Before we begin, let me first start by saying that I love women’s rights. I’m all for feminism. Women should earn the same as men, women should be able to fight on the front lines in battle if they’re physically capable (the “physically capable” isn’t sexist, it’s realistic), and I even think women should have to register for the draft the same as men. I am clearly not a sexist. Except in one place; metal.
As far as metal goes, it’s not 2011, it’s 1911. This will definitely be a tightrope affair as far as writing; trying to prove I’m not sexist while at the same time asserting that I am. The simple fact of the matter is that I have this insurmountable aversion to women doing vocals in extreme metal. I don’t mean basic backing melodies like Laura Pleasants in Kylesa. I think she’s great and Kylesa is great. What I am talking about are women that front bands that do the extreme, guttural or shrieking vocals: vocals that until recently have been occupied by males. They are the definitive hyper-masculine vocals. When someone of the female persuasion does them, my mind just can’t digest it. This isn’t some douche bag indictment that says “oh, women just can’t compete with men,” or “females just can’t measure up as far as brutality.” I’m not saying that at all. In fact, I’m saying the exact opposite.
Katherine Katz from Salome and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Stevie Floyd from Dark Castle. Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy. All of them are fantastic vocalists. But ever since I was a metal virgin, I couldn’t accept the idea of a women making that noise. I remember being in high school and my friend trying to get me into Arch Enemy by saying “dude, the vocalist is so hot though!” This friend turned out to be gay, but that’s beside the point. Deep down, it was her gender that turned me off to her vocals, and it was her good looks that served as the icing on the cake as far as me not being able to enjoy the band.
The first time I ever encountered Dark Castle was at the Scion Rock Fest, when I stumbled into Tent #1 randomly to see who was playing. It was a bit more doomy than I prefer, but I was definitely impressed by the vocals and general vibe of the band. And yet her femininity results in me writing the band off as one to respect, but not to actively listen to.
Like I said before, I’m not going to fight against this attitude as somehow not being sexist. It definitely is. What I’m trying to figure out is why I feel this way, when I’m such a booster for equality in every other regard. Why have the most extreme and brutal vocals been sanctified as an arena only to be occupied by men for me? Is this shitty attitude and perspective only participated in by me, or are there other closet metal sexists in the world? And last but not least, does this hurt female fronted bands? I mean, I’m sure on some level their gender could serve to promote the band as something new or different as a thinly veiled gimmick, but exactly how much does it help and how much does it end up hurting?