Metal Chick of the Month – Fernanda Lira

Join the army, get in the violent mosh!

There’s nothing better than revving up the engines of 2018 with the thunderous sound blasted by one of the meanest and most humble bassists in contemporary Thrash Metal, a woman who not only kicks some serious ass with her roaring bass guitar, but who’s also an accomplished Extreme Metal vocalist, growling and gnarling like a beast anywhere she goes for our total delight. With that said, please welcome as our first metal chick of the year the stunning and electrifying Brazilian musician Fernanda Lira, better known as the lead singer and bassist for Brazilian all-female Thrash Metal power trio Nervosa. And you better be ready, because Fernanda will accelerate your heart and mercilessly rock you like a hurricane with all her passion for heavy music, her devilish screams and, above all, the groovy wallops of her mighty bass.

Fernanda B. Lira was born on September 9, 1989 in São Paulo, one of the world’s most populous cities with over 20 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, having discovered her love for heavy music and for playing bass guitar at the age of 13, being influenced by her father, who was also a bass player (and with whom she remembers “jamming” with his acoustic guitar or “playing drums” on the leather couch as a child while he played) and a huge fan of bands like KISS and Venom, and by her biggest idol since childhood, Iron Maiden’s one and only Steve Harris. Furthermore, she never attended classes to learn how to play bass, always using her instincts and utter dedication to develop her skills as a musician, blending all that with her endless energy and aggressiveness to make her playing style truly unique. And despite deciding she wanted to be in a band when she was around 15 years old, Fernanda undertook several other endeavors before becoming (and even when she was already) the frontwoman for Nervosa, as for example studying journalism at Faculdade Cásper Líbero (the oldest journalism school in Latin America), working as an English teacher, and presenting a show called Heavy Nation on Rádio UOL together with her friend Julio Feriato from 2012 until 2015, among other projects.

Highly inspired by the aforementioned Steve Harris and by other renowned bassists such as Geezer Butler, Steve Di Giorgio, Geddy Lee, Ron Royce and Markus Grosskopf, our badass Fernanda eliminated the use of picks and dedicated herself to playing with her fingers, also trying to take down from the bass the function of only “marking” the rhythm of the music. Moreover, regarding her vocal inspirations, Fernanda has always tried to learn how to sing by imitating her metal idols Tarja Turunen, Michael Kiske and Geoff Tate; however, after she started working with more aggressive vocal-inspired bands, she began to migrate to a different style of singing, leaning towards a similar style used by extreme music singers Tom Araya (the iconic vocalist and bassist for Thrash Metal behemoths Slayer) and Schmier (from Teutonic Thrash Metal legends Destruction).

Before joining Nervosa, Fernanda was part of two other Brazilian metal bands, both hailing from the city of São Paulo, those being the all-female Heavy Metal act Hellgard (who played more melodic material the likes of Helloween and Edguy), from 2008 to 2009, and Thrash/Death Metal group HellArise, from 2009 to 2011, playing bass and doing some backing vocals, as well as playing bass live for a comedy Heavy Metal band known as Detonator e as Musas do Metal (which translates as “Detonator and the Muses of Metal”), in 2012. She recorded two demos in her pre-Nervosa era with those bands, one being a three-track demo with Hellgard titled Rise of a Kingdom, in 2009, and a four-track demo with HellArise named Human Disgrace, in 2010, with the title-track being re-recorded and re-released in 2016 already without Fernanda on bass. Apart from Hellgard, HellArise and obviously Nervosa, Fernanda was a guest musician for two distinct metal bands from Brazil in the past few years, Post-Black/Doom Metal act Fanttasma and Thrash Metal titans Torture Squad, and in both cases she acted as a guest vocalist, leaving her menacing bass guitar “dormant”, for lack of a better word. You can enjoy her potent vocals in the songs Metropolis and Life Is War, from Fanttasma’s 2013 album Another Sleepless Night, as well as in their 2014 single Voodoo, and in Torture Squad’s 2013 release Esquadrão de Tortura (throughout the entire album) and in their cover version for Coroner’s Divine Step, released as a bonus track for their 2017 opus Far Beyond Existence. And last but not least, she’s also featured in the song Carcaça de Outro Alguém, together with a band called Fire Strike, as part of a tribute album to the cult Brazilian Horror Punk band Zumbis do Espaço; in a partnership with Brazilian guitarist and producer Denis Di Lallo in a song called Struggle to Survive; and in countless live performances with distinct bands and musicians, like for example playing Slayer’s all-time classic Black Magic with Brazilian Thrash/Death Metal band Desaster.

It’s finally time to talk a little about her career with Nervosa, one of the most promising bands not only in Brazilian metal but in the entire world of Thrash and Death Metal. After quitting her previous bands, our raven-haired growler was already searching for an all-female thrash act when she met guitarist Prika Amaral, who already had Nervosa as a project and was in pursuit of a bassist and singer to bring the band into being, which ended up happening in 2010. And Nervosa have been on a roll since their inception, releasing their debut EP titled Time of Death, in 2012, followed by the full-length albums Victim of Yourself, in 2014, and more recently the underground masterpiece Agony, one of the top 10 metal albums of 2016 from our list. From all those three flammable releases by Nervosa, you can slam into the circle pit together with Fernanda and the girls to the songs Masked Betrayer, Death, Hostages and Guerra Santa (with a nice explanation of what this song is all about by Fernanda herself). As a matter of fact, in one of her interviews, our ass-kicking bassist explained in more details the concept behind Guerra Santa, which is Portuguese for “holy war”. According to Fernanda, this song “talks about all the intolerance that goes on when the subject is religion. Although this is not like a Black Metal song talking against God, Jesus or any religion because I totally respect people’s beliefs. So, this song is not against religion but against the way religion can be harmful sometimes; I mean, religions should be preaching about love, respect, being kind to the next of kin, doing good stuff but sometimes they preach about intolerance against like sexual orientation, races, other cultures – destroying temples of other religions – so what kind of good they bring?”

When asked about the fast and growing success of a relatively young band like Nervosa, Fernanda mentioned that metal is always renewing itself, and everything that’s new in metal, such as three girls playing furious and aggressive Thrash Metal like Nervosa, ends up catching a lot of attention from metalheads all over the world. In addition, she believes that, as part of the process, in some years that’s going to become more natural with more and more girls getting involved with metal. In my humble opinion, I strongly believe their music is what’s really driving their success in the heavy music scene, especially when Nervosa are performing live, and you can get a very good taste of their crushing thrash live in several videos on YouTube, such as the songs Time of Death at Estúdio Showlivre in 2012 in Brazil; Justice Be Done at Seis Tercios Sesiones in Colombia in 2014; Masked Betrayer, Victim of Yourself and Nasty Injury at Ao Vivo no Casarão in Brazil in 2013; and in distinct full live performances like their 2016 concerts in Bulgaria and Serbia, and in special their demolishing concert at Rock Al Parque in 2017, arguably the largest free rock festival not only in Colombia but in the entire continent. And Fernanda loves that life on the road and being on stage, having already visited a lot of different countries and cities, despite the fact she never has enough time to walk around and get to know more about the place she’s playing that night nor about its culture or people.

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As expected, Fernanda has already been asked numerous times how it feels to be an all-female band and about the growing importance of women in metal music. She said that, at the end of the day, we’re all metalheads nurturing the same passion and admiration for Heavy Metal. She complemented by saying she doesn’t really care about being gendered, because in her opinion being called an all-female Thrash Metal band is just a way to describe a specific genre, like Folk Metal, Black Metal, and so on, given the fact that there aren’t many known bands like Nervosa in the market, and although it was a little difficult in the beginning because they’re playing an extreme style dominated by men in a sexist country like Brazil, people are changing their view of women in metal, supporting them, respecting them and encouraging other women to play heavy music. Moreover, she said there’s still a long way to go regarding this matter because there are many conservative metalheads that do not fully accept girls playing heavy music yet, but that’s something metal as a subversive kind of music can certainly change, with fans of heavy music being in their majority very open-minded, intelligent and cultural people. In addition to that, Fernanda said she has always felt like playing only with girls, as she has always dreamed about that and has always been inspired by girls in metal. All her previous bands were all-female groups, and she knew that it was something new that would help her and her bands stand out in metal.

Another interesting topic discussed by our charming growler in some of her interviews is the usage of the Portuguese language in her lyrics, something you can easily find in other heavy music styles like Punk Rock and Hardcore, with amazing bands like the unparalleled Ratos de Porão applying the Portuguese language to their music almost to perfection, but that’s not very common in Thrash, Death and Black Metal. Although Nervosa have two songs in Brazilian Portuguese, those being Urânio em Nós (from Victim of Yourself) and Guerra Santa (from Agony), she said she has always listened to metal in English despite the fact she was born and lives in Brazil, obviously due to the fact most major metal bands sing in English, and that writing lyrics in English is much more natural and easier for her than in Portuguese. And besides, she believes that the English language helps her spread her opinion and ideas much better than Portuguese to a wider audience worldwide (despite the fact that nowadays it’s quite easy to translate anything in any language), making people think, debate, agree or disagree about the topics and subjects contained in her lyrics.

If there’s one thing you can definitely spend hours watching on YouTube, those are several interviews Fernanda gave in both English and Portuguese to the most diverse channels, shows and websites, and in all of them you’ll be able to notice how fun and honest she is not only as a musician but also as a regular human being. I’ve selected a few of those videos for you, including an interview she gave during Nervosa’s performance at Obscene Extreme festival in the Czech Republic in 2015; her chat with the online show From Hero To Zero in 2016 during Nervosa’s European tour with Destruction, where she talks about how difficult it is to make a living out of metal in Latin America, among other topics; and my favorite (and most distinct) of all, Fernanda, together with João Gordo (the idiosyncratic frontman for Ratos de Porão) and vegan chef Willyan Balbino, preparing a vegan twist to a Brazilian popular food snack named “coxinha”, a savory dough shaped into a drumstick around a creamy chicken salad filling then battered and fried, but in this specific case as Panelaço do João Gordo is a vegan show the coxinha was prepared with jackfruit instead of chicken. They obviously talk about heavy music and other stuff, but the star of the show in the end is the jackfruit coxinha (even for a “meatatarian” like myself, those coxinhas look beyond delicious).

And closing our small tribute to the talented Fernanda, when asked about what her recommendations are for bands that are starting their career in heavy music, she said the best option in the beginning is for the bands to promote their music in their homeland, focusing on what’s around them first before going for bigger markets like the USA and Europe. Nervosa have hundreds of thousands of Facebook and Instagram likes, but most of them come from their fanbase in Brazil and the rest of South America. She strongly believes it’s essential to have a huge support from where you come from, with the only issue in their own case being the fact that it’s really hard to make heavy music in Brazil due to the lack of money, opportunities and support from the media. However, as an obstinate metalhead that she is, she believes in the power and unity of metal fans in Latin America, who are always buying albums, merchandise and attending concerts with more intensity than in other parts of the world, being proud of the scene and proudly carrying the flag of Brazilian metal anywhere she goes with Nervosa. And that, my friends, is how you join professionalism and passion in the best possible way.

Fernanda Lira’s Official Facebook page
Fernanda Lira’s Official Facebook fan page
Fernanda Lira’s Official Instagram
Nervosa’s Official Website
Nervosa’s Official Facebook page
Nervosa’s Official Twitter
Nervosa’s Official YouTube channel
Nervosa’s Official Instagram

“All of my best stories and memories are because of metal. I was born and raised in metal. So, all my boyfriends, all my friends, and experiences are related to metal. That’s why I’m so intense on the stage, I feel like I’m living the dream.” – Fernanda Lira

Concert Review – Gojira (Metropolis, Montreal, QC, 10/21/2016)

And Gojira melted the spinal cords of all metallers in Montreal with the scorching magma flowing from their kick-ass neck-breaking music.

OPENING ACTS: TesseracT

gojira-fall-2016If you can move your neck, feel your back, walk and breathe normally, that means you didn’t attend the pulverizing performance by French icons Gojira this Friday at the neat and well-located Metropolis in Montreal, Quebec. Who cares if it was only 8 degrees outside and raining nonstop? It was a night of heavy music played to perfection, which means no weather could stop us metallers from leaving our places and head to the venue to bang our fuckin’ heads to the most important metal band in the history of France. Very few times I’ve seen such flawless interaction between band and crowd, a night that will forever be kept inside our hearts and remembered as the night Gojira beautifully conquered “La Métropole du Québec”.

img_1842Before we get to the Armageddon generated by Gojira, let’s talk about the opening act, British Progressive Metal/Rock band TESSERACT. Founded in 2003 and having released three full length albums and a few EP’s, including the 2016 EP Errai, The band formed by the talented musicians Daniel Tompkins, Acle Kahney, James Monteith, Amos Williams and Jay Postones provided the fans at the venue a very professional and technical performance, but that didn’t mean it was exciting. Quite the contrary, their whole concert felt like one endless 45-minute song so tiresome it was. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between songs, and I was about to fall asleep after just a few minutes. Well, there were many fans that had a good time during their concert, but for fans of old school stuff like Slayer, Pantera and Anthrax, for example, the concert never really clicked. They are all awesome musicians, especially Amos with his brutal and thunderous bass sounds, but overall they sound like a less metallic version of the latest (boring) album by Dream Theater. If you enjoyed the concert that’s fine, I respect it, but we must admit there were tons of other better choices to warm up the crowd for the main attraction of the night.

Setlist
Phoenix
Concealing Fate, Part 2: Deception
Concealing Fate, Part 3: The Impossible
Of Matter – Proxy
Of Matter – Retrospect
Dystopia
Survival
Of Mind – Nocturne 

Band members
Daniel Tompkins – vocals
Acle Kahney – guitar
James Monteith – guitar
Amos Williams – bass
Jay Postones – drums

GOJIRA

img_1843After TesseracT was over I was feeling so bored I chugged a beer to see if that would wake me up, but I didn’t realize that wasn’t necessary because when GOJIRA started, they needed less than a second to make my blood boil again with excitement. I’m pretty sure they are considered the active volcano of their hometown Bayonne in France, in special after the release of the marvelous Magma earlier this year. When the heavier-than-hell Only Pain kicked off the concert, that’s exactly what every single person present on the floor section felt: a lot of pain in their entire bodies caused by the demented circle pits that started right at the first notes played by Gojira, and that madness didn’t stop until the very end of the night.

After that spine-crushing beginning, Gojira showed no mercy for our souls and blasted three songs made in the depths of hell aiming at destroying our necks, the amazing The Heaviest Matter of the Universe (obviously played by one of the heaviest bands on the entire planet), and their two newborn classics Silvera and Stranded. Yes, they played those three in a row for our total delectation. Not that after that it wasn’t heavy, because they only played brutal material, as for example the bestial Backbone, but that initial sequence was memorable. The only moment of peace was during Terra Inc., but that didn’t last long because Wisdom Comes came crushing our souls like there was no tomorrow. There were beer flying all over the places, fists and horns in the air, pure anarchy and tons of screaming and headbanging. I was just sweating like a wild boar, with my Pantera T-shirt, my pants and even my underwear soaking wet with my own sweat, with many other people’s sweat and with a considerable amount of beer.

img_1851I really don’t know what to say about the rest of their setlist as everything was superb, like for instance the demonic Oroborus and Vacuity. Perhaps the moment where the connection between band and fans reached its peak was during the stunning circle pit generated by the melancholic hymn Pray, a song you don’t usually expect to see that type of aggressiveness coming from the crowd. Or maybe it was when bassist Jean-Michel Labadie threw himself into the crowd in wat can be called an “enhanced stage-diving” as he was still holding (and playing) his low-tuned ax? Anyway, brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier, as well as Jean and guitarist Christian Andreu, were absolutely flawless with their instruments, captivating everyone with their powerful performances during the entire concert. Furthermore, Mario’s drum solo even made me forget how boring drum solos usually are, just for you to have an idea of how good he was.

Well, it’s already Sunday night, I’m back to Toronto and my neck still hurts to the point I have to move around like the old Robocop from the 80’s, but it’s that kind of pain we all love to endure after such an incredible concert of first-class heavy music. I might be getting old for the level of devastation brought forth by Gojira in Montreal, but you know what? The day I cannot get into a pulverizing mosh pit like that, the day I don’t consider the pain in my body caused by a Heavy Metal concert a good thing, I’ll call it a day. Merci beaucoup pour cette nuit incroyable, Gojira! À bientôt, j’espère!

Setlist
Only Pain
The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
Silvera
Stranded
Flying Whales
The Cell
Backbone
Terra Inc.
Wisdom Comes
Drum Solo
The Shooting Star
Toxic Garbage Island
Pray

Encore:
Clone
Oroborus
Vacuity

Band members
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Morgan Lacroix

morgan01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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