Metal Chick of the Month – Esthibaliz Rojas

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Oh mother night put thy arms around me…

Fans of Symphonic Metal with operatic vocals, rejoice! Let me introduce you to one of the most promising and accomplished female singers in the entire Latin America, a woman who, despite being really young at age, has already built a respectful career and a more than solid background in music, which obviously translates into pure delight when she hits the stage and treats us with her potent and delicate vocals. Her real full name is Rebeca Estibaliz Ramos Rojas, but you might already know her by Esthibaliz RojasEstibaliz Ramos or even by her artistic nickname Esthibaliz Bathory, a stylish wordplay with her own name and the name of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Well, let’s say that this vampirical moniker totally suits our charming and metallic diva, and I’ll show you why.

Born on October 4, 1983 in Mexico City, capital of the always fun country of Mexico, and raised in a small family by her mother, grandmother and older brother, our talented Mexican lyric-coloratura soprano (who’s also an actress, composer and teacher) has nurtured a profound passion for performing arts since she was a little girl, taking part in school choirs and “estudiantinas” (or student music groups), studying classical dance and watching musical plays with great interest, especially the ones from English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. At the age of 15 she was advised by her friends and family that she should take singing lessons and pursue a professional career in music, and that’s exactly what she did by studying for two years at the Escuela Superior de Composición y Arreglo Musical (ESCAM), and by getting a bachelor’s degree in singing at the Escuela Superior de Música (CNA). In addition, Esthibaliz has also taken private singing classes with Mexican soprano Guadalupe Pérez Arias and with Mexican-Italian mezzo-soprano Eugenia Sutti. During her studies, she already started her career in music by joining the Sociedad Coral Cantus Hominum, a symphonic choir led by Mexican tenor Leonardo Villeda.

However, if there’s one type of music that truly touches her heart, it’s our beloved Heavy Metal, especially its subgenres Symphonic and Progressive Metal as they represent the perfect fusion of opera and metal music, with bands such as Rhapsody (or Rhapsody of Fire), Dream Theater and Nightwish becoming an important part of her life and the biggest inspiration for her career. It was then in 2006 when she replied to an ad requesting a female singer for a Gothic Rock band that she met guitarist Christian García, who invited her to join Mexican Gothic Metal band Erszebeth, leading to the recording of the album La Condesa Inmortal (or “The Immortal Countess”, in English) in 2007, and the album Equilibrio in 2013. By the way, all lyrics and vocal melodies found in Equilibrio were written by Esthibaliz. If you want to take a listen at the music by Erszebeth, simply go to YouTube where you’ll find excellent songs such as Equilibrio.

In 2008, Esthibaliz started a relationship with singer and composer Mario del Rio, founder and leader of the bands Oblivion Requiem and Rip Rapunzel, consequently becoming the female singer for Rip Rapunzel and releasing in 2010 their first album entitled Broken Tales. For instance, you can listen to her beautiful voice with Rip Rapunzel in the song Corazon de Plomo, and with Oblivion Requiem she recorded the song Time to Say Goodbye, for the 2008 album Sampler Carpe Noctem Vol. 1. As a matter of fact, there are so many other bands, projects and live performances where we can admire the gentle vocals by Esthibaliz it’s hard to name all of them without forgetting a few, but I’ll try my best. Our Mexican diva has already lent her voice to the eccentric project Dueto Amaterasu, as you can see in the song Terra (Wanderer of Time), from Final Fantasy VI; doing vocals and choirs in a Mexican project focused on cover songs named Los Abortos De Tu Jefa; singing the song In Dreams live in 2008 with Mexican Heavy Metal band Exsecror Vecordia, and recording the studio song Soledad, from the 2009 album Escapulario by Mexican Gothic Rock band Vía Dolorosa; as well as participating in the personal project by Oswaldo de León, guitarist for Mexican group La Castañeda.

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Perhaps the most promising project/band in heavy music featuring Esthibaliz nowadays is Mexican/Argentine Symphonic Metal band Melphomene, and this one deserves a more detailed explanation so distinct it is. In Greek mythology, Melpomene (without the “h”) is one of the two theater Muses, initially being the Muse of singing and musical harmony but later being recognized as the Muse of Tragedy. A myth says that Melpomene had all the riches that a woman could have, such as beauty, money and men, but even having it all she could not be happy, leading to the true drama of life. This is the perfect depiction of the music played by Melphomene, which can be testified in songs such as Mother Night and Maiden & Death, and many others in their official YouTube channel.

Apart from all those metal and non-metal bands, our Mexican beauty has also taken part in several plays and musicals, only showcasing how limitless her talent and passion for music and arts are. In 2010, she played a role in “Alicia Más Allá Del Espejo” by Adrian Gallardo, and adaptation of the 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; and in 2012, Philip von Reutter, director and founder of  “Canto en Movimiento”, invites her to be part of their cast for a series of presentations in Florence, Italy, becoming part of their coaching team (one of her favorite duties, by the way) in 2013 and getting ready to perform the plays “Verdi Ritrovato” and “Future Sound” in London, England that same year.

And in case you thought she would simply settle down after all that, you might be surprised with everything else she’s also engaged in. In 2011, Esthibaliz becomes interested in the Speech Level Singing technique, learning its vocal technique, style, scenic expression and contemporary interpretation at the International Vocal Training school founded by Seth Riggs and Michael Jackson. In addition to that, she also joined the Centro Cultural Virginia Fábregas to begin a career in Musical Comedy, taking theatrical dancing, Jazz, tap, ballet, acting, vocal and speech classes. Well, it looks like there isn’t a limit for our tenacious “mamacita” when it comes to expanding her boundaries in music and arts.

Lastly, if you know Spanish or if you’re studying it and already have a relatively good understanding of the language, there is a 20-minute interview Esthibaliz gave to a program called CINECAFÉ & + in 2015 where she talks about her personal life and career in a nice and relaxed way. Although I could have translated everything she’s talking about and made your lives a little easier, I won’t do that because I consider this a great motivation for you all to learn one of the top languages in the world. I guess watching the gorgeous Esthibaliz talking about heavy music and arts in her mother tongue for 20 minutes beats any grammar book hands down, no matter how good the book might be, don’t you agree? And as today, November 2, is the popular Mexican holiday named “Día de los Muertos” (or “Day of the Dead” in English), why not enjoying Esthibaliz providing her own medley for Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen themes as part of the celebrations? Or maybe you prefer watching our screaming diva unleashing hell in her cover version for the unparalleled classic Nemesis, by Arch Enemy, or even Chop Suey, by System Of A Down? There’s a lot more to relish at her official YouTube channel, in case you’re interested in seeing more of our Mexican babe in action. I’m sure you’ll have a very good time enjoying Esthibaliz and her unique voice, no doubt about that.

Esthibaliz Rojas’ Official Facebook page
Esthibaliz Rojas’ Official YouTube channel
Esthibaliz Rojas’ Official Twitter
Esthibaliz Rojas’ Official Instagram
Erszebeth’s Official Facebook page
Melphomene’s Official Facebook page

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Album Review – Cradle of Filth / Cruelty and the Beast (1998)

This is how any band in the world should record a concept album.

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410309-300Today is my birthday and I was thinking about which classic album that has helped define my musical taste should be reviewed. I could go for one of my favorite albums of all time, which would be Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, Judas Priest’s Painkiller or Slayer’s Reign in Blood, but instead I chose something more complex and unconventional: Cradle of Filth’s Cruelty and the Beast, a unique concept album dedicated to the legend of the serial killer Elizabeth Báthory, the “Blood Countess” from Hungary who tortured and murdered hundreds of young women in the 16th and 17th centuries, and who many believe used to bath in the blood of her victims to rejuvenate her skin like if she was a vampire. The story itself is inspiring enough for a really dark Heavy Metal album, and no other band rather than Cradle of Filth would have been capable of creating such a masterpiece.

I love the intro Once Upon Atrocity, not only because I’m totally fond of obscure intros like this one, but also because the thrilling transition to the amazing Thirteen Autumns and a Widow is beyond perfect. And what can I say about this song? Despite being probably too heavy and heinous for most of our society, it’s a mesmerizing chef d’oeuvre that no other band is capable of doing (not even the current Cradle of Filth is anymore).The drums and keyboards are terrific, providing the song a unique atmosphere. Then comes one of the band’s most famous tracks, Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, which is not as fast as the first song, but it’s also excellent and has some very good riffs.

Cradle+of+Filth+Cruelty+and+the+BeastBeneath the Howling Stars was the first song I’ve listened to ever from Cradle of Filth, and until today it makes my day a lot better when I listen to it. From its horror movie-like intro in the keyboards to the chorus, it’s a perfect fit for the soundtrack to apocalypse. I know Dani cannot reach the same high-pitched notes anymore, but it’s still great to listen to this song and I hope the band adds it back to their future setlists. The next track, Venus in Fear, is an instrumental song that is not recommended at all to listen to with your parents or your little sister, while Desire in Violent Overture is another musical typhoon from this Extreme Metal band from England.

The Twisted Nails of Faith is one of my least favorite ones, which doesn’t mean it’s not a furious track (it’s not just as brilliant as the others), followed by what can be considered an “Extreme Metal Opera” called Bathory Aria: this 11-minute insanity starts in a melancholic way with Benighted Like Usher, evolves into a storm with A Murder of Ravens in Fugue, and finally ends with a poem-like part called Eyes That Witnessed Madness. I REALLY would like to see them playing this live one day, that would be a dream come true. The album ends with another instrumental song, Portrait of the Dead Countess (this one you can listen to with anyone around you, no problem), and the fast and heavy track Lustmord and Wargasm. And if you’re still alive after this infernal tsunami, it means you enjoyed it and you’re ready to listen to everything again and again.

All musicians in this album are awesome (including the guest musicians) despite none of them being with the band anymore except for Dani Filth, the mastermind behind Cradle of Filth. Well, he’s the main reason why Cruelty and the Beast is so good, because without him it would be just a regular album. Although Dani’s trademark voice was not as high as in their previous albums, he was singing like a demon, adding a lot of violence and despair to the musicality of the whole album. Not only that, the lyrics in Cruelty and the Beast are also as creative, evil and wonderful as always, this time even better due to the whole storyline involving Countess Bathory as the main character, and the front cover and the rest of the album art are the perfect finishing touch for it.

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Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition front cover

If you’re lucky enough to find the Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc, you’ll be amazed by their superb covers of Iron Maiden, Venom and Sodom, bands with a high influence on Cradle of Filth’s music. The only bad thing about this bonus disc is the mix version for The Twisted Nails of Faith: I don’t like when a Heavy Metal song are mixed into some generic electronic song, and this one is not different from that.

Anyway, if you love Extreme Metal and a good story, you must listen to Cruelty and the Beast. Cradle of Filth might not be the best Heavy Metal band in the world, but this album helped redefine extreme music for sure and destroyed all the remaining boundaries between music and art for good.

Best moments of the album: Everything in this album is gold, but if I had to choose only a couple of songs they would be Thirteen Autumns and a Widow, Beneath the Howling Stars and Bathory Aria.

Worst moments of the album: None, unless I can choose a song from the Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc, then I would say Twisting Further Nails (The Cruci-Fiction Mix).

Released in 1998 Music for Nations

Track listing
1. Once Upon Atrocity (Instrumental) 1:43
2. Thirteen Autumns and a Widow 7:14
3. Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids 7:18
4. Beneath the Howling Stars 7:42
5. Venus in Fear (Instrumental) 2:20
6. Desire in Violent Overture 4:16
7. The Twisted Nails of Faith 6:50
8. Bathory Aria (Benighted Like Usher/A Murder of Ravens in Fugue/Eyes That Witnessed Madness) 11:02
9. Portrait of the Dead Countess (Instrumental) 2:52
10. Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Carnivorous Winds) 7:30

Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc
1. Lustmord And Wargasm (The Relicking of Cadaverous Wounds) 7:58
2. Black Metal (Venom cover) 3:27
3. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden cover) 7:10
4. Sodomy & Lust (Sodom cover) 4:47
5. Twisting Further Nails (The Cruci-Fiction Mix) 5:33

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Stuart Anstis – guitars
Gian Pyres – guitars
Robin Graves – bass
Lecter – keyboards
Nicholas Barker – drums

Guest musicians
Sarah Jezebel Deva – backing vocals
Danielle Cneajna Cottington – backing vocals
Ingrid Pitt – Lady Bathory’s narration on ‘The Twisted Nails of Faith’ and Bathory Aria’s ‘Eyes That Witnessed Madness’