Metal Chick of the Month – Romana Kalkuhl

I was born to burn! Maiden of steel!

After a short and sweet break, The Headbanging Moose returns in full force with our metal chick of the month of July, elevating the temperature in the always hot summer in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re a diehard fan of old school Heavy and Power Metal the likes of Warlock, Judas Priest, Accept, Manowar and Grave Digger, I’m quite sure you already know our metal lady, but in case you’re still not familiar with her refined technique and deep passion for heavy music here’s a good chance for you to go after the music from her ass-kicking bands Burning Witches and Atlas & Axis. Hailing from the metallic lands of the charming and beautiful Switzerland, here comes the talented Swiss guitarist Romana Kalkuhl, ready to take the world of heavy music by storm armed with her inseparable stringed axe for our total delight.

Born in 1990 in Switzerland, Romana, whose full name is Romana Eskić-Kalkuhl (as she’s married to Swiss guitarist Damir Eskić, from the bands Destruction and Gomorra), comes from a family of musicians who have always supported her decision to become a professional guitar player. For instance, her father Meinolf Kalkuhl is an opera singer in Zurich, Switzerland, while her mother is a piano teacher. All that support resulted in the formation of her first professional band in 2009 while she was still in university. That band is Aargau-based Heavy Metal act Atlas & Axis, with whom Romana has already recorded two full-length albums, those being March of the Night, in 2011, and Confrontation, in 2014, not to mention all concerts the band has already played live. You can enjoy the Iced Earth-inspired sound of Atlas & Axis and Romana’s incendiary shredding on YouTube by listening to songs like Power and Might, Elements, To Violence and These Words, among many others, as well as the song Winter played live at the Dynamo in Zurich in 2014. Unfortunately, due to her current commitment to Burning Witches, our blonde warrior doesn’t have the necessary time to focus on Atlas & Axis at the moment, which means the band is on hold until further notice.

It was in the spring of 2015 in the city of Brugg, a municipality in the Swiss canton of Aargau, when Romana founded Heavy/Power Metal unity Burning Witches, following her personal dream of performing on stage with an all-female metal band. Earlier that year she started looking for talented women for her new project, with her longtime friend, bassist Jeanine Grob, becoming the band’s first official member. Then during a party at a festival she met vocalist Seraina Telli, from bands like Dead Venus, Rizon and Surrilium, starting a very healthy and productive partnership between them, with Seraina’s ideas and experience from her studies at the Music Academy and her bands being exactly what Romana wanted for Burning Witches. Having the one and only Schmier, vocalist and bassist for German Thrash Metal institution Destruction, as their producer and consultant (and a personal friend of Romana, by the way), and with drummer Lala Frischknecht and guitarist Alea Wyss completing the lineup after an intensive search and several auditions, Romana and her Burning Witches were finally ready to crush with their classic metal music.

Since the band’s inception, Romana and the girls have already released two full-length albums (their self-titled debut album in 2017, and Hexenhammer in 2018), one four-track live album named Burning Alive, recorded on September 30, 2017 at Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland, and now in 2019 they re-released Burning Witches / Burning Alive as a combo under Nuclear Blast. If you want to feel the power of their metal sword, simply go to Spotify or to YouTube and enjoy some flammable Heavy Metal anthems such as Wings Of Steel, Black Widow, and Executed, or many other live footage from Romana and the girls slaying everything and everyone that crosses their path like their flammable performance at Sweden Rock Festival in 2019; their concert in 2018 in Mannheim, a city in southwest Germany; and their powerful pocket show at Salzhaus Brugg in 2018.

Sadly for all fans of the band, lead singer Seraina Telli left the band earlier this year for personal reasons, being replaced by Dutch vocalist Laura Guldemond, from bands like Shadowrise and Synergy Protocol, and of course Romana had a few words to say about that change to her band. “This is, of course, a very sad moment for all of us. We have been very close for the last years and have reached a lot together. With great sadness we have to accept that Seriana wants to move on and we wish her the best of luck for that! Your time with the Witches will never be forgotten! For us as a band, it is important now to look into the new challenges and the new record — the show must go on!”, complementing her thoughts by saying that “we are super thrilled that we have found Laura so quick over our Dutch connection Sonia. We know it is impossible to replace a great voice in exact the same way; that is why Laura is the perfect choice for us. She will bring in her own strength and personality into the Witches! We will not change the identity of the band; we will continue playing the music we love! Laura is an experienced and crisp vocalist with a big range and a crazy enough personality to be one of us! Please give her a warm welcome — she has already won many metalhearts at our first show with her at the Sweden Rock Festival! We will continue to spread the magic of the witches — thanks for all the support over the years!”

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Regarding the fact that the band has become more international with the addition of Laura to their lineup, the second Dutchwoman in the band, Romana said that the collaboration between them is quite dynamic, with the Dutch girls flying to Switzerland over the weekend for rehearsals and concerts, while the rest of the time everyone practices their music from home. She also mentioned in one of her interviews that her main goal when she started Burning Witches was to have fun with the band, not because of success itself, complementing by saying that if one day that pleasure of playing with Burning Witches is over, then the band will also be over. In addition, when asked about how she keeps the band as independent and feminine as possible even with the influences of Damir and Schmier, she said that their help is based on their experience, something the girls from Burning Witches don’t have enough yet, and that Damir’s support was crucial to make everything happen, always keeping in mind the band was going to be (and will always be) an all-female metal band.

Romana’s list of idols and influences can easily be felt in the music by Burning Witches, with her favorite styles ranging from Heavy, Thrash, Death and Black Metal to Hard Rock and even Progressive Rock. According to Romana herself, the bands that have influenced her the most (and the entire band, of course) are Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Manowar, Saxon, Accept, Dio and several other renowned acts from the NWOBHM. Also, in regards to her equipment, Romana has always played Charvel and Jackson USA guitars, since the beginning, saying those are the best ones in her opinion, and although she’s endorsed also by Fender (apart from Charvel and Jackson, of course) she doesn’t use it when playing live just because she has so many instruments of the other two manufacturers. And before I forget, did you know she also plays classical guitar? Our dauntless metalhead is not only a shredder, but as you can see she’s also a woman who adds a touch of finesse to her guitar lines.

When questioned about the differences and disparities between men and women not only in Heavy Metal, but in music in general, Romana said that it might look easier to be an all-female group at first, attracting a lot of attention form the media and the fans (especially when all band members are beautiful like the ladies from Burning Witches), but it only gets harder and harder as time goes by due to the systemic sexism found everywhere, complementing by saying that many people will see them as just “pretty faces” and think that it’s a man who’s doing all the job in the background. Romana also said that one of the very positive effects of her all-female band is serving as the inspiration for other women to attend their concerts and start their lives in metal, which in my opinion is indeed an amazing change to a music genre mostly dominated by men, whereas the more sexist metal fans ended up reacting very negatively to their music. Who on earth wouldn’t enjoy watching five talented women kicking some serious ass on stage, playing old school metal music? You have to be really stupid, and not just sexist, to think the Burning Witches are not a great metal band.

Anyway, as aforementioned, Romana is married to Damir Eskić, guitarist for Destruction and Gomorra (which was previously called Gonoreas), and it was actually during a Gonoreas’ concert that the couple met, with Damir having a huge influence on Romana’s playing style as he was the one who taught her a lot about the instrument (albeit she already knew how to play it from her school years). On a side note, Romana said she was impressed by Miriam Zehnder, who played the rhythm guitar at Gonoreas at that time, also saying her stage presence fascinated her a lot, showing how connected Burning Witches and Gomorra are not only because of Romana and Damir. In addition to that, Romana said her relationship with Damir is quite healthy, dynamic and fun, with Damir being for example the music collector while she’s more interested in clothes, and so on. Damir considers himself the coach, the moral preacher and the main supporter of the Burning Witches, keeping the girls happy and motivating them even in difficult situations, all confirmed by Romana who also said Damir also makes sure he gives them a motivating speech before every concert, getting them ready to rock on stage.

Both Romana and Damir seem to be extremely busy professionals, and when asked about how they manage all their duties and their relationship, including their music lessons as both are teachers at different music schools (Romana works at three different schools while Damir works at two schools and at the conservatory in Winterthur), she said although they don’t actually have time for anything else, they still manage to have a normal life as a couple, as all those things have already become a part of their everyday life. Furthermore, the couple might not have real rings, but the dates tattooed on their fingers already say it all, showing a lot of mutual respect and admiration between them, with Romana saying that although they’ve already been together for over a decade seeing each other pretty much daily, they still miss each other when they’re on tour in different parts of the world, mentioning for example how difficult it was during the two week Damir was away with Destruction this year. She wasn’t really complaining about that because she understands how hard it is to be part of a band that tours a lot and how lucky both are for being in successful bands, but let’s face it, it’s indeed tough to be away from your loved one no matter what, even if it’s in the name of our good old Heavy Metal.

Romana Kalkuhl’s Official Facebook page
Romana Kalkuhl’s Official Instagram
Burning Witches’ Official Facebook page
Burning Witches’ Official Instagram
Burning Witches’ Official Twitter
Burning Witches’ Official YouTube channel

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Metal Chick of the Month – Melissa Bonny

Feel the fire dancing with your soul, now you’re alive…

I honestly find impressive the huge amount of excellent metal bands hailing from the glamorous Switzerland, a country of only around 8 million inhabitants, but that has already provided the world remarkable acts such as Celtic Frost, Eluveitie, Gotthard, Hellhammer, Krokus, Sybreed and my favorite Swiss band of all time Triptykon, as well as tons of amazing underground groups already reviewed at The Headbanging Moose like Voice of Ruin, Henriette B, Way Of Changes and Black Diamonds. We already had a while ago the absolutely stunning Vanja Šlajh as our Metal Chick of the Month, and now it’s time to get back to the “Land of Milk and Honey” to pay a tribute to another fantastic Swiss metaller, a rising star named Melissa Bonny, lead singer of the up-and-coming Swiss bands Rage Of Light and Evenmore.

Born in Montreux, a traditional resort town on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, on January 23, 1993, Melissa started her life in music when she was only 6 years old by singing in a school choir for several years.  When she finished school, she spent most of her free time making music by herself or with some friends and took part in several events in her area, singing on stage, alone or accompanied. She also mentioned that one of her favorite pastimes was to make parodies of famous songs, and that the unexpected success of those parodies convinced her that she should move forward with her music career. That was when she started looking for a band, singing during a short time with a cover band from Valais, a canton in southern Switzerland, in 2012 before being recruited that same year by Symphonic Folk Metal band Evenmore as their lead vocalist, which gave her the opportunity to release her creativity while writing music and the chance to broaden her horizons and perform on great stages before well-known bands such as Lacuna Coil, Eluveitie and Xandria.

Owner of a potent and versatile voice, which allows her to sing as a mezzo-soprano or to do guttural growls the likes of Angela Gossow and Alissa White-Gluz, Melissa is highly influenced by several amazing metal acts, in special female-fronted groups like Delain, Eluveitie, Arch Enemy, Nightwish, Within Temptation, The Agonist, Amaranthe and Epica, as well as bands with a very epic and melodic sonority such as Kamelot and Sonata Arctica. For instance, among her favorite albums you’ll find several classic releases that perfectly represent her passion for dark and imposing metal music, including the albums The Black Halo by Kamelot, Origins and Helvetios by Eluveitie, and Shadows Of The Dying Sun by Insomnium. As you can see, Melissa nurtures a profound admiration for more contemporary Melodic Metal, where the music is joined by an exciting theatrical piece that became a trademark of almost all bands from her playlist.

Her list of favorite songs obviously includes many compositions found in her favorite albums, and you’ll notice that all of those songs have an epic vein, a potent punch and a detailed focus on the overall harmony. You can bang your head together with our dark-haired muse and feel the energy flowing from modern classics such as Kamelot’s March of Mephisto (featuring the one and only Shagrath, from Dimmu Borgir, as a guest vocalist) and The Haunting (featuring the stunning Simone Simmons, from Epica); Epica’s Storm the Sorrow; Arch Enemy’s You Will Know My Name; Sonata Arctica’s Only the Broken Hearts; Delain’s Get the Devil Out of Me; After Forever’s Energize Me; and my favorite from this list, The Agonist’s kick-ass hit Thank you Pain. We have to admit this is a damn good playlist of modern-day metal music, don’t you agree?

Although Melissa is already working on her own solo material, which had been left aside for several months, let’s focus on her two bands, Evenmore and Rage of Light, as those are already a reality in the world of heavy music and also where Melissa has been shining bright with her fantastic vocal range and mesmerizing looks. Let’s begin with Evenmore, a Symphonic Folk Metal band from Romont, a municipality and capital of the district of Glâne in the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland, formed in 2011 which, since its creation, has for ambition to offer its audience intense moments while listening to its musical creations. Apart from Melissa, the band is composed of guitarist Landry Pernet, bassist Frederic Jorand, drummer Florian Bard and pipes/whistles player Matthieu Bopp.

It was in June 2014 that Melissa and her bandmates from Evenmore relased their first EP, titled The Beginning, comprised of four distinct songs, including the excellent The Black Knight. Welcoming new instruments and aiming at creating a beautiful balance between metal and traditional music, Evenmore worked hard on developing their Celtic vein, culminating with the release of their first full-length album in 2016, named Last Ride, which received many positive feedback thanks to the versatility and the quality of its compositions, transporting the audience into a story that evolves song after song. From that album, you can enjoy Melissa’s unique vocals in the songs The Ride Begins, Eleana and Breaking The Silence. Furthermore, if you prefer watching the band live to actually confirm if they have what it takes to succeed in the world of metal, I recommend you go to YouTube to check some good quality footage from their live concerts, such as the songs Winter is Over at the Grande Salle de Cojonnex in Montreux in 2014, The Ride Begins at the famous Z7 in Pratteln in 2015, and also Last Breath at the Rocking Chair in Vevey in 2014. Hence, after listening to such powerful tunes, you’ll see why Evenmore already had the pleasure of sharing the stage with renowned acts like Lacuna Coil, Eluveitie and Xandria in their short but solid career.

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In regards to Swiss Trance Metal act Rage of Light, this hybrid project was actually conceived several years before our ebony growler joined the band in 2015. Rage Of Light was born in 2007 from the desire of its creator, multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Pellet, to combine two music styles that he loved for a long time, those being metal and trance, inspired by the Swiss trance scene of the early 2000’s and by the sound crafted by Melodic Death Metal bands. However, due to his duties with the bands Dysrider and Nodafreth, Jonathan had to put Rage of Light aside for a few years, until reigniting it again between 2011 and 2015 by writing new material and recruiting Melissa for the vocal duties and his bandmate from Nodafreth, Noé Schüpbach, for the guitars. The trio released in 2016 their debut EP, titled Chasing a Reflection (which can be enjoyed in its entirety HERE), comprised of four original songs, Beautiful Slave, Deception, Sick and Requiem, and a cover version for Lollipop (Candyman), a hit single from the 90’s originally recorded by Danish Dance-Pop group Aqua. You can compare Rage of Light’s version with the original one by clicking HERE, but I guess I don’t even need to point out that the new version by the Swiss power trio is a billion times better.

And it seems that Rage of Light truly enjoyed giving a new arrangement and taste to a classic hit, as earlier this year they released a stunning version for Amon Amarth’s unparalleled hymn Twilight of the Thunder God, which you can take a shot at the end of this tribute to Melissa. In my humble opinion, this is the perfect example of a cover song that’s already fantastic musically speaking, but that its official video makes it even more majestic thanks to the alluring solitude and passion exhaled by Melissa up in the Swiss Alps. If I were you, I would definitely keep an eye on Rage of Light’s BandCamp page, as I’m pretty sure this very entertaining project will soon publish more of their excellent material and maybe even another vibrant cover song for an old classic.

As aforementioned, Melissa is also working on a solo project which hasn’t taken its final shape and form yet, but that doesn’t mean you cannot have a good time watching her videos from her own YouTube channel, where she covers some of her favorite bands and artists, such as these versions for Kamelot’s March of Mephisto, Hozier’s Take Me To Church and Epica’s The Second Stone. If any of these cover songs are an indication of what’s her solo project is about to be, I guess we can be more than excited for her original material then, don’t you agree?

Melissa is obviously a very normal woman with more-than-usual habits, hobbies, likes and dislikes, just like any of us. In one of her interviews, she stated that among her favorite activities besides making music and her bands we’ll find travelling, hanging out with her friends, cooking, and watching several TV shows such as Vikings, The 100 and Game of Thrones. Well, let’s say those TV shows are indeed a great source of inspiration for Melissa when writing her music and obviously when performing live, as you can see in the official videos as well as all the unofficial footage of Evenmore playing live. Who knows, maybe one day the guys from Vikings or even Game of Thrones will get to watch her amazing performances with Evenmore and Rage of Light, and we can then enjoy our Swiss Valkyrie kicking ass on one of those shows with her stunning looks and magnificent voice.

Melissa Bonny’s Official Facebook page
Melissa Bonny’s Official Twitter
Melissa Bonny’s Official Instagram
Melissa Bonny’s Official YouTube channel
Evenmore’s Official Facebook page
Evenmore’s Official Twitter
Evenmore’s Official YouTube channel
Rage of Light’s Official Facebook page
Rage of Light’s Official BandCamp
Rage of Light’s Official YouTube channel

“Boredom follows me but I’m too fast!” – Melissa Bonny