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

Concert Review – System Of A Down (Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON, 06/19/2015)

The most incredible Armenian squad in the world tore down the house with the recording of their first ever live album on a beautiful night in Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Craig Gass

If you’re not from Toronto or have never been to the spectacular Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, the only advice I have is that you should really take public transportation such as the Go Train to get there, because driving downtown Toronto especially during the end of spring and during the whole summer, when there are thousands of events happening at the same time in the city, is absolutely nuts.

Anyway, I’m not really sure if this can be called an opening act, but stand-up comedian and impressionist Craig Gass (and not comedian Rob Mailloux as it was announced a few days before the event) did a pretty good job in my opinion warming up an insane crowd avid for heavy music in what can be called a perfect day in terms of weather. For you who didn’t know him, he’s famous for lending his voice to the TV show American Dad!, for his impersonation of the unparalleled actor Al Pacino, and for being in several TV shows such as The King of Queens, Sex and the City and Law & Order. You can view his full career profile HERE.

Back to his performance, as I said he was way better than everyone at the venue could have expected, with his jokes being actually funny, his speech being very organic and with a nice flow, and his impersonation of Al Pacino being indeed amazing. To be fair, I don’t know if an opening band could have had a better response from the crowd than what happened to Craig. He was a excellent choice, and I hope that kind of “surprise” happens again in a near future with other major bands. Not to mention he had an ace up his sleeve when he simply mentioned that the Armenian-American Alternative Metal heroes every single metalhead, alternative or simply fan of good music was waiting for were about to record their first ever official live album right here in Toronto!

SYSTEM OF A DOWN

IMG_0440It was around 9pm when the wicked performance by System Of A Down started, tearing down the house with their unique mix of Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Rock N’ Roll and other hundreds of music genres, creating something special only those guys are truly capable of crafting. The band showed all their love for Toronto with a flawless performance, and the fans at the venue responded back singing, screaming and jumping up and down nonstop to each and every song of their extensive setlist composed of over 25 songs.

The excellent Deer Dance already ignited the electricity among all fans, but it was when they started playing fan-favorites like Aerials, B.Y.O.B. and Revenga that things got really interesting. In Aerials, for instance, I don’t remember seeing a single soul not singing it together with Serj, Daron, Shavo and John. And talking about Mr. Serj Tankian, he perfectly incorporates the “less is more” spirit by not wearing any flashy or special clothes, not trying to steal the spotlight nor anything like that, but by only singing, dancing and having an awesome time on stage with the other band members and all the SOAD fans.

There isn’t much to say about the 100% fiery songs Bounce, Psycho (this one featuring snippets from “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer and “You Spin Me Round” by Dead Or Alive) and Chop Suey! Those songs are made to jump as high as you can and that’s what everyone did, including this guy here writing this review. In addition, it was pretty cool to witness over 15,000 people singing its beautiful lyrics with the band (“I don’t think you trust / In my self-righteous suicide / I cry when angels deserve to die”), including a group of four friends right in front of me who were having the time of their lives during the entire concert, drinking lots of beers and smoking everything they could.

IMG_0444Other songs that deserve some special recognition were one of my favorites of their arsenal, Toxicity (also featuring a snippet from “You Spin Me Round”, by the way); the ballad Lonely Day were thousands of lighters helped Mr. Daron Malakian and the fans give it a special touch while singing it in unison; and also Daron making fun of the stupid lyrics in the also frantic Cigaro. However, for me the most memorable song of their setlist was also my favorite song by SOAD, Prison Song. Just its intro with Serj whispering “They’re trying to build a prison…” already makes my blood run wild, but it was when they changed its lyrics as a tribute to their Torontonian fans, with Daron singing “I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch right here in TORONTO”, that their performance reached a whole new level. Simply amazing.

Last but not least, as the sound quality at the Molson Canadian Amphitheare is beyond perfect, I was able to carefully listen to the powerful sound delivered by drummer John Dolmayan and especially by bassist Shavo Odadjian. That guy is a beast on the bass guitar, not only supporting the performances by Serj and Daron but also offering the fans his own special rumbling lines for the delight of fans of heavier stuff. Unfortunately, after the also classic Sugar was over it was time to go back home, extremely satisfied with the concert that had just finished and knowing we’ll soon be able to watch everything again when their first ever live DVD is released. Hey man! Look at me rockin’ out, I’m on the videooooooo!

Setlist
1. Mind (Intro)
2. Deer Dance
3. Tentative
4. Aerials
5. Soldier Side (Intro)
6. B.Y.O.B.
7. Revenga
8. Soil
9. Darts
10. Radio/Video
11. DDevil
12. Needles
13. Hypnotize
14. Bounce
15. Suggestions
16. Psycho
17. Chop Suey!
18. Lonely Day
19. Question!
20. Lost in Hollywood
21. Honey
22. Forest
23. Suite-Pee
24. Prison Song
25. Cigaro
26. Toxicity
27. Sugar

Band members
Serj Tankian – vocals, keys
Daron Malakian – guitar, vocals
Shavo Odadjian – bass
John Dolmayan – drums