Metal Chick of the Month – Cristina Scabbia

Follow me, follow me… As I trip the darkness…

If you write her name with an “h”, she will kick your ass mercilessly. That’s probably the most fun way to introduce you to our beyond special Metal Chick of the Month, the electrified Italian rocker Cristina Scabbia, one of the most influential and reputable women in the entire world of heavy music and the perfect choice for celebrating four metallic and totally awesome years of The Headbanging Moose webzine this October. Owner of a distinct and very potent voice, Cristina Scabbia, whose full name is Cristina Adriana Chiara Scabbia, was born on June 6, 1972 in the cosmopolitan city of Milan, a metropolis in Italy’s northern Lombardy region and a global capital of fashion and design. Best known as one of the two vocalists for Italian Alternative Rock/Metal band Lacuna Coil, Cristina is not only an accomplished singer and lyricist, but also a writer, a fashion model and, above all, a true headbanger who loves what she does and who has already devoted a good part of her life to Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Cristina was not even 20 years old when she began singing professionally as a touring musician for other bands and providing backing vocals, in 1991. Later that year, she met vocalist Andrea Ferro and bass player Marco Coti Zelati, who would be the future founding members of Lacuna Coil, in Milan’s Midnight Club, and there’s no way of talking about Cristina without talking about her unique connection with Lacuna Coil. Actually, when the band started it was called Sleep of Right, having recorded a song called Bleeding Souls for the Noise of Bolgia compilation in 1995. The band soon changed its name to Ethereal, playing an interesting mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with Cristina being initially employed only as a session singer, being asked to record backup vocals for the choruses of their demo tape, but the band members liked the way the male and female vocals sounded together and they asked her to be a permanent member then. After several lineup changes and after releasing a two-track demo in 1996, Ethereal were signed by Century Media Records at the end of 1997 and had to change their name to Lacuna Coil (which means “empty spiral”), as Ethereal was already taken by a band from Greece.

After the name change in 1997, Lacuna Coil became a reference in Alternative Rock and Metal worldwide, having already released eight studio albums, those being In a Reverie (1999), Unleashed Memories (2001), Comalies (2002), Karmacode (2006), Shallow Life (2009), Dark Adrenaline (2012), Broken Crown Halo (2014), and more recently Delirium (2016), as well as the EP’s Lacuna Coil (1998), Halflife (2000), Shallow Live: Acoustic at Criminal Records (2010) and The House of Shame / Delirium (2016). In addition to that, the band also released a DVD in 2008, titled Visual Karma (Body, Mind and Soul). Each album by Lacuna Coil is very unique, presenting a different sonority from the others, with the band always adding new elements to their music and experimenting with new sounds. If you want to have a journey through the various phases of the band, paying a detailed attention to the evolution of Cristina (whose highest note ever hit is claimed to be an A7) as a singer and a performer, you should definitely check their songs Falling Again (from In a Reverie), Senzafine (from Unleashed Memories), Swamped (from Comalies), Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence (from Karmacode), I Like It (from Shallow Life), Trip to Darkness (from Dark Adrenaline), Nothing Stands in Our Way (from Broken Crown Halo), and Blood, Tears, Dust (from Delirium). As a matter of fact, there are so many official videos as well as bootlegs online with Cristina and Lacuna Coil you can literally spend hours or even days just watching everything nonstop.

Apart from her solid career with Lacuna Coil, Cristina can be seen in several distinct projects from the most diverse bands and genres, and in all of them she adds her personal touch of rebelliousness, passion and electricity. First let’s talk about her participation in metal-related bands and projects, and then let’s show what she can do when she’s not in her metallic mode. In 2007, Cristina lent her voice to the song S.O.S. (Anything but Love), from the album Worlds Collide by Finnish Symphonic Heavy Metal band Apocalyptica, and the result was so interesting she ended up playing several live concerts with them in the coming years. And it seems the year of 2007 was very fruitful for her career outside Lacuna Coil, as she also recorded what’s probably her biggest non-Lacuna Coil hit, the revamped version of the all-time classic power ballad “A Tout le Monde”, this time named A Tout le Monde (Set Me Free), by American Speed Metal titans Megadeth, featured on their excellent album United Abominations. Needless to say, every time Megadeth and Cristina were in the same city or festival, they ended up playing that amazing song together for the delight of the fans at the venue, as I was able to enjoy during the 2012 version of Gigantour with Megadeth, Motörhead, Volbeat, and Lacuna Coil here in Canada.

You can also find Cristina in unique metal projects such as the character “The Mother” on the 2013 album The Theory of Everything, by Dutch Progressive Metal/Rock band Ayreon, and as a guest vocalist on the song Scars, by Thrash/Groove Metal project Metal Allegiance, from their 2015 self-titled album. In addition, Cristina is also one of the musicians interviewed on the 2007 documentary Over the Madness, a DVD that follows the career of British Doom/Death Metal icons Paradise Lost, including interviews from present and past band members, plus a host of others such as the aforementioned Cristina, Martin E. Ain, Aaron Stainthorpe and Alex Skolnick, presenting the band’s history from its formation up to 2006, in chronological order.

In regards to her contributions to non-metal acts, you can enjoy the charming and powerful vocals by Cristina on different songs such as Beautiful Lie, as a duet with Italian singer Emiliano Audisio (Line 77) to be part of the soundtrack for the 2013 Italian film Passione Sinistra; Nell’acqua, with Rezophonic; an alternate version of Watch Over You, with Alter Bridge; Basta!, with L’Aura and Rezophonic; Can You Hear Me?, also with Rezophonic; and I’m That, with Franco Battiato. By the way, when Cristina sang with L’Aura it was in 2008 at Festival di Sanremo, one of the most important pop festivals in Italy (if not the most important one). And you can also find some nice videos online of Cristina singing together with a Queen tribute band called Queenmania, such as in the all-time classics Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure. And in addition to all that, she also used to write an advice column in the popular rock magazine Revolver, alongside the iconic American drummer Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Hellyeah).

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If you follow The Headbanging Moose you might have seen Cristina’s name as an inspiration for several of our previous metal chicks, just showing how important she is to the expansion of the presence of women in heavy music, but of course as any normal person she also has her idols and favorite bands in music. Among her main influences and names who contributed to her becoming a singer and pursuing a career in Heavy Metal, Cristina mentioned legendary bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Motörhead, as well as darker bands like Paradise Lost and Type O Negative. By the way, some of her favorite songs, those that really make a good amount of adrenaline rush through her body, are Motörhead’s Ace of Spades and Type O Negative’s My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend, which despite being very distinct songs I have to agree that they surely put a smile on the face of anyone who enjoys some good old rock and metal. Of course Cristina as any other talented and professional artist listens to a lot of non-metal music, in special music from her homeland Italy, which in the end helps her diversify her vocals from song to song, explore new horizons and remain vibrant and relevant to the world of heavy music.

Slightly changing the focus to her personal life, many of you might think it’s a dream to date a woman like her, but as in any relationship there are always some hurdles and barriers to be overcome in order to keep the passion and love going on. Cristina has been in a relationship with Slipknot and ex-Stone Sour guitarist Jim Root for over 10 years already, but keeping that relationship fresh is not an easy task due to distance between them as they’re both very busy musicians who are always on tour (not to mention the fact that Root lives in Florida while Cristina resides in Italy). “Well, my lifestyle is challenging already,” Cristina explained. “Because I travel a lot and I work very hard. So you have to learn to live your life in a different way, but in a way that works for you. So for me to even think about a normal relationship would be something weird.” Before dating Root, she was in a relationship with Lacuna Coil’s own bassist Marco, and when they broke up let’s say it wasn’t easy for them to keep working together as a band, but fortunately as decent adults they overcame that “issue” and now they’re very good friends, loving each other in a different level.

Another interesting topic discussed by Cristina in one of her interviews was related to the recent deaths of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, where she expressed her opinion about mental illnesses, from depression to dementia to other types of mental conditions, saying we should never judge the others’ decisions as there’s so much to understand about the whole situation before reaching any conclusion. That was also explored on Lacuna Coil’s latest album Delirium. “When we did Delirium, it was really important for us to treat it in the most respectful and delicate way possible,” said Cristina. “Because you can try to send a positive message and to try to tell people, ‘Oh, you should be positive all the time, you should be happy, you should overcome depression,’ and everything, but it’s not as easy as you speak. It’s way deeper than that and more complicated than this.”

As any good Italian woman, in special if that woman is born in the city of Milan, Cristina loves stylish clothes, trying on new make-up, taking care of her dark hair and everything else that’s a synonym to fashion. For instance, she considers her beauty and make-up signature the one she herself calls a “raccoon look”, or as described by Cristina, “a heavy sort of smokey eyes style with carbon black eyeshadow surrounding both whole eyes and heavily in the lower part of the eye as well.” She also mentioned that, because she likes to combine styles and to work with contrasts, she likes to observe everything around her and go to runway shows in Milan, listing as some of her style icons the always trendy Madonna and the very elegant and dark British and Irish designer Daphne Guinness. Furthermore, she said her make-up and outfit behavior is in constant change due to new products, styles and techniques that are always appearing in the market, stating that while thinking about a new look for her concerts she always takes into account several important factors such as if the clothes are easy to carry around, if they’re washable, and if they allow her to move a lot onstage. Also in the fashion world, American photographer Jeremy Saffer (an old-time friend of Cristina) invited her to be her calendar girl for the Halloween 2015 Special Edition of XPRESSIONS magazine, with the final result being beyond stunning, of course, being sold out in a really short time.

Regarding her preparation for getting onstage and spending a long time on the road during Lacuna Coil’s extremely busy agenda worldwide, Cristina said she doesn’t exercise a lot, saying she’s some sort of “lazy bum”, and that concentration is the most important part of the process for her together with some warming up exercises to keep her voice in good shape. She said travelling all the time and managing everything is definitely not for everyone, but it can be very rewarding if you love what you do. One funny thing connected to that hectic lifestyle is that Cristina collects all her flight boarding cards, saying that one day it will be nice to see and to show others how much she’s traveled in her life. And, in terms of the apps she uses regularly, apart from Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Twitter, she’s also been using an app named Master Tour, which she considers very helpful for whoever does her type of job, keeping you updated on tours and schedules like a tour book in your smartphone. Hence, if you’re a touring musician, why not trying the same app as the successful Cristina Scabbia, right?

Lastly, when asked if she considers herself a role model for young girls, she said she doesn’t see herself as one but that all the love she gets from fans when she’s on the road makes her sometimes believe she might be indeed an inspiration for all of them. She always tells them that they have to believe in themselves because, no matter what, it is impossible to make everyone happy, so the key is to make ourselves happy and conscious of our own unique potential, with her motto in life being “live in the present and make it beautiful. I never think too much about the past or the future. The past is… gone and we will never be able to plan the future the perfect way.’’ What do you think about Cristina and her way of life? Do you agree with what she does and thinks in music and life in general? Well, there are tons of interesting interviews and videos of Cristina online to help you know more about her, such as this one from Loudwire called Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?, where she even tells if her highest note being an A7 is true or not. It seems that the world of heavy music and also the whole cyberworld can never get enough of the one and only Italian stunner Cristina Scabbia (without an “h”, per favore).

Cristina Scabbia’s Official Facebook page
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Twitter
Cristina Scabbia’s Official Instagram
Lacuna Coil’s Official Facebook page
Lacuna Coil’s Official YouTube channel
Lacuna Coil’s Official Instagram

“You have to sing with your heart, you have to sing with passion, you have to be sincere in what you’re singing, and you have to be totally convinced of what you’re doing. Most of all, you have to realize that this is a hard job that not everyone can take, so don’t look at the shiny part only, because there is a lot of work involved and a lot of sacrifice, so be ready for that as well..” – Cristina Scabbia

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Album Review – Slipknot / .5 The Gray Chapter (2014)

One of the most controversial heavy bands of all time strikes again with a very solid and aggressive tribute to their deceased bassist.

Rating4

Slipknot-5-Album-CoverWhen American Alternative Metal band Slipknot helped put the city of Des Moines, Iowa, United States on the map in the end of the 90’s with their never-before-seen ruthless music, few people believed they would last longer than a couple of years due to several reasons, one of them being their too unorthodox approach, or in other words, they did not play “traditional” heavy music. Well, guess what? Even after all these years and all their countless internal issues, especially the painful death of bassist Paul Gray (R.I.P.) in 2010 and the departure of drummer Joey Jordison in the end of 2013, they’re still alive and more than capable of delivering some good heavy music, like what’s found in their brand new album .5: The Gray Chapter.

Although .5: The Gray Chapter, which by the way is the fifth studio album in the band’s career, the first in six long years and the first to not feature the two aforementioned members, is not as good as most of their previous releases, it’s still a very enjoyable and violent album that surpasses 75 minutes of music, with all those “special effects” only Slipknot can offer us. It sounds like a modern mix of the excellent Iowa and Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses), with all lyrics being even more wicked and controversial than before.

And there’s no better way to start a Slipknot album than with one of their trademarks, a dark and creepy intro this time named XIX, with beautiful words such as “This song is not for the living / This song is for the dead” setting up the tone for the ferocious Sarcastrophe, a song that begins as melancholic as the intro before turning into a mix of all Slipknot phases, sounding a lot like “Gematria (The Killing Name)”, especially the vocal lines and riffs (albeit a lot less complex), followed by the Thrash Metal riffs in AOV, which also follows the same musical pattern as in All Hope Is Gone.

I have no idea who the new/session drummer is, but he does a pretty decent job in songs like The Devil in I, where he provides the whole song an extra dose of violence even during its lighter parts, saving it from becoming too soft or too bland. The following track will generate lots of positive and negative reactions from the listeners: Killpop is one of those cases where Slipknot proves once again they know how to craft some cool semi-ballads, this time 100% focused on the vocal lines (both clean and harsh) by Corey Taylor, but many people will end up complaining it sounds too commercial. If you love it, simply enjoy this nice song, otherwise skip to Skeptic, a very old school Slipknot song, and everything you truly love in this band will be there for you, including riffs, drums and vocals, sounding a lot like their material from Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). Besides, it seems to be one more explicit tribute to Paul Gray based on its sorrowful lyrics (“The world will never see another crazy motherfucker like you / The world will never know another man as amazing as you”).

SlipknotLech is one of those Slipknot songs you wait for during their performances to start jumping up and down like crazy when Corey gives the signal, with drums, percussion and guitar lines boosting its energy level, while Goodbye is just filler: I don’t know what they wanted to accomplish with this song, but it didn’t work at all, making it totally disposable. Then we have Nomadic, a good song with interesting breaks and chorus, nothing special but its Iowa-ish vibe keeps it far away from being boring, and The One That Kills the Least, which reminds me of some Stone Sour songs.

After all those highs and lows, it is the last part of the album what all diehard fans of Slipknot were truly waiting for, and it all begins with Custer, that type of sonic madness Slipknot feel really comfortable in playing. It’s a fuckin’ sick “party” full of weird electronic music effects, with a chorus that will drive fans crazy during their live performances (“Cut – Cut – Cut me up and Fuck – Fuck – Fuck me up / CUT – CUT – CUT ME UP AND FUCK – FUCK – FUCK ME UP!”). It’s the best song of the album, and it will sound absolutely amazing live, no doubt about that. The sinister intro Be Prepared for Hell works as an excellent warm-up for the “hell” that comes next, the disturbing The Negative One: it has that raw instrumental and direct sounding like their old classics, with highlights to the great job done by Sid Wilson and Craig “133” Jones in adding a lot of bizarreness to the song. Do I need to mention it’s another perfect option for some insane circle pits? The regular version of the album ends in a pretty weird way with If Rain Is What You Want, a song that’s a lot less metal and more alternative than any other track in .5 The Gray Chapter. And if you purchase the special edition of it you’ll also get two bonus songs that are relatively boring compared to the official album tracks: Override is just an average song, and The Burden focus too heavily on the atmosphere and forgets about the music itself.

You can take a listen to some or all of the tracks in .5 The Gray Chapter on Slipknot’s official YouTube channel, and also see them kicking ass live during their Knotfest dates. Love them or hate them, no matter how controversial they are, we all have to admit their music is unique and each member of the band deserves our recognition for being able to create such a solid, aggressive and entertaining album/tribute even after all the hell they have been through in recent years.

Best moments of the album: Skeptic, Custer and The Negative One.

Worst moments of the album: The Devil in I and Goodbye.

Released in 2014 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. XIX 3:10
2. Sarcastrophe 5:06
3. AOV 5:32
4. The Devil in I 5:42
5. Killpop 3:45
6. Skeptic 4:46
7. Lech 4:50
8. Goodbye 4:35
9. Nomadic 4:18
10. The One That Kills the Least 4:11
11. Custer 4:14
12. Be Prepared for Hell 1:57
13. The Negative One 5:25
14. If Rain Is What You Want 6:20

Special Edition bonus tracks
15. Override 5:37
16. The Burden 5:23

Band members*
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables
(#3) Chris Fehn – percussion, backing vocals
(#4) Jim Root – guitars, bass
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – sampling, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – guitars, bass
(#8) Corey Taylor – vocals

Additional musicians
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Donnie Steele – bass

*A new drummer is currently in the band but has not yet been named by the band, rumors circulate about his identity but so far no official statement has been made as to who it is.