Metal Chick of the Month – Esthibaliz Rojas

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Oh mother night put thy arms around me…

Fans of Symphonic Metal with operatic vocals, rejoice! Let me introduce you to one of the most promising and accomplished female singers in the entire Latin America, a woman who, despite being really young at age, has already built a respectful career and a more than solid background in music, which obviously translates into pure delight when she hits the stage and treats us with her potent and delicate vocals. Her real full name is Rebeca Estibaliz Ramos Rojas, but you might already know her by Esthibaliz RojasEstibaliz Ramos or even by her artistic nickname Esthibaliz Bathory, a stylish wordplay with her own name and the name of Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Well, let’s say that this vampirical moniker totally suits our charming and metallic diva, and I’ll show you why.

Born on October 4, 1983 in Mexico City, capital of the always fun country of Mexico, and raised in a small family by her mother, grandmother and older brother, our talented Mexican lyric-coloratura soprano (who’s also an actress, composer and teacher) has nurtured a profound passion for performing arts since she was a little girl, taking part in school choirs and “estudiantinas” (or student music groups), studying classical dance and watching musical plays with great interest, especially the ones from English composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. At the age of 15 she was advised by her friends and family that she should take singing lessons and pursue a professional career in music, and that’s exactly what she did by studying for two years at the Escuela Superior de Composición y Arreglo Musical (ESCAM), and by getting a bachelor’s degree in singing at the Escuela Superior de Música (CNA). In addition, Esthibaliz has also taken private singing classes with Mexican soprano Guadalupe Pérez Arias and with Mexican-Italian mezzo-soprano Eugenia Sutti. During her studies, she already started her career in music by joining the Sociedad Coral Cantus Hominum, a symphonic choir led by Mexican tenor Leonardo Villeda.

However, if there’s one type of music that truly touches her heart, it’s our beloved Heavy Metal, especially its subgenres Symphonic and Progressive Metal as they represent the perfect fusion of opera and metal music, with bands such as Rhapsody (or Rhapsody of Fire), Dream Theater and Nightwish becoming an important part of her life and the biggest inspiration for her career. It was then in 2006 when she replied to an ad requesting a female singer for a Gothic Rock band that she met guitarist Christian García, who invited her to join Mexican Gothic Metal band Erszebeth, leading to the recording of the album La Condesa Inmortal (or “The Immortal Countess”, in English) in 2007, and the album Equilibrio in 2013. By the way, all lyrics and vocal melodies found in Equilibrio were written by Esthibaliz. If you want to take a listen at the music by Erszebeth, simply go to YouTube where you’ll find excellent songs such as Equilibrio.

In 2008, Esthibaliz started a relationship with singer and composer Mario del Rio, founder and leader of the bands Oblivion Requiem and Rip Rapunzel, consequently becoming the female singer for Rip Rapunzel and releasing in 2010 their first album entitled Broken Tales. For instance, you can listen to her beautiful voice with Rip Rapunzel in the song Corazon de Plomo, and with Oblivion Requiem she recorded the song Time to Say Goodbye, for the 2008 album Sampler Carpe Noctem Vol. 1. As a matter of fact, there are so many other bands, projects and live performances where we can admire the gentle vocals by Esthibaliz it’s hard to name all of them without forgetting a few, but I’ll try my best. Our Mexican diva has already lent her voice to the eccentric project Dueto Amaterasu, as you can see in the song Terra (Wanderer of Time), from Final Fantasy VI; doing vocals and choirs in a Mexican project focused on cover songs named Los Abortos De Tu Jefa; singing the song In Dreams live in 2008 with Mexican Heavy Metal band Exsecror Vecordia, and recording the studio song Soledad, from the 2009 album Escapulario by Mexican Gothic Rock band Vía Dolorosa; as well as participating in the personal project by Oswaldo de León, guitarist for Mexican group La Castañeda.

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Perhaps the most promising project/band in heavy music featuring Esthibaliz nowadays is Mexican/Argentine Symphonic Metal band Melphomene, and this one deserves a more detailed explanation so distinct it is. In Greek mythology, Melpomene (without the “h”) is one of the two theater Muses, initially being the Muse of singing and musical harmony but later being recognized as the Muse of Tragedy. A myth says that Melpomene had all the riches that a woman could have, such as beauty, money and men, but even having it all she could not be happy, leading to the true drama of life. This is the perfect depiction of the music played by Melphomene, which can be testified in songs such as Mother Night and Maiden & Death, and many others in their official YouTube channel.

Apart from all those metal and non-metal bands, our Mexican beauty has also taken part in several plays and musicals, only showcasing how limitless her talent and passion for music and arts are. In 2010, she played a role in “Alicia Más Allá Del Espejo” by Adrian Gallardo, and adaptation of the 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll; and in 2012, Philip von Reutter, director and founder of  “Canto en Movimiento”, invites her to be part of their cast for a series of presentations in Florence, Italy, becoming part of their coaching team (one of her favorite duties, by the way) in 2013 and getting ready to perform the plays “Verdi Ritrovato” and “Future Sound” in London, England that same year.

And in case you thought she would simply settle down after all that, you might be surprised with everything else she’s also engaged in. In 2011, Esthibaliz becomes interested in the Speech Level Singing technique, learning its vocal technique, style, scenic expression and contemporary interpretation at the International Vocal Training school founded by Seth Riggs and Michael Jackson. In addition to that, she also joined the Centro Cultural Virginia Fábregas to begin a career in Musical Comedy, taking theatrical dancing, Jazz, tap, ballet, acting, vocal and speech classes. Well, it looks like there isn’t a limit for our tenacious “mamacita” when it comes to expanding her boundaries in music and arts.

Lastly, if you know Spanish or if you’re studying it and already have a relatively good understanding of the language, there is a 20-minute interview Esthibaliz gave to a program called CINECAFÉ & + in 2015 where she talks about her personal life and career in a nice and relaxed way. Although I could have translated everything she’s talking about and made your lives a little easier, I won’t do that because I consider this a great motivation for you all to learn one of the top languages in the world. I guess watching the gorgeous Esthibaliz talking about heavy music and arts in her mother tongue for 20 minutes beats any grammar book hands down, no matter how good the book might be, don’t you agree? And as today, November 2, is the popular Mexican holiday named “Día de los Muertos” (or “Day of the Dead” in English), why not enjoying Esthibaliz providing her own medley for Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Omen themes as part of the celebrations? Or maybe you prefer watching our screaming diva unleashing hell in her cover version for the unparalleled classic Nemesis, by Arch Enemy, or even Chop Suey, by System Of A Down? There’s a lot more to relish at her official YouTube channel, in case you’re interested in seeing more of our Mexican babe in action. I’m sure you’ll have a very good time enjoying Esthibaliz and her unique voice, no doubt about that.

Esthibaliz Rojas’ Official Facebook page
Esthibaliz Rojas’ Official YouTube channel
Esthibaliz Rojas’ Official Twitter
Esthibaliz Rojas’ Official Instagram
Erszebeth’s Official Facebook page
Melphomene’s Official Facebook page

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Metal Chick of the Month – Orianthi

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Shut Up & Kiss Me!

She is a singer, a songwriter, and an amazing guitar player. Not only that, she has already shared the stage with worldwide renowned music icons such as Steve Vai, Alice Cooper, Richie Sambora, Carrie Underwood and even with the King of Pop, the unparalleled star Michael Jackson (R.I.P.). But if you think I’m talking about some old or classic guitarist, you’re absolutely wrong: our “Metal Chick” this month is the Australian beauty Orianthi Panagaris, or simply Orianthi.

Born in Adelaide, Australia on January 22, 1985 and of Greek and Australian descent (which explains her name), Orianthi started really early in the world of music at the age of three, when she began playing the piano, then moving to her true passion, the guitar, when she was around six. Besides the piano and the guitar, she can also sing and play bass and drums, showcasing her unquestionable talent as a multi-instrumentalist and already explaining why she reached success so early in her life.

Orianthi attended the Cabra Dominican College in Adelaide, Australia, and when she was about six or seven years old she wrote her first song and played it in front of the whole school. Thanks to her father, she grew up listening to many Rock N’ Roll classics like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana, most of them from North America, which then became her biggest motivation to move to the United States to build her career there. Besides all those artists, she also mentions Darren Hayes and Keith Urban as two of her biggest influences in music.

She started playing with different bands when she was around 14 or 15 years old, which was when she left school, and kept playing with cover bands until she was 21, when she finally moved to America to pursue her dream as a musician. Since then, as a solo artist, Orianthi has already released three full-length albums and one EP (although none of her albums are really Heavy Metal or Hard Rock): Violet Journey, Believe, Fire EP, and Heaven in This Hell; her debut single According to You went to No. 3 in Japan, No. 8 in Australia and No. 17 in the US; in 2009 she was named one of the 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists by Elle magazine; and in 2010 she won the award as “Breakthrough Guitarist of the Year” by Guitar International magazine. Do I need to say that her dreams came true?

Furthermore, as already mentioned, her involvement with some music giants has just elevated her status as a successful artist. For example, Orianthi appeared at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, which took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in February 2009, as the lead guitarist for American country music singer Carrie Underwood, and more recently toured the world as the lead guitarist for American Hard Rock master Alice Cooper. I had the pleasure to see Orianthi live three times in 2012 with Alice Cooper, as the opening act for Iron Maiden during their Maiden England North American Tour here in Canada in the cities of Toronto, Ottawa and Sarnia, and it was amazing to witness how she managed to fit in his band so smoothly and professionally, especially considering the abysmal difference of their years on the road. You can check lots of cool videos from Orianthi performing with different bands and artists at her official YouTube channel, like this live version of her 2013 single Frozen.

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However, being the lead guitarist for Michael Jackson’s This Is It concert series, which later became a documentary, was probably the most outstanding moment of her music career. In one of her interviews, Orianthi tried to explain how she was chosen by the King of Pop, and the impact that had on her life. “I don’t know exactly why he picked me, but he watched my YouTube videos and loved them. He had his choice of guitar players, but I came in and played the ‘Beat It’ solo for him. Afterward he was so happy he got up and grabbed my arm and started walking up and down the stage area with me. He said, ‘Can you play once for me?’ and hired me that night. I wish he was still around. He made me believe in myself more, and I learned so much. Going into it, I thought it would be all about playing guitar solos. But the majority of it was playing chords and funky rhythms.”, she said. After Michael’s death, she played and sang at his memorial, globally televised live on July 7, 2009.

Finally, being an artist always provides the person some good stories to tell the others, and it hasn’t been different with Orianthi. For example, the blonde guitarist said that during one of her concerts she got up on one of the speakers, and didn’t realize that right behind her there was a confetti canon that could shoot probably 20 feet right across the audience, which would have sent her to the hospital that night with a pretty bad injury in the butt. Fortunately for Orianthi (and for all of us), one of the sound guys warned her and she jumped off just a few seconds before the canon went off. I’m pretty sure Orianthi herself would agree with me that, although she has a great onstage performance and Rock N’ Roll actually demands some crazy stunts to be perfect, being blasted in the ass might not be the best way to please her fans.

Equipment
PRS Custom 22 (Manos)
PRS Custom 24 (Pepper)
PRS SE Custom 24
PRS SE Singlecut
SE signature model (SE Orianthi)
EVH 5150III
ENGL
Mesa Boogie
Marshall Amplifiers

Orianthi’s Official Facebook page
Orianthi’s Official Twitter

“You know just go and find your own voice, whether its playing guitar, singing, song writing, working hard, I love what I do, I love playing guitar, I love performing, you have to love it, there’s just so many hours you have to put into it, you can’t be in this industry if you don’t love it.” – Orianthi