Metal Chick of the Month – Sasha Zagorc

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Heavy metal lives in me!

If one day you have the pleasure of visiting the stunning country of Slovenia (in case you haven’t done so already), you’ll be able to admire several distinguished attractions such as the unique Postojna Cave, the awe-inspiring Lake Bled and the Bled Castle, the Škocjan Caves and, in case you have just one single day in the capital Ljubljana, you can have a relaxing walk through the city’s charming streets and savor the exquisite tastes offered by all of its fancy restaurants. Hence, as a tribute to this wonderful country, to its culture and its people, there’s nothing better than kicking off another year at The Headbanging Moose than with the gorgeous and “louder than hell” Slovenian bassist Sasha Zagorc (or Saša Zagorc in proper Slovene), the songwriter, manager and leader of Slovenia’s own all-female Heavy Metal band Hellcats.

Born on July 22, 1986 in the city of Ljubljana, Sasha started playing classical guitar at a very early age in music school together with her sister Sonja Zagorc, the drummer for Hellcats, who at that time was studying flute. When they finished music school, Sasha switched from classical guitar to bass guitar (also playing in a few local bands) and her sister from flute to drums (quite a change in terms of noise and impact), and then they decided to form their own all-female band. Well, I guess you know what happened next, and that’s where our tribute to this blonde bombshell will be focused on through the next few lines. Are you ready to rumble to the sound of the Heavy Metal by our headbanging diva Sasha and her kick-ass bandmates?

Apart from Sasha on bass guitar and backing vocals, and her sister Sonja on drums, the first all-female metal band from Slovenia is also formed by Katja Mavec on guitars and Dasha Makuc on vocals. The name of the band, which combines femininity with a strong Heavy Metal attitude, was suggested by a friend of Sasha who’s also a musician and an airplane aficionado. He named the band after the Grumman F6F Hellcat, a carrier-based fighter aircraft. Formed in their hometown Ljubljana in 2003, it wasn’t easy for the Hellcats to find many female musicians due to the small size of the Slovenian music scene, a country of only 2 million habitants. However, due to Slovenia’s high level of development, even metal music (a genre usually relegated to the underground as opposed to pop and folk music) has its space in the country’s rich culture, with MetalDays (formerly known as Metalcamp), a huge festival held annually in the city of Tolmin, being the driving force of Heavy Metal in Slovenian soil.

Despite being on the road for over 10 years, Sasha and the Hellcats have only recorded two albums so far, the first being their self-titled EP Hellcats, in 2011, followed by the full-length album Divja Pot (named Warrior Princess in the English version) in 2013. That doesn’t mean they don’t have enough material already for a powerful live concert, which seems to be the thing they love the most in life. The band has already performed in several festivals such as Metalcamp in Slovenia, Viva la Pola festival in Croatia, Metal Franconia in Germany, and several TV and radio shows. For instance, in 2012 the Hellcats were invited to tour Russia, where among all the cities they played their most memorable moments were being one of the main attractions at the female bands rock festival named Zheleznye Devy (or “Iron Girls”), in the city of Kaluga, and performing at the music festival named Jelen Demofest, in Banja Luka. Hellcats achieved 4th place among more than 400 groups, becoming the highest placed foreign band ever at the festival.

If you want to see the lovely Sasha in action together with the Hellcats, there are a few official videos on YouTube in both Slovene and English, those being the Power Metal tune Steelrider (or Divja Pot in Slovene), the sexy Demons Dreams (or Sanjam Demone), the high-octane song Now Is My Time (or Prerojena), and the kick-ass hymn I Am (or Naprej). As a huge admirer of old school Heavy Metal, I personally prefer their more straightforward compositions, which emanate electricity, blood and passion. How not to get thrilled to the sound of Proud To Be Loud or Hellcats, or even better, to their first ever single and best song to date, the awe-inspiring Heavy Metal? The song’s Manowar-inspired lyrics (“Heavy metal lives in me / The hell between will set me free / Heavy metal lives in me / The ones who fake it can just leave”) are a thing of beauty. In addition, there are even a few live videos of those awesome songs online, as for example these live versions of Hellcats and Heavy Metal, recorded in 2013, and if you want to have a delicious overdose of Sasha you can take a look at this YouTube playlist, where you’ll find all official videos, some live performances, interviews, and special covers by Hellcats of icons such as Judas Priest, Doro and AC/DC.

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Perhaps the most organic and crisp performance available online by the Hellcats is their participation in a radio show called Metalmorfoza on November 15, 2014 at the Studio Hendrix for a radio station named Radio Koper. In case you do not have enough time to watch the full show, you can get a taste of the amazing rumbling bass lines by Sasha in the song Vladar Noči, live at that same program. An alternative way to enjoy the music by the Hellcats is on a program called Na Sceni, recorded on October 29, 2013 at the Slovenian channel RTV 4, but let me warn you that if you do not speak Slovene the only thing you’ll be able to understand is the music and nothing else.

Our unstoppable bass player has always been a metalhead, always wearing her own black leather clothes anywhere she goes, being highly influenced by heavy, thrash and hard rock behemoths like Pantera, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica and AC/DC, among others. Shasa mentioned in one of her interviews that she and her sister grew up listening to those bands, helping them to become who they are today. She also mentioned her biggest motivation to write music is life itself, with their compositions being filled with optimism, energy, love, passion and strength. When asked about which language she prefers singing, if English or Slovene, Sasha said they let their emotions lead them, it doesn’t matter if it’s in one language or another, all depending on which one better suits the message and feeling of the music. As an example, she cited the single Heavy Metal, sung entirely in Slovene and being a big success among metalheads all over the world.

Having a band provides our blonde metaller some well-deserved relaxation, and she loves going on tour with her best friends. Sasha said it’s not hard for them to keep the band going forward, as they love what they do. That’s the main reason why during the auditions for the missing band members when the band started, she and Sonja were not only trying to find the right musicians, but they were also looking for good personalities to get along with and to become friends with as well. In her own words, she thinks this is very important for female bands, because “girls like to chat more than guys”. You can take a listen at a short clip with Sasha HERE, where she talks to BBC about how challenging it is to maintain an all-girl metal band, and if you want to know more about her role in the band and how she learned to headbang, among other topics, click HERE for a 30-minute interview with Sasha and the unparalleled bassist Doris Yeh (Chthonic). For instance, did you know Sasha is a professional architect and graphic designer, as at least for now Hellcats cannot make a living out of music itself?

When asked about how she envisions her career with the Hellcats in the next five to ten years, Sasha provided an answer that, albeit a little cliché, is exactly everything we want to hear from a true Heavy Metal band anytime, anywhere. “In the next five to ten years from now we see Hellcats touring and performing on big stages and to be more and more successful every year and to have more and more fans. Our biggest wish is to tour the Europe first and then go to the USA”, said our metal diva. Let’s hope her dreams come true, and that she includes Canada on her tour when the Hellcats come to North America, or we will riot.

Sasha Zagorc’s Official Facebook page
Hellcats’ Official Facebook page
Hellcats’ Official Twitter
Hellcats’ Official Instagram

“Our music is about love, desires, passion and strength. Our songs are filled with optimism and energy. We have a lot to tell and we want people to feel good when they listen to our music.” – Sasha Zagorc

Metal Chick of the Month – Emmi Silvennoinen

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Aina sydämessäin oon… Neito pohjolan…

Brothers of the North, sharpen your swords and axes, grab your war hammers and shields, paint your faces with the colors of your Norse clans and be prepared to bleed in the battlefield fighting side by side with our Metal Chick of the Month, the lionhearted Finnish warrior Emmi Silvennoinen, former keyboardist for Finnish Epic Folk Metal band Ensiferum. If you dig Scandinavian girls and are also crazy for electrifying fighting chants, Emmi will certainly drive you moonstruck.

Born on April 9, 1988 in the city of Vantaa, Finland, the fourth most populated Finnish city and also part of the inner core of the Finnish Capital Region along with Helsinki, Espoo, and Kauniainen, Emmi stepped in as the keyboardist for Ensiferum for their live performances following the departure of Meiju Enho in September 2007, until she finally joined the band as their permanent keyboard player for the recording of the album From Afar, in 2009.

Before becoming part of Ensiferum’s metallic army, our gorgeous Scandinavian shieldmaiden was the keyboardist for a Finnish Melodic Death/Gothic Metal band named Exsecratus, from Helsinki, with whom she recorded the demo Execute, in 2006, and the full-length album Tainted Dreams, in 2007. Although the band doesn’t exist anymore, you can still enjoy Emmi’s impassioned keyboard notes embellishing the band’s sounding in interesting songs such as Under the Winter Moon, My Last Fight and Suicide. As you can see, Emmi used to play a completely different style than her work with Ensiferum, but that doesn’t mean her excellent skills behind the keyboards were less important or less effective for the music by Exsecratus.

As aforementioned, our Finnish “valkyrja” joined Ensiferum back in 2007 as the band’s keyboardist for all their upcoming live performances when in 2009 she finally got the full-time job with them, recording her first single with Ensiferum called From Afar, which is also the name of her first full-length album with the band, from 2009. From that album, one of the most interesting tracks is Twilight Tavern, which official video features live footage from the famous venue Nosturi, located in Helsinki. After that strong start, Emmi also recorded with Ensiferum the singles Stone Cold Metal (2010) and Burning Leaves (2012), the full-length album Unsung Heroes (2012), the fun Suomi Warmetal EP (2014), and more recently the full-length album One Man Army (2015).

Among all Ensiferum songs that could be used to present Emmi’s solid skills as a musician, I believe the title-track of their latest album, One Man Army, is a very good example of what she’s capable of doing. In addition, why not grab a cold beer and enjoy the sound of her keyboards in their cover versions for the all-time classics Wrathchild (Iron Maiden) and Breaking The Law (Judas Priest)? Despite the fact both original songs do not have any keyboard parts at all, she managed to add her own notes to the music, enhancing their uniqueness compared to all other cover versions for those two songs you might find anywhere.

Emmi hasn’t been in many parallel projects apart from her full-time commitment with Ensiferum, except for playing keyboards in the album Hymns of the Mortals – Songs from the North (2014) by Finnish Melodic Death Metal band Thyrien. Again, the musicality crafted by Thyrien is quite different from the Folk Metal by Ensiferum, as you can see in the excellent tune When The Horizon Burns, once again showcasing Emmi’s versatility and ability to adapt to what the music is asking for.

One very important detail about Emmi’s natural aptitude for music is that she doesn’t only play regular keyboards in her life and career, but she can also play the Hammond organ, the pump organ, the regular organ and the piano, not to mention she was also doing the backing vocals in all songs by Ensiferum. If that doesn’t prove to you how dexterous our charming keyboardist is, I honestly have no idea what really would.

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Due to the fact that Emmi was a live musician for a good couple of years with Ensiferum, I thought it would be nice to have some words from our diva regarding her life on the road, her opinion about the importance of live performances to a metal band, or anything similar to that. Fortunately, I was able to find an interview where, when asked about the differences between playing at a big festival and playing at small venues, she gave a short and sweet explanation of the importance of festivals to bands like Ensiferum. “There are usually more people who hasn’t heard of our music, and festivals are a place to show all we got”, she said, and let’s admit she’s absolutely right about that.

Furthermore, if you’re either a fan of Emmi and the music by Ensiferum or if you’re a newcomer to the world of Epic and Folk Metal, you can enjoy Emmi kicking ass on her favorite place on earth, which is on a festival stage together with the other members of the band, playing songs such as Windrider (at With Full Force XV, Germany, 2008), Lai Lai Hei and Token Of Time (both at Wacken Open Air, Germany, 2008), or even Ensiferum’s full performance at the RockHard Festival, in Germany, on May 18, 2013.

However, in the past few years Emmi was unfortunately forced to sit out of some of Ensiferum’s tours around the world for personal reasons (which were not disclosed anywhere), culminating in her definite departure from the band in April this year. In 2013, she missed the band’s South American tour which was scheduled to start on May 28 in Bogota, Colombia, with her parts being replaced by backing tracks as per a statement released by the rest of the group. And in the beginning of 2015 Emmi couldn’t make it to Ensiferum’s European and North American tours, when she was replaced by the digital accordion of Netta Skog (ex-Turisas). “This was a very tough decision for me to make to not be a part of the European and North American tours, but I am so happy that not only an amazing musician will be standing in for me, but also a close friend. I hope you all enjoy the shows and the new songs with Netta – I’m looking forward to returning to play them for you in the summer!”, she stated, showing her relationship with the band was more than perfect at that time. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get back in action due to family reasons, being replaced permanently by Netta.

Lastly, I wish there were more interviews (both written and on YouTube) with Emmi to be shared with all of you, but it looks like she’s either more reserved than the other members of the band, or that interviewers all over the world are wasting some amazing opportunities to ask a few questions to such a unique musician. Anyway, if you speak Finnish you might have a good time with this interview to a Finnish channel called MoonTV (I couldn’t understand almost anything, obviously), and if you’re a fan of radical sports you can check Emmi and the other members of Ensiferum going paragliding in the valleys of Slovenia after their concert at Metaldays, held in Tolmin, Slovenia in 2013. Adrenaline has always been the perfect catalyst for good heavy music, don’t you think?

“It’s nice to see Scandinavian folk metal bands, especially Finnish bands, are doing well all around the world. I’m proud to be part of this, and it’s nice to see people are loving this kind of music, and getting inspirations from Scandinavian bands for their own music and all their lifestyles.” – Emmi Silvennoinen