Metal Chick of the Month – Kayla Dixon

Death falls so heavy on my soul… Death falls so heavy, makes me moan…

Things are about to get doomed, heavy and extremely sexy here at The Headbanging Moose with our metal chick of the month of May. Trained in classical, jazz and musical theatre vocals, as well as acting and dance, the talented and stunning Kayla Dixon, frontwoman for Doom Metal institution Witch Mountain and for Alternative Metal outfit Dress the Dead, is among us to prove once again that black girls do have a place in the world of heavy music, and she has been doing that in great fashion with her beyond powerful vocals since joining Witch Mountain in 2015. Hence, after listening to Kayla singing for the very first time you’ll get absolutely addicted to her voice and performance, no doubt about that, therefore going after everything she has already recorded in her career, it doesn’t matter if it’s metal or not.

Born on March 20, 1995 in Glendale, California and raised between Lancaster, Pennsylvania, California, and Maryland (as you can see, she moved a lot when she was a kid), Kayla has been singing since the age of five, joining a Jazz band at the age of 13, when she began to hone her vocal skills and discovered her passion for performing. Having studied ballet, modern and contemporary techniques at the American Dance Institute, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Maryland Youth Ballet, among others, not to mention she’s a trained actor of Stanislavski and Meisner techniques (which contributed to her deep understanding of the importance of storytelling on stage), Kayla has already participated in several projects in her career, such as productions at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., the Levine Music, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts, also making an appearance in in the Sundance award winning movie I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore, on Netflix, as well as in the TV series Portlandia, Grimm and Outlaw. In addition, she said in one of her interviews she doesn’t sit at a keyboard or think about intervals or scales, unless she’s writing harmonies. She usually writes the melody first, thinking about “what words match this melody and how can I put this melody into words?”

Kayla got her first contact with heavy music during her teens due to her sisters, who used to listen to bands like Marilyn Manson, Tool and Nine Inch Nails, and she fell in love for that type of music. After straying away from that for a while, she said it was when she was in the ninth grade that she rediscovered all those bands, later turning her attention to other heavier and more complex bands such as Meshuggah. She mentioned in one of her interviews that it was the intensity of metal music that really caught her attention at first, as she feels she can express all her emotions and feelings through metal. In addition, she also said that the energy coming from the audience while you’re on stage is also what makes heavy music so special for her.

Regarding her career with both Witch Mountain and Dress the Dead, everything started back in 2015 when Kayla, who had recently discovered the music by Witch Mountain, saw on their Facebook page they were auditioning for a new vocalist after the departure in 2014 of the amazing Uta Plotkin, prior to the release of the album Mobile of Angels. She then decided to take a shot at that by submitting a video audition, admitting she was a little nervous as she loved Uta’s lyrics and the vocal melodies, but fortunately for all of us fans of rock and metal Kayla became the band’s new frontwoman (and let’s not forget she was only 19 years old at the time). Four years later, this excellent Portland, Oregon-based band formed back in 1997 released their first full-length album with Kayla on vocals, self-titled Witch Mountain (which by the way she was responsible for all lyrics), not to mention their 2016 single Burn You Down, impressing not only the band’s diehard fans with her potent voice and her ability to easily switch between clean and harsh vocals,  but also her own band members. “When she laid down a scratch track in the studio and was going back and forth between the cleans and the dirties, our producer Billy and us were just sitting there laughing with joy,” recalls guitarist Rob Wrong. “For her that was just a scratch track, and we’re just like ‘most people in the world can’t do this.’ For Dixon, the possibility to cross styles and alternate between clean and screaming vocals is ‘a breath of fresh air.’”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then in 2018, one year after parting ways with former The Haunted vocalist Peter Dolving, Dress the Dead announced a new lineup with our goddess Kayla on vocals in an unexpected move by many. “A mutual friend reached out to me about Dress the Dead.  One of my first thoughts was, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready or even at an appropriate talent level to be replacing someone like Peter Dolving for these guys.’  I’d battled with the idea in my head for several months before finally reaching out.  I had listened to and loved 1969, but what really hit me hard was when I heard the other songs that are still unreleased that they sent me.  I had no idea how musically diverse this band would turn out to be,” said Kayla about joining her second major band, but as what happened with Witch Mountain her vocals matched Dress the Dead’s music flawlessly, as you can enjoy in the excellent songs 1969, There Goes The Sun and Promises & Kisses. In addition to that, just to give you an idea of how healthy her relationship with her new bandmates is, take a look at this fun YouTube video titled “Dress The Dead – Crappy Comments”, where Kayla and the rest of the band read and discuss about the most ridiculous comments they received from fans via social media.

Our hardcore vegan (yes, she’s a vegan) had also been involved with several other bands and projects before joining Witch Mountain and Dress the Dead, each one offering Kayla a chance to showcase all her highly developed vocal skills. For instance, she was (apparently) the vocalist for a Cleveland, Ohio-based Groove/Death Metal band named Demons Within during an unknown period of time, and the lead singer for Sacramento, California-based Power Metal act Helion Prime from 2016 until 2017, with whom she recorded the sensational single Remnants of Stars, in 2017. Apart from that, she also started lending her unique voice now in 2019 to a British/Romanian Atmospheric Doom/Death Metal band named Clouds during some of their live performances, and she also appeared as a guest vocalist in the song Buried In Sand, from Clouds’ 2018 release Dor – Bonus Album;  in the electrifying title-track Terminal, from the 2017 album Terminal, by British Melodic Progressive Metal band Divinity Compromised; and more recently in Living Light, from the 2019 album Divided by Darkness, by Phoenix, Arizona-based Doom Metal act Spirit Adrift, to be released later this month.

Touring is always one of the most difficult and demanding tasks in the life of a musician, and as a talented vocalist that Kayla is she obviously warms up her voice (and mind) properly before going on stage, sometimes meditating for a few minutes to reach her desired state of mind prior to performing. As a matter of fact, Kayla mentioned that meditation was one of the main activities she discovered through the years to fight her childhood traumas, to work on her spirituality and to remain strong when facing any type of adversity. She also said that, to keep her body and mind healthy while touring with Witch Mountain, who by the way have a very aggressive touring agenda, she tries to eat well and work out whenever she can, avoiding things like partying and drinking. Even with all those precautions to stay in shape, Kayla said that due to her incendiary performances each show ends up being fairly exhausting for her but energizing at the same time, saying it’s another form of “meditation” for her. “Music is a way for me to express that negativity and get it out. There’s also a positivity about it. So, it’s very energizing. Music is what makes me happy and I believe it is my life’s purpose,” commented Kayla, and if you take into account the fact that when she’s not on tour she can be giving vocal lessons or acting (albeit she hasn’t being doing a lot of that lately due to her busy schedule), it’s the utmost proof she was born to be an artist.

As curious as this might sound, Kayla always mentions in her interviews that she considers herself an introvert, although she’s not actually afraid of talking to people. Despite having introverted tendencies, she confronts that inner fear by working really hard on it, saying that fear doesn’t have to be who she really is or her story. And even more curious than that, she mentioned that one thing she loves doing for relaxation and fun is watching horror movies, with her favorite one being the 1982 cult movie Poltergeist and also mentioning Suspiria as another movie she enjoyed a lot (I just don’t know if she’s talking about the 1977 original one or the 2018 version). She said Poltergeist really freaked her out, that it was extremely scary in her opinion, so how can this be a relaxing activity, right? Anyway, still talking about ghosts and paranormal activities, she said she had a few paranormal experiences in her life, as her mother was really into that kind of thing and would tell her about ghosts she saw. She mentioned that when she was seven years old she was sitting in the living room around Christmas time watching the classic TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and when she went to her room there was this white figure of an old man standing. In addition, her dad, who’s by the way a pastor, also claims he’s seen a ghost in his church, which used to be an old-fashioned one-room school house back in the 1900’s, describing the appearance of the ghost in great detail. If ghosts truly exist or not, no one knows for sure, but if Kayla channels those encounters and experiences into her music, and we all know the unknown has always been a magnificent inspiration for all genres and subgenres of heavy music, we can rest assured she’ll keep providing us first-class rock and metal for decades to come.

Kayla Dixon’s Official Facebook page
Kayla Dixon’s Official Instagram
Kayla Dixon’s Official Twitter
Kayla Dixon’s Official YouTube channel
Witch Mountain’s Official Facebook page
Witch Mountain’s Official Instagram
Witch Mountain’s Official Twitter
Witch Mountain’s Official BandCamp page
Dress the Dead’s Official Facebook page
Dress the Dead’s Official Instagram

“When I get on stage, I lose control and there’s not much I can do about that.” – Kayla Dixon

Advertisements

Album Review – Halestorm / ReAniMate 2.0: The CoVeRs eP (2013)

Why instead of launching two EPs with cover songs in less than two years didn’t they launch only one full album?

Rating6

ReAniMate 2.0I’m not a fan of Halestorm nor will ever buy any of their albums, but when I saw they launched another covers EP which included one of my favorite Priest tracks of all time, Dissident Aggressor, I decided to give them a try. In 2011 they launched ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP with cover versions for Slave To The Grind (Skid Row) and Out Ta Get Me (Guns N’ Roses), among others, and now they come up with another covers EP. This either means that they simply love playing songs from their biggest influences, or that they don’t trust their own music that much, because I can’t understand why they had to launch two covers EPs instead of only one full album, such as the magnificent Undisputed Attitude recorded by Slayer back in 1996.

Dissident Aggressor opens the EP and it’s undoubtedly the best track of all, although I prefer a million times the version from Slayer and a billion times the original song from Judas Priest. Anyway, there’s nothing special in this version, it’s just a well-played cover song. Then comes Get Lucky from Daft Punk, and here we have one of those cases where the cover version is superior to the original, such as DevilDriver’s version of Sail (Awolnation), mainly because the original song is not really heavy, but again nothing special. In Shoot to Thrill (AC/DC), they turned an all-time classic into a regular song, despite all the effort from Lzzy to sing as “Hard N’ Heavy” as possible. Hell is for Children from Pat Benatar and Gold Dust Woman from Fleetwood Mac are so close to the original ones that, in my opinion, do not add any true value to the EP. Finally, their version for Marilyn Manson’s 1996 is not as good as the original one, and it even lacks the energy Manson had when he recorded it.

HALESTORMThe album art is too generic, especially if compared to the first covers EP. And regarding the musicians, although they are all pretty good I guess no one cares too much about any of them except for the beautiful and competent lead singer Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale: she’s the only reason why Halestorm became so famous in the world of music, and the only thing that can keep the band alive in the following years. Nevertheless, her voice might be powerful but it’s certainly not unique; if you listen to Mia Coldheart, from the Swedish band Crucified Barbara, you’ll understand why I’m saying this. By the way, Crucified Barbara is not as famous as Halestorm only because (GUESS WHAT?) they’re not from North America.

In summary, it’s an interesting EP with some good covers from a band that is currently under the spotlights, but that’s it. And if they launch another ReAniMate covers EP in 2014, well, then they’ll take the 1st place of “best professional band in the world that only plays cover songs” from Finland’s Children of Bodom.

Best moments of the album: Dissident Aggressor and Shoot To Thrill.

Worst moments of the album: As I previously mentioned, the fact that it is their second covers EP turns it into some kind of “rip-off”.

Released in 2013 Atlantic Records

Track listing
1. Dissident Aggressor (Judas Priest cover) 3:12
2. Get Lucky (Daft Punk cover) 3:08
3. Shoot to Thrill (AC/DC cover) 5:07
4. Hell is for Children (Pat Benatar cover) 4:46
5. Gold Dust Woman (Fleetwood Mac cover) 4:10
6. 1996 (Marilyn Manson cover) 4:22

Band members
Lzzy Hale – lead vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, keyboard
Arejay Hale – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Joe Hottinger – lead guitar, backing vocals
Josh Smith – bass guitar, backing vocals

The Walking Dead Review – Episode 403: Isolation

Tyreese goes crazy and Carol finally does “something”. Oh, and there were over 7,500 walkers!

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

If you haven’t seen Isolation yet, I suggest you scroll down to the end of this post first and watch the entire episode before reading the rest of the text.

twd_s04e03_01Although Isolation might not have had as much action as the two previous episodes, there was a lot of improvement in terms of the storyline for some characters, especially for Tyreese and Carol. And that mega-herd of walkers was amazing! I’m hoping it will head to the prison before everybody leaves, and then we’ll see if those fences will be able to hold over 7,500 zombies eager for some human flesh! While that doesn’t happen (if that happens), let’s discuss about each relevant item of this episode and what to expect for the next one.

First of all, I’m happy to see that Tyreese is finally becoming more important for the whole story. In my opinion, he was a bit lost in the low-card before the end of the Infected episode, but now with the death of his beloved Karen and the likely death of his sister Sasha he’s moved to the mid-card and will probably play a crucial role in the next few episodes, just like everyone else in the show that either takes an unexpected decision or simply goes crazy (or both, which is his case). He’s at least more violent now: he punched Rick in the face, threatened Daryl, and killed dozens of zombies with just a small hammer (being crowned as the “zombie killer of the week”), things that no one was expecting from an easy-going guy like him before.

Then we have Hershel, the most clearheaded character of all, trying to help as many people as possible putting himself into a lot of danger by getting exposed to the deadly virus. I bet everyone got worried about Glenn being one of the infected, but the way Beth and Maggie reacted to Hershel’s decision made me think that we won’t probably see our wise elderly friend for too long. Hershel gave us a lot of “clues” about his ending, with those speeches about making choices and risking your life for this or that reason. Let’s just hope he’s “wrong” about it and we can see him until the end of this season, because when he’s gone it will be a huge mess for the rest of the group.

Carl not killing two zombies and Rick’s gratuitous violence were also great improvements to their characters, but the most shocking development last night was with no doubt what happened to Carol. I’m sure no one saw that coming! Everybody was thinking about Dr. S or that other black dude being responsible for killing and setting fire to those two bodies, but Carol? What happened to her? The Walking Dead’s “Jamie Lee Curtis” suddenly revealed herself as a cold-hearted person, or at least she has become that within the past few episodes. I honestly don’t know what Rick will do about Carol’s actions or what will happen to her, but at least we can celebrate she has finally done “something relevant” to the show after so many episodes being almost useless.

twd_s04e03_02And last but not least, there was that amazing mega-herd of zombies blocking the super-team’s way to the hospital! The sequence of the car accelerating over the heads of some walkers and the following fighting scenes were pretty cool, and as I said it was awesome to see a fierce zombie-killer Tyreese in action. However, did you notice why over 7,500 walkers and a lot of killing were added to that scene all of a sudden? Think about it: Daryl, Tyreese, Michonne and the other black dude were all paying attention to that weird radio transmission about a “sanctuary” a few seconds before the action started, but nobody could actually reason anymore about it when the massive herd of zombies appeared. Will they remember to tell about it to Rick when they get back to the prison? What the hell was that? Is it going to be their true salvation, or maybe it’s just part of a gruesome ambush being prepared by the Governor?

Oh, I almost forgot about a VERY important part of the whole thing: right after last night’s episode, there was the nice show Talking Dead, but unfortunately this time with Marilyn Manson as one of the guests. It was a torture for anyone with at least two neurons working listening to what that stupid motherfucker was mumbling all the time. That freak is an annoying joke! The person responsible for inviting him to the show should be fired! I’d rather be eaten by a zombie than watching one more minute of Marilyn Manson talking again, and thumbs up to the host Chris Hardwick for being able to handle that fuckin’ idiot so well in the end.

Isolation (FULL EPISODE)