Metal Chick of the Month – Mia Wallace

Hecate awaits where crossroads split…

If there’s a woman that loves heavy music from the bottom of her (darkened) heart, more specifically our always controversial and blasphemous Black Metal, as well as music in general, that lady has to be the unrelenting Italian-born bassist Mia Wallace, who you’ll also find in several bands and projects under the names Michelle Mia Wallace, Mia W. Wallace, White Wallace or even Winter Wallace. As a matter of fact, either being a coincidence or not, the name Mia Wallace was given to the fictional character portrayed by the stunning Uma Thurman in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino cult movie Pulp Fiction, just to give you an idea of how mysterious, sexy and provocative our metal chick of the month of May can be, exactly how we expect from any true Black Metal musician. Known for her work in distinguished metal projects such as The True Endless (under the controversial moniker Soulfucker), Abbath, Triumph of Death and Niryth, among several others, Mia will undoubtedly hypnotize you with her obscure looks and smash your senses with her thunderous bass, proving once and for all Black Metal is and will always be home for some of the most talented women in the history of music.

Born somewhere, sometime in the always gorgeous Italy, Mia Wallace started playing bass in the now distant year of 1994. She said in one of her interviews that her boyfriend at the time, Italian multi-instrumentalist Marco De Rosa (R.I.P.), also known as simply M., who would become her bandmate in distinct bands and projects and best friend for over 25 years, encouraged her to try his white Fender Squier Vintage bass. She mentioned it was extremely heavy, but she immediately became passionate about that amazing instrument. Her first bass was then a four-string Hoyer SG-type from 1970, helping Mia become most probably the first female bass player in the entire Italy to wear corpsepaint, to play Black Metal on stage, and to perform fire-breathing during her live concerts. Among her gear, you’ll find some amazing stuff such as the Epiphone Nikki Sixx Blackbird, the BC Rich Beast and the Clover BassTard bass guitars; the Boss ODB-3, Boss DD-3 and Marshall Reflector RF-1 effects; and the Warwick Profet 5.2 amps.

There are several bands and projects where you can enjoy Mia kicking some serious ass with her rumbling bass, and in order to tell you a little about each one of those let’s start with the most recent or active ones and then move on to her previous bands which have either disbanded or have been put on an indefinite hiatus. Right now, we can say Mia is involved in two main projects, those being an Italian Electronic/Industrial/Alien/Darkwave Pop/Rock project entitled Kirlian Camera, where not only she plays bass but also keyboards (also doing backing vocals), and a mysterious Swiss project that goes by the name of Niryth, where she’s a co-founder, songwriter and lead bassist. There might be a third project which could be called her solo band Mia Wallace, but as there’s nothing online anywhere about it let’s just say there’s no reason for extending the topic on it.

Anyway, her role with Kirlian Camera (which name was taken from what’s known as Kirlian photography, a collection of photographic techniques used to capture the phenomenon of electrical coronal discharges) obviously goes beyond her usual bass playing duties, providing a unique support to the band’s mastermind Angelo Bergamini and frontwoman Elena Alice Fossi during their live performances. The band was founded in the distant year of in 1979 in the city of Parma by Angelo Bergamini and was a pioneering act of the Italian synthpop scene, featuring musicians from four distinct locations (Piombino, Marciana, Parma and Novara, all in Italy), and after a few ups and downs the duo now shares the stage with obviously Mia and other renowned musicians form the Italian scene such as Alessandro Comerio, Davide Mazza and Falk Pitschk. Having released a good amount of albums since their inception, starting with their 1983 debut effort It Doesn’t Matter Now until their most recent installment Hellfire, released in 2019, the project has always pushed the boundaries of experimental and electronic music, winning several awards through the years, with Mia bringing her share of heaviness and creativity to the band on stage. You won’t be able to listen to Mia in any of their studio albums, of course, but you can certainly enjoy some awesome live footage on YouTube such as this soundcheck in 2018 at a festival in Switzerland, this live version of the song V2K in Leipzig, Germany in 2020, or this 30-minute footage of the band live in Torino, Italy in 2018 playing some of their songs such as Holograms, Black August and News.

Her other project is considerably unique and I can’t even say if it’s still going on or if it has been archived by its band members. I’m talking about Nyrith, a distinguished metal project founded by Mia together with the one and only Tom. G Warrior (Hellhammer, Celtic Fost, Trypticon) with tastes of heavy and obscure doom, blending different styles from the music by Sisters of Mercy to Pink Floyd, all performed by not only one, not two, but three bass players. In one of her interviews Mia mentioned that Nyrith were ready to release their debut album depicting their visions of life and death, their struggles and pains, but so far nothing has been made official yet. She also said the idea of Nyrith came from Tom after Mia was left without a band a few years ago (and we’ll talk more about that later), including the idea of having three bass players on the same band, as at that time nobody was comfortable giving a woman the control of a new or existing band. In this project, Mia mentioned she was working on all the music which was refused by her previous band, a very restricted and traditional Black Metal act by the way, with all of her ideas being pretty much outside the Black Metal world. As aforementioned, there’s nothing officially released up to now, but we should all keep an eye on Nyrith as this is a very promising metal project (if it truly happens one day, of course). In addition, as an accomplished bass player, Mia has been asked several times about her technique, about how she enjoys playing bass and other nice-to-know details. For instance, when questioned about the fact she would play a five-string bass with Nyrith, she said that “I’ve been playing four-string basses for 20 years, but with Niryth, it is absolutely essential to play five-string bass, as the music requires far more versatility. I always felt good vibes with BC Rich basses. Among my favorite basses is a BC Rich Beast, in fact.”

Now it’s time to talk about all of her previous bands, starting with the one that’s in my opinion her most interesting and powerful project to date, Italian Black Metal horde The True Endless, founded in 1997 by M. and Mia (under the moniker Pollon, and later under her most controversial moniker Soulfucker) with the main goal of crafting violent and trendkiller music. After a couple of rehearsal tapes and some shows, The True Endless recorded their first studio work in 1999 called The Trendkiller EP, followed by an array of EP’s, splits, compilations, livr albums and obviously some very interesting and heavy-as-hell full-length albums, those being Wings of Wrath (2003), A Climb to Eternity (2005), Buried by Time and Dust (2006), 1888 from Hell (2008), An Year in Black (2009), Legacy of Hate (2013), and last but not least, Blacklight Inferno (2017), all with Mia kicking ass on bass and even working in the mastering of their 2008 album 1888 from Hell. Featuring lyrics in English, Italian and Novaras, a dialect of the Piedmontese language (Piemontèis) that was used to give their sound a more ancestral feeling, the scorching Black Metal played by The True Endless led the band to share the stage with some of the most important names of the extreme music scene such as Marduk, Deicide, Vader, Helheim, Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult, Besatt, Morrigan, Vesna, Mortuary Drape, Opera IX and many more, playing through countless countries across Europe. You’ll “only” be able to find their latest released Blacklight Inferno on their official BandCamp page, but you can enjoy several of their songs and live footage by visiting their official YouTube channel (as well as other channels), as for example their cover version for Hellhammer’s classic Massacra, the songs Pale Waves, Under The Horned Waning Moon, Black Swamp, I Drink The Devil’s Blood and Nightfall, and this live version of Freezing Moon in the Czech Republic in 2011.

Unfortunately, after months fighting against a deadly cancer, the multi-talented M. sadly passed away on November 16, 2017 at the age of 43, and due to such tragic loss Mia and the band’s drummer Algol decided to end the project after 20 years of intense activity. However, as Mia herself always says, “the flame will burn forever.” And the skillful M. was also the founder of many other amazing projects such as Darkness, Huggin, Skoll and Teuta, most of them featuring our dauntless Mia on bass and/or on keyboards, and usually under the moniker Pollon. For instance, she played bass on the 2013 album Anti Human Life, by Italian Black/Thrash Metal band Darkness, on the 1998 demo Tales (from the Ancient Times), by Italian Black Metal horde Huginn, and played keyboards on the 1999 album Through the Mist We Come Back and on the 2000 split Keep Alive Your Heathenfolk/La oss slakte Guds lam, both by Italian Pagan Black/Viking Metal band Skoll. After listening to such amazing bands, we must all agree with Mia that the flame of M. will always burn bright through his classy and dark music across the centuries, no doubt about that.

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Another memorable moment in Mia’s undisputed career happened between 2019 and 2020 when she joined the iconic Norwegian Black Metal act Abbath, spearheaded by one of the co-founders of Immortal, one of the trailblazers of the infamous Norwegian Black Metal scene. When asked about how the invitation to join Abbath in 2019 happened, Mia said that she always been part of the Bergen family, and as Abbath needed a strong figure to replace his previous bassist he noticed her as an experienced musician who would fit perfectly into his lineup. Mia was the bass player in Abbath’s latest opus, his 2019 album Outstrider, and you can enjoy her thunderous and menacing bass lines in songs like Harvest Pyre and Calm in Ire of Hurricane. Mia mentioned Outstrider was pretty much written when she joined the band, with Abbath asking her to write the bass lines and then they decided together about some adjustments on them, also saying that she didn’t feel any real pressure as the replacement of one of the most recognizable bassist in Black Metal, the iconic King ov Hell (God Seed, Gorgoroth), as they’re two musicians with different skills that were not actually competing nor anything like that. However, on January 28, 2020, Mia revealed that she was no longer part of the band, being informed over the phone by the Abbath’s manager shortly before the beginning of the Outstrider 2020 European tour. No formal announcement was made by the band, but she was replaced on bass by touring member, Rusty Cornell. As you can check HERE, Mia was not happy about the way things happened. “I am disappointed that none of my former colleagues have contacted me in this process except for the five minute phone call from Abbath’s manager in which I was told I would no longer be needed. I was told not to contact anyone in the band. The explanation for this had no substance and just made more questions and confusion for me. Up until then I had been preparing for the European tour as I had been told to do. I had to cancel other plans, and get time off work for the tour which I spent much time preparing for,” said Mia, also citing her comments to the media after the disastrous Abbath two-song concert in Argentina in 2019 as one of the probable reasons for being fired from the band.

Another amazing project where we were all able to enjoy Mia’s crushing bass lines between 2018 and 2019 was Tom G. Warrior’s Triumph Of Death, a tribute to his former group Hellhammer, consisting of playing the legendary music by Hellhammer from their  three demos (Death Fiend, Triumph of Death and Satanic Rites) and the EP Apocalyptic Raids onstage after 37 years, starting in the summer of 2019. According to Tom and Mia, Triumph of Death is a Zurich, Switzerland-based open-ended project playing only select concerts and festivals, basically choosing the songs from the band’s small but rich catalog depending on how they felt at that moment, always open to change from time to time. When asked about how she felt playing those songs together with Tom and therefore continuing the legacy of one of the pioneers of Black Metal, she said it was a true honor for her as she’s been highly influenced by Hellhammer throughout her entire career, and you can see how happy Mia truly was by watching her interviews together with Tom in 2019 at some of the best metal festivals in the world such as Hellfest, Wacken Open Air and Brutal Assault, always talking about how it feels to play with Triumph of Death, the legacy of Hellhammer and why the name Hellhammer wasn’t used, as well as performing at the same time with Tom and Abbath. In addition, if you want to experience the music by Triumph of Death live, you can check some awesome live footage on YouTube such as the song Vision of Mortality at Kilkim Žaibu (the biggest ancient traditions and Extreme Metal festival in the Baltic States), Blood Insanity at Hellfest, Triumph of Death in Essen, Germany, or this full concert at Psycho Fest in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the United States.

Lastly, there’s one more metal project that’s worth mentioning, which is Swiss Goregrind/Death Metal band Embalming Theatre, where Mia didn’t play bass or keyboards, but instead she was the one responsible for crafting the intros and outros to pretty much all of their releases from 2000 until 2006, such as the intro, intermezzo and outro to the 2003 album Sweet Chainsaw Melodies, and the intro to the 2004 split Death Metal Karaoke/My Flesh Creeps at Insects. One curious thing is that if you go to the band’s official BandCamp page you’ll notice most of the albums there do not contain the intros and outros by Mia, and I have absolutely no idea why those pieces are missing. Anyway, Embalming Theatre are a very entertaining Goregrind act, with all of their albums being worth a shot with or without Mia’s insane collaboration.

Regarding her main influences and idols in music and in life in general, as mentioned a couple of times already she sees the iconic Tom G. Warrior as her master and mentor, even saying that “he is the one who unleashed the dormant beast inside me.” Without him, Mia said she would not have been able to effectively express her music and her creativity, complementing by saying her writing and composing process is very similar to his due to the huge influence his music has always had on her since her childhood, even before knowing him in person.  According to our badass bassist, there would be no Black Metal without Tom, with his classic bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost being obviously among her favorite metal acts of all time. Mia also mentioned in some of her interviews the huge influence she also had from Abbath himself, whose real name is Olve Eikemo, always acknowledging the humongous importance his former band Immortal has always had on the birth and evolution of our beloved Norwegian Black Metal. I guess even after being fired from Abbath’s solo band the way it happened, Mia still sees him as a legend and as a true inspiration, and I’m sure she’ll always keep those moments onstage with him among her best memories in her musical career. Furthermore, in regards to bass players, Mia always mentions the enigmatic and multi-talented Peter Steele (R.I.P.), the lead singer, bassist and composer for Gothic Metal band Type O Negative, as her personal bass hero, but she also said she has always been fascinated by the onstage charisma of Martin Eric Ain (R.I.P.), the former bassist for Extreme Metal titans Celtic Frost, proving Mia definitely knows how to choose her music idols.

Finally, as much as we all see Mia as the talented and indestructible Black Metal bass player that she is, needless to say she’s also a human being like the rest of us, having to handle her own issues and struggles just like any regular person. As you can see in this article by Blabbermouth from the end of February, Mia mentioned in a special and very personal Facebook post that the past few months have been the been the darkest and most painful period of her life, with all recent events leaving her physically and emotionally destroyed. “I tried to face hell trying not to crack, always holding hard in front of events which, daily, were destroying my soul and my emotions, unfortunately, also physically, by pushing up that strong Mia everyone knows,” she wrote, complementing that by saying that “these terrible experiences are always destructive, but they also left a positive note: the ability to see who stayed, who, day after day, try to be close to me, without judging me or making me feel wrong, without making me feel the weight of my reactions dictated by despair, but simply making me feel that even though Mia is going through a negative phase, something good in her is still there, holding my hands and telling me that it will pass, listening to my pain, drying my tears and looking for the best way not to make me collapse.These people are the people who love me, my family, the people to whom my gratitude and love will remain as long as I am alive, and to whom I will give all of myself, with my strength and, unfortunately, flaws.” Those were the honest and austere words by “the imperfect” Mia, who we all wish a quick and healthy recovery and, of course, who we wish to see on stage smashing our skulls with her thunderous bass as soon as possible.

May 6, 2020 UPDATE: As you can see HERE, the unrelenting Mia Wallace has just been announced as the new bass player for Brazilian all-female Thrash Metal band Nervosa! The band’s mastermind Prika Amaral couldn’t have made a better choice to take care of their bass duties! Congratulations, Mia!

Mia Wallace’s Official Facebook page
Mia Wallace’s Official Instagram
Mia Wallace’s Official Twitter

“As I have often been wont to do, I’ll quote Friedrich Nietzsche: ‘Without music, life would be a mistake.’ That has always been my modus vivendi.” – Mia Wallace

Movie Review – Lords Of Chaos (2018)

Witness the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners in the vision of award-winning director Jonas Åkerlund, despite the annoying fact the entire movie is spoken in English.

“A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the early 1990s results in a very violent outcome.”

That’s how the producers of the good movie Lords Of Chaos, which was screened at several film festivals in 2018 and released in theaters on February 8 and on demand on February 22 this year, are promoting their version of the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners, those being Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes (also known for his revolutionary one-man project Burzum), Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin and, above all, Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth, the founder of and central figure in the early Norwegian Black Metal scene, the co-founder of the Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem, and the founder and owner of the Extreme Metal record label Deathlike Silence Productions and record shop Helvete. All of them were members of one of the most infamous bands of all time, Mayhem, being part of a militant cult-like group known as the “Black Metal Inner Circle”.

If you’re a longtime fan of True Norwegian Black Metal, there’s nothing new to you in the movie that you don’t already know, but it’s still interesting to see how director Jonas Åkerlund, a Swedish director and drummer known for music videos like Madonna’s Ray of Light, Rammstein’s Pussy and The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up, and a member of Swedish Black Metal institution Bathory from 1983 to 1984, portrayed all the trademark chaos, rebelliousness and violence of the Norwegian scene in the 90’s. Featuring Rory Culkin (yes, he’s the younger brother of Macaulay Culkin) as Euronymous, who did a great job trying to humanize such distinct character of the Black Metal universe, Emory Cohen as the untamable Varg, Jack Kilmer as the disturbed Dead, Sky Ferreira as Euronymous’ girlfriend Ann-Marit, and Valter Skarsgård as Emperor’s drummer and convicted murderer Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun, as well as Anthony De La Torre as Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg and James Edwyn as Kjetil ‘Manheim’ (considered by many the true founders of Mayhem in 1984, when the band was still named Musta), Lords Of Chaos is far from being a masterpiece, but it’s still a very entertaining movie that provides (to a certain point, of course) a very good view of how Black Metal changed the lives of those reckless kids that had a fairly decent life in Norway.

Despite the real Varg being completely against Lords Of Chaos, even stating in a 2016 video that Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone all denied the movie rights to their music, the movie is indeed a compelling ride that transforms Mayhem’s iconic guitarist Euronymous into a normal person like any of us, focusing on his fears and personal strugles as a young guy living in Norway, having won the jury prize best film award at the Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival in 2018 and being nominated to several other awards worldwide. However, if there’s one thing that really bothered me throughout the entire movie was the fact that all actors in the film speak in English (and with their American accents) all the time, despite the movie being entirely shot is Oslo, the capital of the beautiful Norway. In my opinion, they could have selected a few good Norwegian actors and done the whole movie in Norwegian to give it a much more realistic vibe, as it was sometimes pretty inconsistent and cringeworthy (at least for me) watching people in Norway, with the TV, newspapers and everything else in Norwegian, speaking like if they were all born and raised in Los Angeles or New York. That small but important detail doesn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but whenever you watch it I’m sure you’ll also have that feel that you’re watching a “Black Metal edition” of Beverly Hills, 90210 being aired on a Tuesday at 3pm on a random public access TV channel. I understand the use of English was somewhat essential for reaching a broader audience and having better support to promote the movie, but I still think the Norwegian language would have made the entire movie a thousand times more entertaining.

Apart from that language issue, Lords Of Chaos is extremely well produced, presenting a fantastic photography, including some stunning scenes from Norway’s unique nature and landscapes and, of course, strong colors and imagery to represent the main characters’ depression, madness and fears, and the story flows smoothly with very few plot holes (and historical inaccuracies) until the end. Furthermore, it’s nice to see how human all those musicians were, despite the fact many of their fans like to idolize them (as we pretty much do with any member of our favorite bands no matter which type of music they play). For instance, in one of the first scenes of the movie, we can see Euronymous, Dead and the others partying outdoors like any regular teenager, listening to some ass-kicking, old school metal hymns, having a lot of beer and trying to impress the girls around them. No murder, no arson, nor anything like that, only kids enjoying life and trying to find their place in society. As simple as that, just like many, many Black Metal bands reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose who focus on their music rather than on violent or illegal activities.

In addition, although Jonas Åkerlund stated in a 2018 interview that he used little Black Metal in the movie in part because “it’s kind of painful to listen to black metal music if you’re not used to it or don’t love it,” there’s still a lot of good Black Metal and other types of extreme and not-so-extreme music played throughout the entire movie. While watching it, get ready to bang your head and raise your horns to classics such as Funeral Fog by Mayhem, Inri and Satanic Lust by Sarcofago, Fast as a Shark by Accept, Stand up and Shout by Dio, Born for Burning, Sacrifice and The Return of Darkness and Evil by Bathory, Outbreak of Evil by Sodom, Serpent Eye by Cathedral, and Exhume To Consume by Carcass, among several others. Not only that, there are obviously some very entertaining scenes where both Mayhem and Burzum are either rehearsing, recording in the studio or playing live, which by the way is one of my favorite musical moments of the movie, with Mayhem’s chaotic sound mixed with the bloody and demented performance by their frontman Dead being the undisputed depiction of True Norwegian Black Metal.

Anyway, the main topic presented during the whole movie is obviously the extremely delicate relationships between Euronymous and Dead during what can be considered the first phase of Mayhem (until the always perturbed Dead loses it and commits suicide by blowing his brains out with a shotgun, with Euronymous taking a picture of his deceased friend and turning it into the disturbing cover art of their 1995 bootleg live album Dawn of the Black Hearts), and especially between Euronymous and the one who would become his arch nemesis in the end, the beyond controversial Varg. I mean, Dead was absolutely nuts from the very beginning, and apparently he’s always been like that due to a very tough childhood where he was bullied and beaten all the time at school, and Euronymous was just a regular musician until turning into a Black Metal beast with excellent sales, marketing and promotion skills, but the transformation of Varg from a chubby guy who liked Scorpions into a total lunatc who would reach the point of burning churches in the name of Black Metal is simply fantastic. For instance, pay good attention to the whole scene where Varg invites the press to his “lair” and tells them his name is “Count Grishnackh”, among other ridiculous comments and statements he makes. That’s hilarious and could have easily been included in any American teen movie.

And Jonas Åkerlund keeps humanizing all characters the entire movie, showing how Euronymous got some money from his father to open Helvete and start his record label, how Varg got money from his mother to help record a Mayhem album (and kept asking Euronymous for that money to pay his mom back), and how Faust couldn’t stop watching horror movies, which was one of the reasons why he got so interested in killing someone, or as he said, in piercing a knife through someone’s body like in the movies. And unless you come from a different dimension and knows absolutely nothing about True Norwegian Black Metal, you’ll be relatively shocked with how things turn at the end of the movie when Varg, feeling betrayed by his former friend Euronymous, who according to Varg himself turned his back not only to him but to the “Black Metal Inner Circle” and to the entire scene to focus on his musical career and on his girlfriend, decides to put an end to their relationship for good (or I should say not good at all). Let’s say Euronymous was what Dani Filth, from Cradle Of Filth, and Nergal, from Behemoth, are nowadays, an excellent performer and musician with a normal life backstage, which somehow sparks a lot of rage from the ones who consider themselves “true Black Metal fans”, got it?

There are many interviews and videos online where Jonas Åkerlund, Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen discuss Lords Of Chaos, like this one with BUILD Series NYC, and you can also find more information about the movie directly from their Facebook page, Twitter and Intagram. However, I highly recommend you avoid all that before watching Lords Of Chaos (don’t even watch the trailer below), as a few of those interviews and videos might “ruin” some important parts of the movie for you. Put differently, turn off the lights and light up some candles, turn off your smart phone, put on your most diabolical metal shirt, grab a beer or some red wine, and dive deep into the beautiful but somber Norway together with Euronymous, Dead and Varg, and become a “lord of chaos” yourself. You’re going to love this movie or completely hate it, but at least give it a try and then see what you think about it.

Best moments of the movie: Every scene where Euronymous interacts with either Dead or Varg is excellent. Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen and Jack Kilmer do a pretty solid job playing those three iconic characters.

Worst moments of the movie: As aforementioned, the fact that all dialogues are spoken in English and not in Norwegian, despite the entire movie being set in the beautiful Norway and based on Norwegian characters.

Released in 2018 Gunpowder & Sky/Arrow Films

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund

Cast
Rory Culkin – Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth
Emory Cohen – Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes
Jack Kilmer – Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin
Sky Ferreira – Ann-Marit
Valter Skarsgård – Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun
Anthony De La Torre – Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg
Jonathan Barnwell – Jørn ‘Necrobutcher’ Stubberud
Full cast & crew

Metal Chick of the Month – Vanja Slajh

SONY DSC

I shall devour your flesh!

As we kicked off 2014 with a true badass bassist, and as the year was so awesome for The Headbanging Moose, let’s keep up with the “tradition” and start 2015 with another Heavy Metal babe that kicks some serious ass with her 4-string weapon. The chosen one this time is the enigmatic Swiss brunette Vanja Slajh (or also Vanja Šlajh), bassist for Zurich-based Gothic Doom Metal band Triptykon.

Although we can find pretty much any information about anything in the world on the Internet, it was a hard task collecting personal and professional details about Vanja’s life, showing how introverted she might be and how she has managed to remain as underground as possible even after joining Triptykon and gaining some considerable fame.

All that could be found on the Internet about the personal life of this stunning woman was the year she was born, which was 1984, and that she is from the beautiful country of Switzerland, but nothing else in regards to her favorite artists, bands, food, drinks, movies or hobbies. Not even her official Twitter account has any details about her life or projects, and basically all interviews related to Triptykon are done by the band’s founder Tom G. Warrior, who’s also the mastermind behind Swiss Extreme Metal bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. In case you love some mystery in a woman, you’ll probably fall in love for Vanja, as it seems her life is full of secrets that she’s not willing to share with almost anyone in this world. In an era where our lives are 100% exposed on all types of social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, Finding people who can have non-overexposed private lives is truly fantastic, and Vanja is one of those “heroes”.

So let’s talk about the known facts about her, all related to her career as a Heavy Metal bass player. Despite the fact that no one knows exactly when she started playing bass nor who her biggest influences in music were, before joining Triptykon she was part of a Swiss Black Metal project named Freitod, but the band has never really released anything. Besides, no one is really sure when she became the bassist for Freitod nor when she left the band (those Black Metal bands are way too obscure sometimes).

Finally, in 2008, Tom G. Warrior invited Vanja to be the bassist for Triptykon, and as he has mentioned several times during his interviews, she was the only person he had in mind for the 4-string position with the band. Some people say Vanja was the chosen one because after the two met when he was going to do some production for her previous band, Freitod, they suddenly became really good friends. I believe friendship among band members is valid, and of course essential for the survival of any band, but in my opinion her skills as a musician and her onstage performance were what actually influenced Tom in his decision.

So far she has recorded with the band the full-length album Eparistera Daimones, the EP Shatter, and more recently the amazing album Melana Chasmata. The lyrical themes changed slightly from what she used to play with Freitod, now more focused on feelings such as despair, pain and depression, as you can see in the lyrics for their single Breathing (“Every breath I take / Leaves me parched for air / Every hand I touch / Causes skin to tear / Every flame approached / Blinds my eyes / Every word I write / Leaves me drained”), taken from their most recent album.

However, it’s that dark, low and thunderous sound this gothic girl can extract from her instrument that really stands out when she’s playing, which can be easily noted in the aforementioned song Breathing, and in the songs Crucifixus and Shatter, from their Shatter EP, the later having one of the most powerful and bestial bass lines I’ve ever heard in my life. How can she play those notes? And before you ask, although she’s recorded some vocals for their latest album, it’s not her voice in Shatter, but of singer Simone Vollenweider.

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If you want to enjoy the thrilling live performance of this Goddess of Metal with Triptykon, I believe the best video available online is their masterful performance at Wacken Open Air in 2011. But in case you don’t have enough time or patience to watch the entire concert online, or if you’re a depressed person and don’t want to feel even more depressed with Triptykon’s dark music, you should at least check out one of the songs from that concert, their version for Celtic Frost’s classic and probably biggest masterpiece Procreation (Of The Wicked). To be honest, I have no idea how watching the stunning Vanja and her wicked bass kicking fuckin’ ass on stage can be depressing by any means, but that depends on each person’s perception of reality, right?

Besides Vanja’s unique technique as a bassist, one of the main reasons for this raven-haired woman being able to produce such low notes (as if her bass guitar was going to explode) is her excellent partnership with Ibanez guitars. I read somewhere that she uses the Ibanez Iceman Series Electric Basses (more specifically the Ibanez ICB300EX-BK Iceman Bass) because “she just fell in love with it”. What a lucky bass guitar!

One last detail about Triptykon’s awesome bassist is that she was featured in a special issue (#94) of Decibel Magazine in August 2012, called Women in Metal “Queens of Noise”, but unfortunately I couldn’t check what’s actually inside the magazine. Not sure if there was any kind of interview with her or just some pictures, which doesn’t bother me at all. As long as she keeps shaking the earth with her blustering bass, I’m pretty sure no one will care if she doesn’t give any interviews in her entire life. Well, at least not in English, because there’s one available in her mother tongue during Rock Hard Festival 2014, Swiss German, where I could at least enjoy her beauty, voice and smile as I don’t speak that language at all. If you speak Swiss German or regular German, enjoy it!

Vanja Slajh’s Official Twitter
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Album Review – Triptykon / Melana Chasmata (2014)

Gothic, Black and especially Doom Metal as grandiose as they can be.

Rating2

Triptykon-Melana-ChasmataOne of the most expected albums of 2014 from one of today’s darkest and heaviest bands has finally arrived: Melana Chasmata, or Μελανά Χασματα (in the Greek alphabet), which can be translated as “black, deep depressions”, from Swiss Gothic/Doom Metal band Triptykon, has everything it takes to be one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, and undoubtedly the best in terms of extreme music.

This Zurich-based Doom Metal “dream team” founded by Heavy Metal icon Tom G. Warrior (Hellhammer, Celtic Frost) is as cohesive and effective as possible, and of course, totally wicked. There isn’t a single song on this album that can be considered filler or commercial: quite the contrary, Triptykon offer us a masterpiece of darkness, with lots of melancholy, pain and hopelessness, perfect for people who hate all those disposable pop songs made for that annoying and fake sense of “collective joy”.

Tom & Co. open the album with a pure Black Metal track called Tree Of Suffocating Souls, with a fuckin’ heavy instrumental, especially bass and drums, which sound simply amazing together. Moreover, the lyrics are also very intelligent and controversial, making the whole song even better. And what can I say about the Gothic/Doom Metal work-of-art Boleskine House? Its low resonant bass and the female vocals give me the shivers, and make me want to literally feel this song at a Triptykon concert. It’s a flawless brilliant composition, the best song of the album, and the lyrics are those things we feel grateful for being able to enjoy (“Your eyes that once / Have gazed the waves / Have long been closed / Become enslaved / Within these walls”).

Altar Of Deceit continues with the greatness in Melana Chasmata with its dark intro, Tony Iommi-ish demonic riffs, desperate vocals, and a very nice solo at the end, while Breathing, another extremely dark track with a depressive and at the same time beautiful intro, suddenly accelerates to an awesome mix of Death and Black Metal and ends in a very good “old school Slayer” way. What else do we need in a song, right?

The following two tracks are the epitome of evil: Aurorae is a dreary song, tailored for people who enjoy “suffering” alone while savoring the most obscure tunes a band can produce, and its guitar solo gives it an extra touch of fineness; and Demon Pact sounds like if its riffs, vocals, drums, bass and everything else were actually recorded in hell. Based on the name of the song I wasn’t expecting anything less evil, making it one of my favorite tracks by far.

triptykonIn The Sleep Of Death, a very atmospheric and eerie low-paced song, has some more desperate vocals, followed by the longest track of the album, Black Snow, a lesson in Doom Metal with over 12 minutes of obscurity and awesomeness. Tom proves here he’s the beast incarnate, and it’s impossible not to scream together with him “Black snow! Black snow!”. And to close this stunning album in a majestic way, we have Waiting, with its delicate rhythm and mesmerizing female vocals. It’s a very gothic and beautiful song, and I’m sure lots of fans will consider it one of the highlights of the whole album.

The album art, once again created by Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger, who has already worked with music icons such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Carcass, Celtic Frost and Danzig, perfectly represents all the density in the music in Melana Chasmata. Besides that, one thing I need to say is that, although all musicians are amazing and Tom G. Warrior is a genius, the badass bass lines are my favorite part of all songs. Vanja Slajh is a Doom Metal Goddess, no doubt about that.

Tom always says that only Death is real. However, he forgot to say the same about his band Triptykon, and now about Melana Chasmata, an album we’re more than glad it’s a reality. Eparistera Daimones was already a great album, but this time Triptykon took Doom Metal to such a level of grandiosity it’s hard to find words to describe it. When music is able to reach our souls like what’s found in Melana Chasmata, we know there’s something special about it. And if Triptykon go to your town for a live performance, don’t miss it by any chance: it’s going to be a unique and thrilling experience that very few bands can provide you nowadays.

Best moments of the album: Boleskine House, Breathing, Aurorae, Demon Pact and Black Snow. As a matter of fact, I should say that the whole album is amazing.

Worst moments of the album: It’s difficult to find a weak song in Melana Chasmata, but if I really had to choose one I would say In The Sleep Of Death.

Released in 2014 Prowling Death Records/Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Tree Of Suffocating Souls 7:55
2. Boleskine House 7:12
3. Altar Of Deceit 7:32
4. Breathing 5:50
5. Aurorae 6:17
6. Demon Pact 6:07
7. In The Sleep Of Death 8:10
8. Black Snow 12:24
9. Waiting 5:55

Band members
Tom G. Warrior – guitar, vocals
V. Santura – guitar, vocals
Vanja Slajh – bass, vocals
Norman Lonhard – drums, percussion