – bass
Jason Pearce – drums

Album Review – Isenblåst / Unleashing The Demon Scourge EP (2014)

Forget the usual corpse painting and church burnings: this talented American band is here to offer us pure Black Metal music.

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ISENBLAST - Unleashing the Demon Scourge cover artLet’s talk about Black Metal, but not about those groups that care more about maintaining an impeccable corpse painting or setting fire to churches than actually playing their instruments to generate entertaining extreme music. The focus here is on the good Black Metal band Isenblåst, from Detroit, Michigan, United States, and their recently released EP Unleashing The Demon Scourge, and you’ll see you don’t need any black-and-white makeup or blazing torches to be a badass band.

Formed in 2009 by singer/guitarist Chronolith and guitarist Lord Kaiser, Isenblåst display a huge influence from the beginnings of the rich Scandinavian Black Metal, with bands like Burzum, Enslaved and Satyricon being among their main influences, but also incorporating lots of early Death Metal elements to their musicality in order to sound at the same time more chaotic and melodic. If you listen to their 2010 demo Isenblåst and to their 2013 cassette Forest of Frost, it will be really easy to notice the evolution in their music in Unleashing the Demon Scourge.

As soon as you hit “play”, you’ll be assaulted by the very raw and brutal Black Metal in the opening track A Fire of Knowledge and Power, a song with insane blast beats conducted by drummer Abominater, lots of guitar shredding and, of course, vocals as desperate as possible by Chronolith. And you know what? It sounds really cool, far from being annoying or cheesy like many “true” Black Metal bands.

ISENBLAST live photoThe title-track, Unleashing the Demon Scourge, has a very satanic instrumental, especially its excellent Black and Death Metal riffs, which together with some hints of Hardcore and Punk Rock give it a more melodic aspect than usual Black Metal. In addition, The Latin (or whatever language that is) used in the lyrics (“Ati me peta babka / Ea, usmi nuru / Usmi la atzu / Lu daku me”) ends up being an extra touch of darkness to the song.

Nocturnal Offering, with its musicality similar to Emperor, Immortal and other classic bands, offers the listener a good guitar solo nicely blended with the sick rhythm imposed by drummer Abominater, with its “thrashy” second part reminding me of some old Slayer songs such as “Criminally Insane” and “Reborn”, which in my opinion helps this song sound extremely enjoyable and consequently become the best of the EP. The fourth and last track of the EP is called Seven Gates, and although it’s more violent than the other tracks, with its vocal lines being as beastly as possible, it’s not just noise: all musicians make sure their music is audible and solid, as you can see by the excellent guitar solo by the end of the song.

In summary, forget about corpse painting, church burning and all other of those “traditional” things: if you’re a fan of good-quality extreme music, the Black Metal by Isenblåst might be a very interesting addition to your music collection. So go to their official BandCamp page, take a listen at some of their songs, purchase the EP and embrace the wickedness of Black Metal music.

Best moments of the album: Nocturnal Offering.

Worst moments of the album: Let’s wait for their full-length album to do so.

Released in 2014 In Satan’s Custody / Demon Breath Productions

Track listing
1. A Fire of Knowledge and Power 4:38
2. Unleashing the Demon Scourge 6:02
3. Nocturnal Offering 5:36
4. Seven Gates 4:33

Band members
Chronolith – vocals, guitar
Lord Kaiser – guitar
Mars – bass
Abominater – drums