Metal Chick of the Month – Brittney Slayes

There’s no hiding from her, she sees everything!

In order to properly celebrate nothing more, nothing less than FIVE years of The Headbanging Moose, there’s nothing better than paying a humble tribute to a true Warrior of the North as our metal chick of this month of October, a woman that perfectly represents all the passion, strength and perseverance from the people that make our beloved Canada one of the best places to live in the world. Born in 1985 in Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities not only in the province of British Columbia but in the entire country, here comes the dauntless vocalist Brittney Slayes, whose real name is Brittney Hayes, frontwoman and founding member of Canadian Heavy Metal band Unleash The Archers, always ready to show you what metal music from the Great White North is all about.

The talented Brittney, who discovered her voice when she was five years old and began singing in her local community choir at the age of eight, traveled with several choirs during her school years, taking part in many musical theater productions and working with some of the best vocal coaches in Western Canada. In university, she attended the UVic School Of Music, but choosing instead to attain her undergraduate degree in History. Furthermore, during her time at the University of Victoria, she traveled the world as a member of the Juno Award-winning ensemble the Uvic Chamber Singers. As a UVic alumna and the lead singer of Victoria-born Unleash the Archers, Brittney gave a keynote talk on July 10, 2018 for UVic’s upcoming conference Boundaries and Ties: The Place of Metal Music in Communities, with her talk, entitled “View from the ‘Apex’: A Metal Musician’s Views on Metal and Community”, drawing on her firsthand experience with local, national, and international metal communities. And do you want to know what our metal warrior thinks about us, metalheads? “People are so open-minded. They’re not going to cast judgement and never give you a chance. From what I’ve seen, metalheads are very kind and caring and open-hearted. I just think that the metal community is uplifting, really,” said our wise vocalist.

Apart from her time singing with different choirs, our Canadian warrior had never been involved in any other bands or music projects before founding Unleash The Archers back in 2007 with her boyfriend and drummer Scott Buchanan, and according to Brittney herself starting the band was the best thing she could have ever done (and we all agree with that, of course), allowing her to use her background in classical music and her four octave range to provide a more dynamic approach to the band’s incendiary fusion of traditional Heavy Metal with Power and Melodic Metal. In late 2008, the band recorded a self-titled four-song demo, which featured two songs (Black Goat of the Woods and Destroyer) they would end up re-recording for their first studio album. In one of her interviews, Brittney explained a little more about the origins of the band, saying it all began when Scott, former guitarist Brayden Dyczkowski (who left the band in 2014) and herself were in university, when Scott and Brayden were playing in a Death Metal band together, and as the drummer’s girlfriend Brittney simply loved to go to their shows and rock out. When the band broke up, she called Brayden and asked him if he wanted to start a band with herself as the vocalist and Scott on drums, and from that day on Unleash The Archers became a reality, leading the band to grow and become a reference in Canadian metal music, winning the Best Metal Band and Best Vocalist awards during the 2015 Vancouver Whammy Awards, as well as being voted number 6 in Exclaim Magazine’s Readers Choice Awards for Best Metal Albums of 2009.

Apart from the aforementioned self-titled debut demo, Unleash The Archers have already released four full-length albums and one EP, those being their 2009 debut album Behold the Devastation (when she was still known as as B. Hayes), the 2011 album Demons of the AstroWaste, the 2012 EP Defy the Skies, the 2015 album Time Stands Still, and last year’s highly acclaimed opus Apex. Currently comprised of our Canadian Valkyrie of metal Brittney on vocals, Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley on the guitars and harsh growls, and Scott Buchanan on drums, as well as Nick Miller taking care of the bass duties during their live performances, Unleash The Archers have a great selection of official videos, lyric videos and unofficial live footage for us to enjoy for hours on YouTube. For instance, you can join Unleash The Archers in their quest for metal with the songs Tonight We Ride, Ten Thousand Against One, Apex, General Of The Dark Army, Time Stands Still, Cleanse The Bloodlines, Awakening, The Matriarch and Dawn Of Ages. And if live concerts and performances are your cup of tea, you can enjoy Brittney and the guys kicking ass with the songs Dreamcrusher and Time Stands Still live in Montreal in 2015; General Of The Dark Army live at the Pont Rouge in Monthey, Switzerland  in 2016; an acoustic version of The Outlander recorded live at CHSR in New Brunswick with Matt Nightingale during the 2011 “Tour Through The AstroWaste”; and their full set during their 2015 appearance at ProgPower USA in 2015. When asked about her favorite Unleash The Archers songs, those she believes a newcomer to their metal world should definitely take a listen at, Brittney said she has always loved Battle In The Shadow (Of The Mountain), from their second album Demons of the AstroWaste, saying she has a strong emotional connection to that song, also including on the list Four In Hand, from their debut album Behold the Devastation, as it’s about sin becoming personified as a cloaked figure riding around in a chariot pulled by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Interesting, isn’t it?

Brittney has also been featured in several other bands and projects as a guest musician, each one of them being very peculiar and showcasing all the talent and range of our metal warrior. For instance, she provided additional vocals to the song Leather Lord, featured on the 2013 EP Live at Mushroom: Vol. I, by Canadian Power/Heavy Metal band 3 Inches of Blood; guest vocals on the song Queen of the Galaxy, from the 2014 EP Queen of the Galaxy (and also featured on the 2018 album The Extraterrestrial Compendium), by American Power/Thrash Metal band Dire Peril (and you can also check a cool live version of it in 2016 at the Blue Lamp HERE); vocals on the song Lunar Sunrise, from the 2014 album The Age of Ether, by American Power/Progressive Metal band Disforia; vocals for the full 2018 album Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster, by American Power Metal band Helion Prime, like in the song Spectrum; vocals for the excellent song Burn It Down (With Fire), from the 2018 album Shadows from the Past, by American Heavy Metal band Lords of the Trident; and last but not least, she was also a guest on the song Siren’s Song, from the 2016 album Lawful Evil, by The Dread Crew of Oddwood (an acoustic pirate band from San Diego, California).

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Regarding her career and life on the road, Brittney said that living life through music is every musician’s dream, living and breathing music every second of every day while on tour, and she wants to keep playing with Unleash The Archers everywhere, every corner of the globe, every continent and every type of venue, from Japan to Scotland, from Brazil to Antarctica (if they can find metalheads there, of course). When asked about the main difference between festivals and regular shows, she said that in the end they’re not that different, only that there are a lot more bands hanging out backstage waiting for their turn and the atmosphere seems quite a bit more laid back. Having already played with Unleash The Archers all over the world, from North America to China and Japan, Brittney has been collecting a lot of good memories and moments from each and every concert, such as their performance at Hell & Heaven Fest in Mexico City in 2014, where they played a side stage but were able to see the concerts by some of their favorite bands like Angra and KISS. Furthermore, all that passion for heavy music and her family had a very positive impact on her performance on stage. For instance, her brother used to play in a punk band and her father worked as a musician for a long time in the 60’s and 70’s. She used to play with his music equipment when she was a little kid, and there are many pictures of Brittney rocking out with an old SM57 in her hand standing on a table or any other stage-like apparatus. Also, as aforementioned, she was always involved in musical theater, drama, choir or any other sort of performing art, making her feel very comfortable when facing the crowd, it doesn’t matter if at a small venue or at a big renowned festival.

As it happens with any up-and-coming artist in metal music, Brittney has been asked several times through the years about who her biggest idols and influences are in music and in life in general, and her answers couldn’t be more classic, more inspiring and, of course, more metal. She said in one of her interviews that as a vocalist she has always been highly influenced by the one and only Bruce Dickinson, the metal god Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray), Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon), and Jonas Heidgert (Dragonland), among many others, with bands such as Iron Maiden, As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, Helloween and Septicflesh playing an important role in the development of her taste for music and her singing style. Furthermore, Brittney mentioned that the unparalleled Countdown To Extinction, released by Megadeth in 1992, was the first metal record she’s ever heard in her life, and that was basically the moment that would define her musical preferences for the rest of her life, but she also complemented her thought by saying Best Of The Beast, Iron Maiden’s first “best of” album, released in 1996, was the album that inspired her to use her vocal talents as a singer in a metal band. In addition, when questioned which bands she would choose if she could create her own festival, Brittney simply listed Iron Maiden, Lost Horizon, Iced Earth, Sabaton and Dragonland, all beyond formidable acts, also saying that she would love to tour with Iced Earth, one of her favorite bands of all time, as their music speaks to her on a whole other level.

And last but not least, When Brittney was asked how it feels to be in a Power Metal band from a country like Canada where the Power Metal scene is not as developed as in other places like Scandinavia and Japan, she admitted it’s a bit tough for bands that play metal the likes of Unleash The Archers due to the music culture in Canada being a lot more inclined to Death Metal and other more extreme styles, with Canadian metalheads growing up with bands like Kataklysm and Voivod,  even saying a Power Metal band can feel very “lonely” in the country. However, she also mentioned that even in that not-so-inspiring scenario there are still lots of traditional Power Metal acts all over the country, proving that as long as Power Metal bands keep playing music from their hearts and stay united and strong, the genre has all it takes to grow in popularity among Canadian fans. And there’s no one better than the warrior princess Brittney to lead that metal army and “unleash the archers” upon all of us.

Brittney Slayes’ Official Facebook page
Brittney Slayes’ Official Instagram
Brittney Slayes’ Official Twitter
Unleash The Archers’ Official Facebook page
Unleash The Archers’ Official Instagram
Unleash The Archers’ Official Twitter

“There’s always going to be those faces in the crowd that you have known since the beginning, and that you know will always be there for you; they were fans, and they’ve become friends. I think that there’s very much this foundation of fans that keep you standing. That will never change. The only thing that happens is that it just grows.” – Brittney Slayes

Metal Chick of the Month – Morgan Lacroix

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In your nightmares you will find me… In this twilight you will taste my embrace…

Whenever a female performer is selected to be the Metal Chick of the Month here at The Headbanging Moose, she’s not chosen only because of her skills as a musician, but mainly due to her significant contribution to the development of women in the world of heavy music. Having said that, it couldn’t be different this month with our metallic diva, the darkling Italian succubus Morgan Lacroix (or MorgaN LacroiX), the sexy frontwoman, lyricist, composer, producer and (why not?) lady vampire of Italian Gothic/Dark/Industrial Metal band Mandragora Scream (also spelled MandragorA ScreaM). Are you ready for a journey through the dark realms of vampirism with our enigmatic modern-day medusa?

It was more than obvious that I wouldn’t be able to find anything about Morgan’s age, place of birth or music background. We’re talking about a vampire, creatures that, above all things, must remain in the shadows and keep their lives as secret as possible. Well, as Mandragora Scream is a band from the comune of Lucca, located on the Serchio river in Italy’s Tuscany region and famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls, let’s assume she was also born in that same city. Whatever she did between being born and founding Mandragora Scream is something yet to be revealed by Morgan Lacroix herself, which means the focus will be solely on her career with the band.

Although Mandragora Scream were formed back in 1997 by Morgan, it was only in 1999 that the band released its debut self-titled demo containing four songs. Then in 2000 Morgan was introduced to Italian singer, guitarist and composer Terry Horn, and that artistic union resulted in their first full-length album, entitled Fairy Tales from Hell’s Caves, released in the year of 2001. According to the band, “Fairy Tales is definitely a concept album: a trip throughout the Dantean Hell, tormented by passion, anguish and insanity, where the character of Virgil is surprisingly replaced by an unusual bewitching vampire fairy.”

After that amazing debut, the band released the albums A Whisper of Dew (2003), Madhouse (2006), Volturna (2009) and Luciferland (2012), as well as the singles Jeanne d’Arc (2007) and From the Heart (2010), and a DVD named Dragonfly (2008), always providing us the lustful voice of our diva of darkness and also her own devilish touch to all lyrics, cover artwork, mixing, mastering, production and booklets. In addition, from those releases, A Whisper of Dew is also a concept album, centered on a vampire story purposely written for the band by Julio Angel Olivares Merino, horror-gothic literature writer and teacher of English Philosophy at the Spanish University of Jaén. Drawing inspiration from this tale, Lacroix composed the entire album lyrics. Also, in regards to their latest album Luciferland, there’s an interesting and extensive three-part interview on YouTube where both Morgan and Terry discuss about the album with Metal Hammer, which can be seen HERE, HERE and HERE.

Mandragora Scream are also featured on the international compilations Beauty in the Darkness Vol. 5 (2001), Mystic Art (2001), Nuclear Blast Vol. 6 (2001), Off Road Tracks Vol. 45 (2003) and Beautiful Voices (2005), toured with renowned dark bands Christian Death and The 69 Eyes in 2010 and with British Extreme Metal masters Cradle of Filth in 2011, and were the special guests in the 2010 edition of the Fantasy Horror Award. There are numerous videos on YouTube (and other platforms) where you can relish Morgan’s alluring vocals, sensuous moves and bewitching performance, as for instance in the songs A Vision They Shared, Blight Thrills, Medusa, Blindness, Breaking Dawn, Silent Lullabies, Bloody Ballade, the whimsical The Chant of Furies, and her awesome cover version for Cher’s Bang Bang, among others. Besides her work with Mandragora Scream, you can find Madame Lacroix lending her voice to the bonus song Watch Me Crawl Behind, from the 2012 album Happy Deathday by Greek Gothic Metal band SadDolls, and to the song The Promise, from the 2004 album Follow Me by Italian Power Metal band Wonderland.

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When asked in 2001 to provide more details about the history of Mandragora Scream, her explanation was beyond eccentric. In her own words, “The history of the name Mandragora Scream goes back to the medieval period. At that time witches used a root to make love and death potions called ‘Mandragora’.This root with man-shape was generated by the ejaculations of a hanged man and it needed to be pulled out from the earth with particular magic rites during full moon nights. When extracting the root from earth, witches had to be very careful not to break the arms or legs of the root, otherwise it would have screamed so loud to bring witches to death.” Interesting, isn’t it?

In regards to her unique style, our vampire queen mentioned her lyrics and the atmosphere found in her music reflect her soul, her life and her personality, preserving that way her own musical identity. Furthermore, Morgan grew up with fairy tales, in which she truly believes, feeling and living her own life like a fairy tale. In one of her old interviews, Morgan mentioned she wrote a book (probably in 2000) that is a fairy tale for her angels in the form of decadent poetry called “The Ballad Of The Angels”, but yet again I couldn’t find anything online about that book. It should be a very interesting and unusual reading, if that has ever been published, of course.

Another remarkable fact about her personal life is that she doesn’t actually feel Italian as her ancient blood is Transylvanian, and because of that she is fascinated with Dante’s La Divina Comedia (The Divine Comedy), considering it a masterpiece (who doesn’t?) as it deals with the dead and eternal pain.  And to make things even more complex, Morgan also loves the Scandinavian culture and is attracted to Vikings. Add to that her lovely obsession for fairy tales, and there you have one of the most distinctive and diverse fusion of topics you can think of.

Her favorite albums of all time are a classy mix of progressiveness, passion and liveliness, and do not expect to find anything too Gothic, modern or ghoulish on her list, as it includes Blackmore’s Night’s best album to date Shadow of the Moon, Dream Theater’s classic album Metropolis, Pink Floyd’s masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon, King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon, Yes’ Close to the Edge and Genesis’ Nursery Crime. In addition to that, she’s also a huge admirer of Queensrÿche and obviously of the vocals by Geoff Tate, especially the song Someone Else?, which she used to listen to when she started singing.

At long last, are you curious to know what the meaning of life and death is to our goddess of Dark Metal? Morgan firmly believes in reincarnation, which means life for her is a long path we are following and while we walk along this path we have to learn lessons, sometimes highly spiritual lessons. She completes her train of thought by saying that we always have to give our souls a chance to fly a little higher, closer to the divine, and that we could probably say that death is a little like “changing skin”. In my opinion, this is a stunning concept by an even more stunning diva of heavy music.

Morgan Lacroix’s Official Facebook page
Morgan Lacroix’s Official Twitter
Mandragora Scream’s Official Facebook page
Mandragora Scream’s Official Twitter

“Try and wake up the valiant warrior sleeping within you, he may have fallen asleep in one of your previous lives. And, first and foremost, don’t let your flesh be just food for worms.  Let there be someone with your blood after you, in this way you’ll be able to prove you did not live in vain and your image will be reflected by your heirs as if in a mirror.” – Morgan Lacroix